Ok, maybe the headline is strongly worded, but I promise this post is meant to encourage, inspire and assure you that it is ok to decorate your home now even if you have young children and pets at home
And it's not really a book I wrote - I just love this cool little tool that converts a graphic to a book cover that I found online. But I promise to share everything I know about creating a family-friendly home that is designed for living life and not to cause stress
Many years ago, waiting to decorate your home because you have young kids at home would be a very valid excuse, but these days manufacturers have gotten on board with the fact that most people actually want to "live" in their homes, and it is not a museum or showplace. In fact, within the last few years, that has become the trend
With technology being more and more accessible to the average homeowner, families are spending more time together at home, and the need for highly functional furnishings is much greater these days.
But what was the issue to begin with? Why were people with young kids so hesitant to decorate their homes?
Well, imagine spending thousands of dollars on a new space with delicate furniture and accessories and kids just being kids make a mess and break things. Homeowners obviously didn't want to restrict their kids and have a home that is off limits, so they naturally resorted to doing nothing.
That same mentality continues today. Kids will still be kids, and you cannot 100% protect everything, but with proper planning and selection you can come close. There are many more options available today than there ever was to create a home that is family-friendly
Let's get started with ideas for making your home livable for a family with kids and pets so there will be no more excuses for not decorating:
Define spaces for the way you live
When you move into a new home, the spaces are typically designated with the functions per the building plans - the dining room for dining, the office for working, the breakfast room for everyday meals and so on. Many people don't think that they could perhaps use these designated spaces for different functions, or making one space have multiple functions.
That should be the first order of business to make your home livable. It should be based on your lifestyle and the way you want to live.
The dining room that no one ever uses does not have to remain a dining room. I may make sense to turn it into the kids' play area. The office does not have to remain an office if you never use it. It could be the guest bedroom or a nanny's room.
Look at your space from your own lifestyle lense and make it work for you. I know most people who want a well designed and organized home would freak out at the thought of making a formal dining room into a kids' play area. After all, kids usually come with messiness. But that is where the you need to work with a professional interior design firm to create storage and functionality into the space. When kids have a designated area of their own, the chances of making the rest of the home a mess are much slimmer
Several years ago, I took spaces in my then home that were designated for one thing and turned them into something that worked for the way I live
A small living room was converted to a combination living dining room, while the formal dining room became a home office/lady's lounge where one didn't exist previously
The furniture layout
The furniture layout for each room can also be a defining factor between a family-friendly space, and one that is not ideal for family with kids. This is a great time to call in a designer for even a consultation if you struggle with it.
Most homes today have open-concept in the main living area, and it may very well be one of the key reasons you purchased your home. But now what? How do you create a layout that will be comfortable for everyday living and still stylish for when you have friends over? The good news about open concept is that you can always keep an eye on the kids. The bad news? You can also see every single room from every single room. One messy area will make the entire space look messy
The key to furniture layout is knowing what pieces to select. Each piece should be arranged in a way that is great for traffic patterns, allowing space for playing, including pieces with storage - especially storage that the kids can reach themselves, and enough seating for the entire family to hang out together
Even small spaces can benefit from the eye of a good interior designer who can create a great family-friendly layout
Arrange the furniture to face the focal point of the room. For most families it may be the television. It may get a bit trickier if there are multiple focal points, in which case you can arrange the furniture facing the most used or most compelling focal point, or bringing in flexible seating like swivel chairs, benches and ottomans
Use an area rug to define the main seating area. That also keeps the flooring nice and soft for playtime.
Include lots of lighting for various tasks and functions in the room
Flexible seating like ottomans can be tucked underneath tables or in front of the fireplace and can be pulled into the space for additional seating
Include lots of storage - storage ottomans and bookcases
In the kitchen area, include a kids' beverage area where they can get their own refreshments without disrupting the workflow in the kitchen. May be have a bar area where homework can be done while you are cooking dinner
It is also great to include a beverage area in upstairs play areas.
Know when to splurge and when to save
The underlying reason for not decorating while the kids are young is the fear that money will be spent on furnishings that will not last or hold up to heavy wear and tear.
There is nothing to fear, all that is required is a bit more careful planning. This is also a great area to consult with an interior designer on.
Decorating a room with high/low is a common practice of designers who work with families. Some pieces are worth the splurge, while others can be less expensive.
It is best to splurge on the pieces that will get the most use and subject to more activity. Pieces like the sofa, coffee table, fabrics, maybe the rug, overhead lighting, built-in units for storage, window treatments
You can go less expensive on items like the pillows, accessories, artwork, lamps, accent tables, accent seating
Selecting Furniture, accents and accessories
This is the tricky part - furniture selection. As we mentioned above, it is best to splurge on the sofa or sectional. These take the most abuse and you want to keep them for the long haul. If you decide to go with less expensive options, understand the quality you are getting, and the timeframe they are expected to last.
What to look for in good quality upholstery:
Kiln-dried hardwood frame
High quality joints
Eight way hand tied construction
No sag, spring-down cushions
Performance (solution-dyed and stain resistant) or even outdoor fabrics with high Wyzenbeek/Martindale double rub scores - at least 30,000
These days there are tons of selections of beautiful performance fabrics that will hold up to anything your kids and pets can dish out. You don't have to go with dark fabrics to make your upholstery family-friendly.
The best advice I have when selecting upholstery is choosing ones that can be reupholstered many times later
When choosing case goods or the wood pieces in the room, avoid table tops with glass or really sharp edges. It is smart to bring in surfaces like marble, resin, metal, or even antiqued wood that will only look better with dings and scratches. Be sure to bolt taller pieces to the walls for safety reasons
When choosing an area rug, I recommend splurging on a rug meant for high-traffic areas. Wool rugs tend to hide stains well and hold up to heavy traffic. But if you are still nervous about splurging on the item that will get the most use in your space, a high quality synthetic, like nylon or olefin is great for families with kids and pets. I would recommend that you avoid viscose, silk and silk blends, sisal and jute
When choosing pillows, I recommend using performance fabrics as much as possible with a good quality down insert.
Of course you may want to avoid breakables and valuable collectibles when choosing accessories for table tops. It is always a great idea to arrange items in a tray on top of your coffee table for easy removal during playtime. It doesn't mean that you can't display your accessories that are valuable and sentimental to you, they just need to be displayed higher in bookcases where little hands cannot reach them
When choosing window treatments, you still want to do beautiful layers that will make the room look great. Maybe roller shades, shutters or woven wood shades as the privacy layer and drapery panels for the decorative layer. Avoid shades with cords that dangle and could potentially be a danger for kids. There are many options for motorization and cordless operations.
Choose a drapery fabric that is a performance fabric. Avoid silks and fine linens
Care and maintenance
Half the battle of making your home family friendly is the selections you make. The other half is how you maintain and care for them over time. Everything will require some level of care and maintenance, but you also don't want to be a slave to an overly refined home.
Always expect that spills will happen. Heck, I am a full adult and I still spill all the time. Just be aware of all the manufacturers recommendations for caring for your pieces beforehand and when the inevitable happens. Usually it's best to do ongoing maintenance and not wait for something to go wrong. Regular cleaning, dusting, spot blotting when a spill occurs will keep them looking great at all times. Using the right cleaners will ensure your pieces will have a long life and keep your home beautiful for a long time
All in all, the best piece of advice I can give you is to not wait to enjoy your home. Life is short and everyone deserves to live in a home that brings them joy and be surrounded not just by family, but by the things you love. A cluttered and undecorated home often makes you feel stress. It is time to create the home that you will love to come back to each day.
And I will also say this from the perspective of a mom who has raised two kids into fine adults - this is a great time to teach your children to have an appreciation for beautiful things. I know that kids will be kids, but some rules about how to take care of your investment is a good thing. Setting some boundaries is just as important as giving them grace when they do mess up and break the rules. Yes, you want them to enjoy their childhood unrestricted, but you also want them to learn to appreciate beautiful things and know what is a toy and what isn't . This will also translate to when they visit other people's homes.
If you need help creating a family-friendly home, look no further. We have been working with Katy families now for over 13 years. We have the right resources to help you have a beautiful, stress-free home
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Wishing You Beauty And Inspiration!