In cities like Vancouver, where owning a single-family home is increasingly out of the question for many families, apartment living is the reality. Developers, it seems, are considering families more and more in new apartment construction, with an increased focus on on-site recreational facilities like swimming pools, community rooms and playgrounds. There are also some simple interior design and decor choices you can make that will result in better family living in an apartment.
The number one piece of advice, say interior designers, is look for an apartment that has maximum storage: think floor-to-ceiling closets and kitchen cabinets. Being able to put things away — be it a hairdryer, large kitchen appliances, bedding or toys — creates a sense of order and calm in a home, and makes it easier to keep your apartment clean.
If the apartment doesn’t come with storage like this, it’s worth investing in having it installed. Companies like Ikea have great cost-effective cabinetry, says interior designer Lisa Canning, who recently used oversized Ikea cabinets in navy blue for a client’s laundry room for maximum storage. The result was a custom-looking design job.
Canning says another good tip for families living in an apartment is have a good looking laundry basket in every bedroom. She says that as a mother of seven, she can attest that if there’s a basket available, there’s a good chance laundry will make it into it. They can also serve as decor pieces as well, given the number of gorgeous designs on offer.
Designers advise homeowners to paint their walls white or a similar light colour if they want to make their apartment seem bigger, lighter and brighter, which is appealing when you’re living in a small space with a family. It also provides a great backdrop for hanging plants and artwork, including pieces made by your kids.
If you’re living in an apartment, it’s worth spending more money on a single piece of furniture that you love and will cherish, than going to Ikea and filling up a room, says Joanna Leung, vice-president of Vancouver-based outdoor furniture specialists Ratana.
Choosing the right piece of furniture that truly fits the space will make a big difference to the feel of your home, says Leung, who lived for many years in a tiny apartment in Hong Kong with young children.
“Less is more,” she says. “I buy a lot of ottomans or poofs because you put a tray on an ottoman and it can be a coffee table. If you need seating, you can sit on it. If you need to pull it outside, you can do that. Thinking outside the box is really key.”
Leung says ottomans and baskets are also great for stashing kids’ toys and crafts, and you can put a throw over the top of them to hide what’s inside.
“They look nice, are great for storage and from a visual perspective it’s great to have different textures,” she says.
There is a movement towards toys made from more natural materials (wood, and the like) and neutral colour choices for kids’ bedrooms, says interior designer Anna Dhillon, given that people don’t want to be overrun with plastic toys and primary colours, particularly in small spaces.
Dhillon customized the Bobbin Triple Play Centre for Toronto retailer Three Pears (which changes from a baby play centre to a toddler activity table to a kids table) in a monochromatic colour and it’s been very popular (even praised in a Snapchat review by Kim Kardashian West) for this reason, says the designer.
Keeping things off the floor is key when it comes to living in an apartment with a family, and the way to achieve this is maximize your vertical spaces. Think ironing boards that hook over a door, shower curtain caddies with pockets, shelves (in bedrooms and living areas) and hooks for jackets and bags.
The final tip for living in an apartment with a family is to look for a building that has in-suite laundry, because it’s hard enough to find time to do laundry without the restriction of not being able to do it in your pajamas.