Office, hybrid working, or working from home? None of us really know how working life will adjust but what the last eighteen months have taught us is that perhaps our homes don’t work for work and family! As we don’t quite know yet how working from home will change in the future we need to think about how we design our homes in a more flexible way. In this article, I set out some tips for how working and family life can both work in a home. And how you can future proof your home as your children grow up and your work-life changes.
CONSIDER BOTH THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES OF OPEN PLAN LIVING
The trend for open plan living has really exposed its negative sides during lockdowns. For one, it’s difficult to carve out a quiet space for work in an open-plan space that includes the kitchen, a dining area and quite often a TV! Do consider if you want the sound of a loud TV when you are doing the cooking or just want a moment of quietness. Plus the mess that comes with open plan living is not always for everyone. It hasn’t gone away though as many families love the feeling of being together and being able to keep an eye on little ones. There is also a lovely feeling of space and light in an open-plan space, as shown in this space by Breeze Architects.
The other option is to think about having the playroom or family snug in a divided off area off the kitchen instead. You still benefit from your children being nearby but can shut the door when you need the kitchen to feel a little quieter! And if your children are much younger with more toys you can close the door when they go to bed and ignore the pile of toys and mess until you are ready. Which is a very nice feeling at the end of a long day!
In my own home, our kitchen includes the cooking area and then our dining table and a little seating area. Off the kitchen I have our snug where my son likes to watch TV or game with his friends, then at night, it becomes a lovely cosy space for us all to watch TV.
I also included a desk in this room too – originally out of necessity for homeschooling but we have kept in there as he isn’t quite at the age for working in his bedroom. Younger children still like to be fairly near the heart of the home for homework. I also have a small desk near the kitchen as it’s a great spot for doing the odd bit of work (or do the dreaded home/school admin) without moving to a separate study. I also love that it’s right next door to the kitchen for making those essential cups of tea! Now of course it’s lovely to have a separate study too but having this little desk space gives the whole family a bit more flexibility.
The seating area in my kitchen has been the biggest thing I love as when my son “takes custody” of the snug I still have somewhere to sit and have some peace! I wasn’t entirely sure I’d use it but now it’s my favourite place to sit and have a coffee with a friend whilst the kids are playing behind the door!
THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT WHERE YOUR STUDY IS LOCATED
The traditional study tucked away at the top of the house might not suit you anymore. I often meet clients who have a little room earmarked as their study and then in reality they end up sitting at the kitchen table instead! Why might that be? For me, I think people often crave to sit in the light or with a view. So if you now work from home may be your study needs to be located in a different room to make the most of natural light for instance. I also always recommend it’s not too far from the kitchen for those coffee breaks. Also, consider the other members of your family and the soundproofing of doors to keep out the sound of noisy Zoom calls.
Another option is to locate a building in the garden. I for one love stepping out of my house into a completely separate building to psychologically “go to work”. It creates a separation between my home life and work life and puts me in a different state of mind. Being outside my home also means I’m not constantly distracted by the beep of a washing machine or the nagging feeling I should be underloading the dishwasher or some other domestic task!
FUTURE PROOF YOUR STORAGE
Make sure your storage is flexible for your future needs. So very often one of the briefs I’m given is to create lots of storage in what is currently a playroom space. But that playroom may evolve in time to more of what I call a family room, which is a bit more comfortable and a bit less full of tools.
Remember that as your children grow older their toys start to be stored in their bedroom and your family room will be freed up from the plastic. In time your children will spend more time upstairs in their bedrooms so don’t neglect the storage upstairs when you are planning storage.
So you need to consider how you will live as a family in five to ten years time, as well as your immediate needs. Generally what I do in family spaces is make the storage workable to store different kinds of things. When the kids are babies and toddlers design your storage so that boxes can be slotted in and out. I call this “chuckable” storage where you can just throw all the tiny bits and pieces and toys in boxes and not have to be too organised. Perfect for saving time! As the kids grow the boxes tend to go and then you can store games and boxes. In my snug below the ottoman also has a flip-up lid for “chuckable” items.
Then of course you have your needs for working from home days. When considering your storage allocate some space for filing or even hiding a printer. A really good option is to hide your printer in a pull out drawer so that most of the time you don’t see them. You could even incorporate this into a cupboard in your kitchen (but this would need to be incorporated into a new design for a kitchen) if you find that in reality, the kitchen table does become your place of work!
I hope you’ve found these simple tips useful. Do get in touch if you’d like to discuss how to design your modern country home.