The Kid-Friendly Home: Creating A Safe Haven For Your Little Explorers

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Our readers’ favorite architects and designers divulge how they cultivate kid-friendly spaces for the family home

kid-friendly home
Photo courtesy of Shaw Design Associates

By Brooke Spach

It’s really about discovery for the kids and thinking at their level,” Keith Shaw of Shaw Design Associates says. “Kids are much more imaginative than adults because they seem to have less rules in their minds than the rest of us.” He designed the playroom/bunkroom pictured above as part of a larger project – an ultimate kids zone – inspired by the homeowners’ desire to create a space that their six grandchildren would want to spend time in. While most of the house is formal, the entire downstairs is dedicated to the kids. The bunkroom sleeps four and was designed to accommodate the kids as they grew up, with electrical outlets and individual lights by each of the twin-sized beds. That level of the home also includes a guest suite for parents and access to the backyard pool.

“[For] any work that we do, [we keep in mind that] all of us age, adapt and have different needs,” Keith says. “[We] create spaces that aren’t fixed to be only one thing because we’re all the time changing, no matter what stage of life we’re in.”


kid-friendly home
Photo by Anna Routh Barzin

Debra Zinn Interiors completed this full-house renovation for a family with five kids –four boys and one girl – who live on Tenney Circle. “It was always one of my dream houses on Tenney Circle, and when the owner called me, I was overjoyed because it’s just such an amazing house,” Debra Zinn says.

To get started, she always interviews each child to determine their favorite colors, animals and any other interests. Debra says the first thing she noticed in this home was how many books each child had, so she made sure each room got a built-in bookshelf (pictured above) and cozy spot to read. The homeowners wanted the room of their youngest – the only girl of the five siblings – to scream “pretty in pink.” The window seat in her room (pictured below) is Debra’s most popular pin on Pinterest to date.

Photo by Anna Routh Barzin

kid-friendly home
Photo courtesy of Sophie Piesse Architect

Sophie Piesse, principal designer of Sophie Piesse Architect, has been building and renovating homes in Carrboro since 1996. When it comes to kids’ rooms, she begins the design process by sitting down with the parents to figure out the scope of the project. “You can be pretty creative without necessarily breaking the bank,” she says. “Sometimes the kids might want more, and then it’s just sort of a discussion about how far is realistic.”

Then, she will collaborate with the room’s owner to get a sense of what they’re interested in and discuss how to integrate that into the design in a timeless way. “I think getting the kids involved makes them feel a certain amount of ownership, which means they don’t get bored with it as easily.” This renovation was a bedroom for a preteen boy and had a goal of serving him through high school thanks to a lofted twin bed and desk beneath. The room also features a secret door that leads into his brother’s room. “Sometimes there’s a playful aspect to the kids’ rooms. It can be something simple – chalkboard paint, bookcases that open up and have hidden rooms behind them. It depends a lot on the age of the kid,” Sophie says.

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Brooke Spach

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