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George Clarke on bringing style into the family home

George Clarke on bringing style into the family home

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Architect and TV presenter George Clarke writes about the challenges that family life brings to a stylish home.

Having children changes everything – not least your home. With toys, clothes and all the other paraphernalia that comes with having little ones, your once-tranquil home can risk becoming a chaos of clutter.

But as an architect, I’ve spent my career finding clever design solutions for families of all shapes and sizes. Here are some innovative ways to help family life and home run smoothly – and (mostly) clutter free.

“It’s just got to work”

Keeping any family home stylish is tricky, to say the least. When you’ve got kids around there’s just stuff everywhere!

So clever design is about really clever storage. Looking at every single opportunity of where it needs to be, how it needs to be positioned, how big it needs to be, and then how you get access to it.

I think about storage all the time when it comes to clients. I put myself in their mind-set – how they live, what they’ve got, what their kids have got. I spend a huge amount of time with them at many different times of day, and when you do that you get a real understanding of how people live.

Then you can put your thinking cap on as a designer, and figure out how you give that family what they need from their home. And that’s massively important. Their home is the most important piece of architecture in their life. It’s the thing they spend the most money on, they probably spend most of their time there, and you want it to be a really special place.

The one thing that many clients say to me is, “It’s just got to work”. And that sounds really broad, but what they mean is, “It’s got to work for us. Our family”. And having that understanding means you can craft the right spaces.

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Multi-functional furniture is the future

What’s really exciting about storage solutions is coming up with an ingenious piece of design, when people go, “That is REALLY clever. How did they do that?”

So things like staircases are brilliant for storage – not just under the stairs, but also the steps themselves. They make fantastic drawer units, mainly for shoes. It’s not a bad place to have them, after all – when the kids are going to school in the morning, they can sit on the stairs, pull the drawer open, put their shoes on and go. So the stair becomes a chair and becomes a storage system, which I love.

I think multi-functional furniture probably has the biggest future in home design. Because houses are generally becoming smaller, so we’re living smaller.

I designed a house recently – a tiny house, really narrow – and the owner wanted a dining table, but a normal dining table wouldn’t fit. So we made a really narrow unit in an open-plan kitchen/dining/living space, which actually became a kitchen island unit, a workspace for him, a dining table for him and his kids, and then extended to become a dining table for 10 people when he was doing birthdays or Christmas or gatherings. Then you’d just put it back together to become this really tiny thing.

Maybe your kid’s got a small desk and wants a bigger one: you could design it to be extendable, or so it can be packed away and clipped onto the wall, so it doesn’t take up the space.

Get a clutter zone

This might go against everything I’ve just talked about, but one idea I really like actually is having a special zone for clutter. So although I’m preaching decluttering everywhere, maybe there’s just one cheeky little drawer in the house where you just chuck your keys, your wallet or purse, your watch…

It’s like organised chaos. Because if you’ve got a dedicated clutter zone, you know what clutter’s in there. I love that. I don’t have a clutter zone yet, but I’m going to get one. I’m going to start that tonight. What’s your decluttering resolution?

To find out how you can apply George’s tips to your home, check out his 6 top space-saving ideas, and 4 ways to make your home look bigger.

This article was brought to you by Flash, Febreze, Fairy and Viakal.

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