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The COVID-19 baby boom that had been predicted early in the pandemic has not come to fruition. In fact, a survey by the Guttmacher Institute found that 34% of American women have either delayed their plans to have a child or reduced the number of children they expect to have as a result of the pandemic; a European study reported similar findings among European women. However, sheltering in place has prompted parents to invest more in children’s spaces over the past year, as they’ve come to realize how disorganized their homes are, according to a Modsy study of 2,000 participants nationwide. With the entire family at home during quarantine trying to live, learn, and work under one roof, parents increasingly enlisted designers who understand the needs of children to help create functional and attractive spaces to accommodate the youngest members of their household.

“Certainly last year we saw an uptick in clients interested in having fresh new spaces for the whole family,” says Chicago-based designer Megan Winters. Beth Dotolo of Pulp Design Studios agrees: “During the lockdowns, we had a lot of requests from new and former clients to help them rework spaces in their home for homeschooling and play areas. I even had to rethink my home with two boys doing remote learning.”

Janessa and Stephen Gertz, the design principals behind Milieu Interior Design in Chicago, say, “Since kids have been mostly at home for the last year, parents are noticing that their environments may need a little growing up, a place to play quietly when parents are working from home, or a place for them to do schoolwork and lessons.” The married design duo (and new parents) say they feel like they have started to attract clients like themselves: “It’s all about being able to relate, and having a sense of humor and so much in common with your client.”

During the past year, parents have found themselves converting existing rooms into homeschooling areas or reconfiguring recreational spaces to function out of the way of parents’ work-from-home setups. So what’s the secret to appropriately designing spaces for children? Winters cites functionality, durability of materials, and a fun aesthetic that’s appropriate to age/gender/personality as the most important considerations, along with flexibility. “Movable furniture is key and not having the space overflowing with too much difficult-to-move-around ‘stuff,’” she says. “It’s simple to add a desk and chair, more toys, a computer, for example, if the space is designed with clean lines, extra playing space, and so on. In general, less is more if you want ultimate flexibility.”

In the same vein, Los Angeles–based interior designer Breegan Jane recommends using multifunctional furniture items. “Think about pieces that hide away items you use regularly,” she says. “A tufted ottoman with hidden storage is gorgeous, can easily store diapers and wipes, and will work well when the baby starts to pull up on things to practice walking. It’s multipurposing at its finest.”

“Designing children’s spaces is all about balancing their whimsical ideas with timeless design—meeting their expectations now, while also planning for what they’ll want (or not want) in the future,” says Lauren Hood, who founded Raleigh, North Carolina–based Progeny Interiors to specialize in designing spaces for the whole family. 

The Gertzes also stress the need to be cognizant of the age group you are designing for. “Does the child need a workstation? Is this child a gamer? Like to play dress-up? Does the space need to be a calming place, like a nursery, with a comfortable reading/nursing chair and blackout shades?” they ask. “It’s also extremely important, if the child is of age, to get their input. They feel heard and will sleep well and be happy in their space.”

This post was originally published on Architectural Digest