Running a family can seem a lot like managing a business. There are budgets to be balanced, events to be planned, supplies to be warehoused. To keep things running smoothly, many families are creating a central workspace that goes beyond the kitchen table or a parent's home office. It doesn't have to take up much room, says interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn, but it does need to be planned carefully to maximize efficiency and style.
Hang up a dry-erase board or chalkboard and a corkboard to keep schedules, invitations, fliers, shopping lists, messages between family members and mail in one place, says interior designer Janine Carendi. Using the walls saves space and helps stay organized. "If you can see the items pinned on the wall, you'll remember them," she says.
Child psychologists and Internet safety experts say it's best for kids to use a computer in a common area of the home so their parents have a good sense of what they're seeing and who they're talking with. Flynn suggests using a laptop rather than a bulkier desktop computer. The same desk that's used for homework on the computer can be used for art projects when the laptop is stowed away. If the work area is in your great room or living room and includes a desktop computer, designer Mallory Mathison suggests concealing it inside an armoire.
The family workspace is a great storage spot and charging station for laptops, cell phones, handheld video game consoles. Hang shelves near an electrical outlet and line it with small bins to hold small electronics. Carendi suggests buying little wooden boxes from Ikea, then drilling holes in the back so wires can be fed through. If you have room for a small bookshelf, you can also keep bills, appliance warranties, phone books and other paperwork here in bins or small boxes.
Beyond organization, the designers say your goal should be creating an appealing space the family will want to use. Make sure you've got good lighting and comfortable seating.