I am often faced with clients who say, “I can’t have “pretty” shelves until my kids are older,” or, “No need to address the dining room as long as there is a high chair in here. It won’t look good.” It’s statements like these that inspire me to teach my clients that embracing the kids’ toys and personal items within the design is the way to go. The days of hiding all of your children’s things are over… They are part of the family, so they too should be reflected openly in the design.
Here are a few tips on how to harmonize all ages and personalities while showcasing an interesting and inviting home design that you will be proud to show.
Most children’s toys and personal items have some pops of color. Use this to your advantage by picking up some of these colors in some of your “adult” accents like pillows, throws, candles, books, and art. Sometimes I describe this as “speaking” to the children’s items, or providing these items a friend; “That polka dot ball with small bits of grass green is really speaking to that plaid pillow with green accents; they’re friends.”
Celebrate life stages
You may have a high chair in the formal dining room now, but you won’t have it forever, so accept it and work with it rather than stress it or feel as if you are stuck design purgatory. Dress down the formality of this space for a few years. “Like a little black dress that can be dressed up or down, add a blue jean jacket and some high top Chucks.”
Add a flat weave, easy-to-clean area rug in dark blue. Add a casual fabric table runner to break up a pristine wood finish. Introduce some playful tie backs to formal draperies. Add washable slipcovers to your formal dining chairs, and mix in some hand-painted pottery, a brass rattle, and some vintage children books into your china cabinet.
Create a playful juxtaposition to welcome all, no matter their age.
Brag about your priceless art
Children’s art is something that makes everyone happy, especially when your child created it with tiny fingers and big imaginations. Frame and mount as much of your children’s art as you can. I prefer simple white mats and frames that can easily be purchased at most retailers. I also recommend that you focus on pieces that are totally original and not colored from existing lines or directions, like that from a coloring or activity book. Pieces can be mounted in a collage or mixed with traditional art throughout any space. Show it off and be proud!
DO touch that
One thing that we all say as parents: “Don’t touch that!” I have been in several homes where the shelves and surfaces are totally empty and decor is stored until children are older and won’t break things. Having a child is not a one-way ticket to no longer live in your space the way you once did. Use items on lower shelves and surfaces that children CAN touch, and encourage them to. These are great places to place wooden toys, vintage-inspired games, books, etc. Place items that are accessible and appreciated by your children and as the shelves grow higher, slowly incorporate breakable or antique items in a whimsical and intentional way. One way of doing this is by incorporating some of your own childhood toys with faded colors and patina.
Children toys and belongings can and should also be stored throughout the home via baskets, bins, storage ottomans, drawers, etc. However, allowing and encouraging children to have some of their own treasured items on display in the home only helps them feel more confident and welcome in the space that you will all celebrate life.