Is it possible to keep your home looking lovely when you have kids?

Catherine Slatter has one of Brisbane’s most stunning homes… so we spoke to her to find out her top tips creating a beautiful yet family-friendly home. 

Catherine lives with her husband, kids, dogs and chickens in a dreamy 100-year-old renovated Queenslander in Brookfield, Brisbane. It took her 4 years to renovate, and her family lived in the house during the entire transformation. 

She calls herself a ‘constant renovator’, which means she is always dreaming up a new home project. Here she shares what she has learned about keeping a beautiful home with kids and pets, and where she gets her design inspiration…

Make sure you see her musings on what makes a forever home so special at the end of the post!

How did you manage the renovation process with all of your other life commitments?

I look at renovating more as a hobby than a job to do, so I manage it in any spare time I have and with some good tradies who have worked with me since the beginning. Let’s just say I don’t watch a lot of TV and I certainly don’t sit down that much!

What design decisions did you make to ensure the home is family friendly?

When I designed each part of the house, I always look at:

  • How we currently use it 
  • How we would want to use it

How I can improve things that make people want to use it (i.e. light, access, space, livability)

I knew I wanted to move the kitchen from the old upstairs back corner to downstairs. This meant I could see the kids swimming and playing while I was in the kitchen getting food ready and cleaning up.

We selected products that are hardwearing – the last thing I wanted to be is uber protective over my house, and not let my dogs or kids use it and love it. I don’t see the point of a presentation home when you want a happy family to live in it. So we have hardwearing hardwood floors that scratches and a few dings make feel more warm and inviting. We also have VJ boards and sheeting in the new areas because it is much more robust than plasterboard, which dents very easily when you have children or animals playing around in the area.

We sound-insulated and heat-insulated to remove loud noises from people running on timber hard floors. Old houses are very noisy and this really helped to dull the sound and keep the climate temperate inside without always having to use air conditioning.

Finally, we have multiple ‘sitting zones’ – areas where there are comfortable and well-loved chairs, singularly or together. That way people read a book alone, have a cup of tea together or get away if they want some peace and quiet. I find my kids together or just with one of the dogs in these areas – they almost become small meditative spaces.

Where did you find design inspiration for your Queenslander renovation?

I think my design inspiration has been a long process of being a daughter of builders who house-flipped. I saw them build, create, design and decorate, and along the way I worked out what I liked and what I didn’t like.

I have always loved neutrals, whites, blacks – they are as timeless as you can find and they can morph into a bit of fashion influence without being clichéd. I was also fortunate to work and travel overseas a lot during my 20s and lived in Africa, Europe and North America. I think global living also makes you realise things that you just love about a place and you can incorporate those into your own living.

What is your favourite spot in the home and why?

I think our big old verandah is my favourite place. It’s quiet yet connected to the garden and the home. A good verandah is why you live in Queensland – it’s what Queenslanders are all about. If we took that verandah away, our house would not be the same.

What tips do you have for keeping a lovely home with little ones, chooks and doggos around?

Don’t stress about the mess; it’s part of the living. I do have a weekly cleaner, and my husband and I have always chosen to have one because we call it ‘marriage counselling’. We have never had arguments about cleaning and who has done this and who hasn’t, as we both work.

We have always had one – even before kids. It’s our one indulgence that I couldn’t live without, because at the end of the day I really like a clean house, even if it’s a bit messy at times.

When you and your family have a day together, how do you like to spend it?

We love being at home, but we also love taking our dogs for a bush walk at Mt Coot-tha and getting a coffee at the general store.

We usually spend the afternoon at home with the kids riding bikes and dirt bikes, finishing off with a drink at the ‘beer tree’ – a big old Plane tree that we drilled a bottle opener onto because we kept forgetting bottle openers when we walk down there.

You mentioned you work, so how do you manage this with kids, home duties, hobbies…

It’s VERY busy, ALWAYS! And as I said before, I don’t watch much TV at all – I also try to get as much decent sleep as possible and I exercise for half an hour every day, or my energy levels just don’t keep up with what’s going on.

Do you have a favourite home hack you picked up while renovating?

I have a couple:

  • Laundry: Each person has a washing basket and a dirty clothes basket in their room. When I hang the washing, each person’s clothing is taken straight off the line and carefully folded into their basket. Firstly it saves on ironing, and secondly there is not another waste of time sorting out the washing.  
  • Paint: I keep touch-up wall paint in a small jar for serious bangs on the wall. I just give it a quick going over if there is some damage and this keeps your walls looking a bit fresher for longer. 
  • Kitchen floors: A cordless vacuum and spray mop are must-haves in the kitchen – between cleans you can clean up your kitchen floor in about 2 minutes flat.

What does a forever home mean to you?

When I designed the renovation, not only did I think about how the four of us live here, but I also pictured how my husband and I would live here without children; how would we want it to be when it is a lot quieter.

So in the design I considered ease of access, timeless choices of materials (mostly natural materials that stand the test of time) and the fact that the biggest thing for me was that my home would be a welcoming space for family and friends for the rest of our time as custodians of this place. I always want people to feel comfortable to put their feet up and enjoy being with us, so we can make our memories here.

For me a forever home is a home that adapts to the changes in one’s life, but also holds the precious memories made there in the past. And the old ding on the floor that you may freak about at the time, or the slight red wine stain on the stone, become part of the story and memories of your home and family. Patina cannot be made, it can only be earned over time; and I think that’s what makes a forever home.

Need a house cleaner to save your sanity or make your home habitable after a big renovation? Click the button on the right to get an instant quote – The Mother Ducks x