How to Create a Family-Friendly Home That's Stylish Too
Designing your dream home is equal parts excitement (cue internal squeals of joy) and mild anxiety. Pinning your mood boards and selecting the furniture is the fun part, but planning how it all fits together can be incredibly daunting. Then add a kid-friendly dynamic into the mix and you've officially raised the difficulty meter. Striking that balance between the practical needs of a family and the fashionable elements you personally love isn't easy. But we love a challenge at MyDomaine HQ, so we set off on a quest to find a few design tactics to make the practical and pretty design process a whole lot simpler.
To guide us through the family-friendly options, we tapped the expertise of three top interior designers: Celebrity designer Jarret Yoshida; Shannon Wollack and Brittany Zwickl of Studio Life.Style; and Natasha Baradaran. And there's one thing they all agree on: You shouldn't have to compromise on taste. "There are so many ways you can make a room feel sophisticated and elevated, yet practical," Wollack told MyDomaine. And according to Yoshida, perfection is overrated anyway. "The visual perfection we see in media happens because there are people hired to make things look that way for every single shot," he explains. "Your home is family-friendly because you have friends or family there. A little clutter never hurt anyone." Hear, hear. Designing a family home might not be as tricky as we thought—here's the simple way to do it.
MYDOMAINE: How do you create a luxurious lounge room that appeals to your personal taste but allows for the mishaps of family life?
SHANNON WOLLACK & BRITTANY ZWICKL: You can upholster furniture with durable fabric or a faux leather that looks and feels just like real leather. Or you can choose surface materials that look like the real deal, such as synthetic brass over real brass. This makes things a little less stressful on your end since accidents are bound to occur.
JARRET YOSHIDA: Patterns are very helpful in a family-friendly home to give it visual energy and also to hide stains. Even a relatively monochromatic palette can have textured fabrics which are stain-friendly and also give your home more visual interest. Wrap your sofa seat cushions in a throw. The throw will absorb marks from greasy hands and it will be easier to wash.
Get an ottoman with a tray, not a coffee table. When babies learn to crawl, they often pull themselves up off the floor by grabbing a cocktail table and then falling straight into it. Make this experience safer with a soft upholstered ottoman instead. Likewise, for clumsier adults like me, a softer ottoman means no accidents with a coffee table corner right in your shin.
MD: What sofa fabrics do you recommend?
SW & BZ: There are so many different companies that now offer "sunbrella /outdoor" versions of their fabric for indoor use. Many of our clients have little kids, so we are always on the lookout for fabrics that can withstand almost anything. There are now wide varieties of outdoor fabric that look and feel like something you would normally put on your sofa indoors. Just make sure the fabric has a very high rub count or is made of cotton or polyester. They are good for structural integrity, durability and cleanability.
MD: How do you create a dining room that accommodates a growing family but still looks sophisticated?
JY: Get a solid wood dining table. It will still look great, if not better, after being hammered by sippy cups and written on after countless homework sessions. The dining table will become something you treasure, filled with memories of your family's own history. Pro tip: Choose an aesthetic that is authentic and grounded in history, not a trend that is "of the moment."
Your dining chairs should also be wipable. If timber is too hard, then add cushions in great outdoor materials that can be thrown in the washing machine. If space allows, have flexible seating like extra dining chairs that can be moved around for family parties and get-togethers. Nothing is more boring than a static furniture arrangement. You live in a home, not in a hotel.
MD: What are some of the best rug fabrics for kid-friendly homes?
NATASHA BARADARAN: I think wool is still the way to go because it’s easy to clean and feels comfortable on bare feet. Although clients may like the idea of polyester given the price point, the longevity of wool is much better. Definitely no silk or viscose for high-traffic areas.
SW & BZ: Dash & Albert is a great source for indoor/outdoor rugs. They are made with high-traffic areas in mind and range in fabric type. Wool is great, as long as it has a high-pile, not only for durability but for comfort as well. Polyester is also great, just make sure it's comfortable since you may be on the ground a lot when you're playing with kids.
MD: How do you create a bathroom that the whole family can enjoy?
SW & BZ: We've created custom vanities that have pull-out step stools with hardware that matches the rest of the vanity. This camouflages the stool but makes it easy for kids to still reach the sink. Also use vinyl wallpaper or add a sealant over your wallpaper or paint to avoid damaging it. Again, you don't need to compromise your design to make a space practical, just make sure you are using the right materials and surfaces.
NB: I really like doing teak on bathroom floors lately, especially in showers. I stay away from slippery stones on floors, and tiles that are small and would require a lot of grout lines. I hate seeing dirt collect over time in grout.
MD: What is something you should not do when designing a family home?
SW & BZ: Use precious materials. We really try to avoid silk fabric and wall covering, as it's very delicate and can easily show leftover sticky finger prints.
NB: Don’t follow trends. Try and find palettes that are timeless. Spend money on art and well-made upholstery that lasts and can always be re-upholstered down the line.
MD: What paint colours do you recommend? Are there non-toxic brands you love?
SW & BZ: We love all Farrow & Ball colours and they work for almost anything. All of their paints are eco-friendly and they have low-VOC versions.
NB: Benjamin Moore's Aura line are great non-toxic paints with a nice range of colours.
MD: What advice do you have for those families who love whites and neutrals? Is it still possible?
SW & BZ: Coming from someone with two kids and a house that is basically all white and neutral, yes it is possible. Paint-wise, invest in magic erasers or keep tubs of the colour you used so you can just touch up if needed. Upholstery-wise, use very durable Sunbrella-type fabrics, which come in whites and neutrals, to make sure you get the most life out of your pieces. But of course, a white sofa is bound to get dirty, no matter the kind of fabric.
NB: I think it is, as long as you use fabrics with polyamide or nova suedes mixed with Sunbrella. Whites are doable as long as the fabric can be bleached. I also love the Philipe Stark Kartell Masters chair and the fact that you can wipe it down.
I had a banquette in my breakfast room when my daughters were younger. It was beautiful, but within a few years, the fabric was destroyed. I love the sculptural feel of the Kartell chair and the fact that it’s basically indestructible and can be hosed down. Best investment ever.
MD: What is your number one decorating rule for creating a family friendly space?
SW & BZ: Storage. The more storage, the better. Get creative with how you keep things organized, since that is probably the most important aspect of maintaining a family-friendly space. It will help keep the space very clean.
JY: Create a gallery wall for family photos using frames from the art store in different sizes and materials, just ensuring you stick with one wood type and style (modern or traditional). Add a think board to the wall for your kids to post their latest creative moments so that the collage is a living idea. Your family isn't static, so why should your family wall of art be?
Don't let all your children's art projects take over the whole house. Get a large bulletin board for each child for their best work and give their creative impulses a place to shine.
NB: No room should ever be roped off. All spaces should be livable and used by every member of the family.