People prize their time with their families and make it a high priority, so how can a home encourage more family time and make it even more enjoyable?
One of the reasons people love Park City is that it promotes a positive family lifestyle with ample opportunities for skiing, biking, and hiking together. Parkites take pride in their safe, healthy environment, and there are lots of activities and events that work well for an extended multi-generational family. But for the times when families gather indoors, what home enhancements make for a more quality family interaction?
Homebuyers Focus on Families
Every day, Marny Schlopy, a Park City residential real estate specialist with Team Schlopy, talks to people looking for the right home. She knows quality family time is an important part of decision-making. “People want a big space for family. I’m seeing a decline in interest in having a dedicated home theater, and a desire for a family room with a big screen TV, a pool table, ping pong, and a bar for refreshments where the whole family can intermingle. Also, families look for open floor plans.”
“Young families like a home where the bedrooms are on the same level as the master,” Schlopy continues. “Th is contrasts to maturing families with grown kids, who want the master on the main level. For young families looking ahead, there is an appeal to homes with two potential masters, one on the level with the other bedrooms and one on the main level, because the design fl exes as the family’s needs change.”
Another point she makes is about outdoor living. “For families, an outdoor patio works better than a deck because the children can run around and play while the adults gather around a firepit. With just a deck, there is too much separation from the kids.”
Start with Plans
Altitude Design Build of Park City builds custom and spec homes that work for how people want to live. When asked about homes that work for families, Larry Feldman replies, “Th e emphasis on family interaction fi rst appears in our plans.
There is a fl ow from the great room, to the dining area, and then to the kitchen, which is the space that naturally draws people together.” Lane Jacobson, a thirty-year veteran of Park City home construction, agrees and notes that Altitude Design Build pays attention to “pockets and fl ow,” meaning creating spaces where the family interacts but foot traffic is directed around the activity, alleviating interruptions. An example is a billiard area on one side of the great room where the table is set off , but still part of the room.
Altitude Design Build creates downstairs family rooms that are essentially communal play spaces. Feldman describes the family rooms as places for the kids and adults to have fun side by side.
“It’s not a room for individual, isolated entertainment, but a public space planned for all generations. Th ere might be a kid’s nook with pinball machines, but the kids will mingle with adults at the shuffleboard or the golf simulator.”
Jacobson adds, “Family interaction does not happen without thought. Our designs give alternative spaces for families, and we keep them active and moving with lots of opportunities for conversation.”
Advanced by Design
Kelly Wallman, designer and owner of San Francisco Design in Park City and Salt Lake City, shares her observations. “Truly, I find open floorplans ideal for families. People are together and not separated by walls. To make these open floorplans work, I create separate seating arrangements, and two are best if the room is large enough — one around the television and a reading nook. Similarly, if there is space, I like two tables, a casual table for informal meals and for playing games, and a more formal dining table for special occasions.”
“Many homes in the Park City area have playrooms or family rooms downstairs,” she adds, “and these are natural spaces for keeping families close. I start with a big comfy sectional and add a television, ping pong, and oft en a piano. While it’s something that is easily overlooked, it’s important to provide plenty of storage in playrooms for all the toys and games.” Wallman notes that it isn’t easy to achieve these things in a small home, but a good designer can find solutions to make most homes work.
Anthea Hovden is a designer with Robert Kelly Home, and she also prefers open floorplans for families. “People tend to converse more when they are in one space. I like to see the whole area as a fl ow-through house. Everybody hangs out in the kitchen, so it is important to design the kitchen island with enough space and seating to let people gather there.”
She also offers some furnishing tips. “For the dining area, a round table is better for conversation because everyone is face-to-face and can join in. I really like swivel chairs because they allow people to turn. Also, I avoid pieces that visually block parts of the room. Th is is especially important for families with younger children where the parents want to keep a close eye on the kids.”
And for older children? “I think that a space for older children is an exception to keeping things open. Most families welcome a separate game room for their older children and their friends. Of course, parents can join in on the fun, but oft en they like to separate the kids’ activities from the adults; it works for that age group.”
Remember Good Lighting
“Lighting aff ects a family in more ways than you would think,” Brassey says. “It can bring family together in many ways. When a room has layers of lighting, it is more inviting. When preparing dinner, task lighting is important for the cook, but it is beneficial to have great lighting at the island for kids doing homework. When the kids’ favorite television program is on but Mom wants to read a book, an adjustable reading light keeps her nearby. Night lights, step lights, and pathway lighting help family members find each other in the dark of the night when a child is sick or some other emergency arises. Finally, adequate outdoor lighting keeps the family safe by discouraging thieves and vandals.”
Our experts agree that great family spaces are possible with forethought, good planning, conscious furniture choices, storage, and great lighting. It sets the stage for happy times together.