Creative homes shaped by kids and adults

CREATIVE family home is shaped by the children as much as by the grown-ups who live there.

At its best, it can be an experimental and all-inclusive project. And anyone with children knows it is also a work in progress. These are some of the lessons I have learnt over the past 10 years while raising my daughter, Olive, and also in researching my book, Creative Family Home.

I visited 13 homes in countries including Germany, Denmark, Spain and Britain, where families have worked together to create inspiring spaces that suit the way they live.

My passion is to encourage children’s creativity so I was intrigued to see their bedrooms in homes other than my own. Everywhere I visited I was inspired by the unique spaces where children’s individuality was embraced. Inventive combinations of hand- me-down heirlooms and flea market finds were put together with home-made art and unique decorations often created by the children themselves. The common theme of these bedrooms is that they express the spirit of the people who live, work, play and sleep in them. Some of the examples came with a big price tag, but this was never the full story; ingenuity always outshines big budgets, and money plays second fiddle to imagination.

In our home, Olive’s bedroom is a place where she can express her own ideas. I remember being inspired after taking her to the artist Endi Kosturi’s open studio day. When we got home I taped the outline of a frame, almost as big as her bedroom wall, for her to paint inside. She filled it with symbols of love and peace and handprints.

I think she found it really empowering. And what was the worst that could happen? It’s just a bit of paint. It is now the focal point of her room and shouts out: “This is my space and I love it.”

Allowing your children the freedom to express themselves is an act of trust that can produce astounding results as well as unique pieces of art.

In the homes of the other families featured in the book, I came away with ideas for creating fun and functional spaces for children that would encourage them to experiment and explore their worlds, and allow their imaginations to flourish. The idea that most captured the creative spirit was the children’s art gallery in Louise and Garth’s home in London. Their sons – Oscar, Leo, Caspar and Asa – are prolific creators, and take it in turns to exhibit their work; they even organise their own private views.

Another great idea was the swing that Mascha and Jurgen hung for their daughter, Britt, in her bedroom in Haarlem near Amsterdam. This is a wonderful example of maximising the potential of a space.

I picked up some practical tips too. Rather than buying a huge piece of furniture that dominates the room, why not invest in a raised bed to provide more space for playtime? When the children outgrow the den they have created, it can be given a new purpose, perhaps as a space for study. When it comes to organisation, look in junk shops and vintage stores for pigeonholes and furniture with lots of drawers. Kids love nooks, crannies and cubbyholes, so choose a desk with drawers or use storage units to provide a handy space for everything.

Children frequently accumulate too many possessions and their bedrooms end up choked with clutter. We try to have regular clear-outs so Olive has the space to enjoy the things she really wants to keep. Rather than taking charge, make choosing what goes where a collaborative effort. This will encourage your children to take ownership of how their world is arranged.

Olive chose grey for her chimney breast and together we created star bursts with clusters of black dots drawn straight onto the wall with a black marker pen. Painted pegs stuck to the edge of the mantelpiece give her a fun and organised place to keep the little things that are important to her.

Music is second nature to Olive and her room easily transforms into a rehearsal space. When she isn’t playing the drums they metamorphose into little tables for games and for her bedside light.

Positioned against a wall, and piled high with colourful cushions, her bed becomes a cosy place to read and a dreamy place to sleep. Painting directly on a wall may be anarchic, but it can unleash unprecedented self-expression. Once I taped the “frame”, Olive created this masterpiece after being inspired by a visit to an artist’s studio. © The Telegraph

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