Style Court

Eight Years of Textiles, History, Art, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes

7.07.2009

Surfing Inside

It's hard to resist pictures like this. Nothing loosens up a room like a child or a dog. And, truth be told, for adults this is a not-so-subtle way of saying "My sofa looks kind of uptight but I'm a fun aunt," or "I'm a cool mom." Hence all the "bouncing on bed" photos in shelter magazines.

Personally, I do prefer not having to say "don't touch" very often. Smudges don't really bother me.

(Rebecca Vizard stockings used as boxing gloves.)

This battered old upholstered bench of mine is still the most used, kid-friendly piece I own because it's sturdy (at least so far), low to the ground, has relatively soft corners and sports a forgiving print that hides smudges.

I'm happy to see it enjoyed, but I wouldn't encourage skate board jumps from it. Aside from obvious safety issues, there's the concern of promoting a rock star mentality that says it's okay to trash other people's things.

I also wouldn't serve a birthday cake on it, but I don't mind cups with lids. (The bench is my coffee table.) Blurry boundaries, maybe. These days, when it comes to kids and furniture, everyone has different views on what is appropriate and what isn't.

When my parents were growing up, the "inside rules" were fairly strict and universal. Outside, though, they were free; allowed to climb tall trees and explore their neighborhood on bikes without adults around.

[Fast forward a couple of decades; Lisa Borgnes Giramonti's husband in the 1970s.]

Today, most of my friends teach their toddlers never to stand in tipsy dining chairs: "You have a choice, either kneel or sit." But they are much looser with sofas. I was curious to learn how designer-moms and tastemaker-moms handle things around the house. Here's what a few had to say.

Laura Casey is a North Carolina-based interior designer and mother of boys who cut her decorating teeth working with Victoria Hagan and Cullman and Kravis. She is an ace at offering her clients chic, attainable options that are always compatible with family life. (The tailored table skirt below solved one client's entry hall woes.)

About her own house Laura says, "The sofas in the family room get jumped on literally everyday. Just today Brooks [age three] put all of the cushions and pillows on the floor and told me he was building a rocket ship. My thought is pretend play is better than having the TV on all afternoon! Plus, how tiring to yell at boys all the time to sit down. Coleman [almost age two] follows right along. While I do let them do this there are rules about behaving at other people's houses. They know that these sofas are for jumping but that is not a universal rule."

And she adds, "A few months after Brooks was born, formula spilled all over sofas that I had just reupholstered. It was the first time that I had to think about what was ahead of me...I decided then not to sweat it and to keep to that [philosophy] going forward. Up on a mantle out of reach, there are a few things that are precious to me for sentimental reasons more than monetary value. "

Laura's kid-proofing tips:

1. Proseal the fabrics
2. Put eggshell on the walls
3. Use washable crayons
4. Keep Herend and crystal out of reach.

"Other than that, they can pretty much play 'pirates' all day long. I always think a house becomes a home when it is really lived in and my boys do just that!"

Mrs. Blandings, also the mother of three young boys, explains that no room is off limits in the dream house. However, "All food must stay in the kitchen (or dining room if we are eating there.) We have a shoe basket by our back door but it is for the ease of finding them rather than for cleanliness."

She does confess to coveting that low white Bill Sofield tusk table from Baker. Several years ago when she showed it to Mr. Blandings, he said, “Will you be mad if the boys jump off of it?”

And she replied, “Well, yes, it’s lacquer; it will scratch.”

“Then pass,” he advised. Today Mrs. Blandings says children understand limits, but "restraining from launching yourself off of a table with tusk legs might be too much to ask."

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti is mom to seven-year-old Luca.

She says, "Although he's learning to treat things with respect, 'Spills happen' is still my daily mantra. I have a newfound appreciation for scratches and stains; they season a home and give it character. My concern is more about safety. I try to curb Luca's impulse to careen at top speed down the stairs, for example. But kids still need to have fun. When it came to jumping on the daybed in the living room, instead of forbidding my son to do it, I enrolled him in a gymnastics trampoline class...and now he springs with infinitely more balance and control. He knows it's a special treat that can only be done at our house, with me looking on!"

Lisa's other kid-proofing rules:

1. Sticky fingers go on your napkin and not on the chair you're sitting on.
2. Food belongs in the kitchen, unless it's popcorn, which can be eaten anywhere.
3. Permanent markers are for grownups; washable markers are for everybody.

BTW: Lisa's family has something else that really loosens up a room: a guitar. Lately I've been noticing the instrument in so many of my saved magazine tears.

For the next round of pictures, I may have to borrow my nine-year-old neighbor's.

Bedroom design, last image, David Cafiero, of Cafiero Select, photography by Francois Halard. Laura Casey photographed by Dawn Kjeldsen Freeland. Mrs. Blandings photographed by Gary Fabro. Crayons via the Crayola Store.

27 comments:

Elizabeth said...

I LOVE the fabric on your bench...love, love, love.

Style Court said...

Thanks Elizabeth! I'm afraid it's become over-exposed but it makes me happy.

Alicia said...

My best advice came a long time ago when a man in Kansas was being interviewed after just losing everything to a tornado...
"Never cry for anything that can't cry for you."
Amen to that.

Mrs. Blandings said...

Ah! I forgot permanent markers and am so glad Lisa remembered. They are like knives at our house - totally off limits.

Tracy @ comfortandluxury said...

I have an off-white sectional that I took delivery of when I was on maternity leave nineteen years ago. Upholstered, not slip-covered. Most people thought I was crazy buying a white sofa with a baby on the way, cats, a dog and a husband with a dirty job. But I wanted white so that was that. Over the years, it's survived wine spills, blood stains, chocolate chip cookie crumbs and who knows what else. It's hosted big family holiday parties, little girl slumber parties and grown-up dinner parties. I never really babied it but we didn't eat pizza on it every night either. I deep cleaned it last week (an every-other-year or so affair), and it still looks great. I've wished many times to have slips made for it or to replace it with a slip-covered version, but it cleans up so well and is so comfortable and has been with us for so long, I just can't. Not yet.
You can have a stylish home and kids at the same time, but like Laura Casey said, you learn to not sweat it when things get a little messy. And you learn to spot clean like a pro. And, if you're lucky, you buy a magic sofa.

Shani said...

That is a great bench. It is a beautiful pattern and I love that it hides stains well! It's amazing how children- no matter how many - can fill every inch of a home. I used to think that our living room would be off limits... now it is where we have toddler dance parties.

Barbara said...

As a kid, neither I nor my brother would have ever thought of jumping on the sofa nor on the beds. It just wasn't done, but I don't remember ever being told not too. I guess it's a generational thing.

home before dark said...

I'm with Barbara. I think children need to learn rules or be born knowing how to slipcover, remove stains, how to repair drywall. Letting children be children is not loving them. It is abdicating responsibility. Do you think for a minute you will be able to do in their rooms (when they grow up) what they have done in yours? You don't have to be a monster. You just have to set the rules and some space for them to be free (like in a park).

Style Court said...

Hi HBD, thanks for commenting.

I feel like I should add that everyone I talked to believes in rules and boundaries. And personally, I didn't mean it is cute when kids disrespect their surroundings. Everyone seems to have a different point of view about what is reasonable and what is too much.

I also meant this post to be somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Obviously adults have to be in charge.

Style Court said...

I'll try to follow up with the etiquette guidelines from decades past. It will be fun to compare and contrast :)

annechovie said...

Fun post, Courtney. There's a fine line between teaching respect and being dubbed a "meanie". Tough call...I agree with you, everyone just has to feel their own way.

Sophie @ Century Finds said...

My kids know which sofas belong to children (upstairs) and which belong to adults and may only be sat on (downstairs). Apart from that, we make sure to have sturdy coffee tables which survive being climbed on.
I also make sure they know the rules are different outside the home. The first time we hosted a childrens party I was taken aback at how all the children except mine thought it was OK to jump and walk all over my lounge furniture - while their parents looked on. So maybe I am stricter than I think ;-)

Liz said...

What a great topic! And timely too, as I'm expecting my first child to arrive any day now and have been giving this very subject much thought and preparing myself to let go a bit. Thanks for having these stylish moms share their thoughts!

Style Court said...

Congrats Liz and Godspeed !!

Sanity Fair said...

This is just such a great post - I don't have kids and hadn't honestly thought a lot about most of these things (except when little visitors come, and I realize how ill prepared I am). Learned a lot - and really enjoyed your unique idea to ask designers WITH children how they handle it. Love the picture arrangements reflected in the mirror too - so well done.

pve design said...

Wonderful, one British Mom at the park simply stated to her son, "slides are for sliding and stairs are for climbing" but boys do have a mind to climb slides, and to slide on steps and down banisters...
I think exposing children to fine things but then the things that have the "fortitude" to withstand the test of time...things that get better with age or have some sort of childhood residue left behind are better.
All the Mothers you have posted emulate this, teaching their children to live and love life beautifully.
pve

le style et la matière said...

I don't have any problem with my own children, it's when their friends come over that I feel nervous- but I know the little darlings aren't bouncing off the walls in their OWN homes. Makes me wonder how mine behave elsewhere!

Karen said...

Fun post. And hey even adults have spills...

bluehydrangea said...

Love this post! I have 3 children and God love them they are pigs!! thank goodness for white slip-covers and spot cleaner. No rooms are off limits and I'll have nicer fabrics when I don't have a one-year-old!

Style Court said...

Sanity -- I appreciate that!

Karena said...

You want your children and grandchildren to be curious and inquisitive , also respectful....some things are instinctive, like the desire to touch interesting objects ( I do it all the time!)

Anonymous said...

I am a big fan of the oriental rugs, spill after spill, they just hold up and look better more worn in!
These rooms are beautiful! I think music brings a lot of rooms to life whether it is a piano or guitar. Recently I saw the new Luxe magazine in L.A., I think it was designer Tia Zoldan and the room was shot with a piano and a guitar and it was all about chic kid friendly-ness!

Laura Casey Interiors said...

Enjoyed reading all these comments. I may let my boys jump on the old sofas but I am tough as nails on manners...

style chronicle said...

As a mother of four, I don't hold any of my possesions too tightly. I want my children to be free to color outside the lines and live in the moment as much as possilble.

That said, there is a need to teach our children to care for the things that they live with and own and to be equally respectful in the homes others. It is a fine balance.

I don't mind the stains and smudges in my home. They tell the story of my life. In my opinion, a slightly worn room is quite elegant. Afterall, true style is not caring too much.

Great post!

Meg said...

This is such a great post! Love reading behind the scenes; Laura is one of my favorite bloggers and a new friend so it was wonderful to see her included!

Style Court said...

Hi Meg, thanks for stopping by. Laura is terrific!

Rebecca Vizard said...

Love seeing my stocking ornaments being used as boxing gloves, when my two kids were little, if I needed a break I would let them draw all over my back with washable markers. Then we would get in the tub and they would soap up my back and wash it off. Closest thing I could get to a massage in My tiny town! Loved this post!