For me, designing any kid-friendly space is all about embracing your own youthfulness. So many times, I meet with clients who say something like, “I wish we could do something with the living room or dining room, but until my kids get older it’s useless.” I often consult with clients who have pristine homes, staged to a T, all while an exersaucer or a high chair is crammed in the corner as if it can’t be seen against the formal dining table complete with place settings, silk blend draperies and crystal chandelier.

I am encouraging clients to shift their way of thinking, their approach and often their lifestyles. Perhaps, rather than trying to hide their children’s things or keep all of the toys confined to a playroom or the children’s bedrooms, we can create areas throughout the home that support and encourage every member of the family to be a part of them, adults and children alike.

Here are some design tips that I employ on my own jobs that you can incorporate in your home, as well.

5 Expert Tips for Family-Friendly Design

Let them eat cake.

Depending upon the nature of your home, the layout and your style, you may have an eat-in kitchen, a dining room or both. I encourage clients to have at least one dining table that is reclaimed, refurbished or the like. Tables that present themselves in a “worn” way allow children not only to eat freely and often messily at them, but they also allow children the freedom to partake in arts and crafts, without the threat of hurting or ruining the finish. We have a reclaimed table in my home that is used for meals, crafts, playing with toy trucks and games. When one of the kids decides to draw directly on the table, I embrace it, knowing it will just add to the character and provide our family with a memory that will last. In other words, provide surfaces you won’t stress over, and learn to embrace the imperfections as fleeting moments in your child’s life.

Dining room

A reclaimed or refurbished table, like the one pictured here being watched over by Superman, allows children not only to eat freely and often messily, but it also allows children the freedom to partake in arts and crafts, without the threat of hurting or ruining the finish. Image: Leslee Mitchell

Tiny hands offer big help

Provide surfaces you won’t stress over, and learn to embrace the imperfections as fleeting moments in your child’s life. Image: Leslee Mitchell

Live and let live.

When it comes to living rooms and family rooms, I believe that children’s toys should become part of the decor. I recommend incorporating unique antique toys as accessories on shelves or bookcases; you may have some toys from your own childhood that could easily be used. Display some of your child’s toys at a reachable height and use them the same way, as decor. Remember, these youthful pieces can easily be mixed with framed photos or art, as well as books and accessories that are not intended to be played with or reachable. Use children’s books that are accessible on the lower shelves or surfaces, and allow board games to sit front and center on shelves. Check out some of the great new retro packaging on the old classics like Monopoly and Sorry.

Dot & Bo Console Display

Antique toys blend seamlessly in this console display. Image: Dot & Bo

Restoration Hardware Monopoly

Store board games, like this vintage edition of Monopoly, front and center on shelves. Image: Restoration Hardware

Shop outside the box.

I have had a great deal of luck by shopping the kids’ sections of many local retailers. Don’t be afraid to incorporate youthful rugs and art throughout the space. Regardless of your taste, traditional or contemporary, great design is found in a mindful mix and balance. Find items that your children will appreciate and relate to as much as you do. Embrace color, pattern and texture throughout, and allow your children to delight in their senses. Don’t bypass the kids’ aisle next time you’re shopping. It’ll pay off, and all of your friends will wonder where you scored that unique framed heart with gold accents or the funky, super-soft pillow on your sofa (slipcovers are my favorite, by the way).

Living room

Fun children’s rugs bring a surprising touch of whimsy to a home. Image: Leslee Mitchell

If these walls could speak!

I am a big supporter of chalkboard, dry erase and Lego walls, to name a few. As you likely know, freedom of expression and creativity are important in a child’s development, so once your kids can handle the responsibility of understanding which walls are allowed for play and which are off limits, provide them with an area that they can draw, write or build on. Don’t be afraid to incorporate this area in a central location, like a kitchen or family room, and partake in the fun yourself!

Midcentury Scandinavian Chalkboard

Chalkboard walls are perfect for kitchens and allow for not only function, but for fun as well! Image:

It’s all about balance.

Though I strongly encourage that children feel as much a part of the space as the adults that live there, I do think it’s appropriate to have an area dedicated to adults only, whether it’s a bedroom, sitting room, media room, etc. Having at least one area dedicated for just adults will allow you to have the refuge you need and deserve. I am also a big supporter of playrooms for those who can dedicate the space. Playrooms can be a great space to support free play, specific toys, and books and play mats. At the least, I believe decorative bins and baskets can be offered in various areas throughout the home to encourage and allow family participation and play. Baskets and bins also allow for easy and quick cleanup.

Master Bedroom

By all means, claim a space in your home that’s a kid-free zone, and create a peaceful place where you can rejuvenate. Image: Leslee Mitchell

Embrace your youth and creativity, let your kids help and transform your home into the welcoming, comfortable and inspiring space it can be!

Jessica Davis is a Nashville-based interior designer who specializes functional, creative design. Visit her online at