Drôle House Blog

The Extra Room...Comic Book!

An idea was sparked last year by a conversation between very tried parents who were struggling to find room for toys, their many kids, and themselves amongst the chaos of their small urban homes. Even if they were lucky enough to own their home, they certainly couldn't afford to buy bigger to accommodate their changing needs, or even add on to. What options are there?

The main issue is that our needs have evolved, but the way houses are laid out and used have stayed the same. We now want home offices, in-law or guest rooms, and should we be so lucky to dream it, devoted spaces for homework, practicing, or even health and wellness. More complicated still is that many families are opting to stay in condos, forgoing cars for walkable neighbourhoods, preferring city amenities to the yards of suburbs.

The city of Toronto is taking notice with "Growing Up" a study that is looking into establishing design standards for new homes and condominiums to allow more flexible and transitional use of spaces for all families. I think it’s fabulous and way overdue!

The Extra Room is a quick, tongue-and-cheek manual about how to make use of the space you already have. No renovating, no big construction, but something you can do TODAY to gain more flexible space. It's attachment parent friendly, so try it out if it speaks to you! It the first of many Drôle House comic books and manuals to come. 

If you like it, please share! Tag a picture of your rearranged spaces with #classicswitch or let me know what you think by commenting below.

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Happy switching!

~Deborah

Postcard 11

{Postcard 11}: "Where should we put the kids?" - Submitted by Cindy.

postcard 11

{Postcard 11}: "Where should we put the kids?" - Submitted by Cindy.

Cindy and her family live in a three storey, four-and-a-half bedroom home. Yes, layout challenges do happen when there's ample space! When there is no clear function to any given room it's easy for a family to sprrrrrread. Few closets and limited storage otherwise means that there are clothes here, toys there, office a little bit everywhere. Looking at the whole house can help visualize whom to put where and for how long. 

Cindy's design challenge includes:

  • a home with multiple rooms but limited storage
  • the need for a separate and private home office for her business within the house
  • the need for a permanent guest room
  • adaptive room layouts for her boys to grow into

The suggested layout pictured above involves first grouping then moving the boys' spaces to the third floor. The front room can fit two single beds and can include a fun narrow little nook perfect for small-person storage, lounging (think pillows!) or a library. Children can easily be grouped together to share a room for years, especially when it's just for sleeping. They can stay together until teenage-hood and beyond if they also have a separate area that can evolve from playroom into a study. The den on the third floor suits this perfectly. It's open, bright, can fit storage, seating and desks with an open floor space for playing. Using the den for play means it's easier to keep an ear on them from another floor when they playing.

On the second floor, moving the closet of the master bedroom to the windowless partition wall side frees up the room enough to include a bonus window seat. Arranging the bed on an interior wall is also more comfortable in the extreme cold or hot months of the year. 

Creating a devoted (lockable door--gasp!) office on the second floor is the next step. Though it's a small room, it can accommodate two people at the wall-to-wall desk, has shelving above and even an corner for a lounge or reading chair. The permanent guest bedroom stays on the second floor at the back of the house, buffered for sound by the office space.

What whole-house layout would work for your family? 

~Deborah

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Postcard 3

{Postcard 3} - "How can I get more efficient storage into a small living room?" - Submitted by Laura

Laura's challenge includes a narrow living room with:

  • toys, books and electronic equipment to store
  • a large fireplace mantle smack dab in the middle
  • limited circulation around a sectional couch

Ah, toy storage...the bane of parents' existence. Having kids certainly compounds the storage woes of old homes because kids not only grow out of things so fast, but you can't quite get rid of anything in case you have more kids! Generally speaking, if you were to reduce the toy-load by half, the living room would open up. If you do need to build something, it should at least hit two birds with one stone. In this response, a wall to wall built-in bench with storage drawers below also adds seating to the small living room. Keeping vertical storage to a minimum helps the space look wider, and can feature the window more prominently. 

Can anything fun be done with a fireplace you don't use? Televisions have long since replaced them as the hearth of a home. As a bonus idea to this challenge, here is a reimagining of the function of the fireplace mantle. Traditional looking on the outside, fun and flexible when opened up!

~Deborah

Hammock/Nest

{Hammock/Nest} - A Drôle House Prototype

When kids share a bedroom, it is inevitable that one will utter "this side is MINE!" and attempt to negotiate a masking tape divider to mark their territory. While that certainly is one way to awknowledge a child's need for personal/sacred space, there are other possibilities. The vertical space of a room is generally underused, and that's right where this prototype fits in. Part hammock, part nest perched in the upper corner, it lends itself to multiple uses including night light, toy storage, reading nook, hiding space, lookout and tantrum tamer. It's made to hold one little body, so it's off limits to adults and group play. 

The two examples shown here hang from three i-hooks screwed up into the ceiling joists (very important!). One is reached from a wooden ladder tucked into the small space between interior wall and fireplace (fixed to ceiling and floor), the other has wooden holds drilled into a plaster-atop-brick party wall. Each climbing setup can be customized to keep very small children out. Easily put together, easily cleaned, easily dismantled. Appropriate for ages 3-8.

Postcard 1

conan

{Postcard 1}: "How do we fit two twin beds into this space?" - submitted by Conan

Conan's challenge includes a room with:

  • ample furniture, books and toys to store
  • a sloped ceiling that may affect tall shelves and/or headroom
  • radiator and window placement

When rearranging and adding to a room, it's likely that at least one thing will need to be taken away. Figure out what that large piece is (or several small objects are) that need to go. Measure your room including the height in several places and decide if the solution shown can work (twin beds are typically 99cmx190cm). Conan's original sketch shows a small reading corner by the window. New twin beds for each child can mean new reading zones and personal space, but there are also opportunities to include bonus reading "nests" that allow for more sensory enclosure, shown in detail sketches 1 and 2. Discreet, inexpensive shelves can be attached to the wall and/or door to provide special spots for current and favourite books.

Happy rearranging!

~Deborah