The thing about families is that they're made up of 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.
Before spending the afternoon at Pottery Barn or West Elm, the design gurus at HGTV suggest a little forethought. First, consider the ages and activity levels of your kiddos. If you still have toddlers who take a tumble every third step, should you really purchase a glass-top coffee table adorned with easy to swallow 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. Here are some tips to get you started.
#1 Embrace Color and Patterns
White walls are popular because they add a lightness and serenity to every room. Add a few dirty handprints and some spilled orange juice, however, and the effect changes. Luckily, today’s trends embrace thoughtful pattern placement, so opting for whimsical wallpaper, statement walls, or lively couches is a no-brainer. Darker shades and ornamentation can cleverly hide spills or stains—think Moroccan rugs, globally-inspired accessories, and Persian designs.
#2 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 quickly get tired of dining furniture covered with hazmat material. Instead, invest in tough fabrics that let kids be kids.
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 blended with synthetics. Washable slipcovers, Scotchgard, and stain-resistant finishes help key pieces last.
Durable Flooring – Carpet may feel cozy, but retains smells and stains like no other fabric. Look for flooring that wipes easily with mild soap and water, including laminate, tile, wood or linoleum. If you’re worried about falls, you can always add a few (patterned) area rugs in high-traffic areas.
#3 Create Boundaries
Give kids their space. If you don’t want curious hands exploring your grandmother’s china, designate adult zones from kiddo play areas. Give little ones a room where finger-painting, tumbling and experimental music composition are encouraged - no ceramic sculptures or Waterford Crystal allowed. These personalized spaces keep messes contained.
Treat yourself to a space for adults. Can’t resist a white couch and white carpeted floors? Keep it in the formal living room...behind French doors. You can have a room that's all your own, but work with a contractor to keep the space separate from the kids, and set away from the other living spaces in the house, so it's not a target.
#4 Get Creative
If a playroom isn’t possible with your current floor plan, fear not. There are more ways to combine class and durability. For example, a solid wood dining table featuring splatter-paint details can provide a fun and colorful addition to your space.
You love painted stairs? Distress 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 to be inhabited by children. True, marble floors and satin throw pillows feel fabulous but so do sticky, loving hands on your cheeks.
#5 Design Your Home for Small People
One of the things that you never think about until you have children is the way most building and design features assume that all people are approximately the same height. Children make up nearly 1/3 of the population, yet our interior spaces give them almost no consideration.
After you've lifted your 4 year old up to a sink at a public bathroom for the 4 millionth time, you'll start to realize how short-sighted tall counters really are. Your home can be designed for your child's convenience, with some creative tweaks.
- A custom-made bathrooom vanity or kitchen cabinet with built-in under cabinet stool makes reaching easier for your little ones.
- Low to the ground coat hooks allows your little one to reach their jacket or sweater when it's time to go.
- A specially placed closet rod, low to the ground, enables your kindergartener to choose their own clothes, and put them away when they make a mess!
If you have a dedicated toy room in your home, install small shelves that your child can access and clean up on their own. Once your child grows up, the features in your house can grow up with them. Make sure the shelves you install area easy to replace - no built-in shelves that are a child's height.
#6 Give Them a Wall to Draw On
Kids love to draw on walls, so why not give them a wall that's meant entirely for their personalized art? Paint one wall of their home with magnetic chalkboard paint. Doing this enables your child to create endless chalk drawings - or use magnets to pin their favorite paper drawings to the wall! Chalkboard paint comes in different colors and can be added to multiple rooms of the house, including common spaces like your kitchen. Giving your child a place where they can draw on your kitchen wall gives them something to do while you're making delicious meals.
#7 Install Rounded Furniture
Even older children tend to bump into furniture, run into corners, and hurt themselves as they rush from one part of the house to the other. Install furniture with rounded edges to prevent accidents. If your children are especially young, install padding on corners to prevent bruises and head injuries.
#8 Keep Spaces Cheerful
Kids like high-contrast, bright colors. They respond to cheerful art and fabrics with bold colors and big shapes. Choose the wall papers, colors, art and fabrics in common parts of your house with this information in mind.
#9 Let Them Pick
If your child is of the age where they can make decisions for themselves, let them make choices that control their environment. Let them choose the furniture in their room, the color of their walls, style of door on their closet. These little gestures give them an early sense of responsibility and control over their own room, and can help them develop healthy respect for your parts of the house.