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The Floor Is Yours: Create an Inspiring Homework Station

Friday, August 22, 2014

It's back-to-school season, and we've got some amazing tips from home décor expert Kim Myles that will help you carve out a space where your kids can do their best work.

By Amber Matheson

Along with American Girl dolls and those toy cars you could actually drive, the item at the top of my annual Christmas list as a kid was a desk, preferably small, white and embellished maybe with a roll-top feature or elegant scrollwork accents. I was a crafty kid, an introverted bookworm who flitted from decoupage to paper mache to calligraphy, and I craved a space where I could go to create.

I never got the desk or the doll, or the car for that matter. I spent my childhood working on projects and schoolwork at the dining room table. And that, says design guru Kim Myles, is perfectly fine.

"I did my homework at a kitchen counter for my whole life!" she exclaims. "So much of what happens in design is feelings of inadequacy, this fear of not doing it right or not doing enough. If you have a dedicated space to devote, that's amazing. If not, there are little things you can do regardless of your square footage."

Follow anyone under the age of 18 around for a few hours, and one thing is crystal clear: technology is part of life. Setting out some cute pencil holders and stashing erasers in a cubby just won't cut it.

"Make it really functional," says Myles. She emphasizes finding a spot in the house that's already outfitted for the task at hand. That means hunting down a space with enough electrical outlets to go around, clearing out the clutter and designating an area that's open to everyone.

"I love the idea of creating an office space that the whole family can use," she explains. "Everything should be able to happen in this space."

Can your home office (whether it's a nook in the kitchen or a full-fledged room) do double duty? If that space has been traditionally adults-only, reconsider opening it up to your kids it might just help them take their schoolwork a little more seriously.

If, like Kim and me, your child bellies up to the counter or the table to do their homework, help them out by creating a ritual around the experience: Get a lavender candle, says Myles, and make it the study candle.

"Light the candle, and suddenly the room smells beautiful and that is the signal to begin work, to begin studying," she explains. "It doesn't have to be, 'I have to pick up a paintbrush, I have to purchase a rug. It can be something small." Not into candles? Use placemats that are just for homework time. Whatever cue will suit your child best, employ it in a way that creates a ritual for the homework experience.

Is there an unused corner of your living room? Claim it for homework with one simple step: Throw down an area rug. "I'm a huge fan of area rugs for that reason," says Myles. "People say, 'why would I put a rug on top of carpet?' Why wouldn't you? It makes it extra marshmallow-y and cushy."

Just because serious stuff is about to happen, it doesn't mean the space needs to be all business, too. Create a soft, inviting area and your kids might be a little more likely to gravitate there of their own accord.

"Philosophically, we inhabit our spaces," says Myles. "To make that really true, to connect to that, a huge part of it is putting your fingerprints on the space." Parents can often feel like getting kids involved in decorating or renovation is more hassle than it's worth, but the flip side is that by involving them, you're getting their buy-in. When our kids are little, we're told over and over again to involve them in cooking dinner. Why? Because they're more likely to eat a dinner they helped cook (even if it includes vegetables).

So what to do if your kid picks bright purple for a study room wall and you can't bear the thought of it? "There are so many versions of purple out there," says Myles. "Compromise! 'OK, purple is our palette, we'll go with a really soft lilac.'"

Kids don't want to live in a beige environment, Myles notes. Whatever, wherever you designate as the homework area, it should be stimulating and inspiring. Consider colors that will help, not hinder.

"Blue is fabulous," she says. "It's calming, focusing, stimulating to the intellect." She also recommends the happy, invigorating vibes that yellow can add to a space. "It's fun that's the message you're sending," she explains. "Studying is going to get you to your goals in life, and it's an exciting thing to be fattening your brain up."


Want more tips and tricks from Kim Myles rule-free handbook? She employs her fabulous, funky approach to design on "Home Made Simple" every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. ET on the OWN network. You can also follow her on Twitter or visit her website (where you can even book your own personal Skype call to ask her your specific design issues!), and of course you can always find her on Facebook, too.