This is a guest post from Annabel Joy, a Boston-based blogger and designer (and Kizingo's design guru). Annabel brings her years of experience as a special educator and executive functioning coach to her design work, helping her clients (and us!) create hard-working homes that are beautiful, personal, and functional. You can follow her on Instagram at @interiorjoy or on her blog interiorjoy.blog
If you’ve ever walked into a room in your home and had the unsettling realization that your wonderful children have essentially recreated the living conditions you thought you left behind when you graduated college, this post is for you. If you really think about it, the floor of a frat house living room are the floor of a busy soccer-mom’s minivan are pretty much indistinguishable. Both are likely to be sticky, hairy, stained, and probably include some long-forgotten ping pong balls, pennies, and plastic cups under the seats. And hey, maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “Excuse me! I am extremely organized and my car and home are spotless, thank you very much!” If that’s the case then my hat’s off to you because you are killing it and you need to spill the beans on your secret.
Let me be clear that in no way am I trying to offend by comparing life with kids to life in a fraternity house. It’s just that I think most of us are lucky to get through each day with our sanity intact and most of the to-do list crossed off (which, by the way is a pretty major accomplishment, so YAY us!), and we could use a little help. And let me just state for the record that kids are awesome. But they’re kids, which means they’re brains haven’t fully developed yet, so things like organization, spatial awareness, and responsibility aren’t exactly their greatest strengths. But the fact that kids are basically miniature-sized frat bros when it comes to their housekeeping impulses, doesn’t mean you can’t have the grownup home you deserve. You don’t have to sacrifice good design for a kid (and pet) friendly home. Just follow these Do’s and Don’ts to create a functional and stylish space that’s designed with kids and adults in mind.
DO go for low-maintenance and casual elegance. You want pieces that will look good no matter what state or position they’re left in.
Moroccan poufs and meditation pillows, both pictured above, serve as ottomans for the grown-ups, or as seats for the littles and look fine even when left in the middle of the floor. Instead of using several small throw pillows which will look messy 99% of the time, select just a couple of euro-size pillows, with durable shams (cotton twill, velvet, wool) which can double as stylish floor pillows if and when they don’t make it back onto the sofa.
DON’T pick pieces that only look good when styled. Avoid high-maintenance pieces like nesting tables that look sloppy unless rearranged just-so, which, let’s face it, most kids are rarely (never?) going to remember to do.
DO choose hard-working surfaces like acrylic and painted or sealed woods that don’t require coasters and won’t scratch or stain easily.
DON’T opt for glass tabletops which are magnets for fingerprints and scratches or raw woods that require coasters to protect from rings.
DO use a stylish tray, like the one pictured above, to corral coffee table items and easily lift them away when you want to play a boardgame or serve a snack.
DON’T display breakable decorative accessories where they can be knocked over and broken. Wall shelves, art ledges, and bookcases with glass doors, like the barrister bookcase pictured above, are your friend! While we’re on the topic of little people knocking things over, I also advise avoiding furniture with sharp corners as well as top heavy pieces that can be easily knocked over (I’m looking a you, pedestal table), and legs that stick out to create tripping hazards. Instead, look for furniture with rounded edges and a low center of gravity.
DO choose hard-working furniture that doubles as storage, like hollow ottomans and media consoles with cabinets or drawers. If you have cubby-style furniture or open shelving, woven baskets are an excellent and attractive solution for creating storage and reducing visual clutter. Just make sure that storage is easily accessible! The steamer trunk you nabbed at that estate sale might serve as a great storage solution in theory, but if you have ten potted plants living on top of it, will you really want to move them just to put away the Legos? Speaking of storage...
DO invest in stylish storage containers that you’re OK leaving out in full view. This connects back to my earlier point about choosing pieces like moroccan poufs that still look good when abandoned in the middle of the living room floor. If the barbies get dumped into an attractive lidded basket instead of an ugly plastic tub, then who really cares when you didn’t manage to get the basket into the closet before running out of steam? You will make your life so much easier if you invest in storage that doubles as decor and your home will feel ten times as chic with half the effort. Keep storage containers and hooks in kid-level locations so they can start to learn to put away their own things. Now that we’ve covered furniture styles, decor, and organizational storage, let’s talk materials.
DON’T choose fabrics with a low double rub count. Step away from the linen and the silk!
DO choose durable fabrics. When making upholstery fabric choices, you want to go for fabrics with a high double rub count (the higher the better!) and avoid low rub fabrics at all cost. Double rub count is a number used to identify the durability of a fabric. Basically, it’s referring to how many times you could rub your hand back and forth across a fabric before it starts to become worn (nowadays this is obviously tested using a machine). For reference, high-use residential upholstery should generally be 25,000 double rubs or higher. With kiddos in the mix, I wouldn’t go below 30,000 double rubs. Double rub count will usually be listed in the product information if you are buying new furniture and will always be listed if you are buy fabric to reupholster a piece of furniture. However, if you’re looking at a used piece and don’t have a way of finding out the double rub count, here are a few tips. Run your hand over the fabric: The noisier it is, the more durable it is. When in doubt, choose twill, denim, velvet, wool, felt, leather, or Sunbrella. Sunbrella is a high performance brand of indoor/outdoor fabrics that are incredibly easy to clean; most spills can be wiped right off. Investing in removable and washable slipcovers is another option, but leather is actually my number one recommendation for an investment piece like a sofa, because it only improves with age and wear. It’s also less prone to attracting pet hair and absorbing smells than fabric upholstery.
DO be realistic when it comes to floor coverings. Two words: carpet tiles! I’ll admit I was skeptical when I first learned about carpet tiles, but their practicality quickly won me over and I now use them in my own living room (I ordered the tiles in the above image from FLOR carpet tiles and I highly recommend them). Carpet tiles are squares of carpet that you fit together to create an area rug. And there are SO many benefits to this model. You get the freedom to create a custom rug shape and size (because how often is an 8x10 or 9x12 rectangle really the ideal size or shape for your space?) and you can even order a variety of different colors, patterns, and textures to create a fun custom design. But the best part about choosing carpet tiles is that if you have a spill, you only need to replace one tile instead of dealing with the whole rug. At $10-30 bucks per tile, that’s a pretty sweet deal in my book. Opting for carpet tiles in my living room has kept me (semi)sane when the puppy runs around with muddy paws. Here’s to being able to buy red wine again! Another great option is a natural fiber area rug. Significantly less expensive than traditional woven or hand-knotted rugs, natural fiber rugs like jute and sisal are durable and as an added bonus, their texture means they’re pretty great at disguising stains!
DON’T shell out serious money for a gorgeous rug that requires professional cleaning. You may really love it, but you won’t love not being able to relax in your own home because you’re too busy making sure everyone took their shoes off or praying no one drops a chicken wing during game night.
DO choose wall paint that can be wiped clean. Eggshell, satin, and semigloss paint finishes can all be washed with a damp cloth. Semigloss is typically used for trim and is the easiest to clean. If you love the look of a flat, matte finish, and you don’t want walls that glisten like patent leather, compromise with an eggshell finish. Because trust me, you may think you hate the look of a wall with a sheen to it, but it is nothing compared to the mess you’ll have on your hands if you go with matte (Take it from me; I learned the hard way).
DON’T give in to the siren-like temptation of matte finish paint. It looks oh-so-chic in the show rooms and catalogues, but if you have children or pets, or just like to entertain, that paint will look good in your home for approximately one day. And that’s if you’re lucky. Because not only does matte paint attract marks and smudges like a magnet, it can’t be cleaned with a damp cloth. Or with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (I tried both). Trying to clean a mark on this paint will only make the smudge worse and pretty soon your walls will be covered in them. If I’ve broken your heart and you absolutely MUST have that flat matte look, there are some new washable flat finish paints on the market, but the jury is still out on how well they hold up, so proceed with caution.
DO go for dark grout when putting in kitchen or bathroom tile. I know, I know, we’re all in the midst of a love-affair with bright white kitchens and bathrooms and dark grout sounds gross! I get it. But I think I can convince you to come over to the dark side. For starters, dark grout looks amazing with white tile. It really makes it pop! The image above is a white subway tile backsplash with charcoal grout and I wouldn’t call that a dark kitchen. The genius thing about this look is that the shiny white tiles are a breeze to wipe clean when they get splattered with marinara or god-knows-what on a daily basis. But grout is essentially just sand, and no matter what sealant you use when it’s installed, white or beige grout will eventually turn a gross pink or grey color from staining and mold and other build-up. My shower has white grout and I have yet to find a magic grout cleaner that will get rid of that pink all of the way. But if you wisely selected a dark grout, it will always look as good as it did on the day it went in.
I hope this list has inspired you to stop waiting until after your kids are grown to start creating your dream home. You’re doing the hard work of raising them and you deserve a home that you can be proud of. Here’s to finding your interior joy!