Building a Home: Tips from an Interior Designer & Mom

Building a home.
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Check out the 2024 Spring Parade of Homes during May 4-6 and 11-13 and visit Home #41 to see some of these tips come to life! 

Are you currently building or considering building a new home to better suit your family? If so, congratulations! Welcome to an exciting (and at times, stressful) stage of your life.

The home building process can be intimidating. That’s where I come in. I’m an interior designer and specialize in new construction homes. My job is to work directly with homeowners to help design their home around their unique needs.

I am also a mom of four and currently building a custom home for my own family!

The following advice will help you design a home that is focused on family. And some of these tips can also be applicable for an existing home, to make it more functional.

Tips for Building a Family-Friendly Home

1. Design a Layout that Makes Sense

One of the first steps in the home building process is finalizing your layout. For a custom home, I like to consider the number of family members and prioritize bedroom placement based on their preferences.

I try to avoid stacking rooms on top of each other. So if one family member wakes up, they won’t wake up their neighbor below.

Think about the Future

Your toddler may not like to sleep in the basement right now, but as they get older it could be a practical option.

My eight-year-old loves her personal space, being away from her brothers’ rooms, and not sharing a bathroom with them. You may want to plan for “phase one” of children sharing a bedroom upstairs, with the goal of eventually moving one or two kids downstairs.

Design those bedrooms and bathrooms with the end goal in mind. One of the most common requests I get from families with older children is for their own bathroom, or separate vanities. Keep this in mind when you design your home, it can alleviate future headaches with teenagers trying to get ready at the same time. 

Laundry Location

Another important consideration is the location of the laundry room. Typically we place laundry rooms in close proximity to the primary bedroom.

If this bedroom is on the main floor, with additional bedrooms upstairs, I like to recommend adding a laundry chute to streamline getting clothes down. Having lived in a home with a laundry chute, I can attest to the convenience. Also, my kids thought it was fun, and I loved not having to lug the baskets of dirty clothes down a flight of stairs.

Alternately, if the primary is on the second floor, consider adding an additional laundry to the main level for washing outdoor or sports items. I’m also a big fan of the mudroom/laundry room combination. And it’s nice to have a washer and dryer near the garage to limit the amount of dirt coming into the home.

2. Create a Functional Kitchen

As moms we spend a great deal of time prepping, cooking, and cleaning in the kitchen. And in modern open concept living spaces, the kitchen island also doubles as a hangout space beyond mealtimes.

I recommend maximizing the island as much as possible. I like to increase depth by adding storage cabinets to the back side (especially if the sink is in the island). This creates more separation between someone sitting on the stools and a sink full of dishes. 

I also usually steer clients toward a large single bowl sink. The large bowl allows space for more dishes, which is great for a larger family. Most of us wash everything but the pots and pans in the dishwasher, and a large sink bowl allows for those larger items to easily fit.

Another awesome feature to consider is a workstation sink. They are built to fit tools such as drying racks, cutting boards, and colanders right into your sink top. This creates additional workspace on your island, allowing the sink to become a prep area. It also helps streamline clean-up and limits messes to one area.

3. Save & Add Space

I am a HUGE fan of organizational inserts for drawers, cabinets, and closets. These help to organize space in the best way possible and often can increase the amount of storage you have.

Some of my current favorites are laundry drying rack drawers, spice drawer inserts, and utensil pullouts. An added bonus: the majority of these items are easily added post-construction and can be quickly installed in existing homes.

A custom closet storage system is also a great way to maximize existing space, and there are many DIY options that are affordable and simple to install. These can be used in coat closets or utility closets to improve functionality and store a lot more than a single hanging rod + shelf.

Tip: Throw on some peel and stick wallpaper before you install new shelving and it will help cover up any old holes in the wall while adding a pop of color/pattern.

4. Use the Garage as an Extension of Your Home

Finally, don’t forget that a garage can pull double duty when you have a house full of small children, especially in our long winters. A garage heater can quickly transform this space into an additional room.

In the wintertime, we frequently back our vehicles out of the garage and crank the heat so the kids can ride bikes, play soccer, or run around and get that energy out.

If you are in the early planning stages of your build, make sure you have a hot/cold water spigot in the garage so you can spray off the floor in the winter.

Additional Tips

  • Select easy to clean finishes. Bathrooms with minimal grout are easier to clean. So are solid surface countertops with undermount sinks, if it’s in the budget. There are many entry level quartz colors that are excellent options for bathrooms for a nice neutral look at a lower price.
  • Speaking of cleaning, opt for a skirted toilet. Especially if you have boys — you’ll thank me later.
  • Prioritize durable materials. Waterproof flooring, solid surface countertops, and stained cabinetry are all great choices for withstanding heavy daily use.
  •  Don’t be afraid of a little white quartz. There is nothing I haven’t been able to get out of our white quartz countertop with a little Bar Keepers Friend soft cleanser and some elbow grease.
  • Think about where you will need power. A closet with an outlet for charging a wand vac or vacuum mop is one of my favorite tips to add during an electrical walkthrough. Also consider adding outlets in a drop zone/mudroom space for as a device charging home base.
  • Opt for hooks over hangers whenever possible. There is a reason mudroom benches with hooks above have gained in popularity, and it’s because children don’t use hangers!

I hope you were able to take away a few useful tips, and wish you the best of luck on your building journey. Remember when in doubt, lean on the professionals that do this every day. We are here to help!

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Traci VanBruggen
Traci is a mother of four kids and two pets and lives in West Fargo with her husband, Dave. She has 4 children : Nora – aged 6, as well as Harrison, Hendrik and Heath – 3 year old triplet boys. Throw in the cat Attila - age 12, and Bulldog/Lab Abe- age 11, and their house is pretty much the nonstop chaos you would imagine. Traci works part time out of the home as an interior designer & sales consultant at Floor to Ceiling Carpet One in Fargo, ND. Working part time gives her the flexibility she needs to handle appointments and activities with the kiddos, but also have a place to turn on her “creative brain” and give the “mom brain” a break. Her hobbies include home renovation projects, a relaxing soak in the tub, and getting coffee from Caribou and then sitting in the van in silence. Having triplets has really changed the way Traci and Dave run their household and parent their children. Efficiency and schedules are key, and one of her passions is helping new moms of multiples navigate those first few challenging years. One of her sons, Harrison, has cerebral palsy and intractable epilepsy. Having a child with complex medical needs has helped fuel her other passion of spreading epilepsy awareness and increasing support for parents of children with special needs. Writing about her sons journey has been a way to express her emotions and reach other families going through a similar situation. You can read more about Harrison on his facebook page Hope for Harrison. You can read more articles from Traci here.


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