Picture a family home where eight children—all adolescents—rule the roost. You should count on the home decor being broken, the furniture ruined. Children are just too rough on things—especially when there’s practically an elementary school class of them living in the home. So a residence housing eight young ones couldn’t possibly be ultra-modern, whimsical and appealing to the eye as well as practical.
Yet that’s exactly what modern home designer Rod Mickley accomplished for his client in Palm Beach: a magazine spread-ready home that also works for a large family. The client was seven or eight months pregnant with her eighth child, he said, when she approached him to take on the project. “She said, ‘I want bright, airy and fun. Have at it.’ Otherwise, there was very little input,” Mickley acknowledges.
His ideas can easily be extrapolated for families of all sizes and dynamics; here are some takeaways:
Create spaces for kids, family:
Mickley tackled the job with intent, updating a 1980’s home where the beds had been built into the floors and walls to a space that could be adapted to a growing family. Since the gender and ages of the children split very evenly down the middle, he turned two of the four bedrooms into what he calls “bunk rooms,” one for the girls and one for the boys. In the family room, he installed an enormous U-shaped sofa that all eight kids could “crash out on at one time;” this was such a success the client sent him a picture of the entire family doing just that. And the dining room table “seats something like 14 people. These were the obvious things you have to have” given the size of the family, he notes.
Pick durable fabrics, furniture:
Other design and décor tricks he used are not so apparent. For textiles, Mickley brought in outdoor fabrics that are easily laundered, a choice that homeowners with pets frequently advocate. He also selected furniture materials—rattans, wickers, beaten metals—that typically weather the elements well, as these can also withstand young occupants’ sticky hands, dirty feet and roughhousing.
Think outside the fence:
The color scheme adds pops of blue and red and playful artwork to a white base. Leafy green plants point to the tropics that exist right outside the windows. And rather than fence in the pool, which is not only appropriate for safety reasons but is the law, Mickley enclosed it with a glass wall. This neat brainstorm allows for a clear, uninterrupted view from the back of the house while complying with state regulations at the same time.
While he was thinking about safety, he also redid the home’s working fireplace, re-positioning the flue and redoing the railed structure around it. In addition, he fenced in the entire yard.
Factor in play spaces:
The yard’s playground is an integral part of the design, and Mickley made it so that the kids could go out there on their own, with little supervision, “whenever they need to bounce off the walls.” He built it on artificial turf, a smart idea in part because grass doesn’t grow well in South Florida, and in part because turf creates less mess. Here he also installed a tetherball for energy-releasing games and a geodesic dome, which is not only great for climbing but complements the futuristic lines of the house itself.
Since Mickley has completed the design, the family has purchased the house behind them. So now there’s room for even more expansion. As the children reach middle and high school, who knows what clever, lively design projects might be in store—and be examples for others who need to perhaps isolate themselves from grumpy teenagers?
Photo Credit: Jessica Glynn Photography