luxury family home

Family-focused design takes center stage in the modern luxury home


Although COVID has put strain on all households during the last year, families with children faced an added set of challenges, with parents acting as schoolteachers and caretakers while simultaneously juggling work from home.

This dilemma is common among the affluent when considering 82 percent of luxury homebuyers are married and 65 percent have children under the age of 18, according to the latest report from Luxury Portfolio International titled International Luxury Buyer Trends and Demand.

“Folks that have children and those that do not have had very different experiences [with the pandemic],” said Michelle Salz-Smith, founder and principal interior designer at Studio Surface, Del Mar, California.

During this time, parents have needed to find room for children, including dedicated spaces that are easily monitored, not distracting for the parent and, preferably, stylish.

“We are used to our children attending school while maintaining our own life at work and then we come home at the end of the day,” Ms. Salz-Smith said.

Of course, these separate lifestyles have since blurred.


Large homes are a blessing for families looking to spread out, but they are not always ideal for keeping an eye on the kids.

In working on a home in Southern California, Nicole Michael, principal and CEO of Nicole Michael Designs of Pasadena, California, met the request of a mom looking for solid sightlines.

“We started work on this newly constructed, single-family home in Southern California prior to the pandemic,” Ms. Michael said. “They had young children and it was important to the parents that their kids’ electronics stay out of the bedrooms and in an area where the parents could maintain a connection to what they were doing, both for homework and entertainment.

“Once the pandemic hit, that is where they did all of their schooling,” she said. “With the screens facing towards the kitchen, it works really well for the family.”

The kids’ study area included dedicated space for computers, printers, storage, school supplies and even towers where they can display projects and homework.

“At 6,500 square feet, there is no lack of space in this home,” Ms. Michael said. “We included the workspace in the kitchen so mom could stay connected to their screen time and help with homework.“

Parental guidance

While being in tune with the kids is a positive thing, parents still need options for retreat.

Indoor/outdoor layouts are perfect in combining watchfulness and distance.

luxury backyard
Keep adult-friendly spaces in mind when planning the home.

In one project from Studio Surface, a family installed a sports court visible from oversized pocket doors.

“The adults can see what the kids are doing while they enjoy dinner and wine from their indoor living room,” Ms. Salz-Smith said.

Meanwhile, the primary bedroom suite can act as an escape on its own with the inclusion of coffee or wine bars.

“A house can be full of family and guests and yet there is this intimate space that feels serene, that maintains the vistas to the gorgeous Pacific Ocean, tucked away,” Ms. Salz-Smith said.

Mommy’s pet

Continuing to remember adults in designing a family-centric property, furniture and design for children has grown more polished as time progresses.

“We have always thought of designing furniture for children in a way that does not feel juvenile,” Ms. Salz-Smith said. “They are just little humans, so I think it is fun to have miniature pieces created or purchased for them.”

The fun should instead be in scale and color so that they better blend with furnishings and feel less like a daycare.

Pet furnishings, too, have received an upgrade.

Many regard their furry friends as equally important members of the family, deserving of their own indulgent and comfy spaces.

“A favorite memory of mine is when a client sent me a picture of an antique Swedish settee that he purchased for his rescue bulldog,” Ms. Salz-Smith said.

The settee in question cost $6,000.

“It is a reminder that nothing should be too precious in our living spaces,” Ms. Salz-Smith said. “Use furnishings and materials that look amazing, but can sustain kids and bulldogs.”

Although every dog deserves a luxurious sleeping spot, not every pet owner is willing to shell out that kind of cash on a single item for the pet, regardless of income. Conversely, invest in a custom dog bed that is not in sharp contrast to the other furniture in the room.

“To some people, the animals are their kids,” Ms. Salz-Smith said. “We cannot leave them out of the mix.”

All grown up

We cannot leave parents of adult children out of the equation, either.

Last summer, it was reported by Pew Research Center that as many as 52 percent of young adults ages 18-29 live with their parents. Although this may be less true of the affluent, the trend has, undoubtedly, affected this demographic as well.

In the case of adult children, privacy is key. Consequently, these homes with parents and grown-up kids require more than one or two offices, as well as numerous areas for living.

Although larger families need more from their homes, children enrich lives and empty nesters come to miss the days of everyone living under the same roof.

In Northern Westchester County in New York, there has been a surge in buyers in their 50s, 60s and 70s looking for well-sized, single-family homes.

“It is an easy place for children who live in Manhattan to travel to, so they entice their older children to visit with a pool, tennis court or fire pit,” said Angela Kessel, a real estate agent from Houlihan Lawrence.

“I have recently sold quite a few significant homes to young nesters,” she added.

FAMILY HOMES in the 2020s are cooler than those of the past. They are made for better livability and do not compromise good taste for functionality.

“Recognize that perfection is not necessarily the goal,” Ms. Salz-Smith said. “What is important is having a beautiful space that feels great for both you and your loved ones.”

Lead image credit: Nicole Michael Designs

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