Living with kids - interior styling tips and tricks for family living


It’s time to talk ‘living with kids’ – styling tips and tricks for family homes. When it comes to designing with kids in mind we often jump straight to their bedrooms – naturally because they spend a lot of time there. I’ve got some great ideas to share about kids bedrooms but first I want to talk about common spaces. Things we can do in the bathroom, kitchen and living areas of the home.


Family-space study areas

I’m all for having a study space in a common area of the house, so the kids – no matter what year of school they are – can do their homework and still be part of family comings and goings.

Study desks don’t need to take up a lot of room - these days its mostly digital anyway - you just need space for a screen and access to power.

Kitchen islands are great for this – In our house we have our computer screen on a 'lazy susan' (it's actually a wooden serving board. I had 40 of them I bought for an event I styled and my partner had the bright idea of putting one under the computer screen, so now it swivels. The kids love it, I think because there's a novelty factor. They can spin the screen when they want to show me what they're working on or ask me a question, usually while I’m cooking dinner at the other end of the bench!

If you don't have a kitchen island think about where you can put a desk. Last year as part of the Creative Living tv show with Peter Wolfkamp we designed a built-in study desk at the foot of the staircase. It was an otherwise redundant space and by spinning the desk 90 degrees we fitted the desk and chair out of the traffic zone.


^^ Click here for the step-by-step instruction video for the built-in study desk shown above ^^


Tackle the family bathroom

Bathrooms are the best room for teaching mutual respect of common spaces!

If you have a bathroom that is mainly for the family, make it a fun space so the kids WANT to keep it tidy. Things like brightly coloured towels, funky shaped hooks for swimming togs and dressing gowns. Enamel cups are great for toothbrushes. I also swear by metal baskets for bathroom storage because they can get wet and won't go mouldy.

If you have a shower curtain rather than glass this is an opportunity to add pattern. Urban Outfitters have a huge variety of shower curtains on their online store and they ship to NZ within a week. Or buy a plain white one – about $10 at most hardware stores – and decorate it yourself. I recently painted one using Resene testpots. Resene testposts are awesome for quick creative projects. They're $4.50 each and there are literally hundreds of colours to choose from.

When the kids are younger step stools are a necessity for bathrooms. It stops little people standing on (and potentially breaking) the drawer handles to reach the tap. Rather than having a stool you don't like and hiding it away, accept it as a permanent decor item, personalise it and make it something that's really yours. The IKEA Bekvam is good for this – it’s really sturdy and has a handle so the kids can easily pick it up to move it around. They retail for about $40 and the DIY possibilities are endless - just google - ‘Ikea bekvam stool hacks’ and you’ll see what I mean! We have one at home that's been through several design iterations!

Bathrooms often house the laundry which equals piles on the floor. Easily accessible and recognisable washing baskets are a must for tackling the challenge of laundry. I suggest different colours and designs for each person in the family. My favourite are metal bins because you can wash them when they get stinky from sports clothes – NZ designer Catherine David does awesome ‘Sesame Street’ style ones in bright powder coated colours.


^^ These home-owners transformed the family bathroom with a simple paint-job, jungle shower curtain, extra hooks and green Ikea handles ^^


Storage, storage, storage

Thoughtful storage is key for family homes.

The trick to winning on storage is to get specific. Plan your storage around what your children are in to and what needs to be stored.

Bulky items – like sporting equipment –need bigger storage, they wont fit in your standard drawers. Chests are good, as are tall locker-style cabinets and plastic wheelie-bins.

The small stuff, like hair clips and 'shopkins' (or whatever the latest fad is) also need containing. I find empty nail boxes and jars are perfect for capturing the small stuff.


^^ Big wheelie bins are perfect for storing large bulky toys ^^


Make a plan

The first step in designing your child's 'dream room' is understanding what motivates them.

Involving the kids in ‘shaping’ their room can encourage them to look after it. Make a mood board together. Start with drawing the ideas and then add cutouts from magazines, or printouts from blogs. Then work together to choose the things that will or won’t work and what fits within the budget. Use it as an opportunity to learn healthy spending habits and how to compromise. When to save and when to splurge.


Stay flexible

Kids and their needs, change as they get older and change.

I’m a believer that kids bedrooms are one space you can’t get too precious about. My sister-in-law has changed her girls room a half-dozen times in fifteen years. When she was little the wardrobe was used as a reading nook, with a ladder. Then the ladder was used as a display shelf on her desk. And finally back to a wardrobe when she was a teenager.


^^ The display ladder above was re-purposed from elsewhere in the room ^^


Embrace vintage

Vintage furniture is great for kids rooms – it’s already a bit old and battered, a few more dings won’t be so obvious.

Having some vintage furniture helps keep the 'new' furniture 'new'. My sons desk is an old school one and he is allowed to do anything to it – carve his name, cover it in stickers… but he knows that anything new is to be looked after and kept tidy - it helps that he has one ‘outlet’ for his occasional rebellion!! Vintage furniture can also be easily updated and personalised with paint.


Use linen as your ‘update’ friend

You don't have to buy new furniture to update a room. And you don't have to paint a wall to add colour. Instead, go crazy with bed linen. Mix up the colours. Or throw in some pattern and pompoms. Adairs – the newest homeware store to arrive in New Zealand – have an awesome collection of linens, perfect for mixing and matching. And if you involve the kids in making the choices it can be an extra motivation for keeping their beds made (forever hopeful!)


^^ Have fun mixing and matching with linen ^^



Colour-coded sharing

Colour is the most useful tool when kids share a room.

When kids share a room there's a balance required between maintaining individuality and maintaining cohesion. Choosing a scheme with two equally bold colours is a great way to 'colour code' a shared bedroom. Each child can have their own colour for things like linen and storage - for example Black and White or Blue and Orange. That way everything fits well in the one space and there are less fights about what belongs to who.


^^ A blue and pink colour scheme was used for this 'brother and sister' shared bedroom ^^

 I talked to Resident Builder Peter Wolfkamp on his DIY show on NewstalkZB about just this topic, thanks to Resene - you can listen here >