Return to the nest
As more and more young adults flock back to the family home, here are some quick and simple décor tips to soften their landing...
The Irish mammy is still going strong. That's speaking from personal experience. My 25-year-old son has just moved back into the family home. I'm refusing to call this a problem - I'm delighted to have him back - but there's some queue for the bathroom in the morning!
Asking around, we're not the only household that's facing the issue of young people moving back in with their parents. Rental properties are hard to find. They're also expensive. And when the lease rolls over, many of our young people simply can't afford the inevitable hefty increases.
If you want to buy your own place, living in the family home while you save for a deposit is the obvious move. The interior designer Rory Kelly has seen it all. Young people are flocking home from Canada, Australia and the UK, and many of them are staying with their parents while they get on their feet. Other families are accommodating adult children who could never afford to move out in the first place. "People are converting their attics and their garages to make room for the young people coming home," Kelly says. "I don't see that changing any time soon."
His first tip is that parents shouldn't spend too much money converting their home, unless that is what they want in the first place. The kids are back, but in two years they might have flown the nest for good. "Don't invest in built-in furniture or enormous sofas that you may not want when you have the place to yourselves again," he advises. "Think of it as a stop-gap solution. You want the home to be comfortable, but you also need to keep it flexible."
Decorating for returning young adults is a temporary measure. "There's excellent value to be had in Ikea," Kelly says. "A two-seater Ektorp sofa costs €375." This is a tough little sofa, inoffensive in design, with removable covers and a 10-year warranty. "If I were choosing a sofa for a family who wanted it to last for 15 years, I'd give different advice," he says.
For those in search of stylish but moderately priced furniture, a new collaboration between Ikea and the Danish design company Hay will be available in early October. The collection is called Ypperlig (best of luck with pronouncing that) and ranges from a three-seat sofa-bed (€595) to a candlestick (€4). Some of it, including a stacking chair with armrests (€50), is made with an injection mould. "That's a mould in the shape of the chair that's then filled with a single shot of liquid plastic," Rolf Hay explains. "The shot takes around 30 seconds, and what comes out is a beautiful, comfortable and strong, yet light, chair." The Ypperlig range is reasonably priced, contemporary-looking, and physically light. If you need new furniture to accommodate returning chicks, it looks like a good bet. When the kids finally get their own place, they can take it with them.
Hay is especially proud of the 1950s-inspired two-seat sofa, €295. "This single moulded sofa was something Ikea weren't quite sure they'd be able to achieve, as they'd never done anything like it before. It just shows that with a bit of stubbornness and hard work, you usually get what you want." Good life advice here!
When you're decorating for fluid family circumstances, Kelly recommends keeping the decorative style as neutral as possible. "Get all the base elements right - furniture, carpets, paint - and use accessories to change the look," he advises.
Penneys has a good range of trimmings, designed to co-ordinate with each other in a mismatching way. Combine the Leaf duvet set, €11, Teal cushion, €8, Geo cushion, €8, Mono cushion, €8, Celestial print cushion, €8, Home cushion, €6, and Skull cushion, €8, and you've got the room accessorised for less than €60. If a young person is moving home and wants to put their stamp on a room, a Peel & Stick wall mural from Wallsauce (from €50-€57 per metre) can be easily removed, without affecting the wall below.
Kelly remembers a project where two adult children returned home to find that their mother had redecorated their bedrooms to her personal taste. She liked floral patterns and flouncy fabrics. Her daughters would have preferred something more streamlined and contemporary.
"A designer can get caught in the middle of that sort of conflict," he concedes. "I had to ask them - who is paying the bills?" As with so many circumstances, the one who pays the piper calls the tune. Kelly often finds that parents who do up a room for their adult children like to retain a little bit of control over what happens in that room. "There is a part of them that doesn't want to let that space go. Sometimes the dad likes to go in there to watch the football. Or the mum might commandeer the room for her Tuesday book group. They don't want the kids to take over entirely. I think I'd be the same," he admits.
If you can afford it, putting in another bathroom could help reduce family friction. "I've had families come to me wanting to take out the bath because their 6 ft 4 son has come home and he doesn't fit in it! They want to put in a shower, but then they're concerned that the house will be worth less without a bath," says Kelly. "I tell them not to worry. Most Irish people automatically change the kitchen and bathroom when they move into a new house." In general, an extra bathroom will add value to a house. And, if you intend to stay, a walk-in shower will help to future-proof it for your old age.
Kelly recently worked on an attic conversion for a family where the daughter had come home with a newborn baby. "They put a bathroom in the attic and it worked really well. The daughter had her privacy and the parents didn't have to share their bathroom with an infant."
Attic conversions can be tricky - check out the fire safety regulations and planning requirements before you commit - and they can also be noisy. "If you're converting an attic space, make sure that you have adequate soundproofing," Kelly recommends. A wooden floor in an attic that's just above the master bedroom could lead to less-than-quiet nights.
If in doubt, most interior designers offer a one-off consultation service. Charges vary, but expect to pay around €200 for a two-hour chat that might save you from some very expensive mistakes.
You'll find Rory Kelly on rorykelly.ie and details of other accredited interior designers in Ireland on theinteriorsassociation.ie. See also ikea.ie, wallsauce.com and your local branch of Penneys