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Adapting your home for a growing family

Q. We're moving into a new house and expecting our second child. What should we think about in terms of creating a home for our growing family?

The heart of the home today is undoubtedly the kitchen/dining /family room -- a room that is ideally overlooking the garden. A separate adult sitting room is essential for most people, with a separate play/TV/ teenage room a bonus. In theory this amounts to three distinct rooms, which is ideal for a family through all its stages but not always feasible in the average house today.

Where space is short, be creative in how you use the rooms available. Could the front room be used as a play room? Could the largest bedroom be a children's room, to incorporate toys and play? Younger children naturally gravitate towards adults, so try and facilitate at least some toys and play space close to the kitchen.

The essential elements of a play area are toy storage, a sofa, a rug, some hard floor surface and a table. Open shelving is ideal for toy storage, with smaller, loose items housed in tubs and baskets. Children can see easily what's available and everything has a place to return to after use. Review the toy stock every Christmas and after birthdays.

Where you have a separate play room, think of it not just as a toy storage area but as an attractive room in its own right. Two tables in a family home are always useful, meaning that projects and homework need not be tidied away every meal-time.

When planning the kitchen/dining/family room, identify a fixed location for the family computer to allow supervised internet access. If you have room for a desk and shelving here, this could double-up as a household accounts area.

Foster independence by providing accessible, comprehensive storage throughout the house. Create space for coats, shoes and bags close to the front door.

Make sure wardrobe fittings in the bedroom and towel rails and laundry baskets in the bathroom are at a child friendly height.

Enjoy the happy chaos young children create. Too soon they'll be teenagers, ensconced in their rooms and permanently fixed to a screen.

Eva Byrne is an RIAI registered architect and specialises in house consultations to make the most of space, light and storage. www.houseology.ie

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