Functional Living Spaces

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crazy clutter homeLet’s face it – life is busy. And one of the byproducts of a busy life is a cluttered house. With piles of paper coming home from school and toys creating obstacle courses in the family room, parents may wonder how they’ll ever take back control of the house. A few experts share their ideas for doing just that.

Making the most of small spaces

Lisa Godsey, a registered interior designer for nearly 20 years and an instructor at The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago, recommends that people start looking at interior spaces in a new way – up. Utilizing a room’s vertical space along the walls takes the heavy lifting off floor space as a catch-all for clutter.

“Consolidating objects in some kind of containment, whether with shelves, cubes, wall-hung baskets or other organizational options cleans up visual clutter,” she says.

This technique is especially beneficial in small living areas. In these situations, adding vertical modular storage units opens up space for tables and couches, while adding utility and keeping potentially harmful items away from small hands.

Family-friendly furniture

Marissa Alexander, academic director at The Art Institutes International Minnesota advises families to think toward the future when choosing furniture items. “Durability, easy maintenance and flexibility of the fabric are essential,” she says. Children will grow up quickly so choosing materials that meet the family’s needs now and in the future is highly advisable.

Both Alexander and Godsey suggest nylon upholstery and durable, low-sheen furniture finishes, fiber seal textiles and individual lounge chairs sharing an ottoman instead of a loveseat. These combinations offer form, function, and style, as well as the opportunity to fit in alongside new furniture purchases.

“Selecting furniture with clean lines, in subdued patterns in a medium value range – not too light or dark – can work in a variety of settings,” Godsey adds.

To add pops of color, change the wall paint. Adam B. Nash, LEED certified designer and interior design instructor at The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston, suggests choosing Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) free products – because they are very eco- and child-friendly. These paints don’t emit any toxic fumes and are completely odorless making it possible to literally paint a bedroom and have the kids sleep in it that same evening. “It also allows for flexibility of changing things around without huge costs, especially when transitioning from a nursery to a preschooler to a preteen, etc,” shares Nash.

Keeping peace in shared spaces

It’s hard enough to convince siblings to share a tablet; what happens when they have to share closet space?

“Sharing a closet is best accomplished when it is clear who controls which space,” asserts Godsey.

She recommends defining areas based on age – for example, placing an older child’s clothing on the top level of a double-hung closet. The area can be accessed via a stepstool – out of a younger sibling’s reach.

Another option is to hang two bars extending into the depth of the closet, rather than one utilizing the width of the closet.

“Two bars on each side, in double-hung fashion, gives each child four feet of hanging space,” she says. And it may help to keep the peace when it’s time to choose an outfit.

A time and place for individual style

While parents show off their acquired style through furniture choices, artwork and decor, children’s style can be a bit more – changeable.

Alexander suggests that parents provide children with flexible display systems that show off their creativity in a simple, neat and contained package.

“Magnetic paint gives children direct control over what they display, allowing them to change displays whenever they want. A large frame with a plexi shield is a lightweight way to display a variety of flat work like children’s custom artwork.”

Creating a functional living space – where parents and children coexist harmoniously – doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By choosing durable but stylish furniture, practical storage solutions, and allowing everyone the chance to express their style in defined places, your home can become a haven for all ages.

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