A massive change to the norm, regardless of industry, can often feel impossible!
Design and architecture are no different.
Not so long ago, our TV and film screens were filled with shows centred around men interacting with other men, mostly white, with the occasional woman thrown in as the love interest. Fortunately, storytelling has done a complete 180 since then, and the tales we watch are now as diverse as the communities that watch them.
What's even more intriguing is that the very idea of such a massive change seemed almost impossible just a few decades ago. While the film and television industry has made tremendous strides in portraying diverse and inclusive narratives, the design and architecture industry seems to be moving at the pace of a snail.
Despite the fact that Le Corbusier's ‘Modular Man’ represents less than half of the world's population interacting with these environments, it's taken a surprisingly long time for this to be acknowledged and addressed.
Le Corbusier was a Swiss-French architect who is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modern architecture and urban planning. His design introduced a standardised system based on a average height French man for architecture that aimed to improve efficiency and functionality. While praised for its potential to reduce costs, it also sparked controversy for its emphasis on standardisation and lack of consideration for social context. Despite criticisms, it still continues to influence modern architecture and design today.
When we first began designing family-friendly spaces 15 years ago, some of our ideas were met with similar scepticism and controversy. The idea of sneaking in a tiny toilet and a child-height sink anywhere outside of a school would have been met with chuckles and a few raised eyebrows!
For too long, businesses like restaurants, holiday resorts, and doctor clinics got away with claiming they were "family friendly". But let’s be honest, they were rarely more than a corner of a room with a handful of toys tossed in for good measure!
Fast forward to today, family-friendly spaces are popping up all over the world like mushrooms in the Autumn, from play cafes to blossoming family clubs and resorts that are shifting their focus to accommodate everyone in style.
But why is that?
We see that there is an authentic and growing demand for places that make us all feel included. We see it taking place around the world: restaurants in London, holiday resorts in Greece, and family clubs in Hong Kong are shifting their focus (all while making a killer profit!).
An ideal design world allows each user to participate in an experience equally, regardless of age, ability or other factors that often limit participation. In our opinion, that’s how it should be: A well-rounded experience for everyone. We want to see more spaces where adults having a well overdue catch up, or simply just putting their feet up to relax, don’t need to be dragged off to a separate space for children, the two flow together seamlessly.
It's the kind of space that beckons you to stay, and makes you want to keep returning!
So, here are our favourite ways to create hospitality spaces that are flawlessly family-friendly:
Have fun with colour
A lot of fun! But rest easy, it doesn’t mean painting every wall a different colour of the rainbow. Once you’ve picked your colour palette of 3-9 colours, infuse your space with them. We’re talking walls, flooring, furniture, the works. Don’t forget to use neutral ‘palette cleanser’ elements to make sure you’re not overwhelmed by colour.
Draw them in
We all know that happy children = happy parents. And we can all admit that children and patience don’t always go hand in hand! Infuse interactive elements into your space so children can stay engaged when their parents need to tend to other tasks.
Add hero moments
Hero moments are the best. They’re the fun, quirky, or “did you see that?!” parts of the design that are destined to be Insta-famous, and loved by each family that visits.
Don’t cross the line between being intentional and trying a little bit too hard. Good design is never forced! Imagine you’re adding a play area to a 5-star Scandi-vibe hotel. This is not the place for fire-engine red and sunshine yellow. A muted (but playful) colour palette would make it feel much more connected.
Make it accessible
Your space needs to be accessible to everyone. It’s a non-negotiable in our opinion. Get creative when addressing accessibility, without compromising design. Sweeping symmetrical ramps act as aesthetically pleasing accessible entrances. Large family toilets with oversized baby changing facilities allow for easy access.
Look at it through a child’s eye
We may or may not have been known to sit on the floor to take a good look at a room. When you’re a kid, most of the design elements that you see are table legs and skirting boards. Borrrring. Experience a change of perspective to gain further insight into their view.
Put. Your. Stamp. On. It. Now’s the time to stand out from the crowd! Redefine standardised architecture, materials and products, and create a space in your budget that allows your brand to shine through unapologetically family-friendly design. Bespoke, here you come.
When it comes to design, use it to show, not tell your visitors that you are all about family. In essence, the trick is to ensure everyone feels welcome and engaged, while also avoiding the dreaded scenario of bored kids driving their parents bonkers.
As part of this new generation of artists, designers, and business owners alike, we need to shake things up and revamp the boring old way of designing spaces that don't quite fit our needs. Let's give the outdated "Modular Man" approach the boot and start thinking more creatively!
Join us in leading the way to designing spaces that cater to everyone's needs in a holistic way. Let's solve this problem head-on, and make sure boredom is banished for good!