As time goes by everyone’s needs change, none more so than our kids. As parents we can manage some of these changes with creative thinking, such as giving your little ones clothes a couple sizes up so there is room to grow into them. Others are a bit more frustrating, like finding yourself spending hours at the turn of every season searching for the shoes that match your teenagers’ newest passion. But can you build a house that can adapt and change with your family’s needs?

Instinctively we are drawn to appearance, and this focus often overpowers our ability to think about the requirements for a room in the long term. We forget to consider questions like: If we give our kids room an exciting theme, can it easily grow into something a teenager would enjoy? And once they’ve left home, what can do we do with the room then? I have found you don’t have to sacrifice on style to accommodate for change. And on top of that, subtle transformations are commonly the most effective.

Planning the structural layout of a room at the building stage will give you the ability for an easy alteration when the time comes. Lets use an alcove as an example. I think they are a brilliant addition to a bedroom facing a future filled with change. In a baby’s nursery it can be used to neatly tuck away a change table, spare nappies, and all those sorts of things. In a child’s room maybe that alcove becomes a space for open shelving to store games and toys that the little one can get to. In a teenager’s bedroom, you could fit a desk in there to encourage some study, or perhaps a putting up shelving and hanging doors can create a wardrobe too.

Having the choice to add electrical gadgets to a room is also a big plus. Although your new born may not need a jack point to plug in an internet modem or landline telephone, having it in there makes it a heck of a lot easier to convert the room into a functional office when the time comes. Over the years it has been a topic I raise with clients often. And if we’re talking about keeping a room adaptable why not put in a pull out couch and TV into your office? We don’t have guests all year round (well I hope not) but when we do it’s always nice to have somewhere to put them!

There is some great research being undertaken in New Zealand about this issue. I had the opportunity to visit homes built by the Dugdale Trust in Wellington in 2015, and they used many of the principles of “whole of life” use found in the Lifemark research

Now I realise that in New Zealand we tend to move homes an awful lot, but maybe that’s because we haven’t found a way to make our rooms age with us. However if it’s because we like having a fresh start somewhere new every so often, having an adaptable home still won’t hurt you. Everyone’s family is different, and they all have different needs so a home with adaptable rooms opens your house up to a broader market and makes it more livable while you own the home.