August 18, 2013

Embrace space shared with kids

Style doesn't stop at the entrance to a family room.

By MELISSA RAYWORTH The Associated Press

In many homes, the "family room" is decorated with just one purpose: to withstand the impact of juice-spilling, game-playing, cookie-eating, crayon-wielding children.

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A breakfast nook showcases classic patterns such as plaid, youthful primary colors, and even commercial-grade automotive vinyl that serves as kid-friendly upholstery.

Photos by The Associated Press

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Family photos are cropped tightly, then printed over scale for use as art in a family room dining area

Additional Photos Below

The result is often a room that's long on durability but short on style.

How can you create a stylish, sophisticated family room where grown-ups will want to spend time, while still keeping the space kid-friendly?

Three design experts -- Brian Patrick Flynn of decordemon.com and Flynnside Out Productions; Betsy Burnham of Burnham Design; and Jon Call of Mr. Call Designs -- offer some advice:

STRONG FABRICS

"Design technology and textiles are catching up with our family-friendly lifestyle," says Burnham. "There are so many outdoor fabrics, so many amazing vinyls" that are durable and easy to clean, but also look good. Burnham is a fan of Holly Hunt fabrics treated with Nano-Tex, which resists spills and stains without changing the fabric's texture.

Indoor/outdoor rugs are another great option now that they're being made with materials soft to the touch.

Flynn, who often uses Sunbrella indoor/outdoor fabrics, suggests upholstering with removable slipcovers for easy cleaning.

When choosing slipcovers, "washed linen is great since it's meant to look worn-in and super casual." He's also a fan of very dark denim: "Navy blue and charcoal are my go-to choices for denim slipcovers since they look more tailored than basic beiges or creams."

NEAT SOFAS

Call recommends skipping sofas that have three or four seat cushions and several more cushions across the back. "If you've got kids playing and jumping on those," he says, you'll constantly be finding the cushions out of place or on the floor.

Instead, he says, pick a sofa with one large seat cushion and no separate cushions along the back -- "something tailored and clean looking" that won't need its cushions adjusted constantly.

MULTI-USE TABLES

Family rooms are built for entertaining, so think about flexible seating, Burnham says. "Maybe a side table that's also a stool, or a coffee table that's also a bench or an ottoman."

Kids can use an ottoman as a surface for games, while adult party guests can use it as seating.

Opt for tables with rounded corners for safety in rooms where kids often play, Flynn says, and choose tables with "metal or weathered wood tops. Metal tops can withstand heavy wear and tear, while weathered wood is intended to look worn, so as kids take their toll on the pieces, it simply adds to the intended look."

VARIED LIGHTING

Rooms that do double-duty need lighting that does too, says Call.

"When you have adults over or if you're watching TV or it's a more intimate moment, you want a lamp by the sofa, at eye-level or below, to create intimate pools of light," he says.

But kids doing homework or art projects need the brighter light that overhead fixtures provide. Make sure your family room has both.

EXTRA STORAGE

Have a place for everything, Burnham says, so toys and other kid-related items can be put away easily at the end of the day. She recommends a wall of built-in cabinets with doors, so kids' clutter can be easily stashed, at hand but out of sight.

She also suggests creating storage space in the family room for a few fragile or valuable items that aren't kid-friendly.

"You can have a cashmere throw in the cabinet that you pull out for the adults," Burnham says. By storing these things in the room, you're more likely to really use them, yet they're protected from the kids' play.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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This playful family room uses youth in the decor, with original framed photography of 1980s Duplo figures and a vibrant palette of navy blue and fire engine red.

  


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