Smart Design Ideas For Family Home

Monique McLintock is like a Jedi Knight of design. She’s worked on every kind of residential interior imaginable in her years in Hong Kong design, from single men looking for the ultimate bachelor pad to serviced apartments. Squarefoot talks with the SAR’s Yoda about design for the family.

How different is designing for singles and families with kids?
When a client has children safety becomes a vital part of the design process. We spend a lot of time discussing where the kids will play, where the toys will be stored and installation of a bathtub. Parents happily forgo some of their space so that their kids have more. Since space is limited here we try to borrow space from another area, like a guest room, in order to create a playroom. One way to do this is to tear down the wall between them then install concealed panels so that the space can be segregated instantly. A Murphy bed works for when guests do stay the nights.

Where is childproofing most crucial? Not many people have stairs here.
Childproofing is very important if you have a terrace as kids can easily move a chair, climb onto and fall from it. Where possible I recommend a glass barrier at least 1.5 metres high and child safety locks on windows. In the kitchen I suggest putting the oven up high rather than below the cooker hob.

Avoid sharp edges on coffee, dining or side tables. My son was able to tear off plastic safety devices at the age of one and in the end I had to nail them into my expensive Indonesian wood table. And be careful with cords from roller blinds, and steer clear of climbable freestanding bookshelves.

Round edges are one thing but a lot of kids’ stuff is aesthetically unappealing.
Manufacturers are coming up with more stylish and more interesting kids’ furniture rather than just the old traditional pine with round poles. I tend to go for simple and use a lot of fabric or wood finishings that are easy to clean. I don’t like the look of white laminate; I prefer to use semi-gloss painted wood, as it makes the space feel that much higher. And yes, it’s just as easy to clean as white laminate.

Is sourcing furniture easy here?
When choosing furniture it should be age-appropriate but also something they can grow with. I tend to customise pieces for kids, especially bunk beds with drawers under the stairs. Custom made pieces are ideal in that you can tailor their size and add hidden storage areas but it is also the most expensive way to go. If cost is an issue then I recommend buying furniture from a reputable store like TREE.

What are the most common requests and errors you see?
The most common request I get is to have the furniture look seamless, as no one wants clutter. With older kids I get requests to add a trundle bed so friends can spend the night. I’ve had a few clients ask to install cartoon tiles in the kids’ bathroom, which I do not recommend. Winnie the Pooh is cute at four, but not so much when they’re nine. Removing this in five years is expensive and messy. Another mistake is to get any matching cartoon-themed furniture — Elmo on the bed, Elmo on the wardrobe, Elmo on the desk …

Can outfitting a kid’s room be a DIY project?
Yes, but please enrol the help of friends with kids. I thought I knew about child safety because I read all the books in university but once I had a child I quickly realised that if it can be broken or climbed on then my little boy will find a way to do it. I’ve learnt more about chid safety from him than any university lecture.

When putting the room together, think about a favourite colour and bright accents, but stick with neutral furniture that doesn’t need to be changed when your kid decides Elmo’s out and Superman’s in. For a child a bedroom is more than just a place to sleep it is also a place to play, do homework and visit friends. If the child is old enough then I like to let them have a say in what they want. So if you DIY it, ask your kid to get involved. It’s a great way to bond with your child.