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.
Do consider how you really live.
Don’t wait to decorate.
Do go for a no-fuss look.
Don’t be afraid of color, pattern, or texture.
Do choose indestructible materials and finishes.
Windows: Long drapes that pool elegantly on the floor? They’re a tripping hazard, a hide-and-seek spot, and an “I wonder what will happen if I tug on this?” experiment waiting to happen. Instead, opt for simple, wipeable wood blinds or roman shades — those made with natural reeds, such as bamboo, do a great job of hiding jelly smears and can be secured out of reach during the day.
Fabrics: Heavy fabrics with a flat weave will hold up much better than lightweight or looped fabrics. (Hint: Run your fingers over the fabric. The more noise it makes, the higher its durability and the lower its maintenance requirements.) Easy-care, practically stain-proof choices include vinyl, “pleather,” ultrasuede, twill, denim, velvet, wool, felt and other natural fabrics with a touch of synthetic fiber woven in for added toughness. Leather is another good choice; it wipes clean with a paper towel and looks and feels even better when it’s well loved. When you’re ordering upholstery, be sure to request a stain-resistant finish, and don’t forget to Scotchgard off-the-shelf pieces. Another fabric-saving strategies: Splurge on washable slipcovers or zip-off cushion covers. Finally, consider having the fabric on kitchen and even dining room chairs laminated to protect against spaghetti splats (ask your fabric store about laminating services).
Floors: For entries, hallways and family rooms, look for flooring that cleans up with a damp mop. Tile, wood, laminate and linoleum work well. Rustic, pre-distressed hardwood floors with a matte, nonskid finish are very forgiving. Wall-to-wall carpet provides padding for crawlers and unsteady walkers but is difficult to keep looking good during these early years. If you do go for wall-to-wall, keep it in a medium-to-dark tone, and be sure to request a stain-protective finish. Nylon and wool-nylon blends feel soft, resist stains and wear well.
Area rugs: Whether you have wood floors or wall-to-wall carpet, area rugs can be lifesavers. They soften and warm a space and protect floors from kids — and vice versa. When they get grungy, flip them over, send them to the cleaners or simply replace inexpensive ones. Jute, sea grass and sisal add texture and are incredibly durable, making them great for heavily trafficked areas. For a softer landing, try an all-wool or wool-blend rug, which will wear well and resist stains. Because of its high lanolin content, New Zealand wool does a great job of repelling moisture and dirt. Carpet tiles are another family-friendly option. They’re like puzzle pieces that can be reconfigured on a whim, and if one area becomes stained or worn, you can simply replace individual tiles. Whichever type of rug you choose, though, opt for easy-to-clean low pile, and use a no-skid pad or double-sided tape underneath so the rug itself doesn’t become a hazard.