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  • Jess Harrell

A Family Friendly & Beautiful Living Room? You Actually Can Have Both!

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Eclectic great room with gallery wall around television
Bring it on kids, this space is ready for you!

Despite what most people think, you CAN have both kids & a stylish home. And you don't have to keep the kids in a bubble to make it happen. You just have to know the right choices to make. So go ahead and unpack the kid's bags; you won't need to give them up for the sake of your beautiful home. Kidding, of course! Here's what you should keep in mind if you want a beautiful space ready for anything kids throw at it.

Furniture Quality

Should you stay away from well-made, high-quality furniture when you have kids? The short answer is no, and the long answer is also NO! Please, please, please don't fall into the cheap throwaway furniture trap. It makes so much more sense to invest in furniture that can take the abuse. A well-made sofa or accent chair will last for years and years and can be re-upholstered once the kids are older. A shoddy sofa will not hold up to all the jumping and climbing it will withstand. Chances are pretty good that it will just end up in the landfill. Grab this handy guide if you're unsure how to identify good-quality sofas and chairs.

Kid-Proof Coffee Tables

This one is a no-brainer. Round or oval coffee tables protect kids from getting hurt when they fall right into them. Toddlers sure do look a lot like mini versions of drunk adults in the way they stumble and fall into things. My favorite kid-friendly coffee table is a large upholstered ottoman. They're the perfect option because it's impossible to get hurt on a soft, round surface. Although I'm sure, a kid out there could prove me wrong. I rounded up a few examples for you below.

Notice anything special about 3 & 4? They both have removable tops with hidden storage inside. This leads me to my next design element...

Furniture with Storage

Furniture that has hidden storage is your new bff. Think lidded ottomans & coffee tables, side tables with drawers, benches with inside storage, built-in window seats with storage underneath. (Storage ottomans are also great for putting your feet up and can be used as extra seating in a pinch.) The more places you have to hide all the kid junk, the better. Sometimes it's nice not to look at all that clutter. I have a separate blog post with tons of options for kid's toy storage ideas. Check it out here.


Kids seem to have a unique talent for destroying walls, don't they? Toys get chucked at them, fingers covered in peanut butter get wiped on them, and boogers find a home there too. Why are kids so disgusting?! So yeah, your walls need to be easy to wipe clean. For paint, the higher the sheen, the easier it is to wipe clean. But, a high sheen also means it's harder to touch up, and imperfections in the wall stand out. I always advise clients to go with an eggshell or matte finish. But if you prefer flat, a washable formula will work well. Trim tends to get beaten up, so I always use a semi-gloss there. As far as color, darker colors hide marks best. If you're a fan of wallpaper, plenty of washable and stain-resistant options are available.

Upholstery & Textiles

Selecting durable and easy-to-clean fabrics is the way to go. Kids will inevitably pee, vomit or spill food & drinks on the sofa. You'll be thankful you have something that's easy to clean. Leather upholstery is an excellent choice because it's easy to keep clean and looks better when it gets that lived-in look. Velvet is also a breeze to clean, especially when you have this guy to help. Whenever possible, go with machine-washable fabrics. Opt for pillows with removable covers that you can easily take off and throw in the wash. The same goes for throws.

As far as color & pattern, stay away from white furniture and textile unless you use a stain-resistant fabric like Sunbrella or Crypton. Even then, I advise clients that they aren't totally foolproof. Dark colors and patterns are your friends. Especially on rugs, they hide stains so well.

You'll want rugs to be easy to clean, too. Stay away from shags and rag rugs. You will never get all the crumbs out of the shag, and a vacuum easily snags the rag rug loops. The best options are indoor/outdoor rugs, washable rugs, and rugs made with cotton or wool. Carpet tiles are a great option too.

Decor & Accessories

Stay away from breakables. Instead of a ceramic tray on your coffee table, you'll want one made from wood or melamine. And picture frames that won't break when knocked on the floor are key too. Take the glass out of the frames until the kids learn to behave like civilized people. Move fragile things to places out of reach, like the upper levels of bookshelves, fireplace mantels, or taller console tables.

So let's sum it all up. Here's what makes a living room both beautiful and family-friendly:

1. Seating that can take constant beatings

2. Coffee tables that won't injure the kids

3. Furniture with storage. You can never have enough storage

4. Durable and easy-to-clean walls, textiles, and rugs

5. Non-breakable decor

This is one of those rare cases where you really can have it all:)


Hi there!

I'm Jess Harrell, interior designer and founder of The Styled Domicile. I've got a thing for eating ice-cream straight out of the pint (Netflix and Chill or The Tonight Dough, please), embarrassing my kids (trust me, they love it), and making homes and the people that live in them happier. I'm all about celebrating what makes you different and throwing ordinary out the window.

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