Creative Family Decorating Ideas

Having just put our June issue to bed, I was inspired by the numerous creative family spaces we featured on our pages, like the modern home of designer Ashley Botten and photographer Chris Wahl on page 64. (The issue will be on newsstands on May 9th.) I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley for our Online TV show, too (check back for it May 9th). There’s an interactive and playful quality to their home, which you know her two kids enjoy, and yet they didn’t sacrifice style in the least. Fun for everyone!

Here are a few more creative family spaces and clever kid-friendly ideas:

I worked with photographer Ted Yarwood on capturing this screened-in porch at a Georgian Bay cottage many, many years ago and it still looks sharp. With 270 degree views of the outside, it is a perfect summer playroom. White painted floors and furniture always look great — plus, who doesn’t love an exposed vaulted ceiling? But the standout is those mix-and-match traditional armchairs covered in the same upbeat turquoise vinyl that stands out against all that white. Practical and striking.

My dear friend John Tong, who is one of the partners (with my hubby and their other partner Paul Syme) at the Toronto design firm 3rd Uncle, is a master of playful spaces. He’s a bit of a kid himself, and he and his wife Anne have three super kids: Uma, Luca and Maeyel. This is the courtyard space he created by purchasing two industrial buildings and transforming the old driveway between them into this mod, private space, totally tucked away from the urban life on the other side of the high walls.

He painted the entire north wall Mediterranean blue for a big blast of upbeat colour. The ten foot long dining table is actually two side-by-side Ikea picnic sets (sadly discontinued) broken up by a pair of original Eames fiberglass bucket chairs at each end and vintage turquoise vinyl office chairs on the far side — all practical outdoor and kid-friendly choices. The dining area sits under the old rafters — vestiges from when the building used to operate as a warehouse. It’s this deconstructed structure that makes this space so intriguing, especially with kids’ swings suspended from the I-beams. The raised platform at the back of the space gives the courtyard some dimension and a place for the kids to put on plays and performances. Who said city living isn’t kid-friendly?

When I was a kid, I loved the idea of secret doorways and passages — they could transform a regular house into a magical treasure hunt. Architects Christine Ho Ping Kong and Peter Tan of Studio Junction designed their modern Toronto home with their two kids in mind by including a few of these special passages. This is the home’s principal bedroom (and kids’ jumping ground), but it connects to the children’s bedroom to the right through a sliding Japanese-style shoji screen (where Abbe is running through) so that the parents can keep an eye on the baby. Once the kids are big enough, the screen will stay shut and the room that the kids share will be divided with pre-planned sliding doors on a ceiling and floor track. Drawers and cupboards faced in Douglas fir hide a multitude of toys, clothing and clutter and lend the space an almost boat-like feel, like sleeping in the hull of a ship.

If you haven’t seen Mary Randolph Carter’s book, A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life (2010 Rizzoli), run out and get a copy. If nothing else, it will help you relax about having everything in its place so you can enjoy your home more. One of my favourite ideas in the book was this muslin Biedermeier-style sofa covered in kids’ scribbles and doodles in indelible ink. It’s totally interactive and the result resembles a graffiti art installation. And that branch and Christmas lights chandelier is superb as well.

Also from Mary Randolph Carter’s book, this photo shows how easy it is to designate a space for kids’ art. It’s so important to have an area where children’s creations are on display. Stagger simple narrow shelves like they did here and combine a variety of objects for added interest. Place single pieces low where kids have a good view, and more delicate groupings higher up.

Pillows are always fun for kids to play among. This pillow-filled reading nook (from the same book), looks super cosy and it has been personalized with a piece of foolscap school paper enlarged as art. I love how they’ve even replicated the hole punch down the left side.

This unique and colourful entryway is from the home of jewelry designer, teacher and mother of three, Liz Kingstone, whom I mentioned in my June editor’s letter. Her entire house is filled with creative and kid-friendly decorating ideas. These front hall stair treads painted in bubble gum pink give a wow first impression. It looks super funky and works because of the unifying white walls and warm wood floorboards.

Liz also cleverly created an extra wide daybed for her boys’ room (that they like to use as a trampoline) by placing two Ikea platform beds back-to-back. They fit perfectly along an entire wall so they look built-in. And she personalized them by painting each of the drawers a different colour and adding mix and match bedding (plus a striped carpet) for a relaxed, eclectic look.

This photo is from the book Children’s Spaces from Zero to Ten (2008 Ryland Peters & Small) by Judith Wilson. Vintage finds — like this industrial storage unit reminiscent of school lockers — are perfect for adding character to a room full of standard children’s furniture. Of course you can’t go wrong with a pair of framed Tintin posters for European flavour and a big splash of colour. And a plate rail running around the top of the room is perfect for turning kids’ books into art and displaying family photos in colourful frames.

For more inspiration, check out our Kids Rooms: 18 Designs photo gallery, or learn tips for Organizing Kids’ Work & Play Spaces.

Photo Credits:
1. House & Home December 2006 issue, photography by Ted Yarwood
2. House & Home June 2010 issue, photography by Stacey Brandford
3. House & Home January 2009 issue, photography by Rob Fiocca
4-6. From A Perfectly Kept House is the Sign of a Misspent Life (2010 Rizzoli) by Mary Randolph Carter, photography by Mary Randolph Carter
7-8. Wish Winter 2009 issue, photography by Michael Graydon
9. From Children’s Spaces from Zero to Ten (2008 Ryland Peters & Small) by Judith Wilson, photography by Debi Treloar

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