Although we are in the middle of summer, the new school year is just around the corner (you’ve probably seen the back-to-school supplies in the stores), and now is the ideal time to help the kids prepare, stay focused, and get organized.
When it comes to planning a child’s work/study space, organization is key, and controlling clutter, providing a space where parents can supervise (if need be), and creating an optimal study experience should all be taken into consideration.
This can all start with a fun yet functional organized homework station in your home. Not a lot of money or a “McMansion” is required, and all you really need are a few key ingredients to get started.
This is a great starting point for staying organized through life, “because good habits start early,” says Amy Van Arsdale, owner of Westport-based Cleared Spaces Home Organization.
First, find a room or space that works for your child. Depending on the child’s age and the assistance her or she requires, this spot could even be in the family room, kitchen, or dining room. If the child is older, a well-lit desk can serve as the perfect work station right in his/her bedroom.
Ideally, the work station should include a table and a chair with plenty of legroom. “Working from their lap is poor for posture and can provoke a lazy mood,” Van Arsdale says.
A table or desk allows for more room to spread out supplies, and it’s good to have the materials handy and categorized. Everything should be sorted by type and can even be put into individual drawers or containers, or even a nearby closet with shelves, so the clutter can be closed off for a cleaner look.
“I like to use Ziploc bags to hold the supplies,” Van Arsdale says, “as they’re clear and kids can easily put them away for a quick cleanup.”
Van Arsdale also recommends making an extra school supply bin and storing it in the basement or another storage area, and taking inventory of what you have before you go shopping for back-to-school supplies. “Chances are you have many of the supplies scattered around your home already,” she states.
For a family on the go, organizational options — such as a bin, a tote, or a backpack with a light load of supplies — can be easily transported to other locations, such as the car, where kids can do their school work.
How children work and study at home has changed: “Working at the kitchen table or in a bedroom on a small desk just doesn’t seem to work anymore for families,” says Carey Karlan, owner of Last Detail Interior Design in Darien.
Karlan’s clients have increasingly requested her help with creating kids’ workspaces, with parents trying to carve out areas in their home for the ultimate creative space. “In families with multiple children, parents like to have an area that is multipurpose, such as an upstairs playroom or a space off the kitchen,” she says. “I think that homeowners created work/study spaces on their own in the past, but now that these spaces have become a priority, they’re turning to interior designers for this service.”
Karlan believes it is essential to interview the family in order to understand how they plan to live in their homes, and that there’s always a way to find space for a kid’s workspace. “The home doesn’t have to be large in order to accommodate a workspace that’s well-organized and attractive,” she contends.
Trudy Dujardin, owner of Dujardin Design Associates (DDA), with offices in Westport and Nantucket, concurs: “We managed to incorporate a homework area for two teenagers into the dining room of a classic Manhattan Park Avenue duplex,” she explains. “The duplex had a large dining room typical of the early 20th-century elegance, and the room featured a large window that flooded the room with light.”
The front portion of the room held an elegant dining table for eight, and the design team had banquette seating, which hid a large new heating unit flanking the large front window, installed. To create the teens’ workspace, the designers placed a large glass-topped table and extra chairs behind the dining table, in front of the banquette and window. Bookcases, which featured cabinets below for homework storage, a printer, and other necessary equipment, were built to flank the window. “This workspace provided the two teenagers a large work area that had wonderful light and was close to the action,” Dujardin recounts. “The family also loves this space for casual eating.”
Price Connors, senior designer for DDA, adds, “When we design a young person’s bedroom, we arrange a special meeting with them, and ask them to create a ‘look book’ with all their favorite things that we can incorporate into their room. There is always a work space integrated into the space, which is timeless and classic so they can grow into it. We make sure it has great lighting, but we also make sure there is a sense of peace, so they’re able to relax while doing their work.”
The study area may one day become simply a computer station, or a place to pursue hobbies or apply makeup, Connors notes.
Christina Roughan, owner of Roughan Interiors in Weston, notes that most of her clients request a work/study space when redecorating their children’s rooms. “Any room can be used as a functional workspace,” she says. “Even the living room sofa can be utilized for that purpose, and then on weekends it’s where family and friends can watch TV.”
Most parents want the room to grow with the child into adulthood, according to Roughan, whose designs for children tend to be more versatile and sophisticated, and not one-dimensional. “I try and include pieces that have multiple uses and can be easily swapped out as the child ages or his or her needs change,” she says.
Whether you hire an interior designer or create your child’s work/study space yourself (with input from your child), the ultimate goal is to have a fun and functional place in which the child will enjoy working. Flexible seating is key, as are ottomans and small tables, which can be easily rearranged and are also unisex if the space is shared by siblings of different genders. Laptops seem to have dictated the use of surface areas and tables rather than traditional desks. And remember to add color through paint, fabrics, wallpaper, window treatments, and fun accessories.
Kimberly Mariano, color consultant for Huntington Paint & Wallpaper in Shelton, notes that color choices for age groups differs. “For children aged 3 to 7, we typically recommend bright vibrant colors with patterns,” she says. “For kids aged 8 to 12, more subdued colors are trending, while we tend to suggest relaxing yet inspiring colors for teens.”
She adds that incorporating design elements, such as professional sports teams official colors across accent walls, and adding pinstripes, subtle gray tones, and earth tones, would all lend themselves well to a child’s work/study space.
“Consider also adding wallpaper, which comes so many patterns and colors,” Mariano says. “Wallpaper has changed significantly over the years, and they have a variety, from infant to pre-teen.”