Thursday, February 16, 2012

Little Kids Love Little Doors



Every twelve years or so I visit the RV show, a reliable source of inspiring ideas for small spaces. Visiting at long intervals makes it easy to spot evolutionary change in the basic form of the vehicles. The liveliest displays yesterday were animated by children. One sizable model had a miniature bunk room at the back with an equally child-sized door. A couple of kids were hopping in the frame, clearly delighted with quarters that are scaled to their height. The door’s a good fire safety feature, too.

Another even huge-er RV had a full-width ramp at the rear, a feature I find irresistible for reasons I can’t fathom. It’s just a neat idea. This particular model was set up with its ramp horizontal and bordered with a straightforward steel mesh fence about three feet high. A couple of kids were literally jumping for joy on that deck- a brilliant idea for child care on the road. Even in the harsh industrial environment of the exhibition hall, the kids were romping free of worry either about the road or incoming from mom.

I think an ordinary one-story tract house could easily be adapted to offer the same freedom to a children’s bedroom. I have in mind something from the Fifties that’s built on a concrete slab. Hundreds of houses like this were built in Seattle’s early bedroom suburb.

Every house I’ve known has had one bedroom that was the least desirable, small, on the darkest side, and/or close to a utilitarian feature of the neighbor’s property. Code permitting, it wouldn’t take much cash to install a door proportioned to child height, perhaps as a door within a door. On a solid concrete footing, build a three-sided wall of cinder blocks or fencing outside the door to create an outdoor room with the security and privacy that are suitable to the location.The ground could be covered with gravel for easy maintenance.

An outdoor area with free access at the child’s initiative would be a liberating amenity, both for child and parents. When the nest is empty or the space outgrown, the outdoor room would make a good walled garden, space for sunbathing, or offer simple egress to the family pet. It could easily be modified into an aviary.

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