Monday, January 18, 2010

Designing For Children- There's No Place Like Home

Published article: Homestyle Magazine (November/December 2009 Issue)

It takes a while for me to really appreciate a beautiful home. The exterior and interior design of the structure (or as I call them. The “picture“ and the “frame,” respectively), as well as the landscaping, are all visible and tactile elements of architecture. The sound of children’s laughter and the spontaneous interaction between parents and their children, resulting in a harmonious relationship of those living within the structure, is what totally completes the picture.

Building a home can be taxing but also fun. Getting the whole family involved in planning is a good way to be mindful of what the children’s needs and interests are. It can also generate arguments regarding major and minor decisions between family members. Arguably, this is what most homebuilders dread. Keeping an open mind can bring wonders to the whole process.

I have learned to listen to the wife whenever I worked on our home, which we refer to as Tahanan. She might have some ideas that won’t be technically possible and so, I find time to explain the procedures and repercussions of her suggestions. This way, how it’s going to look, work, and cost is understood. But in the end: my boss is always right – and by “boss” I mean my wife!

The whole process entails priorities, compromises and most importantly, our love and respect for each other. I started building Tahanan when my daughters were aged 10 and six. It was fun having them around during the planning stage. The construction was documented on film; we splashed paint on the walls of common areas to reach a decision where everyone was happy and comfortable with the colors. The girls wanted a loft for their bedroom as sort of a private space or “tree house within a house.” This wasn’t in the original plans but still, we were able to fit it in. We decided to place all forms of entertainment in the family room, calling it “bonding room.” It even had a king-sized bed where we could all cuddle and watch movies, or just chat and catch up with each other.

That was 12 years ago. My eldest daughter took over the guest room when she started college. A couple of years later I built a private spa and a guest room to accommodate my daughters parties, friends, and visiting relatives. In a years time, both my daughters will be studying abroad and it will be an empty nest for my wife, Carina, and I. It is quite sad, but inevitable. My daughters grew up in a home that developed their individuality. We learned to trust and respect each other, which they in turn will take with them when they set out to face the world on their own.
This was the process I followed in building a home for my loved ones. A home should not only be aesthetically pleasing and structurally stable, it should be able to foster the growth, intellect, and health of each individual that resides within. Design and build your home with your family in mind, not on what you believe relatives or friends will judge you by. A red wall for your 15-year-old daughter might not please you, but it is her room. If it will make her happy then, why not?

Learn to listen to everyone’s opinions because you will definitely learn something from them. Unless you love to cook (or plan on learning to cook), leave the kitchen planning to the cook—or starve! Try and give everyone his or her own cocoon of personal space. It may be a small nook, a chair with a small side table underneath the stairwell, or a tree house outside the garden, wherever it is it will be a perfect place to relax, reflect, and recharge.

You may have a designated a family room in your plans, but the actual setting will surface on its own. It is the one place where everyone sits longer, opens up more, and laughs louder—it could be the kitchen or the master’s bedroom but wherever it is, constantly work on making it conducive to family togetherness. It will always be the place where stories are born and plans are made. A final word of advice; enjoy your home with your kids as they grow so fast. Happy building!

4 comments:

  1. Looking at tahanan, it was obviously built around deliberate choices and the end product doesn't show there was any conflict along the way. Said another way, the disagreements seemed to resolve themselves and settled into a very well put together design, both form and function. It is not a bahay ... It is truly a tahanan. Mabuhay

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  2. Very true and well said.

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  3. DEAR FRIENDS DOWN UNDERJanuary 19, 2010 at 2:44 AM

    CHONG,

    I AM SPEECHLESS! TOUCHE TO YOU BENJ, CHANG, EENA & KEESHA.

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  4. you have certainly created a home for your family, and i really do understand when your children leave the home, it is sad, but then its time for them to do as we did, leave the nest and spread there wings..i also have built my own home, its not very large , but it built by me and furnished and it represents my family and my desire to have wooden beauty around me, i salute you Benji..grizzman

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