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  • Lindsey Borchard

Family-Friendly Design Essentials

I have done a lot of designing for young, growing families and as a mother of two active boys myself, I do feel that I have some authority on this subject, ha! It’s one that is always front of mind with my clients – how do we create a pretty, sophisticated home with young children underfoot? Is that even possible?? And once we do, how do we make sure that it is easily maintained? No one wants to resort to plastic on the sofa! I say that yes, it can be done, and yes, it can be maintained. Not that there won’t be a casualty or two along the way, but with proper planning and materials, you can absolutely have a beautiful, functional home that you ALL enjoy living in.

Blazing Star project | Photo by Public 311 Design

Choose the Right Materials

My firm is experiencing a bit of a change in this area, as more of our clients are choosing natural materials -- especially natural stones. Historically, we have sourced a lot of porcelain and Quartz that give the effect of natural stones but are easier to maintain. There really isn’t a right or wrong answer, as each household will need to decide their own threshold for cleaning and maintenance, but also for patina. If you like things to look pristine, a synthetic material may be better for you. But if you like the idea of your materials changing and evolving over time and can handle a ding or stain, then we’ll consider the natural route.

Be Mindful of Fabric Selections

Just as with choosing the right hard surfaces, choosing fabric for upholstery is all about your threshold for maintenance. Personally, I prefer to play it safer and choose fabrics that are color-fast and durable, and meant to take a beating. These options have come a long, long way in the last few years, and many of them have a very similar hand to their linen, cotton, or velvet counterparts. Even if you don't go the crypton route, there are ways to minimize disaster. Choose mid-tones, as darker and lighter colors will show dirt and wear more easily. Busy patterns like stripes or florals are also good choices, and save the most delicate fabrics for items that are out of the way (like drapery) or can be moved (like throw pillows).

South Bay project | Photo by Public 311 Design

Consider Furnishings Carefully

If kids -- especially young ones -- will be using the space, we tend to veer away from furnishings with sharp edges or pieces that are especially delicate. Rather than child-proofing, we choose pieces that are inherently sturdy or that have soft or rounded edges. Upholstered ottomans are an excellent choice for a family room and can be an opportunity to introduce another fabric or texture. Rather than a dainty cocktail table, consider a console behind a sofa to hold a lamp or drink. And speaking of lamps, whenever possible position them on the edges of the space, not in the middle. This way they are much less likely to become victims of the rogue throw pillow!

Dallas project | Photo by Amy Bartlam

Give Kids a Space of Their Own

While I truly believe that kids can exist in beautiful spaces, it’s nice for them to have a space that is all their own. This might be their bedroom or a dedicated play zone, but either way, do your best to loosen the reins a little in this area, for both your sakes. Let the LEGO or craft projects linger a little longer in their spaces, and perhaps they’ll be more willing to do that nightly pick-up in the main family room.

Palos Verdes project | Photo by Public 311 Design

Get Creative With Storage

In an ideal world, toys would live separately from the main living space. But if you have young kids, you know that isn’t always the reality. The key to maintaining order when the play things spill over into other areas of your home is to think outside the box to ensure that everything has a place to go when it’s time to tidy up. Is there extra space in your kitchen cabinets for art supplies? A spot in the hallway closet for boxes of blocks? You may want to select furnishings with extra storage in mind for stowing board games and coloring books. And of course, there’s little that a big beautiful basket can’t do, especially if it has a lid!


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