August 9, 2011

Kid- Friendly Design Rant

Let’s talk about “kid friendly.”  I may be tired today or I many be impatient this morning, but I’m going to say it pretty straight:  You CAN (and SHOULD!)  have a well-done beautiful home with children in the house.
I find that sometimes kids are people’s excuses for not getting exactly what they want or for buying ugly furniture.  Not okay.

{Coastal Living}
There are plenty of beautiful homes out there and most of them have (or had) kids living in them while they still looked beautiful.  Yes, kids are messy and they will turn your house upside down, but generally this mayhem is pretty fixable.  (My house looks like it was ransacked by burglers multiple times a week but it’s just “mess” not damage.)
There is no reason why having kids should keep anyone from buying a sofa with a beautiful silhouette or fabric.  Yes,  we might have to choose the ottoman instead of the glass coffee table in the family room, and there are safety issues we need to look at, but there are beautiful child-friendly options for just about everything out there.   (Let me be clear too, that I’m not talking about money/ budget issues…  if something unattractive is chosen for a room because cost is an issue, that’s completely different. )  Curtains & pillows can still be made in beautiful fabrics that will withstand time.
{Coastal Living… I’m in the mood}
I think it’s important when putting together rooms that people have realistic expecations.  They should also understand the pros and cons of what they’re choosing.  So yay, we have an unattractive piece of furniture that they kids can’t destroy no matter what they do to it:  Does it matter if they can’t destroy it if it’s an eyesore on a daily basis? (Ever had a piecce of furniture you pray gets destroyed so you can justify replacing it?? 😉
I’m typically pretty diplomatic on my blog (and in person) but I do have very strong opinions about certain “don’ts.”  (Some of them, I’ve even committed myself and now regret!! )
Some things are REALLY unattractive to me and I see a lot of young families with kids – or even just young couples & single people- buying these things.  (Including me!)  Here’s a quick list:
-Upholstered pieces with bulky silhouettes / bad lines.  (I honestly think that a lot of the upholstery being sold / mass marketed is pretty bad.  (I even own some of it.) …I think the typical furniture “set” that the typical young family goes out & buys isn’t attractive.   I’ve seen it over & over: the microfiber sofas with big arms in some sort of darker neutral color.  (My friend Maria of Colour Me Happy recently wrote about microfiber here.)   (And I own some microfiber so I’m not just outing others here! 😉    I wish this trend would just STOP now.  I really do.  (Why?  Because microfiber/ suede isn’t at all timeless.  It looks very manufactured/ fakey and the “suede” doesn’t fool anyone.  I will admit that I find it to be very practical, although there are other practical options that look much better.)
– Lighting:  Insubstantial iron lamps on either side of a sofa.  Sometimes being afraid of glass or porcelain scares families into buying the generic lamp.  They haven’t taken any risks, and it shows.
-Artwork: “Decorator” artwork can be everywhere.  It’s those large pieces -either framed or on canvas- that can be of anything really that takes up a lot of space/ fills the walls, but feels like it belongs in a hotel.  And be wary of ikea’s artwork too.  Some of it can actually look pretty good but it can feel really impersonal/ generic.  (Again, to out myself, I’ve bought this stuff before too!)
{Generic Tuscan = my pet peeve}
-Rugs that are too small.  I see this all the time.  Sometimes rugs that truly fit a space aren’t readily available, so families just buy what they can.  (The rug might sit in the middle of all of the furniture instead of under it.)  They might figure that the smaller rugs are cheaper and that their kids are young and messy and it’s not worth spending on the right rug becausee the kids will destroy it anyway.  But not so!!!  Get the right material, and you can have the rug for life, even after the kids have grown up & gone.
{Don’t do it!!}
There are definitely more & these are just the ones off the top of my head, but please don’t hate me for that list if you own a micriber sofa with bulky lines or have “Tuscan” artwork all over your house.  I wrote that list not to find fault with anyone who has these things in their homes, but to hopefully raise awareness.   When I walk into clients’ homes and see these items, there’s no judging.  I too have purchased these items a time or two, and have worked really hard to train my eye & hone my sensibilities, which is an ongoing process.
 Most of us working in the design field & those who are reading magazines & blogs are growing
design-wise almost daily.  And sometimes part of that growing is realizing we’ve maded “don’ts” in the past & being okay with that.  Maybe we can’t fix them right now, but we can at least start a plan for the fixing and be sure not to make the same mistakes again.
I came up with a short list of things to keep in mind when thinking about decorating a home with kids & I think it even applies to single people or couples.  (I’ll be honest that I’m the one in the house who usually makes the most damaging messes…  well, my dog does too.)
The fundamentals are:
-Washing hands  (a LOT)…  teach the kids to do it automatically after meals to avoid accidents on soft goods.
-No ball (or anything) throwing in the house.
-Teach kids to put away their things (hahahaha  I have been trying this for years but it never gets any easier…  just try not to give up the fight.)
-On pretty things low & within reach:  When my kid first learned to walk, they were too little to understand “no” and pretty much wanted to touch & pick up everything / anything I’d put on the cofee table or other low areas.  For that point in time, I removed breakables & bouquets from their reach.  (Now that Justin is “getting it”  at a year and a half, we have breakables/ flowers/ plants back out on the tables and he’s pretty goood with them.   Every once in a while when he’s being naughty and wants some attention, he’ll pick one up and (start saying “no no no!” and then I’ll put it up for a lilttle while.)
-No eating/ drinking on the upholstered furniture.  (Exceptions are made for movies & dry snacks like popcorn/ gold fish/ etc.)  Heee heee I have completely broken this rule myself, but mostly on our slipcovered sofa.  One night about a year or so ago, I went on a chocolate binge and just started eating chocolate chips on our family room sofa (which is an off-white/ natural slipcovered shelter sofa).. And I fell alseep and woke up with chcocolate all over the sofa.  (How gross am I??)  But all came out because that slipcover is THE BEST.  And sometimes  a little someone will escape with dirty fingers or with something yucky and we’ll find a mess on something upholstered but we just clean it right away and all is fine.
– On white:  It depends on who you are & if you’re into slipcovers/ washing, but white can be very kid-friendly.  Some people think the thought of having to wash a slipcover as ridiculous, while I love it.  (Ie the “chocolate incident.”)  I have both off-whit and pure white slipcovers and I like my off-whites better because they don’t show any general dinge.  The pure whites do.  Both are easily fixed but it really just depends upon you & what you’re willing to do.  I think living with all dark furniture -if it’s not your style- is a bad thing.
 It’s important to notice the difference betweeen white and natural/ oatmeal/ beige & gray. Pale neutrals give you a LOT of wiggle room.  They can even read white in a room.  (Everyone who visits thinks of my family room sofa as white, but really it’s a sort of natural/ off-white color.)   But the important thing is, they’re not PURE white and don’t show every little tiny thing.  Just being slightly off saves mulitple washings a year.
– On upholstery.  If you can, and when you can, buy good upholstery and plan on having it for many years.  You can reupholster it when the fabric’s worn/ dingy or the stuffing’s flattened.  Have realistic expectations about it.  I’ve heard lots of different “rules of thumb” for upholstery lifespans, but ones I hear a lot are 5-7 or 7-10 years.  (And I’ve seen fabric last 30+ years at my grandparents’ house…) Either way, just know that the fabric will age and that’s okay.  Some fabrics age beautifully (ie linens, velvets) and others hide things like patterned fabrics.  Just know what you’re getting into and be okay with it.  But upholstery will eventually neeed to be freshed up if you plan on keeping it for life.  That’s reality.
-On rugs.  Buy good rugs.  They don’t have to be expensive.  They can be seagrass or cotton but make sure they fit the space & needs of the space.
Anyway, I’m off for the day, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on these subjects.  I also hope that I didn’t hurt any feelings with my list of things that I find unattractive.  I normally try to keep my posts focusing on the positive, but these are just a few things I see over & over that I think ruin rooms.  If you have some of these things & truly love them, then that’s what’s important.  Enjoy your day!!

xoxo, Lauren

If you’d like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.

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