We don't subscribe to the myth that a family home can't be fabulous, and instead believe that it is possible to have one that is both livable and luxurious, kid-friendly but still elevated and timeless. With some careful planning and creative choices, we can create a functional family home without compromising style, and here is how we do it.
Yes, light upholstery IS possible in a family home, as long as durable options are chosen. A leather ottoman is a great functional choice, and this one has an inset tray for holding decor items or movie-night snacks.
Let Function Rule
As part of our design process, we always seek to deeply know and understand how our clients live, work, and entertain in their homes so that we can design accordingly. It doesn't sound as glamorous, but the way a space functions absolutely has to take precedence over the form because otherwise, what is the point? If the family has young children we will choose upholstered ottomans or tables with rounded edges over a delicate glass-and-metal coffee table. If those toddlers are now a trio of very tall teens we will carefully consider the depth of each upholstered piece and allow a little extra walking space between furniture items. Each of these seemingly-small details adds up to a room that is comfortable and functional for each member of the family so that the aesthetics can be appreciated, and not resented.
In a family home, I like to source sturdy barstools that have backs for safety. These have a wood back (good for sticky hands) and a totally wipeable seat material.
Photo by Stylish Productions
Make Realistic Fabric Choices
Fabric technology has made progress in leaps and bounds in recent years when it comes to truly durable options that maintain the luxurious hand that discerning clients seek. Gone are the days of stiff "outdoor" fabrics in just a few color and pattern options, now we can source fabric that looks and feels like real linen, velvet, and leather but will stand up to the challenge of everyday life with kids and pets. Personally, I like to use faux leather, especially on seating at the dining or breakfast table because it is so easily wipeable and the color options are plenty.
Perennials has been an industry standard for decades for fabrics that are technically superior for stain-, mildew- and mold-resistance. InsideOut is another of our go-tos, and their lines are bleach- and disinfectant-safe, which I know we all began considering in recent months. As a part of our services, we include a stain treatment on rugs, furnishings, and drapery after installation to make sure that our fabric choices will take a hit and keep on going.
Vintage rugs are a surprisingly durable option!
Embrace (a little) Patina
Depending on your personal tolerance for imperfection, choosing real materials or living finishes, can enhance the authenticity of a home, and real, solid materials will always wear more gracefully than synthetics. Take a vintage rug, for example. While it may be an investment, the rug has been in use for decades and the handmade wool construction is inherently durable and resistant to stains. A hefty antique farm table is probably a better choice in a busy breakfast room than a new table with a veneer, as the veneer will show more bumps and scratches.
A rich velvet sofa, chic pair of chairs, and graphic art bring style to this family sitting room.
Don't Sacrifice Style
Of course we all -- myself included! -- want a beautiful home without rooms that are "off-limits," so even in typically formal spaces, we incorporate performance fabrics and pieces that feel welcoming and cozy. Making the right choices in materials will go a long way toward bringing an elegant, sophisticated vision to life, and there are also plenty of design elements that don't need extra consideration. Lighting, for example, is somewhat immune to abuse, though I would save the most treasured lamps for a study or master bedroom where they are less likely to get jostled during a wrestling match (have I mentioned I have two young boys?). Wallpaper is one of my go-tos for adding style, but I still steer clear of delicate silks or grasscloth in a room that kids will frequent. Even fragile accessories can be used in a family home, and I often suggest closed cabinetry for housing nostalgic or valuable possessions.
All photos by Raquel Langworthy unless otherwise noted.