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July 18th, 2017 | Posted in Blog

If you’ve started thinking about back-to-school plans, this is also a
good time to look at ways your home can better accommodate
your children’s needs.

New design ideas can help keep kids’ items organized, encourage
good study habits, and even minimize the inevitable smudges, smears
and wear-and-tear from little ones.

One such trend is a “drop zone,” explains designer Amanda Fisher
of Wilmington’s Markraft Cabinets. An updated variation on an oldfashioned
mudroom, this is an area that can be built into a laundry or
utility room, an attached garage or an entry hall. It’s set up to handle
family members’ stuff as they come and go.

A drop zone typically includes a bench for putting on or taking off
shoes, floor-level storage spaces for tucking those shoes away, and
hooks for storing backpacks, jackets, hats, and other gear. This can be
especially useful for athletic equipment – those bats, gloves, and balls
that can easily overwhelm a room.

The best-planned areas, Fisher said, have a designated space for
everybody, divided into sections, “almost like a row of lockers.”
But it doesn’t have to look like a gym or middle-school hallway.
“These can be built in,” she explained and painted to blend in with
walls and woodwork. In a utility room, the drop-zone elements would
be painted to match cabinetry.

She prefers the term, “utility room,” by the way, because of the
multiple functions these spaces serve nowadays. In addition to laundry,
a utility room can feature the drop zone, pet spaces, an arts and crafts
area, storage for tools and materials and even a homework spot.
Many parents are choosing to design spaces for children in their
homes’ common areas to help overcome kids’ tendency to disappear
into their bedrooms, where it’s harder to keep an eye on whether
homework is getting done and if they’re following family rules about
computer and other media use.

Workspaces are also showing up between kitchen and living area,
perhaps, Fisher said, where the “old butler’s pantry used to be.” That
has two advantages – it’s a dedicated workspace and in clear view of
daily activities.

Of course, Mom and Dad can also use a space like this to pay bills
or attend to other home-office chores. Fisher said she’s seeing much
less of an older trend – a built-in desk right in the kitchen.

What is helpful in the kitchen are new appliance finishes that hide
the smudges and prints little hands make. Clear surfaces on stainless
steel, or the elegant new “black stainless,” are fingerprint-resistant and
go well with trending white and gray cabinet finishes, Fisher said.
In the cabinets – often subject to stress from kids climbing, hanging
or pulling on moving parts – heavy-duty drawer glides and hinges will
help everything last longer. And “no-slam” or “soft-close” drawers and
doors will also smooth out a busy household’s bumps and bangs.
Storage innovations extend to children’s bedrooms, too, of course.
A favored approach is built-in cubbies, often simple cubes to house
items. Instead of hiding toys, clothing or books behind doors or in
drawers, the cubes make it easy to stow items… and just as easy to
find them.

Storage cubes can be arranged to surround – and even be part
of – a bed’s headboard, or to function as nightstands. The possibilities
are endless.

Plenty of these kid-friendly ideas are based on components
supplied by Markraft’s cabinet manufacturers. Fisher and her fellow
Markraft designers also call on local contractors, who can custom build
solutions for any space.

For creative home design ideas, visit Markraft’s Design Center.
Professional kitchen and bath designers consult by appointment, but
drop-in visitors are welcome to browse the showroom. The Design Center
is open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 2705 Castle Creek
Lane, just off Castle Hayne Road.