We all want our homes to be warm, comforting spaces for ourselves, our families and our friends. Along with beauty and functionality, durability and safety are important design concerns, especially when kids and pets are present.
Mahtomedi resident Piper Donlin, an interior design consultant at Ethan Allen, offers advice on designing and furnishing a warm and inviting home that can handle some of the less-than-delicate treatment.
Donlin has a background in studio arts and environmental sustainability. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, and she joined Ethan Allen’s Woodbury interior design team last summer. Currently working on her interior design degree from Century College, she also spent three years in Norway earning a master’s degree from the University of Oslo, which influenced her approach to design. “It felt quite a bit like Minnesota,” she says.
One major development in the past few years that helped create homes more resilient to the damage kids and pets bring is a move to more durable fabrics and flooring, says Donlin. For living rooms, suppliers are offering more sofas and sectionals with high-performance fabrics and man-made materials like Crypton, which features high-tech fibers woven into materials to make them resistant to stains and bacteria. It’s widely used in hotels and on cruise ships.
“High-tech fabrics like Crypton are a more environmentally friendly version of Scotchgard—it’s not a treatment; it’s part of the fabric,” says Donlin. Olefin is another durable synthetic fiber that stands up well to pets and kids.
While natural fibers like cotton and linen are appealing, they generally won’t hold up as well over time, says Donlin. They also fade in daylight, especially in sunny rooms.
Leather is another great option since treated leathers tend to be easy to clean. “If it feels more like suede, it’s susceptible to picking up oils on the skin or spills,” she explains. She recommends looking for higher-sheen and glossier finishes, which indicate they have been treated.
Treated, glossier leathers are relatively easy to clean.
Another design trend is the resurging popularity of wallpaper. “We are starting to see it come back—it can be a fun way to add color and texture to a room. A lot of people use it in a guest bathroom or powder room to give a pop of color,” says Donlin.
Of course, little kids love to use walls as their canvas for drawing or writing. “Fortunately, a lot of paints are really easy to clean these days,” says Donlin. “Higher-gloss paints are more durable and easier to clean than a matte finish would be. If you have little kids or dogs, it’s worth the investment to get an extra bit of protection on your walls.”
When investing in furniture and floor coverings, dark colors are your friends, helping to hide smudges left by dirty hands and feet. Dogs and cats, even if they are well behaved, also pose plenty of maintenance challenges. Dark fabrics, especially black and gray, can help hide the hair and paw prints.
Rugs and other floor coverings are another element to consider. Donlin advises steering clear of hand-knotted rugs around pets. “They will snag. Claws often get stuck in the loops in a rug and create little pulls in the rug which, over time, start to look a little worn. Shag carpets and rugs have become really popular again, but they do tend to catch dander, pollen and some allergens, which is a concern with little ones. And they tend to be a little harder to clean,” says Donlin.
Donlin says carpet that has been chemically treated to resist stains can sometimes raise health concerns. “A lot of manufacturers are moving away from fire retardants and other things of that nature, which tend not to be very environmentally friendly and hard on human health. We’re starting to see low volatile organic compound (VOC) carpet. There’s a definite movement toward materials that are friendlier for the environment and for health.”
Window treatments are another major consideration when designing rooms. “Good window treatments are like a good jewelry. Done right, they can add height to a room by having pretty drapery or other window treatments,” says Donlin.
There are a number of new choices in blinds and window coverings that are easy to use and easier to clean and also more aesthetically pleasing, Donlin says.
Donlin offers some tips for designing kids’ rooms, always a unique challenge because of the way kids’ interests, needs and personalities evolve
as they age.
Accent pillows and throws make it easy to add fun colors to a kid’s room. Let them be creative by allowing them to pick out their own textiles. Encourage them to choose a theme or colors and turn it into a learning experience.
Chalkboard walls are a fun choice. You can use their art as inspiration for any room in the house. If you have a great piece, you can showcase it, and use some of colors they used on accent walls, throw pillows or rugs. This can help them feel like they are part of the design process and reflects their own creativity.
Ceilings can be an element of home design. Designers have been applying more creativity and functional savvy to painted ceilings. People are sometimes afraid to paint their ceilings due to potential problems with dripping paint, but adding a sky blue color or some other type of accent can
do wonders for a space.
Use lamps to bring coziness and warm colors. Look for lampshades designed to produce soft light to offset “colder,” bluish light. Consider safety—precariously positioned glass lamps can pose a danger. Make sure they are stable and not easy to tip over.
With a bit of research and planning, you can make your home safe and fun for your kids and pets while keeping it beautiful for you.