|I love this room. It's sophisticated, but doesn't scream, "I have children!"|
But like I always have to remind clients: Designing with kids in mind doesn’t mean that you have to compromise on style. Well, not that much anyway. You CAN have an amazing home and still allow your kids to live there too. In fact, designing with kids in mind can be quite liberating. It removes some of the infinite choices you have when it comes to a design style or direction and allows you to sharpen your focus right from the start. This is true even if you’re working with a limited budget - and who isn’t these days?
Here are a few tips, tricks, and things to keep in mind when you decide that you CAN have the stylish house of your dreams :
Maintenance - Can you/will you be able to maintain it? If you’re a parent, you probably have a LOT to do other than constantly clean your house. Are you willing to diligently wipe every fingerprint off your beautiful SubZero Fridge 10 times a day? Is it going to drive you crazy that you’re the only one that will even care? Pick something else then. This is probably the hardest thing for my clients (and me) to come to terms with. The kids aren’t going to destroy stainless steel for example, but it can be a lot of work to keep clean. There are lots of other examples – Glossy, dark (expensive!) hardwood floors that show every speck of dust and grain of sand brought in from the playground (a mistake even I made!) and anything, ANYTHING that is white. You may ultimately decide that certain things are worth the trouble, just make sure you know what you’re going to be in for if you do. I AM going to have white floors someday.
|I don't always practice what I preach, but my kids have never, ever bothered my bar cart. So far anyway...|
Safety – Never underestimate what a 3 year old can/will try to climb. You look at that beautiful floor lamp beside your couch and see…well, a beautiful floor lamp. Apparently what my toddler saw however was a piece of playground equipment (Rest In Piece cool vintage 70's lamp...) Things like sharp corners are kind of a given when it comes to smaller kids, but there are other things to consider too: Slippery or hard floor surfaces like polished concrete, rugs that don’t have nonslip mats under them, glass furniture/tables that may break when a 50 pound Spider-Man is hurled onto them by an irate Darth Vader, you know, obvious stuff like that. Unanchored tall pieces like bookshelves, or heavy mirrors and art that could fall off their hangers if nudged just right. The list goes on. You can’t remove every possible hazard, but just using a little common sense in your choice of furnishings can prevent headaches of the literal and figurative kind.
Embrace imperfection – You may have to adjust your aesthetic tastes a bit here. B.C. (Before Children), my personal design tastes skewed heavily toward the ultramodern and streamlined – pretty much anything found in the pages of Dwell magazine, for example. After kids, my style is much more “rough luxe” and includes more pieces that are industrial in origin or are distressed. My lacquered coffee table went away and a giant upholstered ottoman took it’s place. My cool vintage Lucite dining table was replaced with a great antique farm table - now, using it as a hot wheel track only enhances it's "character". Lots of other changes were made, and the place still looks great. I also embraced Craigslist: It’s easier to deal with child inflicted damage to pieces that I don’t have a huge financial investment in.
|Sometimes a little planned chaos adds to the charm of the design and camouflages the ACTUAL chaos!|
You gots to declutter - You don’t have to get rid of everything, just be more selective about where and how it is displayed. Precious things should be up high or even better, in a closed display cabinet of some sort. It's just easier to clean too. You can’t be too picky about exactly how they are arranged either. I swear that my kids pick things up and put them back just a little bit out of place because they’re trying to drive me crazy.
Incorporate the kids into the space – This one is important and where a lot of "designed" homes fail. You aren’t at war with your kids over control of your space, although it can certainly seem like it sometimes. They don’t need to be completely banished to their room/play area. Have them help with the design process. Designate an area for them to give input on. I’ll give you an example. I had a hard time with my daughter leaving her toys out in the living room. As a project, we did an Andy Warhol style painting of Wonder Woman’s tiara. It turned out so well that I framed it and hung it in the living room. I noticed that she immediately seemed to take more ownership of the space – like it was now her room too. She treats it much more responsibly now, and we rarely have to remind her about toys lying around.
The bottom line is, you have to remember that it’s your kids house too. What fun is it putting a lot of work and money into a stylish pad that no one (including yourself) can enjoy?
I'd love to hear feedback from you about ways that you've accomplished good interior design with your kids in mind...