When it comes to creating a family home, it can be difficult to strike the right balance between a space that is kid-friendly and adult-friendly too. If you’re a person who loves interiors and design, it can be even more difficult. Here Anna shares some thoughts on how to create a happy, lived-in home for everyone.
For the last few years, in addition to my day job, I also wrote a blog about home interiors and styling. It was a lot of fun, but I had a crisis of confidence after my daughter was born. Suddenly, our home didn’t feel child-friendly and I really had to ask myself whether I was making a home for our blog, or for our family.
Fast forward a few years, and I think (hope!) I’ve gotten the balance right, and created a space where we can truly live, but without sacrificing some of the design aesthetic my husband and I love. I thought I’d share some of those tricks with you.
1.Invest in inexpensive blankets
With a cat and two children, our furniture gets a lot of abuse. No matter how much I try and limit food to the kitchen, I still find crumbs on the sofa. Greasy hands, shoes, cat claws and snotty noses are not kind to fabrics. When we were looking at new furniture, we discussed buying things we knew we’d replace in a few years time when the girls were older, but that just felt wasteful. Instead, we picked sturdy mid-range options with high wearing fabrics like tweed and leather. For extra protection, we cover a lot of our nicer pieces of furniture with blankets we’ve picked up from Ikea and West Elm. Inexpensive, stylish, hard wearing, and most importantly – washable. They’ve even rescued us from a few late night red wine spills.
2.Create kid-friendly zones in the rooms where you also spend time
Over the last three years, we’ve tried many different options when it comes to creating spaces for the girls to play. They are still young, so at the moment they love to be where we are and are more interested in playing with us than with toys. I’ve noticed the only time they will act up is if they’re bored, so we’ve gone out of our way to create little spaces to play in our reception room and our kitchen. Things that can easily spread out, and be packed away at the end of the day. Books, a table and chairs, a play tent, colours, an easel and a bin of toys they can easily get out and put back themselves. We even have a few bean bags scattered around that can be pulled out for games on the floor. We try to encourage tidying up before they move to their next activity, but some days (especially rainy ones!) the toys do take over until bedtime. But everything has a home, and it starts and ends the day in its rightful place.
3.Find sensible toy storage, and rotate or donate your toys
I live in fear of toys taking over every square inch of our home, and so try to stay on top of what we have. We live near a TK Maxx, and recently picked up a few nicely patterned cloth toy bins for less than ten pounds. We have one in the girls’ room, and another in our reception room. When the bins get to a point where I can’t remember what’s in the bottom anymore, we tip everything out and go through it. What the girls have grown out of, we donate or store away for friends. What they’ve forgotten about, we put on the top of the pile for a few days. If it finds it’s way back to the bottom of the bin, we tend to donate it next time around.
We also are quite careful about buying too many toys. At the moment, the girls seem to gravitate towards arts and crafts supplies, the play kitchen, anything they can do outside, puzzles, and books. Where possible, we try to not to buy plastic, and instead focus more on wooden toys with multiple purposes that will grow with the girls, and last. Our most successful long-term purchases have been a play tent, an easel, a dolls house, and a really great kitchen we picked up at ASDA. When they get bored of them, we try swapping around where they live in the house, which seems to do the trick. For instance, the play kitchen recently moved from our kitchen to the girls’ bedroom, and they’ve gone from running past it to playing with it nightly after bathtime.
4.Invest in good cleaning supplies
It doesn’t matter how well-behaved your children are, or how eagled eyed you are. They’re kids – they’re going to make a mess. We’ve got a fully stocked cleaning cupboard with white vinegar, Method multi-purpose cleaner, stain remover, and sugar soap. If one of those four things doesn’t solve a problem, nothing will.
5.Hold off replacing anything until they’re older
We have accepted that there are certain things we’ll wait to buy until the girls are a bit older. For instance, our coffee table is a bit lower than our new sofa, and not quite the right shape for the space. But it’s the perfect height for the girls, and it’s old so I’m not precious about them colouring on it, sitting on it, or using it for games. We’ve also put a lot of our breakable items away so that they’re not a temptation or source of stress. As a result, most of the rooms in our house are ‘child-proof’, which makes being home together a lot more relaxed. They can roam around freely, and we don’t need to have an eye on both of them every second of the day.
6.Involve your children in how the room is arranged
My eldest daughter recently declared she wanted to change her room. She’s only three and a half, but she had a very clear point of view on how she wanted things set up – basically so that she had lots of space in the middle for playing! One rainy afternoon, we spent an hour together talking about the changes she wanted to make, and then moving the furniture to accommodate her wishes. She absolutely loved being listened to, and now will take herself off to play there much more than she used to. She also takes pride in tidying everything away at the end of the day.
So that’s it – a few easy things that we’ve embraced that help us all live happily together. I know it will evolve and change as the children grow, but for now it’s helped us create a place we’re all proud to call home.