Design vs. Kids
I remember walking into a popular baby store while pregnant with my first child almost a decade ago.
I kept looking for the chic, minimalist, and modern section, but I was surrounded by monkeys, nautical motifs, and floral prints in bright colors that had nothing to do with the design of my home. I knew what I wanted for our nursery, and it was nowhere in that store.
I learned very quickly that chic, minimalist, and modern in the baby industry amounted to big bucks and a lot of online shopping. I will never forget my husband’s face when I showed him the stroller that I had to have all the way from Australia, along with a price tag that totaled more than everything we had bought for the entire nursery. I am thankful that he laughed in my face. That reality check, that parenthood is taking care of actual children who care nothing about design or cost, kept me humble.
Years later and three kids in, my favorite spaces in our home are my children’s, which is to say all of them. There is not a room in our house where my children are uninvited or where I have not curated a special place for them. When I grew tired of fighting the colorful toys and animal motifs that clashed with my design aesthetic, I chose to regroup and realign my vision for our home and my sanity.
I have wrestled with what inspires my design. I have realized that my greatest joy in designing is centered around how we gather with our family and our friends. Our home serves as an anchor for how we engage with our world. It is the place where we retire to relax and rethink our strategies. It is the place where we invite others to do the same. I wanted the design of our home to inform how we gather together. Here, then, is what I have learned while designing our home.
I have hit some extremely low points in parenting as it relates to my home and how it looks. At the root of so many of my mental breakdowns was the reality that our kids have too much stuff. Half of the battle is just having a place to put everything. You can be the most organized person in the whole world, but if you have more stuff than storage space, your house will quickly start to look like an episode of “Hoarders.” Any seasoned parent knows that when you get rid of your kids’ stuff, you had better do it when they are not conscious or not at home. We did what any experienced parent would do: waited until they were asleep and got to work. For weeks, we feigned our way through house-wide search parties looking for Iron-Man and Rainbow-Dash. Eventually, most toys were forgotten, and our lesson was that less is certainly more when it comes to toys.
The act of decluttering our toys brought a few things to my attention. The toys that we kept were the open-ended, creative toys. The simple blocks, dollhouses, marble runs, magnetic blocks, dress-up clothes, lightbox, and kitchen set entertain my kids for hours. When they use these toys for their play, their imaginations are engaged and stretched. Interestingly, these toys are eye-catching. Displayed on shelves and in open storage, these toys are bright and beautiful, and they inspire my kids’ daily play. I did not mind (much) when these toys are strewn across the floor. It was one of those rare win-win situations.
When you have kids, it can be hard to craft a home that fits your style personality and theirs. For me, the solution is found in the fact that I am profoundly inspired by their work of play. I was reminded of this when I spent an entire telling my kids to clean up their rooms in a very loud voice, only to discover that they would start to clean, find something inspiring, and engage in full-on creative play. Frustrated, I asked my daughter why they had not cleaned up. She looked up at me and said, “But Mom, we just need to play.” This statement could not be truer. As parents, acknowledging, accepting, celebrating, and even emulating this playful behavior can really go a long way when you need a sanity check.
A few years ago, I was asked by a popular blog what my advice is for “making a home”. My reply was simple. Make your home YOURS. Unapologetically. To which I now add, let your children inspire your design.
Danika Franks is an extroverted introvert, and super chatty conversationalist that loves to move right past the superficial into a meaningful and vulnerable conversation expeditiously (brace yourself). Danika finished the 23rd grade and landed a career as an emergency medicine physician. She recently transitioned into an administrative role within medical education. Her career interests include physician well-being and resilience as well as physician coaching. Danika’s left and right brain are in constant competition as her inner- scientist/clinician competes with her inner-interior designer. In addition to her own spaces, you will frequently find her collaborating with friends and sometimes complete strangers (on a Target run) in designing their spaces. She is exploring a way to appease both sides of her brain by looking at how intentional interior design can improve both the medical training learning environment and the patient experience in hospitals and clinics. Danika lives with her husband, Chauncey, and three munchkins, Eli, Eden, and Elle. Somehow, despite being seasoned parents, Chauncey and Danika recently agreed to get two English bulldog puppies, Ferdinand and Bleu.