For the design inclined, welcoming a baby into the house is both exciting and daunting: the task of decorating a nursery opens up fun potential for new fabrics and color combinations, yet the thought of what comes after—baby proofing—can send any Milo Baughman-minded parent into a tailspin.
Luckily, tools to protect your mini come in myriad shapes and sizes these days: gone are the bulky plastic cabinet locks of years past. Below, we spoke to a few parents (who also happen to be top interior designers) for their favorite tips on keeping little ones safe without sacrificing style.
Lay the Right Groundwork
The crucial issue parents often find with their decor once baby arrives is striking the balance between functional and chic. Jennifer Hunter,, interior designer and mother to a one-year-old, says that you don’t have to sacrifice style in the name of a wee one. “Think long term about how they will grow with the space. You don’t want something to feel childish. Instead, opt for fabrics and wallcoverings that are classic and timeless.”
Encouraging children to become a part of the process helps too, she notes. “Involve your children in the process so that they learn to appreciate and understand the value of design,” she suggests.
Designer and mom of two Tali Roth agrees. “I really believe that kids get used to their environment, so I have lots of precious objects around my home—and my son knows where to play and where not to,” she says.
Luxury residential interior designer Charles de Lisle goes the extra mile when it comes to baby-proofing his clients’ homes. “In our last project, we realized that the amount of time needed by the client for a safe set of stairs warranted a more well-designed approach in the main hallway of the house, so we worked out a custom wicker and steel gate using verified and tested existing baby-gate latches.”
Most of de Lisle’s clients are on board with unique solutions, he says. This symbiosis allows for both beautiful and functional outcomes: “We have designed custom-built wooden, canvas, and nylon gates for homes—all of which avoid the traditional approach in hopes of being more adventurous. I feel that taking a bit of a design risk sometimes pays off in these situations. If baby proofing is a must, make it amazing,” de Lisle advises. “Table bumpers in leather, crib bumpers sewn in an interesting way out of industrial hospital fabrics, and sometimes omitting cabinet hardware all together!”
Low and Steady Wins the Race
This one might seem obvious, but items that can topple or pieces with sharp corners are a big no-no with a munchkin running around. The rules can be a little harder to implement if you’ve splurged a few years prior on an unwieldy vintage piece, so invest wisely.
“Think about using more upholstery instead of hard materials…a fabric ottoman over a coffee table with sharp edges,” Hunter suggests. When it comes to glass, say goodbye—at least for a few years. “Glass tables or those with sharp metal edges really must go into storage when you have a teetering toddler around,” says interior designer and mom Erin Gates. Gates knows a thing or two about crafting livable interiors for littles: her book, “Elements of Family Style: Elegant Spaces for Everyday Life” was released in April. Gates suggests swapping in a tailored upholstered ottoman or an oval coffee table, and keeping the side tables wood or another solid surface that isn’t breakable.
Choose Resilient Surfaces
Sticky fingers can ruin a silk mohair in seconds flat. Save yourself the heartache and “pick a luxurious feeling indoor/outdoor fabric for sofas and chairs, to keep from needing to worry so much about things getting ruined,” Gates recommends. Amy Berry, of Dallas based Amy Berry Design (and mom of two), loves “Fiberseal for protecting carpets and upholstery. It’s nice to have the peace of mind with little ones!” she says. “We use a lot of fabrics in our projects that are stain resistant: Crypton, Perennials—there are so many options that are wonderful for young families.”
Roth agrees, noting, “glass is the worst with kids; not because of the danger, but the finger marks. To me, baby proofing is about figuring out how to have a gorgeous space that doesn’t look haggard after a couple of years. Surfaces that wipe down easily are way better for family life—otherwise you will be carrying Windex in your garter belt!”
Remove Low-Hanging Fruit
“Low lying, easily accessible accessories will be the first things a crawling baby will want to play with,” Gates says. Wooden and woven bowls, or books are safe and stylish options to have on lower shelves. Nix anything porcelain, glass, or sharp-edged in those areas.
Berry designs a lot of pieces that incorporate storage for her clients with children. “I always want people to enjoy living in their homes, no matter what phase of life they’re in,” she says. Storage ottomans in kids’ rooms and baskets in family spacesare two tricks she recommends to hide toys and cut the clutter. “Baskets really are a wonderful way to quickly make a room feel tidy,” she says.
Play With Rug Patterns
When it comes to floor coverings, Gates recommends to “remember that patterned carpets are your friend. From animal print to Persian styles, they hide spills and stains much better than a solid.”
Playing on pattern, De Lisle prefers antique and vintage Persian rugs. “They are indestructible and always look perfect,” he says. “There are so many interesting vintage kids furniture options around the world—all of which help combat the parade of crazy plastic throw-away items that almost always show up in new parents’ lives.”