Making adults feel at home once the toys are put away

One of the challenges with which we are frequently presented is the best way to design a true family room where everyone can relax, play games or watch TV.

The main problem being that "family" areas frequently become "child dominated" with parents having to put up with lots of toys and mess.

A couple who recently engaged our services have two children under five and were fed up living in a cluttered space. They wanted a room that would allow the children free rein during the day, but revert to an adult friendly space in the evening.

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The design key to achieving this goal is storage, and this design has it in spades without compromising on style.

The first item I designed was an oversize leather ottoman – one of our favourite problem-solvers. It is a versatile piece of furniture and something many homes that are short on space could benefit from.

The large surface makes it the perfect place for playing board games, while the padded leather top and carefully calculated height ensure it also makes the ideal foot-stool.

I sometimes incorporate hardwood centres surrounded by cushion, which make it more usable as a coffee table, but these are never quite as comfortable.

A large, low ottoman provides masses of space for toys of a variety of sizes.

For those with really small children I would recommend a hydraulic hinge to avoid any accidents with trapped fingers.

The two bespoke cupboards contain a large amount of shelving behind mirrored doors at the top and mesh panel doors at the base. The top section was designed to hold books, DVDs and CDs without any visible mess.

The lower section served a different purpose in each cupboard.

One cupboard remained the property of the junior children with maximum space for storing larger items, such as toy pushchairs. The other cupboard has a lock and more shelving and holds the majority of the clients' audio visual equipment, which is operable without need for the cupboard to be open.

From the outside, the cupboards look identical, which is critical when placing pieces either side of a fire if your design is going to succeed.

A bespoke surround for the TV ensures it does not dominate the room and ties in with the cupboards on either side.

Young families need plenty of fun, so the strong colours of the furniture and rug were chosen to invigorate and enthuse.

The soft textures also feel warm and tactile and are amazingly resilient to wear and tear.

The softer shades of the walls and cabinetry act as a soothing backdrop and ensure that any evening transformation is perfect.

This particular room does not benefit from terrific external light, so I added the large wall mirror and mirrored doors of the cupboards to help reflect extra light in and around the room.

The combination of overhead and wall lamps ensure the perfect range of lighting from high to muted, depending on who would be using the room.

A conscious decision was made to avoid using table lamps to minimise the risk of potential accidents as small children career around the room.

Contemporary side-tables reflect the modern taste of the couple and provide the ideal place for a gin and tonic or favourite book in the evening when this is once again an adult space.

Finally, a remote-control

gas fire completes the cosy feel of this room and ensures heat without any hassle when required.

Jamie Hempsall is a member of the British Institute of Interior Design. Contact him on 01777 248463, follow him on Twitter or visit