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Decorating and Design for Families with Children

Families that include children, or even young adults, will need to decorate with an eye to durability and preventing accidents and breakage. This doesn't mean that you have to sacrifice visual appeal. Even the most formal style can be adjusted to accommodate the sometimes rambunctious nature of the young - and young at heart! Take the following ideas and apply them to any area of the house, to make a safe, attractive environment for all the members of your family.

Decorating with Safety in Mind

Child-proofing the home for child safety is an issue of paramount importance. It can also be done in ways to minimize detracting from you homes beauty.

Outlet covers reduce the risk of children sticking thins into outlets and can be chosen to match the color of the existing switch plate, or in novelty shapes for a touch of whimsy. Sharp or hard corners and edges can be padded with cushioning material that closely matches the color of the furnishing. Choose furnishings with rounded or upholstered features when possible, and an eye to how it will wear in the long term.

Wear and tear on furnishings is always an issue in homes with children, Consider choosing finishes that already show wear. Distressed finishes are pleasing to the eye and when or if additional wear and tear occurs, it won't be nearly so obvious as on other finishes. There are a huge variety of home furnishings in distressed finishes available in all styles of decor.

Safety straps are another critical tool; they help secure furniture to a solid wall and prevent furniture from tipping when jostled or climbed upon. Drawer locks to prevent drawers from being pulled all the way out and dropping onto children. These are widely available from the hardware and home improvement stores.

Consolidate delicate decorative elements in a high, out of the reach place like the mantel, or in a china cabinet. Keep in mind that some items might be attractive to small children, encouraging them to climb up to the desired object. Some items are better stored out of view until the child is older. If you do have breakables that you want to remain out, consider affixing them to the surface with a removable adhesive, often called museum wax.

Many modern decorative features are made out of kid-friendly, breakage resistant plastics and resins. Use floor lamps that are heavier, or consider weighting the base of existing lamps to help prevent tipping. Make an attractive weight with a decorative pouch filled with sand or rice. Make sure to use cable organizers and carpet tape to secure cords.

Stains and Prevention

Upholstery can be protected from potential stains and heavy use with commercial products like Scotch Guard. Some fabrics are also available pre-treated with Teflon®. Loose weaves and delicate fabrics like silk are a poor choice as they catch and stain easily. Regardless of the fabric you choose, it's best to have upholstery covers that you can remove easily for washing or dry cleaning. Protect arms of chairs and sofas with protective covers.

Accent rugs in high traffic areas will help protect your floors. Put doormats at all the entrances and encourage your kids to wipe their feet when they come in. Accent rugs are useful even over carpeting, as they can easily be washed or replaced.

Another tip for keeping your house clean even with kids around, is to have pop-up towelettes or moist wipes in each room to help increase your chances of catching the kids before their sticky fingers leave a mark on your furnishings. Adding small astebaskets conveniently around the house helps kids to stay neat. Put coasters on every surface where you wanted them used, or consider using a protective pad or cloth to cover the entire area. Basically, provide redundant organization and stain prevention tools in each room of the house to make it more convenient for people to use them.


Use easy, grab and toss style storage bins and baskets that will be simple to use for the youngest kids and busy teens alike. You may end up being the one to transfer the items to where they ultimately belong, but having the baskets in each room will help keep floors and work surfaces safe and clear. If each person is assigned their own basket, it will also make it obvious to everyone which member of the household isn't keeping up with staying organized.


Essentially, use the same approach for decorating for families as you would use when buying a great pair of jeans. You want it to look great everyday and be able to dress it up for special occasions, but at the end of the day you want them to last a long time. What that translates to in practical decorating terms is choosing washable paint for the walls, selecting materials and finishes that won't show wear and tear as easily, choosing washable, removable or durable upholstery covers, liberal use of accent rugs in heavy traffic areas, and doing a walkthrough of your house keeping these guidelines in mind: if you can't wash it, protect it, if it's breakable, remove it or secure it.

Following these guidelines doesn't mean that your entire house has to turn into a playroom. Use the color palette, materials, and safe decorative elements like paintings/wall hangings, throw pillows, window treatments and lighting design to keep your home adult and sophisticated. Think outside the box: leather may sound like an expensive upholstery choice for a family with children, but many kinds of leather age exceptionally well and actually improve in appearance with wear and tear. Keep your family as involved as possible, so that they will feel like they can take ownership of the new design and will be more inclined to maintain it.

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