By Kerrie Kelly, ASID
So many of my clients are rediscovering design after living with growing children (and pets) for so long that they had given up any hope of style and elegance in their lives. And that’s really too bad, because I’ve learned that children and the casual elegance we’re all striving for are not mutually exclusive.
The secrets to success? Strategic space planning and storage; functional flooring and rugs that can hold up to abuse; and windows that work.
Make Room for Everyone
One of the keys to controlling the chaos of an active family with active pets is making sure there’s a place for everyone—and everything. Dedicate a guest bedroom or corner of the living room to kid space. If you can tuck that space behind a sofa or even a set of open shelves as a divider, all the better. If not, consider furniture with hidden space for baskets and cubbies that keep clean-up quick and easy.
Then, make sure there’s a pet bed in every room. It helps to keep pets off the furniture—which will be getting enough wear and tear from the kids. Pet beds come in so many stylish fabrics, patterns and textures these days that you’ll have no trouble finding something that complements your style.
Storage Means Sanity
The best way to keep from going insane with clutter is to create spaces where tidying up is as simple as possible. This will take a little design strategizing to implement across the entire house, but it pays huge dividends in peace of mind.
Find shelving that works in each particular space, and then use fabric or wicker boxes and cubbies that complement your style and that you can pull out, fill up with kid stuff and slide right back in. There’s no need to alphabetize the crayons and pet toys—they’re coming right back out anyway. As long as you know where they are and they’re easily accessible, you’re taking hours per year off of your cleaning routine, and adding years of sanity.
Come to Terms with Color
Whites, grays and beiges might not be your best choices once the kids arrive. This is the time to embrace bolder, richer hues and patterns that help you hide stains and general wear and tear. For fabrics and furniture, take advantage of performance and patterned fabrics made of 100 percent polyester, and look for stain-resistant versions of carpets and indoor/outdoor rugs.
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Pick No-Pain Paint
While we’re on the subject of color, a quick word about paint. Actually two words: satin and semi-gloss. These finishes not only bring a little shine to the room, they make clean-up so much easier that you’ll be glad you went to the trouble.
Rely on Functional Floors
Hard surfaces and area rugs are the way to go. Of course, they’re practical during the years you’re sharing the place with small children and pets, but they’re also a great long-term design solution. You’re able to deep clean every time you clean, and when those rugs are worn, they’re that much simpler to replace. Take that strategy to the next level by bringing outdoor area rugs indoors. They come in such great patterns and colors, and they just can’t be beat in terms of durability and ease of maintenance. Besides the living and dining rooms, consider the advantages of using outdoor area rugs in kitchens and baths.
No-Fail Fabrics and Furniture
First of all, Scotchgard, people! Seriously, this is a product that is a friend to all parents and furniture manufacturers. There’s just no reason not to apply a layer to any fabrics where kids will spend time. Beyond that, splurging for high quality construction will really pay off. Kids (and pets, of course) really will be crawling all over the furniture, and not just when they’re mischievous. They’ll learn to walk and crawl at the expense of all of your furniture.
Windows that Work
This one is simple—no curtains or drapes. Fabric flowing near the floor, or within reach of even wee arms (or paws) is an invitation to disaster, and possibly danger. Go with the clean lines and functionality of Roman shades or rollers. They frame the view nicely and allow more control over the light in the room. As a bonus, you can get them with a black-out lining that makes naptime a possibility in any room—for grownups and kids alike.
What are some of your best tips for creating a home grownups can enjoy with active kids and pets?
Décor expert and interior designer Kerrie Kelly writes on home décor topics for Home Depot. Kerrie is the author of My Interior Design Kit, published by Pearson Professional and Career Education. For a broad selection of indoor rugs, including styles reviewed by Kerrie, you can visit Home Depot's Home Decorators website here.