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Publication Date: 2017-11-14

Design Insights

Jesse Carrier on Family Style

The design firm Carrier and Company, helmed by married partners Mara Miller and Jesse Carrier, is known for clean and contemporary schemes that bring freshness to both urban and suburban American homes. Here, Carrier talks about the practicalities of designing rooms for children, and how his own kids have shaped his thinking.

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Your firm is known for stylish, yet relaxed, interiors that work perfectly for young families. Do you think your approach changed after you had your own children?

Jesse Carrier: While having children has profoundly left a mark on our lives (remember when I didn’t have white hair?), we feel that it hasn’t changed how we approach our design process, aside from, perhaps, requiring twice the caffeine intake than before! We’ve always focused on our client’s needs and tastes to develop unique solutions tailor-made for each project. We’re delighted that our work has become known for being both stylish and livable—we are firm believers that comfort need not be sacrificed for style, or vice versa. We don’t attribute this to our experience as parents necessarily (many designers are). However, we do find that many clients appreciate that we’re in the trenches with them, combating the chaos and mess that comes with family life.  

Aside from durability, what are some of the factors you consider most important when creating homes for families with children?

JC: Safety is a paramount consideration, such as avoidance of sharp corners on furniture, and a need for soft floor coverings to both absorb noise and soften falls of toddlers taking their first steps.

Do you think the ideal of the American family home has changed over the years? What are your clients asking for most?

JC: When we were growing up, there was often a clear division of spaces—those “formal” rooms that were designated for “adults only,” and/or occasional holiday gatherings, versus areas where kids could hang out and make a mess. If you were lucky, you had a “playroom,” or “rec-room,” but often times, it was the basement! As parents, we now understand the necessity of sometimes segregating ourselves from our children. However, those clear lines are beginning to blur and fade, as families seek to spend more time together.

Have you seen the function of traditional rooms change? Has the kitchen become more important and the living room less?

JC: Today, we see more homes with open-plan concepts, where there are, literally, no divisions—the living room, dining room and kitchen are one space—with no escape for either parent or child. We’ve also noticed a trend toward “family rooms” or “great rooms” that have grown to accommodate communal family gatherings, replacing the need for the formal living rooms we once knew.
 

How big an effect has technology had on design in the home?

JC: In some regards, perhaps, technology is a direct response to the open plan, communal family lifestyle–wherein each family member is able to cohabitate in a space by having their own device to stream whatever program they want, play a game, or check email and social media without compromise. Be together, but separately!

What are some of your go-to fabrics and paints when designing rooms for kids?

JC: For fabrics and carpets—anything synthetic! Kravet is our go-to source for a wonderful selection of indoor/outdoor fabrics by Sunbrella and similar manufacturers of acrylic fabrics, like Crypton, that (as the name might suggest) not only hold up to abuse and repel stains, but have developed such supple textures, that they’re easily mistaken for natural fibers. For walls, when possible, we like to consider playful wall coverings. Studio Four is a go-to for fun, contemporary prints (Flat Vernacular, etc.). Hinson and Schumacher have abstract dot and splatter patterns that are also favorites. Though paint is often a wise consideration, as we’ve learned (first-hand), that, particularly with girls, there is an age-color relationship that begins with pink (3-6), then progresses to purple (7-9), then to blue (10-12)…. And if you’re working with a budget, a couple gallons of paint every few years beats replacing wallpaper.

Do you believe in creating areas in the home that are off-limits to children? If not, how do you train young kids to respect and value objects and beauty?

JC: If you’re fortunate enough to have 10,000 square feet of living space, more or less, then chances are you’ll have ample space to create rooms that are specifically zoned for kids versus adults. In that case, we are true believers. However, when your (and our) reality is 1,500 square feet, you have to learn to coexist. We’ve found that threats of revoking technology privileges are an effective training method for just about anything.

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