Saturday, 28 May 2011

How to... live with
kids in style

Ferm Living's Aristo Cats cushion at Skandivis
Kids: can’t live with them – well, not in a stylish home. Or can you? I once interviewed a couple with a – chic, all-white – house full of sticky littl'uns. Their secret? Brilliant white walls – all the cheaper for touching up handprints, and a wipe-clean eggshell finish (bounced heaps of light around, too). What do other stylish parents suggest?


Toy Store-y "There will be mess," says Poppy Norton, of swish kiddie stuff shopping guide and discount hub Babystylefile, "so make it pretty by choosing nicely designed toys. And low-level storage means kids can help themselves." She favours the felt tub from Nubie (above, top left). Cheap, no (at £73). Chic, yes. Or tuck toys into a trio of Habitat's hot pink or beige laundry bags, £10, in bathrooms (or on any tiled surfaces as they come with wall suckers) or hang their recycled rice bag versions on hooks (both above, bottom right and left respectively) or try Ikea's Nasum baskets (£15.31).


Love the one you're with “Use what's there: an old dresser or a Victorian cold cupboard make good toy storage,” suggests Lucy Inskip of Housedoctor.co.uk, a national network of designers. "Anything that's beautiful on the outside. One client had built in storage made in the dining room, an otherwise under-used area (with a view to reclaiming it for her dinner service eventually)."

Mini moderns The modernist look of Bloom Baby products (above, top and bottom left: the Alma Mini Crib, £300; and the Coco Plexistyle , £195, bottom right) is good enough for adults and I love the Hippie Tipis at Scandavis £140.

Everything in its place "Make tidy-up time part of the children’s routine," Inskip continues. "Involve them by having storage boxes which they can throw everything in and do it to music to make it fun. But don’t keep all playthings in one space: it can be overwhelming for you and them.Books and soft toys can live in bedrooms, play-dough and paints in the utility or under-sink, outside toys in a playhouse or garden store and only a selection of toys at one time in your main day to day play area.”

A vintage year "Don't rule out mixing in vintage pieces," says Poppy Norton. "I think people rush out to get everything new for their bundle of new, but a well-loved piece of furniture can soften a room.

People in glass houses "If you are desperate for more space consider a conservatory," adds Lucy Inskip. "A lovely light daytime play area – and by night a candle-lit retreat... if you can stay awake that long. A conservatory doesn't usually need planning permission and is much cheaper than an extension or moving."

Grow up “Providing the children a table area doesn’t have to mean coloured plastic and Ikea chairs.  A large coffee table with an old school bench alongside provides a perfect perch for little bottoms. Having a vintage look for furniture in those pre-school years means any imperfections blend in. Antique trunks also make great toy storage”. As per images above, The Peanut Vendor has a gorgeous trunk  and this old factory trolley base, £185, which could work as a kid-proof coffee table.

The clean-up woman“Banishing valuable or potentially dangerous ornaments can lead to a dull looking room," adds Lucy Inskip. "Instead, add interest with child-friendly touches such as throws, cushions, rugs, wall art and beautifully accessorised shelving that little hands can’t reach.”

Colour me bad “Don't fear going ‘too dark’,” says Poppy Norton. “My son’s room is Farrow and Ball Charleston Gray – a great backdrop for bright artwork and a bold, feature wallpaper.”

Doodle do Murals can be cool (just don’t invest too much – they’ll hate it next year). One artistic friend painted her son a Super Mario; you could go ready-made at Funkylittledarlings.co.uk, as seen above: right 'Birdies' £60 per 100cm square; Lost Garden Wallscene ™, £165 for 2.44m x 2.75m; World Champions bespoke mural (price according to size/design).

Without walls “Open plan is great for families,” says architect Krystyna Brooks of Designyourhouse.co.uk. “Add an island unit to cook while watching the children play.” She also suggests underfloor heating and hiding homework in a fold-away computer corner. See her site for details of suppliers.

Ditch the deep pile At least downstairs. Mop-able vinyl now comes in fashionable brights. Try Colour Flooring (seen above) which comes in 18 gorgeous colours and costs just £19 per square metre.

Hipsters’ delight Nippaz With Attitude’s A-Z print , £34.99, includes Stevie Wonder and Malcolm X. Love their personalised 'Monster' posters, too, £49.99 (above)  They also do Ibiza and hip hop lullaby CDs. Who said having kids meant growing up?


* A longer version of these tips was first printed in the Independent on Sunday

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