Back to School: Designing for Kids

September brings us back to school, and with it a distinct change of routine (especially this year, as most students resume in-person learning); and with the season, a flurry of design opportunities for our team. 

In the custom family homes we imagine, we consider areas where young ones can flourish. These spaces are integral to our work impacting the learning, self reliance, sense of security and even social skills that all kids need. As we design (often with input from the kids, too!), our priorities align with that of their parents: to help them raise generous, thoughtful, curious children. To welcome a new school year, we share some of our favorite projects, and the process that provides a safe, creative haven, both now and as they grow.

Along with concept photos, many of our projects begin with hand-drawn renderings. While designing a boy’s room in a ground-up Santa Monica residence, we integrated a daybed niche with concealed storage offering a cozy spot to learn and play, but also keep toys hidden when not in use.

Some kids like to perform. Music, poetry jams or melodramas are all at home on this playroom stage. To create this rendering, we first capture a specific view in Revit, a 3-D modeling software; then print and sketch over it with trace paper, ​​adding detail and material texture. We then add shade and shadow in Photoshop, creating the final drawing.

Sleepovers will be back soon! And when they return, we have designed a fourplex, so that your kids’ dreams can be shared with their friends in real time.

2-D elevations and sections, like those below, show the interior architecture of a room to scale – including cabinetry and millwork, tile, hardware and more allowing homeowners to see a space and its details from many different viewpoints. Within the restoration and renovation of a 1930 Mediterranean Revival residence in Hancock Park, we created a child’s desk within a niche, reflecting the home’s original architecture. A back panel conceals electrical cords, as shown in the detail.

This 3-D model in Revit helps homeowners visualize a child’s room with desk, shelves, window seats and tray ceiling.

When each project is complete, we are delighted as our families move in. This Brentwood, Los Angeles addition integrated built-in bunks into a compact shared bedroom for two brothers each with individual study desks. Photo by Jean Randazzo.

This Pacific Palisades family home was designed with two children at top of mind. The hallway leading to each room houses schoolbooks and one of our favorite design features: chalkboard paint for practicing spelling, math or a self portrait! Photo by Jean Randazzo.

Within this addition to a Santa Monica Craftsman Chalet, a nook in the family room is now an intimate library, flanked by built-in desks. Designed after the writing desks popular during the home’s period of significance, these modern fall-front desks can be tucked away once homework is completed each night. Photos by Laure Joliet.

When your kids love a view (or need some inspiration) a desk underneath a window does the trick. In this ground-up Colorado Rustic Residence, a custom built-in desk with bookshelves makes a statement at the stair landing. Photo by Merritt Design Photo.

A secret room in the daughter’s bedroom of our LEED Gold Sustainable Home provides a private kid-sized space to read and daydream. Photo by Karyn Millet.

Outdoors, the parking court of our Southern Colonial new custom home in Atherton doubles as a sports court, too. The hinged garage doors swing open to reveal a covered play space when the cars are away. Photo by Laura Hull.

Creating innovative spaces for our homeowners and their growing children is an important step in our thorough process. Imaginative design features make life memorable, for kids who are learning, growing, playing and dreaming. To learn more about how we create homes that adapt with our families’ lifestyles, see our process.