I recently had the privilege to be featured in Brentwood home magazine. Amy, the journalist called me up and said, “out of all the designers I have seen in town you epitomize family-friendly design.” I found that to be quite a compliment. Being that most of my clients are between the ages of 35-55, most either have young children, teenagers, or grandchildren. And I strongly believe that a home can be both stylish and family friendly. As I thumbed through my portfolio over the past ten years I realized that it is possible to coexist with youngsters and it is possible to do it in style, but there was a formula I used to approach each project.

1) Lifestyle

Always consider how you live in your home, and the lifestyle you lead. What are the routines of the household? What are family traditions? What is a typical day like? What are the schedules like? How old are the children….these are all questions I want to know to help carve out a design plan that suits your lifestyle.

One of my clients, Liz, has two children under the age of seven. The fabrics in her home are are durable, and washable, and all the surfaces are rustic, or easy to wipe off. Think you can’t have a two year old and a white sofa under one roof?

One week after delivering her white sofa, two year old Ben decided to customize it with his paint and markers. All Liz had to do is throw the cushion cover in the washing machine and today there is no evidence of Ben’s now famous artwork!

2) Children VS Style

Just because you have little ones, doesn’t mean you can’t decorate. I have met so many people over the years who put their decorating on hold for ten to fifteen years for fear of ruining the investment. That is not living a comfortable lifestyle. Don’t sacrifice style and comfort because you fear the children will destroy it. Design accordingly. If you approach the design with the kids and patterns of the household in mind, fisher price and cheap furniture does not need to rule supreme.

3) Don’t sacrifice

Don’t be afraid to do what you love. Hire a professional if you need some guidance, but don’t feel like you have to sacrifice the look you love because of the little ones. Compromise maybe, but most ideas can be tweaked to work according to what you love. The room above was styled with grandchildren in mind. The ottoman is soft and durable for the grandkids to climb on. The two chairs in the seating area are gliders to rock the kids to sleep, and while I am not a fan of an office in the bedroom, it suited this family for their lifestyle. The homeowner is a day trader and needs access to a TV and a computer to do his work. For them this was a perfect solution for everyone to hang out comfortably.

4) Invest, Invest, Invest

Buy the best you can afford, period. Too often homeowners approach design with a “throw away” mentality when they have kids. That is the wrong approach. Families are very hard on furnishings. Cheap furniture falls apart, doesn’t last and needs to be replaced three times over compared to a quality piece. So in the long run you pay the same price in three purchases for one quality piece. You don’t have to do everything at once. But a quality piece can withstand kids, their friends, and the animals with style and grace.

5) Families are messy

Always have plenty of storage. Unfortunately kids rarely keep stuff within the space of their rooms. And the more kids you have, the more stuff you have. Home work, projects, back packs, clothing, toys…the list goes on. Put storage in as many places in your house that you have room for.

6) It’s in the details, buy the best

Buy the best materials even if they are more expensive. If you have the chance to upgrade to a more durable fabric, invest in it. The room shown above is covered in sunbrella fabrics, leather, contract vinyl and high impact stain repellants…on everything! The red chairs in the background are contract outdoor plastic, meaning they can be hosed off. Seem extreme? Not to this mom. She loves that she can host a birthday party with 15 seven year olds without worry, and later hold an adult party with style and comfort.

7) Keep it easy, safe and cleanable

Keep surfaces easy and cleanable. Take advantage of companies that offer slipcovers, like the fun 3009 chair from LEE Industries shown above. Upholster ottomans in vintage rugs, or busy fabrics to keep them soft but easy to clean and hide stains. Use contract or outdoor fabrics for investment pieces like sofas and chairs and bring in accents with pillows and throws that are washable. Purchase good quality wool rugs. Wool doesn’t stain easily and is easily cleaned. It is why every casino in America has 100% wool wall to wall carpet. It can take a beating and still look great!

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