One of the things you “give up” in a small space is everyone having a space all to themselves. In our two-bedroom bungalow, there are no playrooms, man caves, personal bathrooms, separate offices, walk-in closets or she sheds. We each have our own bedrooms (well, Pierre and I share and Archie sleeps on the couch) and that feels luxurious enough; I know many families in small spaces have the kids share a bedroom, share a bedroom with their kids or have the “master” as a pull-out couch in the living room. Outside of a bedroom (for a restful night’s sleep), I just can’t see why anyone needs their own (“keep out!”) space in a home and I’m glad our small home forces us to share our space with each other.
However, we do all have different hobbies, tastes and needs (some of us are less than 3′ tall!) and so I’ve tried to set up our home so that it’s comfortable, welcoming and accessible for all the members of our family. If you walked through our home, room-by-room, I think you’d be able to tell who lives here. That is, in every single room, there’s something for everyone and no one gets a room all to themselves.
LIVING ROOM / FRONT ENTRY
Our front door opens into our living room and even a bad detective would be able to tell at least one adult, a young child and a cat share this space. We each have a jacket and shoes at the front door, Archie’s cardboard lounger sits directly under the front window, Frankie’s (and Archie’s) tent is in one corner. The bottom-most shelf of our built-in holds children’s books and a few toys and the five shelves above hold all the books belonging to Pierre and myself. The range of titles (everything from design books and novels to sports biographies) would probably let someone know more than one adult uses this space.
Our dining room table has four chairs around it, one of them with a booster seat for Frankie. Our dining room also contains a three-tiered cat tower for Archie, not the most attractive thing in the world, but he lives here too and we have to share our space! The dining room cabinets contain my “office” (laptop, notebook and extension cord) and other electronics, CDs, board games and magazines on the far left, records in the middle (we try to pick out a new record as a family every time Pierre is home) and Frankie’s toys on the far right.
The bathroom is stuck in phase one of a four-phase renovation, but it contains towels and toiletries for everyone (including Archie’s nail clippers!), bath toys for Frankie, a step stool so that Frankie can reach the sink and a practice potty. From our bathroom, I think it’s pretty clear that we have a toddler but getting that message across doesn’t mean littering the bathroom with toys. (It does, however, mean potty training a giant bunny.)
Our kitchen is also a work-in-progress, but it’s another room where we each have a “space” to ourselves without it belonging to anyone in particular. Frankie has her own child-sized table and chairs for snacks and crafts and Archie has his food and water area, marked by some framed cat art. Frankie’s snacks, cups and placemats are all kept on low shelves or bottom drawers where she can reach them to set her place at the table. Besides keeping the knives away from the edge of the counter, our kitchen is not “baby-proofed” because we live here, too. Pierre has his own coffee bar, which I don’t touch (not even to organize). And I have the windowsill, where I keep my candle, basil dish soap, lemon hand soap and monthly calendar. No one mess with me and my podcast and a lit candle and a sink full of dishes!
The bedrooms are our most individual spaces, though I certainly chose the couch for Frankie’s room with the adults in mind. Pierre and I each have a side of the bed, a bedside drawer and light and a closet; we share everything else, including the middle closet, which is for shoes and laundry. There’s nothing for Frankie or Archie in the master bedroom, though that doesn’t stop either of them from going in there. (Frankie is quite fond of my journal and Archie is quite fond of a giant pile of unfolded laundry.)
And that’s our entire house! Friendly to kids, cats and adults, without looking like one part of our domestic population rules the roost. I think that if you have kids — your house should reflect that. A high chair in the kitchen, toys in the bedroom, a step stool to reach the sink, small shoes at the front door. But your house should reflect that adults live there, too. Nice furniture, books, art, the breakable dishes used every day. If every room in your house looks like a playroom, I’d encourage you to reclaim some of that adult space!