Silicon Valley has one of the world’s highest costs of living. So, when we moved here, we jumped at the chance to get into a (much more affordable than other options) condo owned by Mike’s employer. We didn’t even see it before agreeing to live there, but it had MORE square footage to our little ranch in Massachusetts, so we figured we could easily make it work as our home. Now it is working great – but it took some creativity to get there! Sometimes creating a family-friendly living space means thinking outside the blueprint.
When we moved in, we set things up mostly by following the condo blueprint. That approach seems logical enough, but the condo was designed to be lived in by a couple with one, maybe two children – preferably older children. The main living area was a lot smaller than our previous home, because bedrooms were larger and there were three full-sized bathrooms instead of one and a half small ones (our Massachusetts half bath was an incredibly tiny but very effectively used 3 by 4 feet). We also stored a lot of toys and food in our attached garage in Massachusetts. Here we have a garage, but it’s not by our condo – out of sight, even. The garage is a great storage space for our bikes (we park in a parking lot), but anything we use daily really needs to be in the house. Our larger-square-foot condo was feeling much smaller than our house, and up until Memorial Day weekend when Mike and I made a major overhaul, it usually looked a disaster zone – even though it isn’t THAT small.
I’m not a neatnik, but I don’t like trying to get my toddler to eat solid food while she sees toys that she wants to play with EVERYWHERE. The dining room table would quickly become covered by toys between meals, and I missed having a space where I could sit and visit with friends.
Our condo has three bedrooms: a small downstairs bedroom that we were using as the computer room/library, the upstairs room our four kids sleep in, and a large master bedroom – also upstairs. The master bedroom was eating up a lot of our square footage, and we were hardly spending any time in there. It is also the only room in the house with a lot of natural light, and I am a natural light addict.
After a lot of thought and discussion, we emptied out the library and turned it into a master bedroom. A very small master bedroom – we actually still keep our clothes upstairs so that we can use the closet in this room for coats and other things we want on the ground floor of the house. A small master bedroom that, it turns out, is much nicer to sleep in. Our room no longer faces the street (no more cars coming and going, and no more people standing out on the sidewalk having loud conversations in the wee hours), and the house stays cooler downstairs than upstairs. Double win!
The upstairs master bedroom was supposed to double as my craft space, but I wasn’t crafting there at all, in spite of having a lovely dedicated craft table – and storage. My kids love hanging out with me, and I love having them nearby, but not when they are jumping on my bed because I’m trying to use the sewing machine.
With the master bed out, we were able to fit the kids’ toys upstairs. Now they hang out there and play – and I get my craft projects done. We are making full use of the room’s high ceiling (loud play is much more bearable when there are high ceilings!) and natural light.
Even when Anna is the only one at home, she is very happy to play with her little kitchen (affiliate link – we love this little kitchen, and people ask where we found it all the time) while I work. When I’m not crafting, the kids still enjoy hanging out up here. We are working on decorating the walls to make it an even nicer space!
I did keep our DUPLO bricks downstairs. They are easy to clean up, and it means we have something for little friends to play with who want to stay close to their moms who come to visit.
We’ve had this new setup for a little over a week, now, and the house is so much more peaceful! The kids like to read on the living room rug and couches, and they are reading their library books so much more now! I had wondered why library books were no longer being read, since they were always out in Massachusetts. In our old home, the kids would read in the living room and play in the playroom. By trying to combine the two spaces, we had eliminated the kids’ favorite reading space.
The kids are also much more cheerful about keeping the playroom clean than they were about the living room. I think they feel a lot more ownership over the master bedroom turned playroom because they see it as their space. They are also better at keeping the living room clean – because they see it as my space.
Through a little creative thinking, we were able to create a lovely, family-friendly home – without spending a penny! I still dream of getting back into a house someday. I miss having a yard with grass, and my neighbors sometimes play their music a little too loudly, but our current situation WORKS!
What creative, family-friendly living solutions have you come up with?