What to consider when building a family-friendly home

A functional kids' space can grow with the family.
A functional kids' space can grow with the family.  Photo: Houzz

If you're planning a new home and have a family, take note of these essentials before building starts. 

Building a home can be one of the most exciting and daunting things we do in life. For those attempting it for the first time, there are so many things that can be overlooked during the initial 'floor plan' design stage - especially for those who are about to be first-time parents, too.

If you are planning on building your own home and you want it to be a place where you can watch your family grow, here are a few key things you may like to consider before the bricks and mortar begin to go up.

Plan an open-plan kitchen that is clutter free 
An open-plan kitchen with children can easily turn into an open-plan mess. However, if you plan ahead and think of the additional things your kitchen will need to store as the pitter patter of tiny feet arrive, you could continue to maintain a clutter-free zone.

The key to being clutter-free is storage. When planning to build, aim to maximise storage wherever possible. If budget is a factor, then preempt where you could utilise space effectively to create storage solutions in the future. 

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Consider placement of rubbish bins …
You may need to consider where simple things like the rubbish bin will go, too. Check if your floor plan has a concealed bin area for both recyclable and non-recyclable materials. Not only does this help with environmental sustainability but it will keep those little explorers away from unhygienic areas, too. In addition to minimising the spread of germs, a bin storage area will prevent the disappearance of household items that get popped into the bin without your realisation. 

… and brooms and dustpans
The same goes for brooms and dustpans. Check your floor plan to see if there is somewhere you can store your household brooms and mops. There is nothing worse than needing to shove a broom between the fridge wall cavity because it is the only vertical space you can find.

Raise the ceiling height
If your budget allows, see if you can raise the ceiling height a few courses and ensure that this extra space is also utilised in storage areas such as pantries, cupboards and wardrobes. 

Raising the ceiling height will not only give you more potential vertical storage space throughout, but it will create more of a spacious, light, airy and open feeling to your home, too.

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Check the size of your breakfast bar
Breakfast bars can become a future multitasking saviour that keep the household connected and functioning like clockwork.

When building, check the size of your breakfast bar, including the projecting amount of the benchtop that a chair sits under. Make sure there is ample room for several people to sit comfortably at this space and try to visualise what it could look like with your complete family gathered around it.

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Make space for a mudroom
As children grow, they need space for their school bags, sporting gear, hats, raincoats, umbrellas, shoes and all of the other items that eventually come with tiny bundles of joy. For this reason, I love the idea of incorporating the design concepts of a mudroom into a family home.


If you are limited with space and do not like visual clutter, it may be a good idea to think of a way to incorporate a coat closet of some kind to store these future items.

Aim for additional garage storage
If space allows, try to allocate additional storage space in your garage design. This is especially important if the backyard area is too small to accommodate a garden shed. You can even create a mini 'mud room' inside your garage to keep all of the extra bits and pieces out of view from inside the home. Allocating a space in the garage for each child to have their own 'locker' is a great way to keep the home organised, too.

Check laundry essentials
With children, the laundry could become your main place of residence so check functionality and reconfigure layout if needed to maximise available benchspace. Look for ways to add additional storage as your family grows. Check plans to see if there is an area to store the iron and ironing board and try to allocate an area for a retractable drying rack.

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Factor in possible 'disturbances' when planning a nursery
One of the biggest challenges facing parents can be a sleeping baby. If you are faced with the unfortunate scenario of having a light sleeper, there are a few things you may like to consider to make your future life a little easier. 

ROOM LOCATION: Try to position the rooms away from areas that could have loud sudden noise. You may want the children's rooms towards the back of the home away from the heavy knock of the front door, the loud car that pulls into the driveway or the sudden slam of the front door. If you are the entertaining type, you may prefer to keep a nursery located away from outdoor entertaining areas, too. 

Walk around your block before commencing the build and try to determine outside environmental factors that could possibly influence sleep.
WATER PIPES: To make sure that an early morning shower does not result in an early waking baby or toddler, I would ask your builder about possible noise issues from water pipes. If noise may be an issue, consider where you place your baby's nursery and avoid having nursery walls that back directly onto the plumbing of bathrooms or an ensuite.

MORNING SUN: Check your floor plans and see if the children's bedroom windows can possibly avoid the direct light of the early morning sun to help prevent early morning wake ups (unless, of course, you love early risers). You may like to carefully consider window placement and size or think ahead of possible window treatments once the home has been built.

Place a study nook near the kitchen
In today's day and age, it is inevitable that children will access technology and the internet. With this comes the stress of monitoring online activities to optimise your child's safety. 

To keep a watchful eye on what your children are accessing online, a study nook located within close visual proximity to the hub of the home can prove to be very handy. This can double as a useful zone for paying bills, checking emails or searching for some inspirational recipe ideas while remaining in the main living areas. As long as you have the wall recess and power access for an IT zone, you do not need to fit it out with carpentry when you first build. This flexible space can be used in a multitude of ways by placing different furniture items that fit within the zone (e.g. bookcase, credenza, buffet). When the time is right for your family, you can then invest in converting it to an IT zone tailored to your family's personal needs.

Give the kids their own zone
An important space to consider if having children is a specific zone allocated purely for your children. This space can be flexible, versatile and multi-functional as it grows and changes with your children's needs. 

From birth it can be a visually stimulating play zone filled with age appropriate toys to enhance baby's development. It can transform into a creative play area as your children begin to explore with playdough, paint, scissors and glue and engage in all kinds of pretend play. It can then emerge into a chill-out zone, a kids' TV or games area and place to hang out with friends.

Later in life, this zone can be reconfigured into a quiet study area as your growing children begin to prepare for exams or complete essays as they journey through their teenage years. 

TIP: I would, personally, never carpet a child's zone. If possible, I would run either floor tiles or floorboards throughout this space as no matter how hard you try, it is inevitable that children can and will make mess, especially in zones they play in.

Consider sight lines if planning a pool
One thing you should consider with your initial house plans is this: If you are going to put in a future swimming pool, what will your sight lines look like as children need constant pool supervision?

As they grow older and become confident swimmers, it is still imperative that they are supervised with a watchful eye. Even if they are not swimming, you will always need to be able to see the pool area if children are playing outside. For this reason, I would highly recommend that you check and double check your sight lines and ensure that the pool area is placed in a position that maximises child safety.

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Think of your backyard configuration
As children grow, so do their needs. This includes active outdoor play. When planning your initial backyard configuration, factor in where future toys and outdoor play spaces such as swing sets, trampolines or cubby houses may go. 

You may like to consider these sight lines in an alternative way to make them less visible from major living zones. To enable your children to enjoy being active outside, think of ways to maximise available outdoor space for the future placement of these large-scale outdoor items. For example, if installing garden paths, you may want to make sure that they are big enough for a child to ride a bike on. Or you may like to allocate an area for an edible garden where your children can grow and harvest their own fresh fruits and vegetables. Depending on your own lifestyle choices, you may choose to keep a space free for a future cubby or you could prioritise a large grassed area over an oversized wooden deck.

Make your house a home
No matter what you do, ensure the house you build is designed in such a way that it is able to grow with you and your family. 

Consider opting for functional space and layout over finishes as changing the floor layout, plumbing and moving the walls of a home can be costly and difficult to do once built. On-trend tapware, stone benchtops and high-end lighting can always be updated as your needs and finances change.

No matter what you decide to take on board when building, do what is bested suited to your own unique family plans and lifestyle choices. Try not to become overwhelmed with choice and enjoy the process of turning a set of plans into a house, and making it into your home.

By Vanessa Kettlewell