Kids & Dogs – Designing for Our “Real” Lives


Photos courtesy of Kravet Inc.

We love our kids.  We love our dogs.  But both can wreak havoc in a well-designed home.  However, there are products you can use to protect the life of your furniture without sacrificing style. You want your family to enjoy their time at home, and not be worried about the occasional spill. When I work with families with young children, I suggest we use performance fabric on the major upholstered pieces. This is fabric that is specifically designed to resist stains, and can handle the rough and tumble of pillow fortand pillow fights.   

At Kravet, one of the leading innovators in textiles, Karen Keating, Design Director of their Contract Division, said, “Performance fabrics have evolved in every way from the yarns that are used to create durable and soft textiles to the technology they’re finished with.  Developments in fiber and finishing technology have allowed us to create chenilles and velvets that will withstand the outdoors and accidental spills.” These fabrics are a mom’s mini miracle. 

Another trick of the trade is to use faux leather, aka vinyl, for upholstering kitchen chairs, banquettes, barstools and any other seating that is going to be right in the line of food fire. Vinyl can look almost exactly like leather, and comes in a variety of textures and colors. Plus, I always demonstrate my “ketchup test” – I show the client the sample, take ketchup out of their fridge, and ask them to squeeze it directly onto the material. With a damp sponge, it cleans completely with a wipe or two. Vinyl wall covering, which comes in amazing colors and textures, can also be a lifesaver against saucy fingers as it’s washable with a wet sponge. 

When designing kids rooms, whether it’s a nursery, tween or teen, it’s a chance to have fun. Be whimsical. Fanciful. Creative. But, try to think of the future. A young girl may be head over heels for pink ponies in elementary school, but by ninth grade, she’ll probably feel a little silly about them. So, I give her bedding with pink ponies. Or a soft pink comforter and a giant pony pillow. I try to incorporate personalities and preferences, but unless the parents are all in for regular re-decorating, I keep the room fun, a little daring, playful and instead, accented with pink ponies or robots, or whatever the passion du jour may be. I once had a tween who was insisting on a red room. We found common ground by painting all the trim, including the closets and door, in a beautiful barn red. 

And then we have our dogs. They don’t have design requests, but are a lovable medley of paws, fur, dragged-in dirt, slobber, and the occasional upset stomach, and we love them almost as much as our kids. We certainly can’t change emThere are going to be messes, so how about a dog spa? It sounds luxurious, but it’s also sensible. These are similar to regular showers, but with half walls, and a hand-held shower head, and they make cleaning up after a run at Rockefeller so much easier for both your dog and your sneakers. It’s ideal to locate these near your mudroom if you’re building, but any existing bath can be converted. And if you have a yard where your dog can play around in, make sure to install a dog fencing system to keep your pet safe.

So, here’s to big families with a menagerie of pets – and keeping your home looking great.   

Constance Hall is an interior designer and certified “furniture fanatic. She‘s the owner of Constance Hall Design and can be reached at 914-238-6614 for all interior design needs.

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About the Author: Constance Hall