In our digital age, finding a place for children to do their homework can be a tough assignment.
Forget the kitchen table. Kitchens, which now often function as gathering, entertaining and play spaces, are getting busier, making it hard to do focused schoolwork. The dining table, the other usual standby, often can’t serve the demands of numerous electronic devices.
The result is increasing demand for a dedicated homework area. It must be close enough for parents to keep an eye on things, but far enough to minimize distraction. It also needs lots of plugs and wiring for electronics without looking like a space lab.
The percentage of middle and high-school students using technology for homework more than doubled between 2011 and 2015, according to research by Project Tomorrow, an education nonprofit organization based in Irvine, Calif. Of students between grades 6 and 12, 87% use the internet at home for school assignments.
Given the myriad opportunities the internet offers for distraction—or worse—more parents want children using their devices in the home’s public spaces. Plus, there is the general trend of greater parental involvement in schoolwork. “Younger parents want to be more involved in their children’s educational process at home,” says Julie Evans, Project Tomorrow’s Chief Executive.
Sometimes the children’s work takes precedence. Scott and Melissa Powell’s six-bedroom, 5,200-square-foot house in Dallas has no home office. Instead, there is a bright, contemporary study room for their four young children in a wing behind the kitchen area.
They were planning ahead: Currently only 9-year-old Caden, the oldest, does schoolwork on one of four installed desktops. Each workstation has two electrical outlets above and two below, as well as its own data line and USB plug. The room also has a Wi-Fi booster.
Sometimes Mr. Powell, owner of a home design and construction business called New Leaf Custom Homes, uses the area for his own work, but he and his wife said they preferred this to a home office they wouldn't use every day.
The Powells paid $1.1 million to build their midcentury modern house on an undeveloped lot they bought for $450,000 in the city’s White Rock Valley neighborhood. In the children’s workspace, the main expense was cabinetry, which cost around $5,000, says Mr. Powell, 37. The floor is polished concrete for resilience and easy cleaning. “A lot of the time, they are leaving a mess in there,” he says.
For Connecticut mother Jennifer Sechan, getting away from the mess was one reason that she and her husband, Robert, created a homework space when they renovated and enlarged their New Canaan home for $2 million in 2012.
“We used to have a desk in the kitchen but I have four kids, so the kitchen was always cluttered,” says Ms. Sechan, 47. Now the study area, located off the family room and designed by Portland, Ore.-based interior designer Garrison Hullinger, is her favorite room in the house. “This room has enough drawers and cabinets to keep the clutter out of sight. And it keeps the kids close by, so I can monitor what they are doing.”
With four children in three different schools, each with its own set of directories, class lists and permission slips, Ms. Sechan set up a basket for each child’s paperwork, and individual, colored boxes for documents, such as passports, birth certificate and health records. Electronic outlets run along the wall and underneath the built-in, walnut desk, with under-cabinet lighting for visibility. Holes in the desk help to hide the wires.
The Sechans’ children, ages 11 to 17, bring laptops to and from school but often prefer the bigger screens of their home desktops. From there, they log onto the school websites. Ms. Sechan’s only regret: no built-in charging stations for iPhones and iPads, as plugs and cables have a way of disappearing.
It cost around $40,000 to create the children’s study, not counting the addition to the six-bedroom house that now measures 11,100 square feet. As part of a renovation four years ago, the Sechans added a basement and fashioned a new family room, kitchen, mudroom and homework room.
The children use the space to read and lounge, meet with tutors and manage college applications. In the morning, Mrs. Sechan pays bills there. The study keeps most of this activity out of the kitchen—and the home office of Mr. Sechan, a wealth manager in nearby Stamford, Conn.
Creating an environment conducive to studying, home builders say, increasingly comes up as a goal when families configure a new house. “Having power at these homework stations is essential for all the gadgets kids have, in addition to doing homework on the computer,” says Wayne Yamano, senior vice president of strategic operations and marketing at Scottsdale, Ariz.-based home builder Meritage Homes.
In high-end houses, a space reserved for homework usually doesn't replace the home office, says Mr. Hullinger, the interior designer. The extra workspace is unlikely to negatively affect a property’s resale value because it can be used for household management or work from home, he adds.
In Daniela Bell and Eric Foster’s 2,800-square-foot Victorian home in a historic neighborhood of St. Paul, Minn., the homework area is next to the kitchen stove. When the couple bought the three-bedroom house with bay windows and a turret for $190,000 in 2012, interior architect Jacqueline Fortier suggested that they widen a nook in the kitchen wall to create a space for daughter Thalia, now in the second grade, to draw and do school projects. The alcove has a soapstone table and wooden benches with integrated storage drawers. Magnetic paint on the walls allows Thalia to display artwork and photos.
Ms. Bell, a teacher of health and fitness classes, and Mr. Foster, a 44-year-old restaurant owner, like having their only daughter close by when they cook, so “she doesn’t feel like she’s exiled to the attic,” says Ms. Bell, 43. Last month, Thalia used the space to write a family recipe into her school art book. In October, she researched a report on nocturnal animals there. The defined nook keeps her supplies from taking over the kitchen. And unless the dog wants to play, the 8-year-old isn't distracted by activity around her.
Tim and Nicola Duffin chose their 3,850-square-foot house in the Austin, Texas area because the floor plan, by Meritage Homes, included two offices. The couple, who moved into the $518,000 home in August and own two hair salons, work from home a lot.
While Mr. Duffin, who also works for a local technology company, uses the home office, Mrs. Duffin, 46, has claimed the satellite office near the laundry room. For 11-year-old Kayla and 6-year-old Roman, the Duffins converted one of the home’s five bedrooms into a study. It has a large desk, as well as a dry-erase board, a world map and a telescope. They also added fun touches like candy in glass jars and a chaise, where Roman likes to watch movies.
Roman, a first-grader, doesn’t have much homework yet, but the Duffins encourage Kayla to use the study because it is less distracting than their busy kitchen. Because the upstairs room is harder to supervise, they check on her regularly. “Occasionally, I sneak up to check that she is doing her schoolwork,” says Mr. Duffin, 45.
As children grow, homework spaces can evolve. Chicago residents Leslie and Josh Glazier created a children’s work area after they bought their six-bedroom home in Lincoln Park for $1.9 million in 2007. As part of a year-long, $1.5 million renovation that followed, they built a light-filled basement area equipped with a long, white desk and bookshelves built into white walls. The Glaziers installed desktop computers and a cork board for art projects.
Their older sons, Alex and Matt, now 23 and 21, did homework on the desktops, while their younger siblings, Daisy and Clay, used the space for art and sewing. Now 13 and 12, Daisy and Clay have laptops and often study in their rooms. For them, the basement is a social space. Ms. Glazier, a 51-year-old real-estate agent, uses the area to create photo albums, spreading pictures across the desk.
“The space has run through different stages as the kids have gotten older,” she says. “It’s used for different things now.”
Write to Cecilie Rohwedder at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Happy Tuesday!!! Holy moly the last two weeks have flown by! Well, I quite possibly rocked and bounced them away. If you are wondering where I have been with my home posts lately, let me just say that I have been spending a good part of my weeks knocking on my sister’s door for cuddle time with my new baby niece. Well maybe more letting myself in than actually knocking. I am OBSESSED. Addie always calls me the baby stealer. I am good and done and happy but I sure do LOOOVE to hold everyone else’s babies!
So you know when something drives you so crazy that one day you are just OVER IT? Like life please move aside while I focus on this thing over here that’s driving me crazy?!? Well as trivial as it may sound, that is EXACTLY how I felt last week about the upstairs of our home. It has become one big dump zone. Legos and art supplies and stuffed animals and AGH!!! When we moved into OHW, we donated soooo much and had narrowed down our toy stash to what each girl loves most. I hate clutter like something crazy so each girl chose two “toy categories” they loved and most everything else we gave away. For Addie it was Legos and art/craft/sewing supplies. For Winnie it was play food and dolls/stuffed animals. And of course we kept all of their books. I had really watched them play the several months prior to moving and saw that besides those “categories”, everything else just got drug out of baskets and left on the floor. The best part? The girls have not asked for one single thing that we gave away since moving! Not even once!
So yes, we decluttered mega but given that everything Addie loves is so small and “abundant”, it all can make a serious mess. I would swear that she owns 200 colored pencils and 300 gel pens! And given that you have to walk through the girl’s art room to get into Addison’s bedroom, it’s a mess that I could no longer ignore. SO I partnered with one of my faves, World Market, to make our small space not only beautiful but also organized and functional! My goal was to create a cute, whimsical space that encourages their creativity and also holds all of their art and craft supplies! A space they can sit and work on homework, color, paint or even sew. Apparently a creative mommy makes creative kiddos because my girls LOOOVE to create!
World Market has the BIGGEST selection of everything from color trends to decor and pillows! I love that I can shop in store or online and find soooo many cute things! With their selection always changing, I love to pop in often to see what’s new!
Let’s first take a peek at this space BEFORE! Oh and FYI, this room reveal may be a bit backwards. Today I am sharing the full organization and decor reveal and next week I will be sharing details on these super cute desks and chairs! I know y’all will ask so stay tuned on that! Oh and also don’t forget that this was originally meant to be a master suite media room which you can see below. You can see Addison’s bedroom in the background with the staircase that we removed to make the space into a bedroom…
And then post-construction… (Read More About That HERE)
And then post-wallpaper mural… (Read More About That HERE)
The desks obviously helped with storage but we needed a wee bit more. A place to throw markers and crayons and paper and everything in between. I fell in love with this cute little five-drawer rolling cart and it was the perfect fit for the space between the desks. Being organized is my love language so writing what goes in each drawer made me a little too happy ;-). Then I saw these fun desk organizers that have a little boho vibe that I love! Perfect for each girl to stash their pencils and pens or in Winnie’s case… her shopkins and bracelets. LOL. I honestly wasn’t even planning on getting a rug AND I usually don’t even like animal hide style rugs but I loved this faux gold printed cowhide rug! And finally, a kid’s space isn’t complete without a toy basket. This large macrame seagrass tote is the perfect size to stash Winnie’s stuffed animals and dolls!
Now here’s a peek at their Art / Craft / Homework Room TODAY!
Shop Our World Market Finds:
5-Drawer Rolling Cart / Desk Organizers / Seagrass Basket / Gold Cowhide Rug / Wallpaper Mural / Brass Pendants / Bronze Ceiling Pendant
Shop the Entire Room:
XOXO, Brittany Hayes
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