I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people tell me they were holding off on decorating their home until their children were older for fear of ruined furniture, stained carpets, scuffed floors — the list goes on. This common misconception floating around that family homes can’t be practical, safe and beautiful is, in my opinion, false.
I’m here to set the record straight — you can stay true to your design aesthetic and have a beautiful home that is also safe and durable for the little ones in your life. Can you have that silk sofa you’ve been drooling over for months? No, not without the added stress of sticky fingers finding their way to it, but there are equally beautiful options out there. The key is to be realistic and deploy a number of trade tips and tricks to get the look without the constant worry of disaster.
I’m sharing my go-to items for family homes that are durable, safe and easy on the eyes. Combined, these items create a seemingly impenetrable force field that will stand up against the wear and tear of the crazy, messy, wonderful day-to-day of family life.
A genuine wool carpet will not only hold up to the wear and tear of everyday life with little ones; it will outlive us all. Wool offers a soft, durable solution for any room that will see high traffic from little (and big) feet, sippy cup spills and muddy paws.
Wool is naturally far more durable and resilient than synthetic fiber carpets (not to mention fire retardant). It is resistant to dirt and, thanks to the lanolin naturally produced by sheep, repels water without the need for a treatment (such as Scotchguard). Any showroom will be happy to demonstrate this liquid repelling property by pouring water on one of their samples. What you’ll see is that the water naturally beads and sits on top of the fibers — making for easy clean up with an absorbent towel. I especially like the closed-loop wool options, which makes it easier to vacuum up ground in crumbs and dirt that your family might leave behind.
Wool carpeting also ranks high in terms of comfort as it is naturally soft and springy. It wears well and does not crush easily (as synthetics do), which means you don’t need to worry about visible wear in high traffic areas. You’ll be able to dig your toes into the plush carpeting for years to come.
Luxury performance fabrics
Luxury performance fabrics, also commonly referred to as indoor/outdoor fabrics, have grown leaps and bounds in recent years. Long gone are the days of thick, plastic-y material. Brands like Sunbrella and Perennials have taken high-performance textiles to a new level — so much so, that most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between an “outdoor” textile and an indoor textile if they held a sample of each in their hand. Patterns, colors and textures abound, eliminating any stigmas that used to exist around using these textiles inside the home.
Performance fabrics are fantastic for homes with children and pets, but I would recommend them for any high-traffic room in the home since adults are not immune to messes. A spilled glass of red wine on a non-performance fabric is enough to cue a panic attack and frantic flailing to remove the stain — often to no avail. High-performance fabrics repel spills and can be cleaned as often as needed without showing wear. So whether you’re worried about adult messes or an overturned sippy cup, luxury performance fabrics are a nice little insurance policy on your furniture and sanity.
Easily moveable, bottom-heavy furniture
Furniture that is easily moveable is key for creating play spaces for children in the heart of the home. For example, I’d eliminate a traditional coffee table (often large and clunky with sharp edges) and replace it with an oversized upholstered ottoman that is able to double as extra seating and be moved to create a play area. Simply slide the ottoman back into place when playtime is over. Bonus: select an ottoman with storage for easy toy clean-up.
Do you have a young one who is just finding their legs and constantly pulling themselves up on things? Bottom-heavy furniture is helpful in this situation. It doesn’t have to be absurdly heavy — just make sure the majority of the item’s weight is distributed in the base. Additionally, it is of the utmost importance to secure all cabinets and tall pieces to the wall with the appropriate hooks/screws — one light tug on that étagère might be all it takes for it to come tumbling down.
Low and Zero-VOC Paint
There’s a reason you can smell a freshly painted room from a mile away. Traditional paint emits volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the form of gas, called off-gassing, which is thought to be detrimental to our health. Some of the most common chemicals that are off-gassed from items found in our homes include ammonia, formaldehyde and benzene. Although the studies into VOCs’ effects on our health are ongoing, I think we can agree that these things are not something we want our families breathing in.
Thankfully, a number of paint companies have created low and zero-VOC options. The lower the VOC number on the paint can, the better. As a benchmark, <50 grams per liter is the standard for a low-VOC paint and <5 grams is the standard for zero-VOC paint. Popular brands like BEHR (Premium Plus Interior collection), Benjamin Moore (Aura collection) and Glidden (Evermore collection) offer a wide range of colors in their low VOC collections making your options endless.