It’s a challenge that parents have faced for generations – how to create a livable, attractive and comfortable home that doesn’t look like a day care center. Have you thrown up your hands in despair, thinking that you’ll have to forgo decorating until the kids are in college? Are you resigned to using garage sale furnishings and plastic dinnerware? Hold on…help is on the way! You can create a home where your children are welcome – and your sense of style can run free. Here’s some great tips for creating an environment where everyone gets what they want.
When you’re building a room that works for all members of the family, regardless of age, the less fuss, the better. Simple styles, clean and casual looks and furniture with a vintage flair tend to fare better than other choices. Avoid skirted furniture in favor of exposed legs. The extra fabric attracts dirt, shoe prints and dust bunnies. Sturdy, rough-hewn country pieces, furniture with a weathered look and cushiony, bohemian choices can create a comfortable, cohesive appearance and will stand up to some extra wear and tear. They’re also low-maintenance looks that leave you more time to spend with your family instead of obsessing over plumping, primping and draping.
Avoid long curtains or draperies that can snag, tear or encourage hiding or climbing behaviors. Tablecloths should be kept to a minimum – they’re sure to be tugged, pulled or caught more often than not.
The secret for camouflaging stains, fingerprints and spills is to opt for deep, vibrant colors, rich patterns and touchable textures. Stay away from light-colored, fragile fabrics that show every smudge and smear. If you’re more into neutrals and want less drama in your décor, think about soft heather finishes or neutral deep marled hues in gray and navy.
Choosing the most durable, washable and liquid-proof materials is the way to go. Walls always take a beating when you have children, so invest in a glossy, wipe-down paint that is easy to clean. If you like the look of a matte finish, there are washable varieties available – just make sure to read the care instructions before choosing your brand and color.
Choose sturdy fabrics with a flat weave rather than lightweight or looped fabrics. Try this test – run your fingers over the fabric. The noisier it is, the more durable and lower maintenance it will be. Easy-care, close to stain-proof options include vinyl, “pleather,” ultrasuede, twill, denim, velvet, wool, felt and natural fabrics with synthetic fiber added for toughness. It may surprise you to learn that leather is a smart choice; it wipes clean with a paper towel and looks and feels even better when it’s well loved. When you’re choosing upholstery, request stain-resistant finishes, and don’t forget to have your pieces protected with Scotchgard. When possible, choose furniture that comes with zip-off cushion covers, or add your own furniture covers.
Flooring presents its own challenges. Tile, wood, laminate and linoleum are easy to clean choices. Rustic, distressed hardwood floors hide a lot of sins – they’re very forgiving. Wall-to-wall carpet provides padding for babies learning to crawl and new walkers but can be difficult to keep looking clean. If you do choose carpeting, keep it in a medium or dark shade, and add a stain-protective finish. Nylon and wool-nylon blends are soft, stain resistant and tough.
Get the Best Bang for Your Buck
Although you may be tempted to spend less for inexpensive, disposable furniture that your children can destroy, it’s shockingly short life span should make you think twice. It will be taking up space in a landfill before you know it. Instead, opt for the best-made furniture you can afford. Heavy, solid pieces with sturdy construction and upgraded cushions will stand up any kind of abuse your kids can dish out. They can also be reupholstered once your children outgrow their most destructive years. Oh…and rounded corners are a better choice when it comes to preventing boo-boos and black eyes.
You can decorate with fragile, delicate or heirloom items – if you do it carefully. The reachable “kid-zone” is 45 inches from the floor. Anything highly valuable or not easily replaceable should be stowed on a display area high up on a wall or in a curio cabinet.
Give Your Kids Places to Be Themselves
Nothing encourages your children to treat your home with respect more than giving them their own areas to do with as they please. If they know there are places they can go to play, you’ll be thrilled with the results. Try painting a wall with chalkboard paint and letting them create art to their heart’s content. You can also mix magnetic additive into paint to turn a wall into a gallery. Consider adding a reading nook, art center or an open area for dance or gymnastics.