Decorating with kids - Life lessons
When I began decorating after the birth of my first child, the saying came to the forefront of my mind. I decided to invest in cheap “throw-away” accessories, dinnerware, flatware, glasses, drapes – you name it. I lived at Target. It wasn’t until 4 years later (around the birth of my second child and moving into our forever house) that I began to look at things differently. You see, all of the “inexpensive” things I bought usually fell apart before my daughter had a choice to destroy it. I found myself constantly replacing items. I slowly but surely began replacing the inexpensive items with better quality items (nothing overly expensive, but not cheap). Would you believe that 4 years later I still have every single bit of it. Every.single.bit. So let me share what I have found works (and doesn’t work) when it comes to home decor and children.
Let me just say I could own my own rug store with the amount of rugs I’ve owned. I don’t like carpet, but I don’t want the kids having to play around on hard floors. My solution – rugs. Almost every rug I have ever owned was nylon. Why nylon? Because it was cheap. So what if it was nearly impossible to get stains out of? No problem, I’ll just get another one. Ugh… that got old quick. Eventually I bit the bullet and bought a cotton/wool blend rug from Crate and Barrel. Not only was it easy to clean, but it was THICK – making it the perfect rug for the kid’s playroom, the living room and bedrooms (because who likes stepping on a cold floor when they wake up). The added bonus is that it actually attracts dust, so I find myself vacuuming every couple of days instead of sweeping every day.
Having such a great experience with the cotton/wool rug I decided to buy one for under the dining table. Big mistake. The cotton/wool rug soaked up milk, juice and other liquids so fast that if you didn’t catch a spill immediately, you would be met with a gnarly smell in a few days. So I went back to nylon. I just figured cheap was better. And no… The nylon was thinner so you could clean it easily – but if you had to scrub hard, the fibers would come up creating a nasty mess. After a trip to Home Goods, I decided to try a viscose rug. It was so soft that I was worried it wouldn’t work. Boy was I wrong. The viscose rug has been the best rug for under the table ever. It is easy to clean and even when I don’t notice a stain for a day or two, a scrub sponge and little soap gets it right up. Even better, I can scrub away and no nasty little fibers come up.
Living/play areas/bedrooms: Cotton/Wool or Viscose
Dining areas: Viscose
Kid’s rooms: Nylon (because, let’s face it, the really cute kids rugs are going to be nylon and will get tossed when they outgrow them anyway).
THROW PILLOWS & BLANKETS
I admit that I love throw pillows and blankets. I love cuddling up on the couch with a good pillow and blanket (especially on chilly nights). I know you are expecting me to say “don’t buy white pillows” but you’d be wrong! Buy white pillows – just make sure they are pillows with removable covers and are 80 – 100% cotton. Also invest in Spray N Wash or something along those lines to keep on hand. I’ve had the same white ikat pillow (the ikat spots are black) and they’ve been washed dozens of time and are still just as beautiful. Really, when it comes to throw pillows always, always, always invest in pillow covers over stuffed pillows. There are a couple of reasons for this. 1: Pillow covers are easy to remove and toss in the washer – just make sure they are at least 80% cotton. And always let them air dry! You don’t want to shrink your cover (been there, done that). 2. Not all pillow inserts are hypoallergenic and one thing we all have to deal with when we have kids are allergies. When you buy a pillow cover you are able to choose exactly the type of insert you want to use. 3. There are many great inserts that are also machine washable. Score! 4. When you buy your own insert, you can choose how soft or hard you want it to be – eliminating that “oh I love this pillow but it’s so hard” thought we have all had while shopping. 5. And finally, with places like Joann and Hobby Lobby offering 40-50% off coupons, it’s often cheaper to buy a cover and insert than to buy a stuffed pillow. Saving money is always good. Oh and one more thing! When you buy pillow cover, opt for those that don’t have zippers. In our house, the kids like to play with the pillows (and yes, hit each other with them). A pillow cover without a zipper on the edge makes injury less likely. If you can find a pillow with a zipper on the back, covered with a fold it should be fine (actually, it will be fine. One of my pillows is that way and it’s fine). Just make sure the zipper isn’t along a seam/edge.
Ok so that’s it for pillows. Let’s talk throws. For throws I have the same basic rule: opt for 100% cotton blankets. Most blankets are made of nylon or polyester (or a blend of that and cotton). Have you ever washed a nylon or polyester throw? If you have, I’m sure you were pretty upset when you took it out of the washer and it was in shambles. Cheap materials don’t do well in the washer. The one and only thing I can say about cotton throws is that they are usually very stiff. This is easy to solve with one or two runs through the washer with a bit of downy. After that, you will be good to go with your super snuggly blanket.
Throw pillows: At least 80% cotton; machine washable; always opt for cover over pillows.
Throw blankets: 100% cotton always. Period.
So funny story about drapes. The drapes I bought for our new home were from Ikea. They were white, simple and great for what I need. For two years there was not a single stain – until my 20 year old brother came over for a visit with his friends. He managed to get chili all over the drape next to the patio door. What my kids hadn’t managed to destroy in 2 years, my brother did in a couple of hours!
This is the one and only time I will tell you to save your money. My kids are rough on my drapes. They like to twirl in them, play hide and seek in them… you name it! But here’s the deal. Don’t go cheap! I made the mistake of washing the Ikea drapes (which said they were washable) and they fell apart. It’s better to invest in a pair of drapes that you can actually wash or, at the very least, dry clean. But don’t buy white! I have yet to find a white drape my kid’s can’t destroy. I would suggest staying away from silk since it is expensive AND expensive to clean. Two bad combos. My faux silk drapes from West Elm have lasted well and I can spot clean them with no problem. Sticking to something like this while the kids are young is my recommendation.
Drapes: Faux silk or machine washable cotton; NO WHITE!
This one has gotten me numerous times. I think “get the plastic ones you can just wash and put away”. I hate those things. They always get gummy after a few washings and trying to dry them is a pain. Instead, I invested in cotton placemats that I can throw in the washer. When they are dirty I use the plastic one (reluctantly) but I’m planning to buy more to have on hand so I can rotate them out easy.
Placemats: Cotton and machine washable.
Let’s continue telling stories about my brother, shall we? This time he had a little help in the form of my sister. When they were in high school (I was already out of the house) my mom told them to do the dishes. She had been telling them to do the dishes for days. She made it a point to tell my brother not to put them in his usual hiding place (under the couch) but instead, to wash them with his sister. Well my sister came up with a brilliant idea. Instead of washing the dishes, why not just throw them over the fence. I mean surely mom would never know. Except that they didn’t think that “over the fence” was the neighbor’s yard!
We’ve all had an experience like this to some effect. For me, it’s finding silverware in the trash. And broken plates? I haven’t had a complete set in years. So what is my solution? I bought the kids their own stuff. Yep… let them pick out their favorite bowls, plates and cups. I even put all of them in a drawer so they can reach them whenever they want. Luckily for me, they like the fun, cartoonish plates made out of melamine. Sure they fall apart after a year or so, but by then they’ve outgrown whichever character was on the plate or bowl to begin with. For cups, I have found that the kids love the 99 cent character cups from HEB. I bought each of them 6 or 8 of their choice and they’ve lasted about a year.
As far as silverware goes, we all share the same silverware. I’m still using an old set that I’ve had for years. I will be replacing them soon and when I do, all of those incomplete sets created by my children will soon be their’s to destroy as they wish. I’ve gotten a few good years out of them (and they are still in pretty good shape). They weren’t cheap (around $200 for the set) but I bought them before I had kids and knew that silverware can, and in fact would, get thrown in the trash.
Dinnerware/drinkware: Kids: Inexpensive bowls, plates and cups the kids pick out (so they like them). Adults: Whatever you want (but always buy porcelain)!
Flatware: If you don’t mind losing forks in the trash, share with the kids. Otherwise, get them their own set.
This is a big one. Furniture is by far the most expensive “decor” purchase you will make for your home. When we bought the new house we went with a leather sectional. It’s massive. And boy was it expensive. How does it look now? The leather is ripping off, the cat has added a few decorations and my son has decided it needed a bit of color via a yellow highlighter. Needless to say it’s ruined. This is a time when I thought buying a nicer quality product would be good. I was wrong. My old Rooms To Go Cindy Crawford couch lasted for 5 years of moving, babies and anything else you could throw at it and is still in awesome shape (and currently resides in the apartment of 20 something college boys). I should have just kept it. It was microfiber, so anytime I had a stain or spill, I just pulled out the spot bot and it was gone! I cleaned the cushions once a month with the spot bot and it looked brand new.
This seems like a now brainer, but stay away from anything glass – glass dining table, glass coffee table you name it. Stay away from glass because it can break? Well yeah, although most class is tempered and darn near impossible to destroy. I say stay away because you will spend most of your life cleaning up fingerprints. Glass + kids = endless fingerprints. Instead, solid wood is a good option. If you get cheap wood, it will be covered with indentions and dents. Solid wood is very difficult to dent and can be sanded down if need be.
And finally, when it comes to your kid’s furniture my mantra has always been – quality mattress, good sheets, cheap headboard. They outgrow styles so quickly that it’s not worth the investment to have a super expensive headboard (or crib for that matter). Just make sure they are safe to use (especially cribs). When it comes to dressers, my son has an old dresser of mine and my daughter uses baskets in her closet. Of the two, baskets in a closet with shelving is preferred because it gives them more room to play. Oh and always buy the mattress protector. Those things are a must for all parents (spend the extra money and get the good one. The cheap ones only last a year of washing).
Couch: Microfiber rules.
Tables: Wood is the winner.
Kid’s room: quality mattress and sheets, cheap headboard.
So that’s it. After years of decorating with kids these are lessons learned. Some things I didn’t mention because they are common sense (like never put an expensive piece of art or decor in reach of children). I hope this helps some of you and feel free to add any tips you’ve found along the way.