Working and schooling from home have shown us that our spaces should not only look great, but need to function well too—three design experts advise on getting that balance right.

This article was originally published on Christie’s International Real Estate’s lifestyle blog, Luxury Defined.

Home renovations have increased by 50 percent since 2010, according to a report from the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies—ensuring that the U.S. market for home improvement now worth over $400 billion annually. And 2020’s major shifts in the way we live, work, and learn seem to have intensified the desire to redesign our spaces, says home renovation site Houzz, which recently reported a 58 percent increase in requests over last year. For many homeowners, setting up a homeschool space is at the top of their wish list.

“One of the challenges many parents are having is that they didn’t plan on homeschooling their children, and their homes aren’t set up for it,” says Jamie Gold, a California-based designer and the author of Wellness by Design: A Room-by-Room Guide to Optimizing Your Home for Health, Fitness, and Happiness. “This is especially challenging when there are two or more students involved.”

A dining room table a family has used when setting up a homeschool space
According to the National Home Educators Research Institute, at least 2.7 million students in the United States will be homeschooled through 2021, creating an increased demand for dedicated learning spaces. Image: Getty Images

Even if your children are back in school full- or part-time, so much time spent at home has shown us that it’s not enough for our homes to look great, they have to function well too. Here’s how three design experts believe you can achieve just that.

Aim to create a flexible, comfortable space that can accommodate learning, rather than trying to recreate a classroom—Lisa Janvrin

1. The Right Area is Everything

The first step in setting up your kids for success is to choose the right spot in the house for learning. Consider not only how much space your child will require, but how much supervision they’ll need, too. “Ideally you want dedicated workstations for each child in an area that’s visible to the parents, but out of the highest traffic areas,” Gold says. Little ones also may need room to draw and do crafts, while older children may mainly only need enough room for a laptop.

A desk placed underneath large windows in a bedroom
Along with a decent electric light source, natural light can make all the difference to your child’s workspace and has been shown to improve mood, energy, alertness, and productivity.
Image: Getty Images

Most design experts agree that homeschooling is best done outside a child’s bedroom. But, if your child is older and needs more privacy, there are ways to design a child’s room that marries style and function. “Desks should have appropriate task lighting, something that’s often missing in bedrooms,” Gold advises. A table lamp or sconces placed above the learning area usually do the trick. “The desk setup should also be positioned so that blue light emitting from any devices doesn’t glow across the bed and interrupt sleep,” she adds.

2. Create Curated Zones

Whether your child will be homeschooling in their bedroom or another room entirely, flexible seating—which seamlessly combines form and function—is a great solution. It’s also an easy way to infuse the space with a pop of style and playfulness. The idea is to create multiple vignettes, or zones, within one larger space, allowing kids to choose where they feel comfortable doing different activities.

For example, colorful, indoor teepees, swinging chairs, floor cushions, and bean bags are all perfect spots for reading. “They’ll still need a desk for writing and laptop activities, but providing them with more than one spot to work encourages kids to make the most of the space, while also boosting their comfort level,” says Lisa Janvrin, a designer with YouthfulNest, which specializes in children’s spaces.

Boy sitting in a comfortable reading nook
“Use a series of flexible seating arrangements to create multiple vignettes within the same room,” says Janvrin. “It gives you a chance to let your style—and your child’s—shine.”

For younger children, Janvrin recommends the soothing nature of a rocking chair for tackling difficult subjects like math. A separate table with chairs can be set up for crafts and snack time. “You’re creating a flexible, comfortable space that can accommodate learning, rather than trying to recreate a classroom environment that doesn’t work with the rest of your house,” she explains.

Providing kids with more than one spot to work encourages them to make the most of the space, while also boosting their comfort level—Lisa Janvrin

3. Invest in Flexible Furniture

When it comes to shopping for furniture, look for stylish, ergonomic chairs and desks that are height-adjustable and can accommodate a growing child, ensuring your little one has a comfy, safe spot to sit for years to come.

A leaning desk in a bedroom
A leaning desk is a great option for an older child’s bedroom, or where space is limited. “I’m a huge fan of leaning desks,” says Janvrin. “They can easily be added to any room and they come with built-in storage.”

“It’s also a good idea to choose double-duty furniture,” Janvrin adds. Ottomans, desks, and benches with storage are perfect for hiding away books and supplies when not in use, adds New York-based designer Eneia White of Eneia White Interiors. Look for furniture with built-in USB ports to make it easy for your child to plug in when they need to. You can also make the most of your vertical space with bookshelves, so everything isn’t piled on the floor.

4. Maximize the Space You Have

If space is limited and your dining room is your home’s command center, try mixing chairs around the table, suggests White, whose New York City clients mostly live in apartments. By pairing your dining table’s regular chairs with counter stools or benches—or both—your child can choose their seat based on their size and task. “You could also upgrade your chair fabric to a wipeable option that can compete with markers, glue, and tiny fingers,” White adds. “It’s a clever way to hold off wear and tear.”

Homeschooling at dining table-Eneia White-255 East 57th Street Unit 15E
Multiple seating options around the same table, such as this area White designed for a Manhattan apartment, are a smart space-saving trick and allow your child to choose where best to complete their task.
Image: Nick Glimenakis

When it comes to supplies, opt for clear containers with lids for younger children, so it’s easy for them to see what’s inside and to put things away, minimizing messes. For older children, natural rattan baskets add an organic touch to a room and corral all matter of books, pens, and supplies.

Keep in mind that our spaces affect our mood and, when it comes to children, can affect their confidence levels too. Every designer we spoke to suggested involving your children in the design of the space, so they’ll be more likely to feel good in it. “It’s an opportunity to include your kids in the process, but vet their choices first,” Janvrin says. “Offer them three choices of something you can live with, then go from there.”

Banner image: Getty Images

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