Designing for Adults (with kids!)

It seems like, at the moment, all of my clients either have young children of their own or have little grandchildren that come for visits and overnights.  The request is always the same, please make it look beautiful but also durable.  Usually this request is for specific rooms, most commonly the living room and family room are at the top of the indestructible room list.  Another request, but also good practice, is to be mindful of all seating material and construction: banquette, breakfast room chairs, dining chairs, living room sofa and chairs.  It is important to not look like the kids have the run of the house.  I keep the design focused on the adult clients style and taste and fine tune it to be durable for the littles.  Truth be told, they won’t be little forever! Here are my tricks of the trade to keep things looking good and staying that way.

Fabric Choices

Luckily outdoor and stain resistant fabrics have come a looong way in recent years and for the most part you would never know that they are protected.  I tend to use these fabrics for where you sit: sofas, chairs and ottomans.  These large upholstery items are pricier and if damaged would be quite the undertaking to redo.  I mix in some more luxurious fabrics into the window treatment choices and pillows.  For the pillows, I have them fiber sealed after.  Also, be careful with leather choices as some are more forgiving than others.  Opt for stain protected or textured leathers not pure analine leathers.. Edelman has an Edge line that has been easy to work with.

The construction of how you upholster with your fabrics is just as important.  I don’t do a tufted seat with kids in the house, it tends to be a collector of Cheerios and loose toy pieces.  When I use deep tufting I do it on the back of the seat.  You just need to consider the client and how these pieces will actually be used and also how they will hold up.

Placement, Shape and Material

Depending on the age of the littlest clients- placement, shape and the material of pieces are very important.

Placement– In constructing built ins with kids in mind I tend to keep the lower elevation cabinets that can be closed and locked if needed and the upper elevations shelves to display objects and books etc.  That way it tends to keep everything looking tidy.  Depending on the client, even if they don’t have kids this may be a good idea.  The type of client that can’t handle open shelving or glass cabinet doors in a kitchen, but more on that in another post!

Shape– I try and keep coffee tables round and upholstered in a high performance fabric when kids are in the picture.  I just installed a custom one I designed for a project that has upholstered sides, wood tray top, ottomans tucked under on one side which will face the room and open shelving on the inside facing the sofa to tuck away remotes, magazines etc. Pretty, tailored and functional, the way it should be!

Material– I already discussed the importance of high performance fabric in high traffic areas but also important is the material on tables.  You would want to avoid untreated parchment, lacquer without a glass top, stone that will stain etc. For wood, a satin finish is best.


Anywhere you can gain extra storage is key.  Especially in New York City apartments!  Clients with kids ultimately have a lot of toys that need to be tucked away when not in use because in some cases the living room or dining room also acts as the playroom.  I have had custom pieces made that you wouldn’t know the seat cushion opens and holds storage inside, especially important in the entryway which can become overwhelming with clutter. Or another instance, we were building out a wall to make a proper doorway and had the opportunity to make a new closet.  This is something to always keep in mind.  Multipurpose furniture and building out/adding storage to the original structure when possible.


Most importantly you want there to be an element of fun!  Whether it be in the artwork or sculpture or even something as small as the placemats! You don’t want your apartment to be so serious! Everyone needs a little humor in their lives, with or without kids!


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