BY ROSE BENNETT GILBERT
Ready to tame the chaos in your home? The marriage of easy-to-care-for hardwood floors and lots of practical storage make for a smooth-running household.
You don’t have to wait for the kids to grow up to make your house a lovely home.
“Enjoy creating a welcoming, beautiful, even sophisticated living space, and your kids will respect it and enjoy sharing it with you,” says London design expert Judith Wilson. “And never underestimate the emotional power of the childhood home. Make it a fun place to be now, and your children will keep on returning long after they’ve flown the nest.”
In furnishing your home, remember that nothing stands up to the wear and tear of family life as beautifully as natural hardwoods, Wilson says. “The bottom line is kids are going to run around. They’re going to try out a skateboard in the kitchen. They’re going to slam down toys. You need to choose surfaces that are hard-wearing, ones that will improve with a bit of scuffing.”
Types & Styles of Wood Floors
TYPES – Wood floors come in a variety of styles to meet the demands of today’s busy lifestyles—factory finished, unfinished, solid (one piece of wood from top to bottom), engineered (layers of wood pressed together, with the grains running in different directions), strip, plank, parquet, and acrylic impregnated (where acrylic is injected in the wood itself).
STYLES – Choosing the style that is best for you is an important decision, and will be based on a variety of issues including your lifestyle, your decorating style, and the area in which you live. Consider consulting with a wood flooring professional in your area to weigh the advantages of each alternative. The major styles include strip flooring, plank flooring and parquet flooring. Strip flooring is usually 1 1/4″, 2 1/4″ or 3 1/4″ wide. It creates a linear effect in a room, often promoting the illusion of a larger space. Plank flooring is also linear, however, it is wider in widths of 3″, 4″, 5″, and 6″. Inlaid flooring is created by using different species and colors of wood to design a pattern.
COLORS – You can achieve unique, one-of-a-kind looks with custom stains and finishes. And even if your floor is old, you can achieve an entirely new look with new stain and finishes. The possibilities are endless.
SPECIES – Today’s wood floors come in more than 50 species, both domestic and exotic, spanning the spectrum of color options, hardness, and price ranges. No matter what the look you want to achieve, there are a variety of species to meet your needs.
GRADES – The appearance of the wood determines its “grade.” All grades are equally strong and serviceable, but each affords you a different look.
Select – Select wood is almost clear, but contains some natural characteristics such as knots and color variations.
No. 1 Common – No. 1 has more natural characteristics such as knots and color variations than either clear or select grades, and often is chosen because of these natural features and the character they bring to a room.
No. 2 Common – No. 2 is rustic in appearance and emphasize all wood characteristics of the species. It has more character, and it has the added bonus of being less expensive.
Hardwood floors, Wilson says, are a brilliant choice for families in every room of the house. “They actually get a patina of their own as they age,” she says. Even in kitchens which were once considered out-of-bounds for solid hardwood flooring, today’s finishes make hardwood floors an attractive choice that is easy to maintain.
According to noted kitchen designer Deborah Krasner, hardwood floor is a great choice for the kitchen because it’s a floor that has some give in it, that’s not tiring underfoot, and that helps with sound insulation.
Zoning in the family home
In her book, Family Living: Creating the Perfect Family Home, Wilson divides the home into activity zones, peaceful zones and practical zones.
. . . which often include the kitchen, family room, den, living room, play room or media room—are areas in which everyone tends to gather. These spaces must be set up to accommodate a variety of activities at the same time, such as television viewing, Internet surfing, cooking, eating, playing with toys, listening to music, doing homework, reading or talking on the telephone.
Architect Sarah Susanka, author of the best-selling The Not So Big House, recommends dedicating certain areas of the family room to some of these activities.
“Typically, the family room is designed for TV watching, but not much else,” she says. Dedicate some storage space for toys in the family room: otherwise, kids will just leave them on the floor. She notes that a deep window seat with storage in the bench is a great spot for reading or playing. A nearby walk-in closet could hold equipment and toys. At the very least, try to set aside a few shelves, cabinets or drawers.
Consider creating a small “away room” with glass doors that open onto the family room, Susanka advises. This room could either house the television or serve as a quiet place away from the noisy activity of the family room. A free-standing or built-in entertainment center paired with good seating can serve as the center for television viewing. A built-in or free-standing desk can house the computer.
. . . which can include a child’s room, a shared bathroom, or the parents’ room—should be tranquil, personalized retreats that allow for soothing time alone, Wilson says. “Parents need to keep a few private spaces.”
Furnish a master suite with your favorite things, Wilson says. Consider choosing cool colors and including a sofa, low lighting and music.
. . . which can include decks or patios, storage areas or traffic zones like hallways or stairs, are essential but often overlooked spaces.
Plentiful storage is key
“Great storage is the backbone of a smooth-running family home,” Wilson says. “Plan it successfully and it will help reduce (if not prevent) the amiable chaos of family life.”
The key to good storage, Wilson says, is having more than you think is necessary because kids’ gear multiplies daily. “Plan it with a decorative eye,” Wilson says. “Storage is essential in every room of the house, so it should look great as well as being practical.”
You can combine stock hardwood cabinetry, shelves and drawers to create storage with the look of fine furniture in hallways, under stairs, on landings, in any spots with a little room to spare.
There’s no limit to the looks you can create. There are hundreds of styles and finishes from which to choose. “You can customize cabinetry to fit any need in any room,” says spokeswoman Kim Dunn.
Every space in your home can be warm and friendly. Is your laundry room a dark, dreary place? Susanka suggests creating an attractive space with plenty of natural light for this often overlooked spot. Consider built-in cabinets and countertops, perhaps even an island, to provide room for bill-paying, mail-sorting, indoor gardening, scrap-booking, gift-wrapping or crafting. “Make it into a nice space that perhaps opens the kitchen or family room,” she says.
Susanka is a big fan of mud rooms that can keep shoes, outerwear, purses, keys, back packs and other belongings in a central place near the back door. Build “cubbies” in your mud room for each member of the family using short cabinets on bottom and top and side panels in between. These useful spaces can provide places to hang coats and store shoes, mail, homework and lunch boxes. A lattice-work shoe shelf with a drip tray underneath can keep melting snow and rain off the floor. A bulletin board can act as a family message center.
Furniture—choose lasting looks
Hardwood furniture, like floors, grows old beautifully. Choose furniture that you not only love but that also is practical, says Eugenia Santiesteban, author of Living with Kids: Ideas and Solutions for Family-Friendly Interiors.
“Furniture commonly outlasts its original use and usually can be reassigned elsewhere or adapted to fit a family’s changing needs, so buy with long-term plans in mind,” she says. “If you buy things you love, you’re more likely to want to use them again and again. Remember: Growing children have quickly changing needs, which means frequent rearranging of furniture from room to room.”#
Courtesy of Hardwood Information Center