durable fabrics with playful prints help hide stains and handprints left by children
A sunny breakfast nook featuring window seat and high chair
Storage ideas: bookshelves and drawers built in to benches
Kitchen storage ideas featuring baskets used as drawers in a kitchen island
more ideas for basket storage, this time built into a bathroom counter
child's room features high shelves for displaying fragile items, with low shelves for toys and books

Designing with Kids in Mind

Jessica Ahnert Davis

As a designer and mom I often have the conversation with other moms on playdates and at the park about how one’s child slowly takes over one’s home. Snippets of the conversation often go something like this:

“Yeah, Johnny spit up on the sofa so I decided to cover our sofa permanently with a towel.”


“We had a glass coffee table but then we opted for this ugly wood chest that my husband had in college because it was safer for little Leah.”


“The house leaves me wondering if they run a day care center, and if they ever have adult friends over."

These conversations and experiences leave me sad and frustrated. Sure, I’ve had to make design concessions now that I have kids. We have baby gates on our stairs and I no longer display my antique snuff bottle collection on the coffee table. On the other hand, I firmly believe that you can live in an adult house with kids and have it be safe and beautiful at the same time.

Here are few tips on how to make that happen:

  • Consider your upholstery choices. You don’t have to always use dark colors to cover stains. It’s all about what fabric you use. Microfiber is very cleanable as are many wool based fabrics such as mohair (wool doesn’t absorb liquid). If you go with a cotton or lighter colored fabric, consider a slipcover. Usually it’s best to select a sofa that is already slipcovered, or have one custom made so that it looks tailored and doesn’t get messy. Slipcovers can be thrown in the wash or even bleached if they are light or made of outdoor solution dyed acrylic. One tip is to take them out of the dryer when they are still damp to avoid shrinkage and to let them mold to your sofa as they dry.
  • Display your valuables, but keep them high. Wall shelves on brackets and built-in or free-standing book shelves and etageres (open-sided book shelves) are a great way to show off your valuables but keep them safe. Use lower-down shelves for baskets to corral toys and higher ones for precious items. Remember: if your shelves are freestanding, use a child-safety wall bracket to prevent tipping.
  • Keep yourself organized. This is probably the single most important rule. In this day and age, when kids get showered with gifts and there are so many toy options, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. The key is to purge the items that are not used and to do it often.
  • Hand stuff down to friends, store stuff away for future siblings, but keep the toys at bay! Consider the aesthetics and durability of the toys your kids do have. A set of classic wooden blocks or a cute wooden car or hand-made rag doll is more visually appealing than some of the uglier plastic toys out there. It might be more expensive, but it will stand the test of time, and can be used down the road by siblings, and you won’t feel bad leaving it out in the open.
  • Corral, corral, corral! Shelves with cubbies for baskets and large open baskets for balls and sports gear are great. Consider adding hooks on the inside of a coat closet door for hats, mitts, and scarves and set up a mud room “station” if you don’t have an entire space devoted to this.

I know it’s easy to preach all of this stuff and living with a toddler and a baby every day makes me realize how challenging it really is in practice. But it is doable! And don't be deterred if you feel like you don't have much space to work with -- in some ways that is the best challenge. Hopefully I’ve inspired a few of you to do a little spring cleaning and freshening up!

For more DIY tips and home design pointers visit Jessica’s blog.

All photos shot on location at Jess’ home courtesy of Pablo Enriquez Photography.


love it. thanks.

Submitted by jr on Tue, 2014-09-23 15:27

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