How to Design a Family-Friendly Home

How to Design a Family-Friendly Home

The age old question: can good design and toddlers co-exist? Can watercolors and white sofas live under the same roof? 

Most people pause. And then cover everything in plastic. Surely little ones and leather can’t mix and mingle. So instead of designing a home they love, they design a space that’s “kid proof.” 

But as I’ve come to find, life is short. And it’s just as likely I’ll spill a glass of wine as my toddler will spill a glass of milk. So instead of waiting 18 years to live in a home I love, I’d prefer to design thoughtfully and with intention. Beauty and family go hand-in-hand. A home can reflect that, too. 

If you’re struggling with how to design a space that feels like you, but that can also withstand the full force two-year-old tantrum, here are 7 ways to design a family-friendly home free of plastic, pleather, and anxiety—plus our favorite family-friendly fabrics.

1. CREATE HIGH DESIGN FOCAL POINTS

Our children’s hands are precious, tiny, delightful and—their hallmark trait—grubby. Prone to popsicle residue and mac-and-cheese remains, you can be certain these tiny little fingers will curiously investigate every nook and cranny within hand’s grasp, leaving traces, and likely wreckage, of their thorough exploration. 

But as they say, knowing is half the battle. For the first few years, everything within “grasping” level is fair game. So instead of fighting it, move the focal points high. Keep sentimental accessories out of reach. Focus your design moments in artwork, sculptural lighting, and centerpieces for wide tabletops.

2. CHOOSE PERFORMANCE FABRICS

Long gone (praise!) are the days of plastic sofa covers. One of the best developments for parents in the furniture industry has been immense growth in the performance fabric field. Most manufacturers are expanding their upholstery sections, realizing that while Pinterest might like a bright, white linen, life will destroy it. There are different levels and types of performance fabric, so do your research, understand the care, and pick the best options for your family.


3. SELECT SOLID PIECES

Babies and toddlers are world renowned for their crawling abilities and can somehow shimmy themselves below, or within, the most unexpected of openings. Instead of fearing a bonk on the head or a loud bellow because they’ve inadvertently created their own jail, go legless. Choose upholstery and tables that extend as a solid piece to the floor. No opening, no problem.

4. AVOID SHARP CORNERS

Advice as old as parenting itself: avoid sharp corners. Children are magnets for edges. If there is a sharp corner to find, they will seek it out and greet it. Despite what you might have been told, it is quite impossible to baby-proof all the accidents out of your home. But by going with organic, rounded shapes where possible, you will minimize the occasional duel of kid and corner. If all round and flowing isn’t your taste, create contrast by building in strong lines waist up or with more sculptural upholstery that can be straight yet forgiving.

5. GO HEAVY

It’s hard to say why, but for the first few years of a child’s life, they see every object as an opportunity to display their remarkable power. All objects must be pushed to the floor like dominos. Side tables are particularly attractive victims. But instead of forgoing a resting spot for your morning coffee, find tables that are sturdy, heavy pieces that won’t give in to your child’s feats of strength. Some of our favorite options right now are solid stone side tables (think: travertine or petrified wood). They’re beautiful, solid, and far too heavy for your mini Hercules.

6. DESIGN YOUR HOME FOR A FAMILY, NOT A KID

When most people find out they’re having a baby, they do a 180. They go from having a well designed space to a Fisher Price theme park, covered in plastic corners and pleather. While I know these parents mean well, you need not be so drastic.

A family home is shared. It’s not created entirely for one person and certainly not for one kid. You are designing a space for your family as a whole. To create a well-rounded home, consider viewing it as three pieces of pie 1) kid spaces, 2) family spaces, 3) your spaces.

First, the kid spaces. These rooms are designed entirely for your little ones and their magic spirits. Design them to enchant and engage their imaginations. These rooms—whether they be bedrooms, playrooms, or both—will be the base for 80-90% of your children’s toys and their preferred play area in the house. Give in to their terrible taste in colors. Let them embrace their inner unicorns. It’s important and inspiring to see their minds come alive with delight. Give them a space to be themselves. 

Next, family spaces. Remember the communal areas in your home (think: living room, kitchen), are not kid spaces — they’re family spaces. And as much as you love your children, and as much as containing their spirit (and toys) can be challenging, this is your home, too. If your living room feels like a toy tornado, it will be difficult for you to unwind and relax. So in these shared spaces, invest in closed storage. Use trunks or cabinets to hold a select arsenal of fun toys your kids can play with when they’re in that space. And when they’re done, be diligent about packing it up and putting it away. Everyone can, and should, see a part of themselves here.

And finally, your spaces. These are the areas of your home that are just for you (think: bedroom, office.) In these spaces, keep doors closed and off limits. Focus on what you want. As a parent, let’s be honest: it can be so difficult to keep a personal identity. So much of what you choose and do is based around your child. In many ways, that’s necessary and important. But when an opportunity presents itself to do something that feels just like you, take it. Use these spaces in your home as retreats to maintain your personal preferences and help you greet each new day with fresh, inspired energy. Who knows? You might just be better parent for it.

7. EXPECT CASUALTIES

Last, but certainly not least, this is life. And not only that, this is life with children. Things are bound to get messy. Accidents will happen. Know in advance there will be casualties. Someone will spill the milk. Markers will magically move from paper to wall. Glitter will inexplicably infiltrate your doors and nest in your upholstery. Since you know this in advance, you can understand a blemish on the sofa is not a blight on the world. It’s just your family making an imprint. And that’s not only OK, that’s the mark of joyful abundance.

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