You live with kids and you wonder: Is it even possible to have a living room free of Lego bricks or walls free of crayon marks? California-based Gabrielle Stanley Blair, who is a mother of six, blogger and author of the new book “Design Mom: How to Live with Kids,” is here to tell you that, yes, your home can be kidproof.
“There’s definitely this feeling that ‘I have kids, and the house is going to be ugly and functional. . . . And then when the kids go away it will be beautiful,’ “ Blair says. “But it’s not necessary to punish yourself like that.” So, how is it done? By being realistic. Expect that the entryway could become a dumping ground and stock it with hooks and bins for organizing. Teach your kids to love beauty by having them abstract-paint a canvas with a color palette of your choice and frame it for display. Don’t wait until your kids are gone before you enjoy your house.
As interior designer Carrie Miller says: “A home is meant to be lived in, regardless of whether you have small children or if it’s just two adults. People should not fear stains – of course, you want to guard against them – but I always hope that my clients live in their homes well.”
▪ No white couches. Blair says that parents who buy white sofas are just setting themselves up for failure. She likes leather, microfiber or – if you must have white – slipcovers. The crisp Metro Slipcover Sofa ($1,399, roomandboard.com) comes in white twill and many other shades and fabrics.
▪ Lots of dish towels. One of Blair’s tricks for keeping the kitchen sparkly clean? Stacks of pretty dish towels. “Buy them in sets of three, or maybe five, or perhaps 10,” she says. “You will need them all.” She recommends the Farmhouse Mix Dish Towels, a set of eight from Sundance ($68, sundancecatalog.com).
▪ Stain resistant fabrics. Try to get the fabric on your furniture treated to resist stains, says Miller, owner of interior design firm Lapis Ray. Or use a hardy outdoor fabric, as on Crate and Barrel’s Sunbrella Square Outdoor Pillows ($45, crateandbarrel.com). “Outdoor fabric doesn’t look or feel like outdoor fabric anymore,” Miller says.
▪ Weathered finishes. “Look for pieces that have a little patina to them,” Blair says. “A table made of barn wood, an industrial-looking side table with a weathered finish, a painted piece with edges that are sanded down a bit. These are terrific for families, because if you knock into them or scratch them, it’s all the better.” West Elm’s Emmerson Dining Table, made of reclaimed pine, would hold up well around rowdy kids ($899-$1,299, westelm.com).
▪ Painted dining room table. If a painted dining table gets scratched up by kids banging utensils, then, oh well, it’s just time to repaint, Blair says. The white Hampstead Painted Rectangular Extending Dining Table can seat six to 10 of your favorite table-banging munchkins and their friends ($1,249, potterybarn.com).
▪ Sturdy chairs. When Blair and her husband were first setting up house, they bought some recycled aluminum chairs for their kitchen table, knowing that they would last well through the toddler years. Though the chairs have moved to their outdoor seating area, they are still going strong. For a similar find, there’s the metal Foundry Dining Chair ($145, sundancecatalog.com).
▪ Ottomans are best. “I always recommend ottomans instead of coffee tables because there’s nothing for the kids to bump their heads on; they can lay all over them,” Miller says. The Castered Tufted Storage Ottoman is a crowd-pleaser: It comes in multiple colors and fabrics – even Sunbrella – it rolls where you need it, and it has deep storage for stray toys and blankets ($449-$674, ballarddesigns.com).
▪ Durable dishware. On her blog, Blair recommends glass dishware sold at Mighty Nest. The Glass Kids Dishware Set by Duralex ($13 per place setting, mightynest.com) is much more attractive than plastic and just as durable. She also likes white ceramic. If plates get broken, you can always replace with a different white pattern for a sophisticated, eclectic look.
▪ Outdoor fabric pillows. You don’t have to sacrifice adult style for kid-friendly accessories. The design of the Medina Laser Cut Outdoor Pillow is inspired by the architecture of Morocco ($59, grandinroad.com). As an outdoor pillow, it can stand up to mildew and the sun, so surely it can stand up to spilled milk and dirty fingers inside.
▪ Dark, wool rugs. Dark-colored quality wool rugs hide all kinds of sins, Blair says. She also likes jute, sisal and, yes, plastic, as you can find in outdoor rugs. The Zig Zag Indoor/Outdoor Rug, made of hand-hooked, hand-dyed polypropylene, can easily be washed with soap or rinsed with a hose ($19-$599, thecompanystore.com).
▪ Inexpensive glassware. “Choose real glasses and stemware,” Blair writes in her book. “Just don’t make them expensive.” While you might be tempted to go all-plastic for the kids, real glass like the adults use will most likely help them to rise to the occasion. Stock your shelves with the Wine Glass Entertaining Set ($25 for 12, worldmarket.com). You won’t mind if a little hand reaches up to the table and breaks one.