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.