Creating a great family-friendly home

There are lots of things that nobody tells you about parenthood. For example, nobody tells you that caring for a baby can be relentlessly hard work, or that getting out of the house, even to go for a short walk, will now take you at least half an hour, or that your shoulders will start to droop from carrying around so much child-related stuff. But most of all, nobody tells you what parenthood does to your house.

New parents who have been used to living in a neat, tidy and clean environment – and who want to keep it that way – are in for a shock. Children have an astonishing capacity to create havoc, and before you know it, there will be unidentifiable foodstuffs in your DVD player, Legos all over the floor and an ocean of plastic toys taking up half of your home. That is before you count the strollers, changing mats, bags of diapers and everything else you need to keep junior running. So what can parents who want to continue to live in a pleasing environment do about this?

The key to creating a family-friendly home lies in practicality. Forget about fancy drapes and expensive carpets for a while – they are simply not going to work. What families need are lots of storage and durable, easy-to-clean surfaces and materials. Just a few years ago, that would have been incompatible with style trends, but thankfully times have changed.

It is now entirely possible to create a beautiful, practical home that unites these qualities. Modern materials such as rigid plastics, vinyls and reproduction stone are now available as items of furniture and house decor in wonderful colors, patterns and designs. All that matters now is your own ability to choose and combine elements to suit your taste.

For example, gone are the days of endlessly washing heavy drapes: polyvinyl shutters are practical and durable, so even if one of the kids throws their dinner at them (and sooner or later, they will), it only takes a quick wipe to make them good as new. They are also easy to dust, so less likely than fabric to irritate allergy-prone family members.

Brightly colored plastic furniture is hugely practical for families and need not look childish. Lots of high-end designers are following this trend right now. Flooring is another area to consider: children can ruin carpets very quickly, so why not try real or reproduction stone tiles, brightly colored plastics or linoleum?

Most important of all is storage. Take a good, honest look at the volume of toys and books your family owns and purchase cupboards and storage units accordingly. Remember, these items are going to be heavily used, so do check drawer runners and overall structure for durability before buying.

In summary, while keeping a family home beautiful can be a challenge, it is not insurmountable. With judicious choice of materials and keeping practicality in mind, a family house really can be a pleasing, even a stylish, environment.