A magazine-worthy room and children, too

Over the years, I’ve developed some tried-and-true design survival tactics to enable family and style to co-habitate under one roof.
Ruby's desk. Photo Per Kristiansen.
Ruby’s desk. Photo Per Kristiansen.

Over the years, I’ve developed some tried-and-true design survival tactics to enable family and style to co-habitate under one roof. So when my friend Lisa, a stay-at-home mom with three beautiful children under the age of eight, asked for suggestions on how to balance the desires of nurturer and design diva, I thought I’d love to share my tips.

Lisa’s words ring true with many décor hobbyists: “In so many magazines I see beautiful displays on side tables, ottomans in the middle of the room with trays filled with gorgeous objects and I think ‘that would be destroyed in 10 seconds in my house!’ ”

So, Lisa darling, this one’s for you.

It’s my house, too

One of the more poignant lines from the Four Houses Canada TV show that I was part of was delivered by my co-contestant Scotty about my 10-year-old Ruby’s bedroom: “This is not a kid’s room. This is Cynthia’s room that her daughter lives in.”



Ruby’s pretty bedroom. Photo Per Kristiansen via


I think a going-in proposition to keeping a happily decorated home with children is to remind yourself that you’ve worked hard to get to a point where you can own/rent this space. Yes, you are more than delighted to share your home with your children, but their Crayola-coloured, piles-of-plastic esthetic should not dictate the overall design direction (unless that’s the look you like). Once we’ve established that you are the arbitrator of good taste, not your three-year-old, we’re well on our way.

Don’t fight it, design around it

While we’ve established that you rule the decorating roost, I have lived with two-feet-tall, home-wrecking, adorable monsters, so I am a realist. If you have gremlins running laps in your living room like Lisa and me, there’s no point in putting out your finest crystal vase on the coffee table. Murphy’s Law will prevail, so store that wedding gift for now.

Instead, take a different approach and style the space in a way that appeases elfin curiousity as well as parental panache. Here are some doable decor ideas (DDIs) to get you started.


Pillows and throws are child-friendly (fodder for pillow fights and forts) and add colour and pattern to complement your décor theme.


Books, especially some of your childhood ones or garage sale finds, add nostalgic charm, graphic appeal and can be used to distract children when found jumping on the sofa.


 Boxes (wooden, metal, lacquer) are hard-wearing, vignette staples and can be filled with small treasures to quietly amuse the little ones in the sitting room.

Large baskets add warmth and texture and store everything from blankees to stuffies.


Stylish toys like wooden blocks and puzzles can be displayed as unexpected, functional decorative accessories.


Double-duty furniture is a joy – oh how I love ottomans that you can sit on, put your feet on, and that also open up for toy storage.


Good luck creating room for all.

Live beautifully,



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