10 Tips for Family-Friendly Design
Got kids? Check out these dos and don'ts for putting together rooms that will stand up to family life and still look fabulous.
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Remember your mother's living room? The one with the delicate glass collection arranged just so on the cocktail table, the silk upholstery stretched taut on the uncomfortable armchairs, the balloon shades poufing out stiffly atop the windows, and the white carpet whose pristine pile she lovingly vacuumed into sweeping V's every week? You know, the room the kids were forbidden from setting foot in — the one, in fact, that no one ever went in?
If you have an active family, that's a decorating don't.
On the other hand, you're not willing to throw up your hands and live in a home that looks like a day-care center. The solution is a middle ground: a comfortable, attractive and even sophisticated abode that can withstand just about everything kids dish out. Read on to discover the dos and don'ts of family-friendly design — because, after all, you don't want to turn into your mother, do you?
Do consider how you really live.
A room that looks beautiful but doesn't take into account the demands of everyday family life will quickly be destroyed or end up like Grandma's stuffy no-go zone. Instead, incorporate a decorating style that will stand up to sibling food fights, vomiting babies, indoor hockey matches, incontinent pets and slobby spouses. Consider who you live with and decorate accordingly. Hint: That means checking the color of the stains on your sofa before choosing a hue for the new one.
Don't wait to decorate.
Many families hold off on decorating until their children are older, making do with ratty post-dorm furniture for years after its expiration date because, well, the kids will just destroy anything else. But even the youngest children benefit from living amid beautiful objects; they grow to appreciate and respect them. So go ahead and create a home the whole family can enjoy. You can even get kids involved in the process, asking what they'd like to see in a room you're redecorating or letting them weigh in on a few pre-screened paint colors or fabric samples. They may even feel enough ownership to think twice before kicking off their muddy boots onto the rug they helped select.
Do go for a no-fuss look.
A clean-lined but casual and comfortable look is the way to go. Style strategies: Avoid couches and chairs with skirts (which attract pet hair, dust bunnies and dirty shoe prints) in favor of exposed legs. Same goes for fabric-covered tables (sooner or later your kids are going to give that fabric a tug and send everything crashing to the floor). Well-loved vintage items and contemporary pieces with a slightly weathered look survive kids more readily than precious antiques or pristine new items, and a softly layered, slightly boho look melds well with the happy chaos of family life. Whatever decorating style you choose, though, low-maintenance is a must. Once kids arrive, who has time to fluff pillows, comb fringe, primp curtains, dust around tiny trinkets and constantly clear clutter from rooms that look good only when they're practically empty?
Don't be afraid of color, pattern, or texture.
Forget the white silk couch. Instead, opt for vibrant color, a bit of pattern and touchable texture. All help to camouflage the inevitable spills, fingerprints and other mishaps — and not just on furniture but on walls and floors as well. The day your first-grader overturns a bottle of neon-hued Gatorade on the living room rug, you'll be glad you chose a rug with a dark color and a rich pattern. If bold patterns aren't your thing, though, try a softly heathered finish on a couch or a rug or a subtle color wash on the walls. When it comes to paint choices, keep in mind that color appears lighter on larger surfaces, so go a shade deeper on walls than the color chip you like. You can also match paint and wood stains to permanent marker and crayon colors for quick touchups.
Do choose indestructible materials and finishes.
"If it seems like your family belongs in an institution, use institutional-quality goods," Wiener says, only half-jokingly. A look at the toughest materials for the job:
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