Have you looked around your home lately and wondered: what happened? You used to have Insta-worthy tablescapes, succulents and art, and everything in its place. But childproofing and a whirlwind toddler have made your place look more like a daycare and less like, well, you. No worries: You can express your signature style and have a kid-friendly home.
I tapped three design pros (who are also moms!) for family-friendly solutions to common decorating problems. Learn their tricks for creating a stylish home:
Problem #1: Your Coffee Table is Bare and Boring.
The bare coffee table is your toddler’s go-to spot to play with toys. And the kitchen and dining room tables are strictly for eating and craft time. It’s boring, but safe.
You don’t have to wait until your kids outgrow sippy cups and juice boxes before you can have the accessories that give a space personality. You just need to be selective, and creative, in what to place within your child’s reach.
Consider Mother Nature your decorating BFF. “A wood platter with lemons and limes and other seasonal fruit can be really beautiful. The worst that happens is that your kids pick up an apple and eat it. How bad is that?” says Marni Jameson, home design columnist and author of The House Always Wins. During colder seasons, sub in artichokes, pumpkins and pine cones.
If you’re not the outdoorsy type, you can forage in your attic or basement for some upcycled finds. A colorful tray with stacks of vintage children’s books is a sweet display or make indestructible decorative globes out of styrofoam balls and fabric scraps.
Other fun ideas for cool home accents that can stand up to tots: Sculptural wooden figures, world globes, and table runners made from modern (e.g. Marimekko or Ikea) or exotic (think: sari and kimono) fabrics.
Problem #2: Cartoonish Place Mats on the Kitchen Table
You put away your tablecloth for now because you don’t want ketchup, juice and milk to form a Monet-like stain on it. Or even worse? Your little one making a Houdini-like move, and presto, your whole tablecloth and everything on it falling to the floor.
Like the Kardashians and plastic surgery, spills and messes are inevitable. So how do you deal?
“Use placemats that are cheap and easy to toss out when they get gross. I take burlap, cut it into squares and shred the ends to use as placemats. I have no regrets when it’s time to toss them out,” relates Jameson.
You can also use outdoor tablecloths, says Sherry Petersik, writer of the very popular Young House Love blog. They’re easy to wipe down and if you add Velcro to the edges and under your table, you can tuck the cloth under the tabletop lip. That way there’s no excess material for little hands to grab.
Have upholstered dining chairs? You’ll need to protect those from the food and drink, too. Lara Spencer, creator and host of HGTV’s Flea Market Flip recommends re-covering chair seats with coated, opaque shower curtains. It makes them wipe-able, durable and it’s a cheap solution. Genius!
Problem #3: Too Much Artwork
Your child is channeling Picasso during his prolific years and there isn’t a fridge big enough to keep up. But you’ll feel like the world’s worst mom if you throw artwork away.
Instead of trashing macaroni art and squirrel drawings, choose the best and make a big deal out of them.
“Pick your 10 favorite pieces of kid art and create a gallery wall. Different size pieces are okay, as long as they’re in the same color frame,” recommends Spencer. For a cool, loft vibe pair colorful mattes with rustic wood frames or lean pictures against the wall on display shelves.
The goal is to make your child’s art look like an intentional decorating decision. To make a room look cohesive, choose one color you love from your child’s displayed art and use splashes of it around the room (think: throw pillow, blanket, knick-knacks). Suddenly, their masterpieces become the room’s crown jewel.
Problem #4: Dangerous Window Coverings
The cords on your Roman shades could strangle your curious tot and your vertical blinds are being destroyed, one slat at a time.
Curtains are the unsung heroes of the house. They make a room look taller and more polished. But they also make the perfect hide-and-seek spot. The workaround, says Petersik? Use rod clips to hang them.
The next time your sneaky squirt tugs on the curtains, the material will just slip out of the clips. Besides avoiding another co-pay at the pediatrician’s, rod clips make curtains easier to take down for cleaning. (Bonus tip: If you hang curtains ¼-inch above the floor, they won’t get as dirty.)
Another good option? Shutters, if you can afford them.
Problem #5: Toys, Everywhere
After toe stub #23, you’ve resorted to vaulting over the couch and tiptoeing like a Russian high-wire act through the toy labyrinth you call the floor.
If you want to bust clutter like a boss you need a game plan to head off toysplosions. One strategy is to create mini play areas throughout the house.
“Place different toys in different zones of the house. If the blocks are all over her bedroom and the dolls are all over the living room, it’s much easier to put stuff away and it all stays together. And, one room doesn’t end up looking like a bomb went off,” says Petersik.
At the end of the day, throw toys into decorative storage containers like baskets, vintage trunks and leather boxes. (Check out these stylish containers at Apartment Therapy.) This solution works especially well for toddlers.
For older kids, borrow an idea from the library. Store toys, puzzles and games in one place (basement, garage or playroom). Your child can “check out” a box or basket of toys, but must return them before getting something else.
Do one or all of these kid-friendly decorating ideas to design a home that works for grown-ups, too. You’ll enjoy hanging out in your space so much more. For more family-friendly home decorating ideas and parenting inspiration follow me on Pinterest.