Can Kids and Nice Things Coexist?

Our Work | October 18, 2010

Yes, I think there is a way to have nice things and kids coexist in a home but in doing so there has to be a certain mindset only after one has figured out their own personal limits & priorities.  Obviously the kids come first but for me I decided that things are just things and I didn’t want to put off not decorating my home the way I wanted just because there were children involved.  I think that is why I really loved a recent quote from Celerie Kemble’s Mom in Lonny saying, “Don’t worry about the stains, the breakage, the signs of life.  You have the option to believe these are the things that define you home.  Otherwise they will make you a miserable victim to the inevitable.” 

Christina’s Living Room

Now with that being said there are few items that I would never put out because I know I might have a melt down if they were to get broken.  Whereas I have no problem reupholstering a chair in white or putting out breakables…only after I had made my mind up that I wouldn’t get all bent out of shape if they were to fall victim to a little member of our crew. 
-Christina Brian  full house
I think both children and adults should be equally comfortable while at home. My husband and I find furniture pieces that speak to us ascetically, then choose fabrics and finishes that will work for our children. Darker colored upholstery + satin paint finishes are just two examples of ways we make our home a little more kid friendly.
-Danyelle Mathews dandee designs
Having waited for a long time to purchase our first home, I didn’t want to feel I had to put off collecting nicer things and decorating until my children were older. As a result they’ve learned that some things you just treat well, and understand they can’t use the chaise lounge as a trampoline! I don’t think it is a bad thing to teach children to appreciate and treat things well.
-Janell  Beals  isabella and max

Leah’s Living Room
I try and keep most of my fragile items out of reach from my babe. But what she can reach, that I don’t want her to touch, I train her not too. I say it’s okay to tell your child “no”.

-Leah Hill The Way We Are

Jordan’s Living Room

I still have nice things even though I have kids, I think you just can’t be too attached to stuff. I try to take care of things ie: clean up spills right after they happen. But I don’t get too disappointed when things get ruined, it’s just stuff after all.

 – Jordan Ferney  Oh Happy Day

Kids and nice things can coexist.  I tend to buy the nicest things I can get second-hand on Craigslist or at thrift stores.  Then I know if it gets ruined I don’t feel so bad because I didn’t invest a fortune in it.  I also am really picky about the finishes on things.  For instance, instead of installing super modern hardwood floors I installed hardwood that already had a lot of texture to them.  Then when they get banged up it gives it more character and patina.   
– Michelle Hinckley  Three Men and  a Lady
Absolutely.  Let me introduce you to my friends: Scotchguard, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, Goo-Gone and Spot Shot.  In all seriousness, it is important to set aside areas in your home where kids can be kids.  In our home we turned a room in our basement into a craft room.  Complete with arts and crafts galore and a wall covered in chalkboard paint, my girls have a place to get messy.  It is also important to fight your desire for some items, and stick with practical pieces.  While I would love a new gorgeous kitchen table, I realize that I have two little girls that are going to destroy it, so we stick to our old, “weathered” table.
– Krista Salmon Kiki’s List
I have always been of the belief that children enter into our world, not the opposite. So yes, you can definitely have nice things even if you have tiny tots running around. The key for us has been a twofold. During the really young years, you almost have to have “nice” things high and out of reach. But I am a huge believer in teaching your children what they can and can not touch or play with. That being said, you don’t want to be chasing after them saying, “We don’t touch that” all the time so you have to be reasonable with your expectations. I try not to put things in places that will be too big of a temptation for them. We have a piece of furniture in our dining area that has pretty things displayed and breakable objects. My two and four year old just know that those are mommies decorations and we don’t touch them. {maybe I am asking for trouble, but so far so good}
I also believe in giving children a really great space of their own. Whether your children share a room or have their own, it should be a space that they love and that reflects their own personality. I really think it teaches them to take care of a space and to value having a room they are proud of. After all, that’s what we want as well. And make it easy for them to clean up their space. My daughter has a bookshelf in her room and the bottom two shelves have baskets and bins. When she cleans up her room, almost everything she plays with has a home in one of those. Makes life much easier. 
-Courtney Fernan A Thoughtful Place
I recently gave up on having unlit candles and breakable decor at my toddler’s reach. He seems to be drawn to anything delicate.  So I focus on kid friendly decor. Modern print pillows, hung artwork and framed photography, etc. 
-Anna Liesemeyer  In Honor of Design
Yes! Being a mom doesn’t mean living in a day care center! Just because you
have children doesn’t mean that you forfeit the right to enjoy an attractive home.
I also believe that growing up around nice things (expensive or not) helps to
teach children respect and self-discipline. Yes, I’m sure that it can be hard for
Henry and Charlie (my four year old twin boys) to not pick up my decorative
accessories. But – over time – Henry and Charlie have learned to respect that
Mommy has “pretty-pretties” on display that are not a toy and that should not
be treated like their Tonka trucks. To me, this is critically important – not only
because it lets me enjoy my house but also because, when we are visiting
friends or relatives or (gasp!) they are invited on a playdate where I am not
supervising, they won’t wreak havoc on someone else’s possessions. After all, I
want to get invited back!
Obviously, when your children are very young, you cannot expect
them to know that they can’t play with certain things – the same way you cannot
expect them to know that they shouldn’t touch the stove. So, like it or not, baby-
proofing is essential. It gives you as a parent the peace of mind to know that
your child isn’t going to break your treasures – or, of much greater concern, hurt
himself accidentally – if you look away for a minute. Unfortunately, that may
mean you need to put certain things away – but let’s figure out how you can still
display them. Maybe you use an oversized ottoman and a decorative tray (made
of wood or melamine) instead of a more traditional coffee table with books, an
orchid and candles. The orchid and candles can go on the fireplace mantle or
an out-of-reach tabletop so you still have your “pretty-pretties” on display – just
in a place where they are safe. Or maybe you buy some lovely hardcover coffee
table books at a secondhand bookstore – so you aren’t heartbroken if a page
gets torn. Don’t forget you can also do things like style your kitchen counters or
add a centerpiece to your breakfast table. Those aren’t areas where the baby is
going to be playing.
At a certain age, a child’s safety awareness increases and the need for baby-
proofing diminishes. This is when the coffee table, low tabletops and other
accessible spaces (bookshelves in kitchen islands, etc.) are “back in play” for
more delicate items. I’d start with coffee table books, jar candles and other
things that aren’t easily breakable – and see what happens! You might be
surprised to find that they aren’t interested in playing with what you have on
display – or that they learn very quickly that those things are not to be touched.
Traci’s cute boys
You should also expect a few “disasters” – whether you’ve baby-proofed or
not. I think my children were around two years old when they shattered a set
of mirrored nesting tables sitting in a stair landing. How, you might ask? Well,
they were upstairs in their playroom with a baby gate keeping them from going
downstairs or anywhere but their nursery, playroom or the upstairs hallway. All
safe areas, right? Unfortunately for my tables, they got the brilliant idea to launch
their wooden Melissa & Doug fruit and vegetables over the railing and down the
stairs – and the eggplant ended up on the stair landing and on the nesting tables.
Mommy needed a time-out when that happened – especially because I thought
the tables were safely out of harm’s way – but it was a lesson learned for me
and for them. Fortunately, I can count our disasters on one hand … and that is
with “twin tornadoes!” Having nice things and teaching my boys to respect those
things has been worth the breakage.
-Traci Zeller 
Yes.  They include:
A Costco sized box of Magic Erasers, A great Dry Cleaner, and LOTS of patience 🙂
I kid, I kid.
Okay, really… In MY opinion, and experience the BEST way to allow your nice, pretty house decor, and things… coexist in your home, are these few ways:
Stay CLUTTER free and SIMPLE – ANY small child is going to go straight for mini figurines or a table full of apothecary jars, so keep your kiddos in mind when decorating.  Try to keep “in reach” breakable, antique, or expensive items, up and out of little children’s reach.
Be SLY and TEACH them – Everyones children are different.  But MY kids do BEST when I “sneak” new home decor into the mix.  Usually when I get something new, I try not to make a HUGE deal out of it.  I just place it where I want it, and then watch the next few hours to see if my kids notice.
When they finally DO, they will want to explore and TOUCH it.  That’s OKAY!  That’s part of being a kid, right?
SO when they DO head for your nice new “thing”… don’t freak out.  I usually just walk over and say… “What do you think?  Do you like it?”… “I think it makes our house look so pretty!  And it makes me really happy…”
Then I will sometimes let them touch or hold, or tinker with, whatever it is, for a minute… (jar, candle, plate) 
I say…
“I REALLY like this “______new thing______” and Mommy would be SO sad if it got ruined, or broken.”
I try to make my world, part of THEIR world”… Mind you, I have all GIRLS, so this might be easier. LOL.
But in this way… when I actually have a kinda grown-up conversation with them, they are REALIZING:
WHY this thing is so important,
and HOW I would feel if something were to happen to it.
This works REALLY well for our family.  And recently I just overheard one of our older girls say to their 3 year old, younger sister… “This is my NEW toothbrush, and if you play with it, and lose it, then that would make me really sad, so don’t touch it okay?”
-Shelley Smith  House of Smiths
Well obviously put them up high.  I do have white slipcovers but i had to move my glass lamps out of the living room and into the bedroom. I just try to use common sense. I have friends with kids and hanging glass doors or french iron tires of ironstone. I that wouldn’t work in my house but I do make the white slips work. I try to monitor feet as they come in the back door. No jumping on the couch if you have just come in with yucky feet. In fact I find that if my 6 year old wears rubber boots outside a lot of it keeps his feet cleaner than crocs! Do I sound like a terrible mother or what? Making my kid wear hot rubber rain boots to play outside in the hot texas sun! 
-Holly Mathis Holly Mathis Interiors

I try to be laid back about my approach to decorating with kids. My rule of thumb is generally, if I’d cry if it got broken, then it’s relegated to the top shelf or it’s put away. I really try to teach my girls to be respectful inside the house – no climbing on furniture. No throwing things inside the house. We only color on paper or books that are meant to be colored in. My girls have done a pretty good job with the rules. But, you know, they are still kids. Antiques have been broken, sadly. My box of heirloom jewelry was damaged one dreadful day. Just last week a sofa pillow was colored on with (a contraband) marker. You just have to roll with the punches and not freak out.  Rules should be set, but I try to remember that no thing is more important to me than my relationship with my child/children.
Jenny Komenda Little Green Notebook

It’s not so much that I “kid-proof” my house, I “kid-plan” it. I plan for all the mess that inevitably comes with children. When I buy ANYTHING for my house, I try to imagine what it will look like after my kids have jumped/stomped/cried/spilled on it. If I think it can handle the wear and tear, it makes the cut and I buy it. If not, I move on.
– Autumn Design Dump   

I’d love to hear from you! Do you think that kids and nice things can coexist in your home?