Ask Maxwell: What’s the Biggest Design Mistake You’ve Ever Made?

published Feb 28, 2022
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Credit: Maxwell Ryan
In 2013 I had these cabinets made for Ursula's room at our second apartment Lafayette Street. We were trying to be creative and use the space well, but - at seven years of age - she was never going to access anything above that top drawer!

What’s the biggest kid-related design mistake you’ve ever made in your home?


Dear Rebecca,

I NEVER make mistakes! Hahahaha. Of course I do, but I often think about mistakes as something that I quickly address, learn from and then move on. So, in this way, mistakes are par for the course and necessary.

However, if I were to think back and pass one one…. Hmmmmm….

So, when I put together my first home for just Ursula and myself, I worked with my friend George Evageliou from Urban Homecraft to build really nice cabinets for the apartment we moved into (George is the BEST and I’m working with him again to make some new shelves that will really work in our new place). The apartment was an empty shell, so we needed something. Working together, George and I got really creative and he built her a sweet bed that sat in the window with cabinets on the side and shelves across the way. The problem was that at Ursula’s age then — 8-12 — she was only ever going to use drawers low down that she could easily access (and throw her clothes into). No child of that age is going to use hangers or fold their clothes, and no child of that age is going to climb up or reach very high to access a bookshelf. I really wasn’t thinking of Ursula properly and we were designing something that would have been very nice for an adult or maybe a teenager.

As a result she only used her three drawers and everything else was either never touched or just filled up with piles behind closed doors.

George built all these cabinets in 2013 and we have moved with them twice since then. Nevertheless, while the cabinets he made for me have been fantastic, the ones for Ursula were never really good for a kid! BUT, lesson learned. Now, with Ursula when we’re figuring out her room, I let her do it and she goes to The Container Store or IKEA website and builds her shelves herself before we review. She’s become a whiz at planning out a closet. 🙂

Best, M

Credit: Maxwell Ryan
When we moved to Brooklyn the cabinets and bed came with us. While the bed has always been outstanding, I overdid it with the hanging storage and bookshelves...
Credit: Maxwell Ryan
I don't think Ursula ever took a book off these shelves... Just me. Out of reach is out of mind....

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Maxwell Ryan is a father and was an elementary school teacher in NYC before founding Apartment Therapy. He’d love to answer your question: This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids.

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