December ABODE: Your Kids


How to be the cool uncle
Challenge: Prepping an adults-only space for young visitors

Mark Farmwald’s loft apartment acts as his bachelor pad, commercial photography and film studio, gallery of sorts, and office. Lighting equipment, rolls of paper and glossy prints populate the vast 1,400-square-foot space. The décor incorporates quintessential modern design (marble-top Saarinen tulip table) with contrasting industrial finishes (exposed brick and duct work, sleek granite countertops). So when Mark’s teenage niece and nephew (16 and 15 respectively) come for a visit from Raleigh, he makes some kid-friendly accommodations.

Two young friends of Mark Farmwald, who also hosts his teenage niece and nephew, play in his kid-friendly bachelor pad. (Photo courtesy Mark Farmwald)

Firstly, there’s Pre-Emptive Damage Control for his expensive photographic equipment: “I have cases for all of my gear,” he said. “It all breaks down and goes away.”

Next, the Teen-Approved Entertainment: “Because I have so much open space and all of this wood floor,” he said. “I thought it would be really cool to get a little race-track with remote control cars. You could go through the kitchen, through the dining room, a little detour into the bathroom, come back out into the sitting area, out into this main area—it’s about 600 to 650 square feet.” With a mischievous Tom-Hanks-in-Big smile, he continued, “They could do jumps off of the stairs —all kinds of stuff.”

“[One] thing that I think is really important is the sound system,” he emphasized. “It’s not that expensive but it’s loud. I installed this [Bose 321] system to be there for them.”

Madeline and Morgan can hook up their iPods, crank up the satellite radio, stream Pandora or even play records.

Conspicuously absent, however, are video games. “I have no video game system—that’s very conscious,” Farmwald explained. “Because when I have [my niece and nephew] here, I don’t want them playing video games. Even if we’re watching a movie it’s something that everyone can enjoy, more than two people. We play board games.”

Which leads to, A Place to Hang Out: “This carpet was so important because I have wood floors and I thought, oh the wood floors are so beautiful, but the kids don’t want to sit on the wood floor and play games. So, I got this 17×14 remnant and had the edge stitched. It’s not wall-to-wall carpet, you can still see the wood floor, but this is where we get on the floor and you know, play with the dog.”

When asked what advice he would give to folks who are having kid visitors for the holidays, Farmwald said, “I think that having something that’s entertaining is good, like a stash of movies. Having a dog helps. From a safety standpoint, I’m not a clutter person, there’s just not a lot of stuff lying around, so there’s not going to be a lot of temptations. Those are the two things: Get rid of clutter and have entertainment.”

Oh, and you might want to warn the neighbors—unless, like Cool Uncle Mark, you don’t have any. “I have a parking garage across the street and I have a caterer below that only works about once a week, at the most, and the space upstairs is empty. So crank up the sound system and let the kids scream.”—Christy Baker

Long gone are the days of CD binders and racks. You probably have all of your music organized on an iPod or some such digital device. So, storage isn’t an issue. But what’s a Cool Uncle to do when looking for an epic sound system that won’t take over the living room or break the bank? Try one of the Bose Acoustimass systems from Crutchfield ($399- 999). These diminutive speakers pack an aural punch.—C.B.