After spending the last few months camping in our kitchen, we are really relishing the new larger family living space we have created. It's turned out to be a surprisingly successful room for both grown ups and children, partly by design and partly by accident. Here's five things we learned along the way...
Choose furniture with rounded corners
We have two tables in our sitting room. The coffee table has rounded corners, our side table does not. Kids seem to bounce off the rounded corners of the coffee table with no problems, where as the side table is an accident waiting to happen. Even I walk into it. I suspect it is only a matter of time before we end up doing some furniture alteration to limit the tearful outbursts.
Leather sofas are more forgiving
If everything had gone according to plan, our intention was to buy a very pale blue fabric corner sofa. Fortunately for us, fate saved us from making what would have been a totally impractical purchase and instead we inherited my parents leather corner sofa. Every time children visit or Theo's playing in the sitting room whilst I'm in the kitchen, I thank heavens we have a leather sofa. It's not just about the spills, it's about dirty hands (adult newspaper readers are guilty of this too) and the way a three year-old can literally roll their whole body (sticky face included) across furniture whilst never losing contact with it. Yes, they are more expensive to begin with, but worth every penny I think.
Pick kid friendly rugs
A long time ago a friend of ours described cow hide rugs as the "most kid friendly rugs you can buy" and it's true. They only require a good shake in the garden once a week to keep them looking in perfect condition. If you look online they are expensive to buy, but check out antiques markets were you can buy them second hand for less than £100 (we picked up this week at Ardingly for £65!) A surprising second place in the kid friendly rugs list are flokatis. We have only had ours for a couple of months, but it's surprisingly resilient and like the hide, it just needs a shake down to look as good as new. Apparently (and I don't want to test this) flokatis repel spills too...
Get some discreet storage
We have been blessed with a pretty tidy child, but he still brings his toys into the living room during the day and after he's in bed, I like to make it a grown-up space again. Our storage solution at the moment comes in the form of baskets under our coffee table. I throw everything in, put the baskets on the shelf and order is restored. Best of all the baskets are pretty anonymous and don't give any hint of their contents.
Make the walls kid friendly too
White walls are not for the faint-hearted and I am aware that by having them I am committing myself to an almost constant maintenance routine. An easier option is to paint walls in a colour and to pick a washable paint. It's also worth considering where you hang your pictures. Higher up the wall protects them from breakage if children collide with them during play.