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The Great Debate: Can you combine form and function in home design?

Form over function? Or function over form? This is the Great Debate. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe you can answer without hesitation which way you lean because chances are high that you lean strongly one way or the other.

The Great Debate in our house? If you asked my husband he would say the debate lies in my acknowledgment, or lack of, admitting I prioritize design over function. My defense: I actually try to marry the two and it can be C.H.A.L.L.E.N.G.I.N.G. Function, however, is always my first priority but I will be the first to admit I try exceptionally hard at making sure my ‘function’ looks good while doing it (whatever ‘it’ may be).

Take for instance the bookshelves in our library. Could I have shopped on Wayfair to order bookshelves? Absolutely – there are so many lovely choices to choose from and if I chose one my library would have been fine. Just fine. In this case, however, I wanted a statement. We are a family of readers and I didn’t just need shelves, I needed SHELVES. I needed storage. I needed a way to tell my family’s story and to tell it well. So I designed bookshelves - almost floor to ceiling bookshelves. But we needed a way to access those books, so in came a plan for a rolling ladder that would allow me the ability to act like Belle in Beauty and the Beast. Climb and roll. Form and function.

Here’s another example. The bonus room. When the boys were little that bonus room served as a playroom – a full to the brim, with toys spilling over, playroom. The color was loud and fun, the toys were endless and there was even a cheap-o futon for use during quiet times or for mamas to rest and chat during play dates. As the boys grew, the room quickly became less and less functional. This was compounded by the fact that we love hosting people and would have to deep clean the playroom and remove the futon to make space for a blow-up mattress so our guests could be ‘comfortable.’ The question of combining function and design in a multifunctional space was not a what-if, but a how-to. It could be done, I knew that. But I also knew that I wanted to make that space use-able and playful for the boys since they would be using it most of the time, but also a relaxing and comfortable space for weekend visitors. Re-purposing cherished items in my youngest’s nursery started the color palette, while practical items like books, toys and costumes became the decorations. Form + function = a happy co-mingling playroom and guestroom.

What about design and function on a smaller scale? A scale that doesn’t require floor to ceiling bookshelves or a made-to-order Murphy bed?

Here are just a couple ideas to get your idea-juices flowing!

Entryway (problem – shoe clutter):

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all have our very own mudrooms, with a locker for each of the kids and a space to hang backpacks and tuck away shoes? Dream. Sigh. Back to reality. What we need…a pretty space to store shoes. A space that looks grown up, pretty and polished on the outside, but shoes can be tucked away neatly or otherwise behind closed doors on the inside. Form + function = convenience for the kids and a happy mom who doesn’t have to look at shoes spilled everywhere.

Kitchen (problem – counter clutter)

We can all aspire to having kitchens equipped with walk-in pantries, butler pantries, coffee corners and the like. Even if your kitchen has ALL of these things, the one thing that is most prevalent in kitchens of any size is counter clutter. This includes my own, folks. This is a great opportunity for you to practice the art of combining form and function. Before you do that, though, do yourself a favor and really decide what things you want to make a display of and keep it to a minimum. Choose coffee or drinky-drinks. Choose common cookware or choose baking, but don’t choose it all.

Bathroom (problem – counter clutter)

A lotion for this. A potion for that. We all know how quickly these things accumulate and how even quicker they accumulate on the counters. Like the kitchen, choosing your must-haves, your go-tos, your especially-favorites to have out and about is not only a convenient thing, but can be a really eye-pleasing thing. But like the kitchen, you really can’t have your cake and eat it too. Tuck some of it away – you’ll be so glad you did.

I hope some of these ideas inspired you to know that you can combine form and function in both big and small ways. If you’re ready to go BIG, I challenge you to go small first. Start with one problem point in one room. Name all of the ways it’s problematic and a solution that would make you happy. Ask yourself if that solution is realistic to execute, then go for it. But fair warning, once you start combining form and function in one area, it’s like dominoes and you’ll be hooked – you won’t stop searching out ways you can do it in other areas and rooms in your home.


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