Interiors: Top tips for designing a family friendly kitchen for a new baby

A year on from when we started our house renovation (I know, how can it have been a year already?!) there are a few things I've reflected on about creating a more family friendly kitchen. It was a big part of the brief for our 1850's farmers cottage which was disconnected with various separate rooms and awkward connection to the garden.

We really envisaged a space where we could all be together, so that we weren't on our own cooking. Where we could have a comfy sitting area and space for dining, as well as room for the babies to play and move around.

Here are the biggest issues we considered before we started our renovation:

1. It doesn't have to be vast or completely open, just connected.

Create a connected kitchen, dining and living space if you can as this is what will make your life easier when baby/babies are around. You will want to get on with loading the dishwasher, cooking or food prep while keeping an eye on little one. It soon gets wearing having to pick them up and move their toys to whatever room you are in so make your life easier. Being able to have eyes on baby all the time is so important when they're tiny, so a more open layout is good, especially as they reach around 6 months and want to play with a little more independence but need supervision.

But over time that could become a problem as kids get older and want more space. In that case broken plan layout could work, where you divide up the space with freestanding storage, or have a more L shaped space where the living/dining area is slightly separated but where you can still see easily. Plus it hides a multitude of sins and the washing up in the sink when you are entertaining.

2. Durability is king

I can't stress enough how messy things get constantly. Babies as they start weaning and moving create a lot of mess! Sticky fingers on your cupboard doors and windows. Food thrown on the floor and up the walls so have a washable floor, cupboards (and paint for that matter) to make it easier on yourself to restore order.

3. Make it safe

Adapt it for when baby starts moving and inevitably wants to explore every nook and cranny. If they can sit in a slightly separate area and still see you cooking, everyone will be happier. Otherwise you may have to cordon off the cooking and prep zone to ensure its safe. We also moved our ovens up high, despite really loving an Aga, so that I wouldn't be on edge all the time. Cupboard locks and avoiding things they can climb on are the obvious ones but also bear in mind toys will migrate into your kitchen space, so find an area close but where they won't be in your way whilst cooking.

A great way to keep them entertained is to keep a cupboard, shelf or drawer at their level with safe items to explore, like tupperware and wooden spoons. Over time it can encourage independence as we now as the Little Inspiration to get her own plates, bowls and spoons ready for her meals. Also keep a basket or two on hand to gather up the toys and books when you want to clear up.

4. Storage, storage storage

Dedicate a space in your new family kitchen for the baby paraphernalia such as sterilisers, bottles, bibs, and other kit. Try to build it in everywhere and keep a few nice wicker or rattan baskets dotted about to scoop up crafts, toys and paraphernalia

5. Make it fun and sociable
You're spending all of this money to create a family friendly kitchen but also remember it is meant to be a sociable and fun space for as baby gets older. If it is to be your main living space, make sure to include things like blackboard walls for them to get creative, noticeboards for family appointments, a place for artwork and crafts they bring home from nursery. Have plenty of space for dining and sitting when you invite family and friends over for gatherings and a little some something for the grown ups with a cool bar areas. Even if it means compromising on that central island you so want by having something like a peninsula with breakfast bar, or a slightly smaller cooking space.

6. Choose furnishings that are durable but also in keeping with your aesthetic

Choose a highchair and children's furniture that is in keeping with the aesthetic of your kitchen so it blends in. A stokke tripp trapp is the dream but Ikea Antilop also does the trick very well and isn't too out of place. Keep it away from anything that isn't wipe clean as weaning is messy! As they gain more Independence you can include a small table and chairs so that they can sit comfortably at meal times and also use it for colouring etc as they get bigger.

7. Comfort

Yes you love those iron stools but are they comfortable for relaxing in your kitchen space? Are they going to be suitable for kids sitting at the breakfast bar as they get that bit older?  Especially whilst baby us young try to include a comfy seating or an armchair if possible next to a socket so you can charge your phone. Great for those marathon cluster feeding sessions. It also means that the toddler could sit next to you and read or colour making everyone feel involved.

9. Fitted appliances if you can

Hide your bin if you can as little hands will be drawn to it. Same for floor plants and build yourself a plant shelf instead or use macrame hanging plants. They are also endlessly fascinated with washing machines and dishwashers, so if you don't have a utility space, do yourself a favour and keep it hidden inside a cupboard so they can constantly press those inviting little buttons.

10. Surfaces need to be easy to maintain

We had wood worktops in our old kitchen which I loved. They were ok to maintain when there was just two of us but as we were washing up more we found we were having to sand them back a lot and they were staining. Using quartz on our worktops has made it very hard wearing and easy to wipe down. So worth the investment.

Also choose furnishings, like your dining table, that are hard wearing or put down a good oil cloth table cloth. Our table is wooden so every now and again it can be sanded and rewaxed to keep it looking good but the style is quite rustic so a knock or mark here and there adds to the character.

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