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Designing for Kids: How to Balance Style and Safety

By: Sarah Beaumont

August 16, 2017

It’s no secret that having kids changes EVERYTHING. Besides the fact that you suddenly have to commit a large portion of your time and energy to caring for someone else, you often have to change the way you live. Yes, this means making sacrifices when it comes to your home’s design. (All-white furniture and sharp, glass surfaces probably aren’t the best choices.) But child-proofing your space doesn’t mean you have to give up your sense of style entirely. Whether you’re decorating a nursery or your living room, we’ve got tips to help you create a space that balances style and safety.

1. Be practical.

Kids or not, it’s unlikely that your home is going to look pristine all the time. Which means it’s important to consider your day-to-day life when designing. How often does your family use the room? What do you use it for? You don’t want to be on edge every time your kids enter an area, so incorporate a decorating style that’s safe and will stand up to wear and tear. This means considering things like fabric colors that don’t show stains, where you place breakable items, and most importantly, providing a safe space for kids to play. Though it takes some thought, the first step to creating a room that’s livable and luxe is considering all the angles of family-friendly design.

2. Don’t wait to decorate.

A colorful floral accent wallpaper adds a touch of Mother Nature to this contemporary nursery.

After having a baby, don’t put off decorating in fear of new furniture being ruined. Kids can be destructive well into their teenage years so there’s no point in waiting if you’re ready to design now. If you have a newborn, focus your attention on creating a nursery they can grow into over time. Select neutral, versatile colors, a solid dresser that can function as a changing table, and a soft, durable rug. Keep decorating ideas simple in each room and invest in high-quality furniture that will last for years to come.

3. Keep it casual and comfortable.

Since there will be toys lying around no matter how hard you try to keep them confined to a single area, it’s a good time to practice minimalism. No one wants their home to look like a day care center, so avoid using lots of decorative objects unless they fit well with the rest of your decor. Clean lines and soft corners are key to designing a kid-friendly space. Try using lots of layers and a somewhat boho aesthetic. Patterns hold up well with kids because they hide stains and damages better. You might also consider using vintage, mid-century modern pieces. Even if they’re already a bit distressed, this style looks good and works well in any home because it’s made to be family-friendly.

4. Choose safe, indestructible materials.

WALLS: There’s no escaping the plight of dirty, damaged walls when you have kids in the house. But there are certain paint finishes that take less of a beating. Eggshell, satin or semigloss finishes are easy to clean. If you prefer a matte finish, try a washable flat paint. Have a child that likes to draw on the wall? Cover a wall with chalkboard paint and give them a space to exercise their budding artistic talents.

FABRICS: Avoid long drapes, tablecloths, and couches and chairs with skirts. These can all be tripping hazards and make for major accidents. In terms of durability, heavy fabrics with a flat weave will hold up much better than lightweight ones. Opt for stain-proof upholstery like vinyl, ultrasuede, twill, velvet or wool. Leather is another good choice because it wipes clean with just a paper towel and it looks even better with age.

FURNITURE: Though it’s not always possible, you should try to avoid furniture with sharp corners. Choose rounded tables and pieces with soft curves instead. Low couches with plush, thick seats will prevent violent falls from happening. In the dining room, consider lightweight plastic or plywood molded chairs rather than heavy wood or metal ones. Make sure anything that sits against the wall is secured. This means screwing in large bookshelves or heavy desks to avoid objects toppling down on your toddler. Open shelving may look good, but unless items are out of reach, you may want to opt for cabinets with doors that can easily be safety-locked.


Wall-to-wall carpet is great for crawling babies and toddlers learning to walk. But in terms of design, it’s not usually top of mind. Plus, with kids in the house, a carpet can end up looking pretty gnarly after just a few years. So if you do go the carpet route, choose a medium-t0-dark tone with a stain-protective finish. If you’re keeping your hard wood, linoleum or laminate intact, rugs will become your best friend. They soften and warm a space up, protect your floors, and protect your kids. Try a rug made from jute, sisal, or sea grass. Not only are they durable, but they add beautiful natural texture to a room. But no matter what type of rug you choose, you want something low pile that’s easy-to-clean. Pair it with a no-skid pad or double-sided tape underneath so the rug doesn’t become a safety hazard.

5. Design for them, too.
Whether you have a gallery wall of eclectic artworks or a modern shelf of colorful accents and toys, you need a bit of color in your neutral home.

via Laurel & Wolf / Emily Henderson

Naturally, you’re taking all the proper precautions to make sure your home is safe and durable for your kids. But you want your home to be a space they enjoy spending time in too. Their bedroom should consist of things they love and styles they like, but this doesn’t mean it needs to be an eyesore for you. Use classic motifs, like flowers, ships or animals to decorate. Choose timeless furnishings that can be accented by inexpensive kid’s decor and toys. (A chair in the shape of a Pokemon will not be cool to them in a few years.) Outside of the bedroom, display their art on the walls to show them that they’re a part of the household too. Use functional storage options where toys and games can easily be stashed out of sight. And lastly, keep storage and organizational areas within reach, so your kids can start learning to clean up after themselves early on.


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