House Rules

Can you have a home you love that suits your tastes and style while also accommodating your children and all their toys, gear, and messes? We think so, with a little thoughtful planning and care. To get you started, here are a few ideas from some design experts.

Design A Kid-Friendly Kitchen

In many households, the kitchen is the center of activity—making it even more essential that the room be family-friendly. Robert Dobbs, a certified kitchen and bathroom designer with Elgot, a design company based in Manhattan, says families looking to remodel their kitchen may want to consider “U-shaped kitchens, [because they] work well to keep kids on the opposite side of the island [and away from the cooking area].” Also, Dobbs says to be sure to “leave [ample] space between open oven or dishwasher doors and cabinets,” as this helps enable safe passageway through the kitchen. When it comes to flooring, solid wood or laminate floors are both resilient surfaces that make for easy clean-up, while cork is another good option because it makes standing for long periods of time easier on your feet—and on a baby’s crawling hands and knees. For people with small kitchens, Dobbs says internal storage options like pull-out pantries really maximize space.

Choose Sensible Carpeting

When choosing a carpet for your living room, comfort, maintenance, and aesthetics are all important factors that come into play. “From a health standpoint, wool, cotton, and silk are natural fiber options that are free of any harsh chemicals,” explains Angela Gruszka of ABC Carpet & Home. She recommends these rugs to families with young children or babies, and wool or sheepskin rugs to families with children a bit older, as these rugs are “extremely durable and easily cleanable.” Steven Forrey, sales manager at The Rug Company, agrees, favoring Tibetan wool rugs—particularly for families that are seeking minimal upkeep and maximum décor. Boasting incredibly high-quality wool, these rugs are stain resistant, durable, and natural. As a final
precaution, go barefoot in carpeted areas. Leaving your shoes at the
door will ultimately shorten your housecleaning by a considerable
amount, saving you time and money when it comes to maintaining the

Pick Out The Right Couch

Above all, invest in
durable seating. “A coffee table from Ikea is just as good as a table
from any other place,” says Debbie Wiener, author of “Slob Proof!
Real-Life Home Decorating Solutions.” “But you can always tell a bad
sofa from a good one.” When shopping for a sofa, make sure it has a
strong frame, a cushion with down and a thick fabric. “We almost always
recommend slipcovered sofas,” offers Leigh Oshirak, director of
marketing and public relations at Pottery Barn and a mother of two. Next
time your child spills pasta sauce or apple juice, she suggests a
simple way to cut down on cleaning time—and the bill: Simply unzip the
slipcover and throw it into the washing machine. Jonathan Balthaser,
manager of Rico, a Brooklyn-based furniture store, suggests an
alternative. “Whenever parents come to our store, we always recommend
leather or Ultrasuede as the upholstery,” he says. These materials boast
durability and are easy to clean. Rest assured that any child-inflicted
stains should not leave permanent damage.

A Thoughtfully Lit Home

Kimberly Oliver of
Design Within Reach cautions parents to avoid floor lighting or unsteady
table lamps that can be knocked over. Instead, select pieces with a
heavy base that will remain in place. Or, says author Wiener, swap floor
and table lamps for overhead lighting, which prevents broken lamps and
stained shades, and gives your family more room to play. If you’re
showcasing family pictures, track lighting is a great option, according
to Fred Katz, owner of Lightforms Inc., because the lights spotlight
select areas on the wall. Another fixture to consider is an immediate
over-the-shoulder light for reading. This works well in situations where
one of the kids wants to watch TV, but another prefers to read a book. The overhead light won’t illuminate the entire
room, allowing your kids to stay engaged in the program—and on good
terms with each other.

In Furniture That Grows With Your Child

When Danielle Hansmeyer, SVP of
Restoration Hardware Baby & Child, was pregnant and looking to buy
furniture for her nursery, she found that there was a “void in the
market for good quality, sophisticated design at a reasonable price.”
She returned from maternity leave with a slew of ideas, creating the
store’s Baby & Child line, which recently launched. It features an
assortment of convertible cribs, elegant bedding, bathroom accessories
and more that Hansmeyer says are “subtle, but fun” and “seamless with
the rest of your home.” Check out the cribs that convert into a toddler
bed and “big kid bed,” and changing tables that transform into dressers
in styles “that are pretty timeless.” As Hansmeyer notes, “Being able to
buy something that will live with your child for 10 years” is worth the

—Reported by Kristen
Duca, Jordana Jaffe, Darcy Newell, and Kate Willard

Tips For A
Clutter-Free Living Space

Keeping your home—and in
particular, your living room— organized
when you have kids may seem like a never-ending task, but there are ways
to keep the clutter at bay.

Love It Or Lose It:
Beyond the practical idea of using
baskets and boxes, organizing superstars Barbara Hemphill and Maggie
Bedrosian suggest adopting the mantra, “Love it or lose it.” Look at
everything cluttering your space and ask: “Is it useful? Is it
beautiful? Do you love it?” If not, get rid of it. You’ll be surprised
to see what you can live without, and just how much you were living

The same approach applies to kids’ toys. Organizational expert
Ann Sullivan recommends organizing toys into categories, such as games,
dolls, and cars. Then, decide what’s never used, what’s simply broken,
and what your kids have long outgrown. Whatever toys you don’t keep,
consider donating to charity.

Get Stackin’: To
organize toys, Sullivan recommends
using clear, stackable pull-out drawers that are available in multiple
colors. Label each one according to what’s inside or, if your child
can’t read yet, take a picture of the contents and stick it to the

For a truly out-of-the-ordinary storage solution, Sullivan says to
try a hammock—they’re great for keeping items like stuffed animals
visible, yet out of the way.

Get The Kids On Board:
Getting kids involved with
storage solutions helps, too. Even if it’s just plastering stickers onto
the front of a bin—the more fun something is to use, the more likely
they’ll be able to use it!

—Jordana Jaffe

Jordana Jaffe is the
founder of live ORGANIZED, a professional
organizing firm based in New York City. She loves helping parents
minimize clutter and maximize space. To contact her, visit

The Hot List

Resources To Help Outfit Your Home

ABC Carpet
& Home.
This home emporium featuring distinctive goods from
around the world has a variety of furnishings, from lighting fixtures to
living and bedroom furniture. There is also a unique children’s area
with beautiful wood furniture, organic bedding, and accessories. 888
Broadway, 212-473-3000, abchome.com.

Architects & Designers Building.
Head here for the latest in kitchen and bath home building products,
plus wood flooring, carpeting, lighting, furniture, and more. Check out
its 35 showrooms. The on-site personnel can also field your
home-remodeling questions. 150 East 58th Street, 212-644-2766,

California Closets. This national
company provides you with a personalized consultation detailing how you
can maximize the space in your home—including bedrooms, children’s
rooms, offices and even wall beds—and then installs the final product.
Visit the showroom in TriBeCa. 26 Varick Street, 646-486-3905,

Kastel Kitchen Gallery. This full
renovation company exclusively carries cottonwood fine kitchen furniture
cabinetry and custom designs all their work. While their main focus is
kitchens they will also design libraries, bedrooms, bathrooms and other
rooms. 17 East 37th Street, 212-252-0900.

Design Within Reach. Offers
contemporary furnishings for the home, including the living room, dining
room, bedroom, and office. Lighting, rugs, and other accessories are
also sold. Various locations in Manhattan, dwr.com.

Elgot. For more than 60 years, these
kitchen and bath specialists have crafted spaces exclusively for New
York homes. They have extensive knowledge of Manhattan building codes
and laws. Their work is supervised by the designer at all times and they
install everything—from the major fixtures to the smallest pipes. 937
Lexington Avenue, 212- 879-1200, elgotkitchens.com.

Giggle. This boutique offers up a
large selection of fabulous, trendy furniture for the nursery, bedroom,
and playroom, from cribs to dressers to gliders. Various locations in
Manhattan, giggle.com.

Godwin. This contracting firm
specializes in re-designing luxury homes in Manhattan. The company
requests bids from multiple subcontractors and vendors to ensure that
you receive the lowest price. Its specialties include fine cabinetry and
custom fabricating. 215 East 58th Street, 212-308-0558, godwin-inc.com.

Franklin Report. Described as “The
Insider’s Guide To Home Services,” this company specializes in keeping
tabs on local home services to ensure that you find the best match. Its
website lists reviews and portfolios of everything from custom furniture
finishing and antique dealers to movers and electricians.

Lightforms Inc. From simple bedside
lamps to complex low voltage illumination systems, this store has all
your lighting needs. It also offers in-home lighting consultations.
Various locations in Manhattan, 212-255-3635, lightformsinc.com.

Pottery Barn. Along with dining room,
living room, kitchen, and bedroom furniture, you’ll find a beautiful
assortment of children’s furnishings, from cribs to changing tables to
child-size tables and chairs. Various locations in Manhattan,
888-779-5176, potterybarn.com.

Restoration Hardware. Its new
children’s department offers up furnishings for the bedroom, nursery,
and playroom. You’ll also find lighting, rugs, and linens. 935 Broadway,
212-260-9479, restorationhardware.com.

The Rug Company. Carries handmade rugs
that are original and distinctive. You’ll find modern and traditional
options. Rugs are designed by expert craftsmen and meant to be family
heirlooms. 88 Wooster Street, 212-274-0444, therugcompany.info.

Tecny Group Inc. This design firm
offers clients expertise in every step of the building process, from
initial plans to the final installation of furniture and equipment. Its
team works with you to find a design that best suits your family’s needs
and sees it through to completion. 115 West 29th Street, 212-697-4040,
tecnygroup.com. —Teresa Tobat

DIY Home Design Workshops

If you’d like to tackle your own home makeover projects but never learned how to install a light fixture or tear up flooring, the New York City College of Technology’s Division of Continuing Education is offering do-it-yourself home renovation workshops in March. Each workshop costs $50 and covers a different topic, from installing ceramic tile for floors to everyday electricity you can do yourself. Details: Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. 25 Chapel Street, Howard Building, Room 106. Call 718-552-1170 to register.