For many parents, the idea of having a home that is both stylish and childproof is almost laughable. When your daily reality consists of spilt drinks, wayward toys, stray food particles and sticky fingers, interior design is probably pretty low down on your list of priorities. However, it is not difficult to create an interior that is safe, sturdy and child friendly - and looks great, too. Here are 10 tips to help you on your way.
A heavily patterned wallpaper will hide a multitude of sins and is a relatively quick, easy and affordable way to spruce up a tired-looking room. Choose bright, abstract patterns that will disguise grubby fingerprints and even the odd crayon scribble. Mr Perswall does a great range called Hide and Seek, which can be ordered online at www.mrperswall.com. Vinyl wallpaper is also a good bet because it's easy to clean and very durable - expect a lifespan of around seven years. Make sure to look into the many antibacterial options on offer.
You don't have to compromise on your soft furnishings just because you have kids, says the interior designer Melissa Greenauer. There is still plenty of scope to bring fashionable fabrics into the home.
"Firstly, always opt for removable cushion covers in a washable fabric," she suggests. "Why not look at coating your existing fabrics or new order soft goods with treatments such as Nano-Tex or Crypton which bind the fibres of the fabric without changing its look and feel so that any liquid spillages just bead and roll off.
"Also consider bringing some fun outdoor fabrics indoors with collections from the likes of Sunbrella and Chella, which are introducing more outdoor fabrics that have the feel and comfort of an indoor fabric but the durability of an outdoor one," she says.
Keep furniture low lying so it is easy to scramble onto and not too painful to fall off. Cushion-based sofas are best, so choose a model with minimal extrusions and "hardware".
Out of sight
Effective storage solutions are the key to creating an uncluttered, stylish-looking space. But that's only half the battle - you also have to get the kids to buy into it. Fiona Falconer, an interiors public relations consultant and mother of two, suggests investing in a shelving unit and baskets from Ikea, and then getting creative.
"As every parent knows, it is important to teach your children that there's a place for everything and toys should be tidied away at the end of every day," she says. "Creating your own labels can be a fun way of involving your kids in the organisation process.
"After you have decided what goes into each basket, you can create your own label tags by setting up a photo shoot for the toys. Take samples from each basket - one for cars, another for superheroes etc - and set them up on a plain, coloured background to create a great shot. Drop in some text, print it off onto cards and you have your own label tag. For children who can't read yet, it's a great, visual way of showing what goes where," she says.
Cover your walls with a good quality, wipeable paint. Magic Touch by Dulux is a hard-wearing, washable emulsion with antibacterial, anti-fungal and flame retardant properties.
When it comes to choosing the right colour, bright white is definitely not recommended. Opt for off-whites, champagnes and chocolate browns to mask the inevitable fingerprint or food particle. Also make sure to go for toxin- and odour-free paints. Jotun's Fenomastic Gold Interior paint has low volatile organic compound content, minimal odour and comes in a range of colours. It also has anti-fungal, antibacterial and anti-fire spread properties, a high crack tolerance of 1.4mm, and applies and dries easily.
When it comes to carpeting, avoid silks and other delicate materials - they definitely won't survive a run-in with your toddler's Tonka truck. Go for natural fibres such as seagrass, short pile wool or a cotton mix. Again, it's probably advisable to avoid very light colours.
A work of art
If you are still unsure about investing in areas that your kids have free rein over, why not focus on those out-of-reach spots? Your floors may look like an obstacle course and your furniture may be battered, but what about those areas that the kids can't get to? Art work and wall hangings are a great way to transform a room and can be hung well out of the way of prying hands. We love the Peggy Wolf collages on www.boxedonline.com.
You don't have to expunge your home of glass because you have kids. Just make sure it is tempered, which means it is four to five times stronger than standard glass and, in case it does shatter, will not break into sharp shards.
Wooden floors are one of the easiest ways to uplift a space - and they're surprisingly child friendly. Just make sure you choose a wood with the right surface treatment. Kährs wood floors by the Dubai-based Nordic Homeworx come with three different treatments: silk matt lacquer, matt lacquer and nature oil, and all are suitable for a family home, says Pauline Madani, the company's managing director. In addition, all surface treatments are solvent free.
"With so many harmful environmental pollutants in our day-to-day lives, both in the foods we eat and our outdoor lives, it is comforting to know that a wood floor is completely natural, enabling you and your children to breathe easy," says Madani.
Don't overdo it
It is your responsibility to create a safe, secure, comfortable space for your children to grow up in - but there's balance to be had. "Children need to grow up in an adult environment, not vice versa," says Marie-Noelle Swiderski, the managing director of the Dubai-based interior design firm Blanchard and a mother herself.
"You can be practical but you shouldn't have to dumb down your environment entirely just because you have children. They are going to come into contact with vases and other breakable items at some point, so far better to teach them how to respect these items in their own home than to have them learn the hard way when they are visiting their friends."