Do you have to sacrifice style when you have kids? It’s an age-old design question many parents ask — and my clients, Nicole and Trevor, are no exception. The young couple live in a charming house with their two small children, but when I met them they were up to their ears in diapers and teddy bears.

The couple spent a good deal of time in a large living/dining room that was disorganized and uninspiring, but they didn’t know how to improve it. They longed for a stylish, adult space where they could relax and entertain, but also needed a place that could weather juice boxes and muddy sneakers.

Now, I know a thing or two about managing crayons, sticky, chocolate-pudding fingers — and the occasional baby-food spit-up. So, I happily called in my crew and geared up to give Nicole and Trevor a kid-proof space with a cool, industrial, “grown-up” vibe.

The secret to this type of makeover centers around the principle of indestructible design — blending form and function in ways that ensure materials, fabrics and furnishings are durable and chic. With this in mind, I chose a variety of stylish, hardworking elements for the redesign. Things like raked wood, impenetrable stone and smudge-proof metal fit well with my design.


I began by painting much of the wall space a relaxing shade of cream, and putting up gorgeous brown cork wallpaper along one wall of the adjoining living and dining rooms.

The living area had a big non-functioning fireplace, but its brown stucco finish made it an eyesore. So, I painted it a beautiful shade of cream, put down some stone tiles and flanked it with new shelving units. I wanted to install a gas insert, but (because of venting issues) opted instead for a decorative look that features candles, a mirror insert and a tempered glass safety screen.

I got rid of the room’s outmoded furniture and put in a three-piece sofa in a resilient, creamy-colored outdoor fabric. I also chose a beautiful brown armchair, a round wooden coffee table and a dent-proof vintage steel footlocker that will function as a side table.

I then upped the color ante with a beautiful Ikat-patterned fabric that contains shades of blue, green, brown and cream. The material was used to make drapes for both rooms and it served as my jumping-off point for the accent colors in the space. I also put down a rugged, multicolored patchwork rug that can be trusted to hide all manner of kid spills.

In the dining room, I installed a long, durable white vinyl banquette along the cork-papered wall. This banquette will function as part of the seating for a new table that consists of reclaimed wood atop an indestructible steel base.


I chose cool white dining-room chairs and two funky high chairs that can later be converted into toddler chairs. When choosing furnishings for children, I look for durability. After all, design is an investment — and it has to grow with you.

I then lightened and brightened the rooms by putting up two industrial-inspired pendant lights above the dining-room table and two lamps on either side of the fireplace.

Lastly, I added a host of accessories — vases, artwork, accent pillows — and made sure the “breakables” were well out of reach of curious little hands.

The verdict? Ignore the naysayers. I say you can have it all — kids and style! By combining resilient yet fashionable fabrics, finishes and furnishings, Nicole and Trevor’s space went from bland to beautiful and is now ready for splendid dinners, relaxing evenings — and a messy tyke or two.

Interior decorator Candice Olson is host of HGTV’s “Candice Tells All.”