Kid-friendly Decorating

Many parents of young children try to make do with less-than-ideal furnishings until the kids are grown. But by the time that happens, grandchildren may not be too far off, and sooner than you know you could once again have small children running through your home. The good news is that it is possible to have a stylish home right now--even if you are the parent of a rambunctious four-year-old. With a little planning, you can create a beautiful space that can endure family life for years to come. Check out these suggestions to get you started. *Furniture* Antique-looking wooden furniture is a great choice for young families. Nicks and scratches are less noticeable on a chair or dining room table that already has a weathered look. Or, opt for light-colored woods like maple that will disguise scratches well. For dark furniture, try to match crayons or markers to the finish for quick touchups. Upholstery should also fit your family's needs. Pick an easy-care material like leather, microfiber, or fabric with a large print. Leather is beautiful and survives anything short of a permanent marker. Stain-resistant microfiber is also ideal, and upholstery with bold patterns will camouflage stains much more easily than a solid color. When shopping for upholstered furniture, make sure that you also look at each piece from your children's point of view. A couch with layers of cushions and pillows may be beautiful, but odds are your kids will find them hard to resist (pillow fights may ensue on a regular basis). For harder furniture like tables and countertops, choose rounded corners to reduce injuries. And forget the glass-top coffee tables. Even if the glass doesn't get broken, it will constantly be covered in sticky fingerprints. You'll also want to avoid chairs and couches with skirts--they are pet hair magnets and will be covered in shoeprints before you know it. Aside from look and feel, it is absolutely necessary to choose furniture with plenty of storage to tastefully disguise clutter. Ditch the big plastic bins for a set of decorative boxes placed on open shelves. Choose a coffee table with drawers, or go for a lidded ottoman that can double as a toy box. Finally, put plenty of hooks and baskets within reach so kids can put away their own things. *Flooring* Patterns and textures aren't just for upholstery--they're lifesavers when it comes to hiding stains on the carpet as well. While kids and carpet aren't usually a great fit, if you do opt for carpet, choose a bold pattern that is forgiving. Or, try carpet tiles--when a section is stained, you can pull it up and replace it with a new square. For high-traffic areas--entries, hallways, and family rooms, for example--choose flooring such as tile, hardwood, or laminate, which can be quickly cleaned with a damp mop. But whether you have wood floors or wall-to-wall carpet, area rugs are always a wise choice. They protect floors from kids--and vice-versa. When they get grungy, flip them over, send them to the cleaners, or simply replace inexpensive ones. Jute or seagrass provide texture and durability. And whichever type of rug you choose, be sure to use a no-skid pad underneath so the rug stays put. *Walls and Windows* A bare wall can be to children what a bare canvas is to us: a place to express creativity. With this in mind, it is important to consider wall coverings that suit children's artistry--and their precious but often grubby hands. Paints that hold up best to repeated scrubbing and resist dirt well have gloss, eggshell, and semigloss sheens, although any repairs made to gloss paint are easy to see. Flat paint is easy to touch up, but is hard to wash--you'll be cleaning with paint and a paint brush. Many brands of paint actually carry a version that is targeted toward kids. If you want wallpaper, be sure to choose versions that are scrubbable (usually sprayed with vinyl). As for window coverings, they may not involve creativity for your children, but they can involve chaos. Choose window coverings with care. Lavish curtains that drag the floor are beautiful, but not good for kids who are liable to step on them--or worse, try to climb them. And be sure to choose cordless mini blinds and other window coverings to prevent injury or death. Using only valances may be a good way of ensuring your window coverings are out of a child's reach. *Kids* When decorating your home so that little ones are comfortable in it, considering your children is just as important as considering the kind of upholstery or flooring you buy. _Give them their own space._ Create spaces in common areas for children to do activities they love. Leave an open area for your budding karate expert to practice her moves, or a book nook for your avid reader. By the same token, having a room where children aren't allowed, such as a formal living room, is a major decorating don't for kid friendly homes. Remember, part of making your home kid friendly is welcoming children and their things into shared spaces, instead of banishing them to bedrooms and basements. Keep a small stock of books and toys in every room of the house--when there are plenty of things children are allowed to touch, they'll be less likely to get into stuff they're not. Keep breakables secured behind curio cabinet doors. _Give them a sense of ownership._ Include kids in the design process. Ask their opinion on a couple of final paint color options or furniture selections. This will help them feel some ownership in the house and may help them to think twice before jumping on the brand-new couch or tracking mud across the new hardwood floor.
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