A Family-Friendly Guide to Decorating

February 4, 2016

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When it comes to decorating, I often hear the term “baby-proofing” synonymous with putting everything away until the child is old enough to not break things. While I fully support locking cabinets full of cleaning supplies or plugging sockets for especially curious children, I don’t believe your home has to change drastically when you welcome a baby.

We have two very different girls (one rambunctious, one extremely shy) and both would be attracted to a large, shiny vase on a coffee table. Over the past 6 years, I have learned that there are two ways to go about decor and kids. First and foremost, I think breakable decor is a great opportunity to teach children about boundaries and that some things we just don’t touch–just like you wouldn’t touch a hot stove! We have seen the value in this over and over as we have visited our friends and family members homes that have beautiful breakables dotting their home–even if you choose to put away all the precious objects in your house, you can’t expect everyone else to follow suit when you come to visit.

The second lesson I’ve learned is that I prefer to decorate our home in a “family-friendly” way. Our main focus is making our home comfortable. A lot of times people equate “family-friendly” with “what kids would want” but parents are part of the family, too. Making a space truly “family friendly” means there’s something for everyone, and everyone can be there at the same time, enjoying themselves, happy in their surroundings. That means no rooms are off limits to our girls, but Chris and I also take great pride in our spaces looking nice too. So how do we achieve that balance of never stressing that something is going to get broken or stained while still keeping the living room instagram ready? (Har-har)?

We have consciously chosen decorative accents that are functional, beautiful and kid-resistant so we can all live peacefully and happily under our roof. Here’s a few favorite pieces that fit into our family-friendly decorating model (I’ve tried to keep everything budget friendly, too!):

1. PILLOWS AND THROWS | I love focusing on textures in a space because they are so family friendly! A pillow or throw isn’t going to break, so I pull a lot of personality into a room with textiles that are just as beautiful to look at as they are cozy to lounge with.

A Family-Friendly Guide to Decorating

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2. BASKETS | Having baskets in every room to throw toys in, or shoes to be put away is a total life saver when I’m doing a quick clean sweep of the house or when company pops in. Often times, I’ll throw toys in a basket and toss a throw over it (ultimate family-friendly decorating!) so the train tracks aren’t in plain view in the living room all day but the girls still have easy access to their toys when they’re ready to play. We also tend to line open shelving with baskets (in the reading room and bathroom and Greta’s bookcase and Faye’s room!) because it’s the perfect, visually pleasing way to corral just about everything from toilet paper to diapers and magazines. And! Indestructible.

A Family-Friendly Guide to Decorating

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3. POUFS + COFFEE TABLES | When it comes to actually choosing furniture, we’ve learned to choose pieces that are indestructible (like metal) or pieces that may look better with a little patina (woods with a lot of texture–our dining room table is a great example of this–or metal, again!). I love round coffee tables in homes with children (we have number 10 in our living room!) because there’s a lot less stress that someone is going to poke an eye out on the nightly run-all-the-energy-out-before-bed routine. If you want to skip the coffee table altogether, poufs provide a great grounding element to the room, can double as extra seating, or triple as a place to prop your feet up! Poufs are all over our home for all of those reasons.

A Family-Friendly Guide to Decorating

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4. DECORATIVE TABLETOP ACCENTS | Say you do want to style that coffee table or credenza (and you totally should!) but want to do it in a family-friendly way (me too!). Look for wood, jute or rope accents. Metal over glass vases. Why not some good looking coffee-table games? We have number 5 and 6 and they are so fun for kids and adults while still looking great! Coffee table books are safe, although I’ve learned their protective covers don’t always fare well. Ha!

A Family-Friendly Guide to Decorating

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Are there still breakables in reach of little ones in our home? Yes! Some table lamps and candles come to mind. But a mix of teaching our girls boundaries and choosing pieces like all of these has helped us create a home that is livable and loved by our whole family. What’s your take on family-friendly decorating?

What do you think?

  1. Denise says:

    That faux succulent is such a great idea. Specially for a basement!

  2. Another Momma says:

    I really loved reading this. I very naturally share your mind frame on all of this. We have friends who do not adhere to the ‘opportunity to teach children about boundaries/we just don’t touch some things’ concept. Their house has regular major furniture/household-item casualties without any regard to it. So when they come our house it’s entirely stressful for me, as I have to be ever vigilant to keep our stuff from being broken (and that’s after everything that isn’t nailed down has had to be hidden away before they arrive.) The crazy thing is, I starting to doubt myself on the matter. I have taught our kids to respect our space, mostly by accident because it’s just instinctual to me — I just really value having a nice space to live in, and I think teaching my kids about respecting our things is an extension of respecting people. But with our friends having an attitude that is SO different than mine, it caused me to wonder if I was somehow actually stifling my kids (even if they show no signs of that at all — our house is still fully played in.) I just started wondering over it all and worrying I was somehow wrong.
    Being able to see this post gave me fresh eyes to see I’m really happy with the way we are doing things. Thank you for that.

  3. Gina says:

    Love this! It’s just my husband and I for now, but as we’re renovating our house and making design decisions, I definitely want to keep family-friendly in mind!

  4. I have quite a few metal bowls and vases which I love, because even as my kids get older they are still likely to toss each other something, miss, and knock everything off of a table. Nate Berkus at Target was really into metal accents which I loved; they are pretty, but also pretty indestructible. Patterns have also been a friend to me! I also love baskets for pillows and throws, etc. but our kitten has decided they are her favorite thing to explore and it leaves them a little beat-up, so I’m going to have to explore some other options…

  5. Love this post! I’m so grateful that you advocate keeping the home family-friendly for parents as well as kids, and the breakables-teaching-boundaries is golden advice!! <3

  6. Ginger Bradley says:

    Wonderful article!!!

  7. I love your perspective. We don’t have kids yet, but this is something I’ve been thinking about for the future.

  8. Joy says:

    Love this post! I have two kids under 5, and I agree they need to understand the idea of breakables. However, my house is family friendly at their level because I want to be able to relax and not worry about my decor or their safety! I also entertain frequently, and I want my house to be comfortable and safe for guests of all ages.

    I appreciate the links. I am always looking for new ideas. I also want to add: chunky wood or metal candlesticks, wire sculpture, decorative boxes,trays, or anything leather.

    Any ideas on lamps that cant be tipped over?

  9. Kristen says:

    Love this post and love the links! Thanks for the great ideas!

  10. Evelina says:

    I think this is a great post! We are thinking of starting a family in the next few years but the thought of toys everywhere gives me hives. These are great solutions and alternatives!

  11. Mel says:

    My best friend has two young kids, and her catchphrase was always ‘Let’s look together!’ for anything breakable. They’d sit on the couch or the floor and she would help them examine something interesting with gentle hands. It worked great, for the most part (accidents happen!) and made it so her kids were welcome in friends/family members homes from a young age, even my mom’s house with her two china cabinets!

    • Julia says:

      You know, sometimes they just need to get it out of their system. I love that “let’s look together!” for our daughter like that.

  12. Cindy says:

    We are starting over the family friendly vibe with grandkids! 19 months and a new addition in early March ツ
    I’ve jumped on the wood/wire/basket trend over the last couple of years, but now feel like I’m living in a sea of brown. Can you offer up a accent palette that will play nicely with brown leather & wood tables that read toward the orange end of the spectrum without offending a variegated teal wall-to-wall that I can’t afford to replace yet? hahaha a tall order :)

    • Julia says:

      If you have teal wall to wall carpet, it sounds like you’re living in a sea of SEA not brown. Haha! We have a large indigo rug grounding our living room and I find it so refreshing to bring color in through pillows/textiles and art. I love poppy with teal, but you might find a dose of white refreshing!

      • Cindy says:

        Hahaha – thanks. Maybe white is the missing piece … my instinct went to red but still seemed flat. I also think I need to try some bigger accents. I tend toward trying something in a dash when maybe I need a dollop ;)

  13. Janelle says:

    This post is just perfect! I feel like so much of the design world/home decor blogs focus on beauty over function. A beautifully styled coffee table is just funny with toddlers.

    Thanks for posting :)

  14. AnnMarie says:

    I don’t have children myself, but I grew up at the oldest of eight children with lots and lots of breakables / damage-ables in the house, and have been a nanny twice to two rambunctious infants (who grew quickly into rambunctious toddlers). My dad loves art — nice art — as well as rare books and other collectables. We never altered the house when a new baby showed up, and it was never an issue. In fact, I can’t remember a single item of decor ever being broken, though we did have our share of walls colored on. It takes an investment up front to teach children boundaries, but the dividends are definitely worth it — for children as well as parents. We all enjoyed the trust our parents gave us when we went to museums and art exhibits and other places with prominent “Do Not Touch” signs.

  15. Caitlin says:

    Great post, thanks! I’m curious about the leather pouf you linked to. Excellent price. Have you purchased from that seller before? Thanks!

    • Julia says:

      I haven’t! But, the shop has great reviews and the size is similar to similar looking poufs elsewhere. Straight outta Morocco!

  16. Melissa says:

    Patting myself on the back cause I’ve implemented lots of your ideas already, ha! I even have a few of the pieces you posted #feelinglikeawinner.
    I also try to have the mindset that if I want nice things with small children and dogs I can’t be too devastated if something happens.

  17. Stephanie says:

    I totally agree with the family friendly decor! Instead of a pouf we use a HUGE ottoman in our living room. The kids can sit on it and we dont have to dust it! Ours is a velvet fabric and it wipes clean with a damp cloth. We have a tray to corral nightly kiddo reading books and we prop our feet up comfortably. In the evenings our cat even curls up to hang out and we LOVE it!

  18. Jennifer says:

    Thank you for this post – some really great links and ideas!

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