The thing about families is they involve individuals—young children, teenagers, parents, possibly infants and aging loved ones. So when it comes to having a comfortable, practical living environment, how do you create a space that caters to a variety of needs and preferences?
Especially when it comes to indulging active little ones, is it possible to design a home that allows small hands to explore the world while keeping the surroundings chic and elegant? Well, as long as you go forth in the spirit of compromise, a universe definitely exists in which both tastes can flourish.
Pre-Planning: According to the Experts
Before spending the afternoon at Pottery Barn or West Elm, the design gurus at HGTV suggest a little forethought. First, take stock of reality. What are the ages and activity levels of your kiddos? If you still have toddlers who take a tumble when the air conditioner blows wildly, does it make sense to purchase a glass-top coffee table adorned with esophagus-sized knickknacks?
In that same vein, though a sleek, white couch elevates any room, will juice stains or baby spit up threaten its hue at every turn? Essentially, although it is possible to have a space you adore that can withstand little humans, it will require planning and consideration. Once you’ve put in the time, here are some tips to get you started:
Embrace Color and Patterns
White walls give an air of lightness and serenity. Add a few dirty handprints and some nail polish stains, however, and the effect changes. Luckily, today’s trends embrace vibrancy and thoughtful pattern placement, so opting for whimsical wallpaper, statement walls, or lively couches is a no-brainer. Besides, darker shades and ornamentation can cleverly hide spills or stains—think Moroccan rugs, globally-inspired accessories, and Persian designs.
[Related: The Best Things to Do with Your Family on Long Beach Island]
Choose Hearty Materials
Sorry folks, but silk and lace will not stand up to the wrath of a five-year-old. And let’s not forget the bygone era of covering upholstery with plastic. While it can seem like extreme measures are necessary until kids reach the age of spatial awareness, you’ll likely regret covering formal dining furniture with hazmat material. Instead, invest in tough fabrics that let kids be kids without making the space resemble a daycare center.
Scrubbable Paint – Walls and baseboards endure a significant beating, but if you stick to eggshell, semigloss or satin finishes, you’ll save yourself a lot of stress. Also, many big-name brands have washable mattes capable of staying put after a solid scrub-down.
Thick Fabrics – Save dainty fabrics for retirement. While cohabitating with kids, look for options like denim, wool, vinyl, leather, pleather, or anything that has a kiss of synthetics. Washable slipcovers, Scotchgard, and stain-resistant finishes will also help key pieces last.
Durable Flooring – Carpet may feel cozy, but it holds onto smells and stains. Instead, look for flooring that wipes easily with mild soap and water, includinglaminate, tile, wood or linoleum. If you’re worried about falls, you can always add a few (patterned) area rugs in high-traffic areas.
If you don’t want curious hands exploring your grandmother’s china, a fair plan involves designating adult zones from kiddo play areas. If little ones have a room where finger-painting, tumbling and experimental music composition are encouraged, they will have no use for ceramic sculptures and Waterford Crystal. More importantly, these individual spaces keep messes contained. So, if you can’t resist a white couch, keep it in the formal living room….behind French doors.
If a playroom isn’t possible with your current floor plan, fear not. Interesting ways to combine class and durability abound. For example, a solid wood dining table featuring splatter-paint details can provide a fun and colorful addition to your space.
If you love painted stairs, consider distressing them to make inevitable wear-and-tear look purposeful (this trick works great for kitchen cabinets, as well). But whatever you do, prepare each space for life. True, marble floors and satin throw pillows feel fabulous but so do sticky, loving hands on your cheeks.