Entries in family (2)


Living in a Pajama Room

Designers, builders, and homeowners are looking to new secondary living spaces near bedrooms to provide a cozy secret getaway from the rest of the house. Sometimes called a “pajama lounge,” it’s a room where a family can comfortably gather without worrying about entertaining nonfamily members.

By its name alone, the living room sounds like a comfortable repose for all. But with open floor plans and busy lives defining factors for many Americans, this shared public space often epitomizes the struggle between enjoying real life and keeping a home prim and ready for visitors. A family room or even a kitchen with seating can be too large, open, busy, and associated with entertaining guests. That’s why many seek an alternative space in which to unwind together.

pajama room

© Courtesy of The Agency 

A large home in the Brentwood Park area of Los Angeles offers the ultimate in comfortable luxury: two pajama rooms, one in the basement and this one upstairs near all the main bedrooms. 


Chicago designer Rebecca Pogonitz, founder of GOGO Design Group, credits the Scandinavian appreciation for a simpler, more soul-nourishing lifestyle—often known by the Danish term ”hygge” (pronounced hue-guh)—for this move toward coziness and comfort. “My clients crave time for self-care and family,” Pogonitz says. “Many had this growing up but now find their family members aren’t together at home even for dinner. They want to recreate that human connection.”

Now, this desire is finding its way into home design by way of spaces that are sometimes called “pajama lounges,” a cutesy name that suggests a room in which to gather before bedroom, literally in PJs or sweats. This space is usually closer to bedrooms, often upstairs, as an intermediate area for intimate evening hours after dinner and before heading off to sleep. “It’s a place that has a totally different identity from a downstairs living or family room,” says Stephan Burke, a real estate salesperson with Cassis Burke Collection at Brown Harris Stevens in Miami.

Many existing layouts can accommodate this trend, as multipurpose, flex, or bonus rooms can easily be staged to this aesthetic. Madison, Conn.–based architect Duo Dickinson, author of A Home Called New England (Rowman & Littlefield), says it’s important for homes to keep evolving to better reflect how people today want to live. “Homes are just like our clothes. They need to move, grow, and shrink as we do,” he says.

Be aware that buyers may be looking for such spaces, even if they don’t yet know it as a trend or haven’t heard the “pajama lounge” term. While few listings will explicitly include this room as a feature, you can take cues from the examples below and apply them to extra bedrooms, oversized hallways, finished basements, or attic spaces. 

How New Construction Tackles the Trend 

pajama room

© Toll Brothers 


Like most home trends, the new-home construction industry can most easily incorporate this change, sometimes by paring the size of bedrooms. Industry groups such as the National Sleep Foundation and the Better Sleep Council suggest scaling back bedroom furniture and accessories to create a more dedicated space for sleep. Dickenson agrees, and says he’s seeing consumers shift away from bedroom designs that accommodate other functions such as homework, reading, and hanging out. “Our clients are increasingly asking that their bedrooms are sized to the beds, plus adequate space around them. The once typical 20-foot-by-20-foot floor plan is decreasing to 14 feet by 16 feet. Closets, however, never shrink,” he says.

Builder Ralph Ramirez, founder of ICH Builders in Coral Gables, Fla., has been including pajama lounges for several years and says they can be pretty small—as little as 10 feet by 10 feet. He often makes them larger, though, so they can serve other functions such as working out, paying bills, and doing homework.

Toll Brothers Inc., a national builder based in Horsham, Penn., has incorporated this type of space for years in its larger homes (6,000 square feet and up), though CJ Ametrano, vice president of national interior merchandising, says the company prefers to call them flex rooms. She adds that the company recently began to incorporate them in its smaller 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot houses by scaling back the size of other rooms.  

Another builder that focuses on large luxury homes takes the concept a step further by giving the pajama lounge some of the best views in the house. Architect Paul Fischman of Miami-based Choeff Levy Fischman puts the spaces near bedrooms on the second level so they overlook water views, as most of their houses face the ocean or intracoastal waterways.

And even when a site seems impossibly tight, Lexington Homes has found a way to squeeze in these spaces. The Chicago builder is adding pajama lounges to the three-story townhomes it’s constructing in the city’s Avondale neighborhood, on the third floor near the master bedroom suite. “The idea,” says co-principal Jeff Benach, “is that children whose rooms and bedroom are on the second floor will come up to the parents’ level so all can hang out together.” For those parents who don’t want to climb an extra flight of stairs, the master suite and flex room might be switched with the second-floor children’s bedrooms. The floor on which the flex space is placed is less important than ensuring that there’s a bathroom close by, Benach says.

Staging Existing Spaces

The key to furnishing a pajama lounge is a mix of comfortable seating upholstered in natural materials, a soft rug underfoot, some tables for games, a bookshelf or two, and good lighting—all in a soothing spa-like palette. Boston designer Frank Roop of Frank Roop Design Interiors put together this look in a second-floor room in a former fisherman’s cottage, which also takes advantage of water views. He custom designed an unusually large sofa that’s more like a big bed at 4 feet deep and 10 feet long. “Users can lie down and stretch out rather than sit upright,” he says. Other creature comforts: an ottoman with a flip top to store blankets and also a TV cabinet.

Because the pajama lounge is often used by children, more whimsical touches might be considered, as Chicago-based architectural firm Morgante Wilson Architects did in recent construction of a suburban house. Taking advantage of the 20-foot-high ceilings on the second level, the design team built a loft into one end of an extra bedroom, reached by a ladder, where the three children in the home can play. “It’s a place where the family can crash together,” says K. Tyler, the principal in charge of interior design at the firm.

Having the option of food close at hand rather than having to traipse downstairs is another worthwhile addition, says Santiago Arana, a real estate salesperson with The Agency in Los Angeles and owner of Cutting Edge Development Inc. A few features he recommends in this space are a minifridge, microwave, sink, and espresso or coffee machine.

The Screen-Time Question

Some families gather specifically to watch movies or favorite TV shows. But others may want to make these lounges tech-free to avoid disrupting family conversation, games, and relaxation. “It’s a place where [family] members might meditate and take a break from everyday life, talk, or read a book,” says broker-associate Carol Cassis, a colleague of Burke’s in Miami.

Cindy Graham, a licensed psychologist and founder of Brighter Hope Wellness Center in Clarksville, Md., considers it a matter of personal family preference and balance. “Many millennials who grew up with technology are now raising children and helping to push the pendulum back the other way. They are advocating to spend time together without as much technology as they may have had, and the results can be positive,” she says. “The family is the first place to learn to interact with others, and, in my work, we are seeing better language development [with less technology use] since there’s increased opportunity for conversations and social interaction.”

Graham and her husband, a Linux systems and software engineer, waited to introduce a Friday movie night routine until their younger child was two years old, since the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages screen media other than video-chatting before 18 months. She encourages adding blankets and other tactile objects to the room and allowing eating there. “Food becomes another opportunity to bond, learn manners, and talk about preferences,” she says.

However a pajama lounge is furnished and wherever it’s located, the goal should be to reflect the needs of the family who will be using it, according to Sherry Petersik, co-author of Lovable Livable Home. “You need things that will drive your family into the room,” says Petersik, who also manages the blog Young House Love with her husband, John. “If your family no longer includes young children, don’t make it a playroom.”

The couple furnished a room down the hall from all the family bedrooms in their two-story, colonial-style home in Richmond, Va., as a pajama lounge. However, they call it their “lazy room.” Says Petersik: “It works for us with tons of cabinetry for storage, window seat, and three chair lounges pushed together. A lot of people like to use updated bean-bag chairs.” Instead of spending evenings there, however, the family gathers in the morning before heading downstairs. Petersik says the timing doesn’t change their casual dress code. “We’re still in our PJs,” she says.

by Barbara Ballinger


Adapting or Building a Home for Universal Access

As the mother of a disabled son, I feel I am uniquely qualified* to help you with your questions about modifying or building a home for universal access. Over the years, my own home has been modified to allow our son greater access to all of our activities. Even though my situation may be different from yours, many of us will experience a disability at least temporarily. All of us can have accidents and find ourselves or a family member on crutches, using a walker or even a wheelchair. So how would you get yourself up stairs or through a narrow door? How would you make dinner, do laundry or use the bathroom? Planning for the unexpected can help us continue living full and productive lives. All it takes is a little preparation, some expert help and a vision.

It is also true that the demand for accessible housing will continue to rise. Most of us want to live independent lives and we want the ability to take care of ourselves so we can remain active and less dependent. Traditional builders have never really understood the needs of the disabled so finding a home that is accessible is difficult. Most homes can be modified to accommodate your needs and physical capabilities. If your needs are greater than a few simple fixes then building an accessible home may be your answer.

So what makes a home accessible? It boils down to the ability to enter and move around without obstacles. When we visit friends and family, the first difficulty we encounter are the front steps and narrow doorways. A wheelchair needs at least a 36” opening but a 42” or better will enable the user to easily get in the house. Once inside, plan on converting those narrow 24” doors to 32”, 36” or better. Stairs are really difficult to maneuver. Platforms are a sounder investment. They also make a beautiful entrance to a home.

Another alternative is the wheelchair ramp. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a “ramp as any part of a wheelchair-accessible route to a building with a slope greater than 1 inch of rise for every 20 inches of length. The guidelines require that ramps be constructed with the least possible degree of slope. The maximum rise allowed for a ramp is 30 inches. In new construction, ramps can rise at no more than the rate of 1 inch or rise for every 12 inches of run.” There are ready-made ramps available if you have a temporary situation to deal with, but make sure you have adequate space to allow for the run.

At my house we integrated landscaping pathways as means of access. Since landscaping does not fall under the code, the slope can be slightly steeper and more aesthetic to the house. We also incorporated shade areas to encourage lingering. Our son is extremely heat sensitive and burns easily so shade is very imortant to his well being. This open pavillion in our backyard provides him with shade, sound and the oppurtunity to partipate in family functions. Talk with a qualified landscaper to determine the best design for your needs.

Inside, doorways need to be enlarged to an opening at least 32” wide but 36” wide is really preferable. A typical wheelchair needs a 5’ turning radius to move and turn freely. Going down a hallway and into a room like a bedroom or bathroom you need to make sure you can turn the chair and get through the door without a problem. The door itself needs to swing flush against a wall. An offset door hinge can increase the width about 2” and is often enough to allow a wheelchair or walker to pass through. We use pocket doors with great success since they slide directly between the walls and open the doorway up completely.

Kitchens are difficult for people in wheelchairs to access. Sometimes the removal of lower base cabinets will help to provide access, but lowering the counter to desk height, installing pull out shelves or drawers, the use of a lazy susan in cabinets and even adding a pull out or drop down shelf can help. Just remember to relocate electrical receptacles, garbage disposal and exhaust fan switches to the front of the cabinet or counter.

In the bedroom make the space your own by adding dimmers near your bedside, installing low pile carpeting or adding wood floors, placing motion detecting sensors in the areas between your bedroom and bathroom and even adding electric window coverings that you can control from one location in the room. If you need an electric bed, make sure you have an accessible outlet near where the bed is placed. For your closet, enlarge the opening and install adjustable shelves and rods to accommodate your specific needs. Consider adding a light in the closet to make it easier

The final obstacle in any home for universal design is the bathroom. There are a number of considerations to take into account when designing the room.

  • Toilets: the average residential toilet is 14” to 16” high. A better choice would be a comfort height toilet, which measures 17” to 19” high. A taller toilet makes easier to transfer from a seating position to another. It is also easier on the legs. An elongated seat is another good option. The shape is more natural to the human body and is more comfortable overall. A soft close lid, which is another option, is a nice to have when remodeling.
  • Sinks and Faucets: a typical sink is placed in a vanity and is not usually wheelchair friendly. Although pedestal sinks look great, there are not many options when it comes to height. The best answer is to install a wall mounted sink at your preferred height. For the faucet look at replacing all with a single lever and install an anti scald feature to protect you and your family.
  • Bathtubs and Showers: a bathtub can be extremely hazardous. Transferring from a wheelchair to a tub is very difficult. Getting out of a wet tub back into the wheelchair is even harder. The solution is the replace the tub with a shower. There are prefabricated molded acrylic/fiberglass shower units that fit into the space of the tub area. Another option is to build a custom shower with grab bars, seating and slip resistant flooring. Showers can be built with a curb or without, also known as a roll-in shower. There are problems associated with each design so make sure to check with your architect or builder to make the right decision based on your needs, your room configurations and your home.

 Finding a contractor familiar with universal design can be challenging and frustrating. I have assembled a team of qualified architects, builders and designers who are well versed in designing for accessibility. When we find the perfect house for you, I can call in the team to give you advice about how to make your house the right home for your special needs.

 *Disclaimer: These are my own personal recommendations, a qualified, licensed archetect and conractor should be consulted prior to the start of any project. All Township Building Codes must be observed.