As a mom who doesn't want to constantly follow her babies with a mop and broom I have learned that especially when the babies start toddling certain design elements just aren't going to work.  Imagine a coffee table with pretty collections of books and vases of flowers.  With a toddler around the reality is this: the flowers will disappear into baby's mouth faster than a bag of chips last in the cabinet.  He will smash the vase, rip out and eat the pages of the book, and then fall and bang his head squarely on the corner of the table.  All in a matter of seconds.  It might sound like I'm talking about a crazed animal, but alas, I'm not.  These are our little rascals!  They are curious little creatures.  (Are my kids the only ones like this?!) But do we have to live in padded cells for the next decade?

Definitely not!  Here are some things I've learned living with kids without giving up on décor.

  • Safety first.

Maybe don't duck tape your child to the wall.  Ha! But as they say, "Safety first." Put breakables/choke-ables out of reach.  That probably goes without saying, but if you've ever been to someone's house with your little ones where this hasn't been done you know how exhausting it is to worry about what your kids will break or choke on.  Cover outlets, child-proof the cabinets and put up gates to block stairways.

  • Don't even think about upholstered dining chairs unless that upholstery is wipe-able.

I once upholstered our dining chairs in indoor-outdoor white fabric.  My husband thinks it's hilarious looking back to when I bought the fabric, insisting "It's indoor-outdoor!  We can do this!" The fabric was definitely easier to clean and took longer for the kids to destroy than other fabrics, but ultimately...yeah.  They destroyed it.  The next time I upholstered them in leather.  I was sooo happy to be able to swipe a towel to clean and be done.  Upholster the seating in the living room or in the bedroom, but wherever the kiddos eat, make it easy on yourself and get something wipe-able like vinyl or leather, or get chairs constructed from solid materials (wood, metal, rattan).

  • Go with a kitchen table with "patina."

For those impromptu art projects as well as regular mealtimes, a table that is already a little rustic will benefit from another ding or scrape, only adding to its charm.

  • White duck cloth a.k.a. canvas is your best friend.

When people come over to our house and see white curtains and white slip-covered chairs, they comment, "I could never have white with my kids." (Hmmmmm, didn't I just compare my kids to crazed animals?!  These are the people I live with.)  The thing is, it can be very difficult to get a stain out of upholstered furniture.  But you can BLEACH white.  That's right.  Spaghetti sauce, dirt, even soot from the fireplace will bleach out.  IN A WASHING MACHINE.  And white duck cloth lasts and lasts.  So I'll have my white slip-covered chairs forever if I want where the upholstered chair will start to look dingy and sad even with cleaning.  If you're still scared of white, any washable slipcover in any color or pattern will work, but some stains may be harder to get out since bleach will ruin the fabric.  Some cleaners like Oxyclean can do wonders for non-whites.

  • Kids CAN learn rules.

Kids are messy eaters.  So make that dining room wipe-able and easy and forget about it.  But it is perfectly acceptable to have some places in your house to have a "no food rule." In our house the kitchen and dining room are the only places food is allowed.  Of course, with our littlest one,  a 1 1/2 year old who doesn't understand rules yet, we have some leeway.  But having a rule and doing your best to stick to it definitely helps to contain the mess.  Another rule: wash hands after meals.  

  • Ottomans instead of coffee tables.

You can still have a piece that grounds the living room in place of a coffee table--the ottoman.  The area in front of the sofa is such a high traffic area with kids, it's a good idea to make it soft and safe.

  • Select durable, stain-hiding rugs.

Most jute rugs are amazing at hiding dirt with the natural color variance they have.  Flat weave rugs are also a good option because they can be scrubbed more easily and are even reversible most of the time.  Both of these rug types are light enough they can be shaken (with a second set of hands) to really get dirt out of them.  However, because they are thin do NOT skip purchasing a very good RUG PAD.  You'll be amazed at how much more cush a rug pad will give you.  It also prevents the rug from moving around, which extends the life of the rug, especially in the case of a jute rug in which the braids can start unraveling from all that movement.  DON'T SKIP IT!  Another good option: Patterned rugs like Moroccan or Persian rugs.  The pattern can camouflage stains.  I would also suggest using indoor-outdoor rugs, which have come a long way in the last few years. Some are surprisingly soft for how durable they are.  Still, seeing this type of rug in person is recommended since some are still a little rough and plastic looking.

  • Display art.

There's no reason to stop displaying your favorite art.  Actually, I think kids gain an appreciation for art with it in their spaces.  Frame your children's art, too.  In a follow up post I'll give project ideas your kids will have fun making that will look awesome framed.

  • Store toys and diapers in drawers.

If your living room doubles as a playroom, or if toys find their way into your living room, designate a drawer to stash a few toys, or use the entire dresser for toys.  Reserve a drawer for diapers if its handier to have some in the living room.  This can double as a place for your TV or it can be an accent piece.  Bottom line: toy/diaper storage doesn't have to look like toy/diaper storage.

  • Paint doors and trim a darker color.

For the areas of the house that get the most abuse (playrooms, hallways, etc.) consider painting the trim a contrasting darker color than the walls.  This is not completely necessary, but darker trim and doors hide scuffs and everyday grime.

And now for your enjoyment, I've put together some finds and their links for kid-friendly and yet still aesthetically pleasing décor for those of you that want to implement some of these ideas.  Still feel overwhelmed with making your design happen?  Unsure of what would work for your particular space?  Send me an e-mail!  I work locally in Marquette, MI and virtually, too.