The phrase “practical furniture” tends to carry a connotation similar to that of “sensible shoes”: “useful, comfortable, but ugly.”
Stylistic concessions are often considered a fact of life when raising young children. Most parents have little interest in investing money in furniture they love, only to have it scuffed, dented, or—shall we say—“refinished” by a younger member of the family.
Parenting is a tremendous gift, and while it does involve many sacrifices, your home décor doesn’t have to be one of them. It’s possible, and easier than it might seem, to have a living space that is both functional and beautiful.
We asked moms to share their favorite pieces that have withstood the unintentional abuse of young children, without taking away from the chosen aesthetic of the room.
Especially if your space is small, a dining (craft/puzzle/everything else) table may be at the top of your shopping list. For the amount of time you and your family will spend here sharing meals, snacking, learning, and creating, your main table needs to be sturdy and easy to care for. The key is in the finish.
Verily editor Laura Loker shares, “Our previous table was beautiful, but very touchy—we had to keep a plastic cover on it all the time or risk ruining the wood finish. Our new one has a modern profile that we love, and the white laminate surface is the best part: anything—from mac and cheese to crayon—wipes right off.”
As beautiful as hardwood floors can be, hard surfaces aren’t great for little ones learning to crawl and walk. Then again, rugs can be difficult and costly to clean. Enter Ruggables. These two-piece floor coverings include a mat that stays in place on the floor (similar to a conventional rug pad) and a decorative top that fits in a household washer and dryer. One mom resorted to all-caps to tell us how much she loves the two in her home.
Verily Home contributor Kelsey T. Chun suggests jute rugs for mudrooms or high traffic areas (like living rooms). “Because of their natural color variation and heavy, uneven texture, it’s much harder to see stains and messes than on most rugs with geometric or intricate designs (even for lighter/natural colored jute rugs).” She also points out that this material is equally popular with and highly sought after by those without kids. “Joanna Gaines uses them in her interior design,” says Chun. “What further proof is needed?”
We love furniture that does double duty, and an upholstered storage ottoman reigns as queen in this category. A mom of two tells us hers is “filled to the brim with stuffed animals, which means they aren’t strewn about my living room.” Unlike the one pictured above, the lid on hers also flips over into trays to hold drinks. Even if you choose one that doesn’t so explicitly bring Transformers to mind, selecting an upholstered ottoman in place of a traditional coffee table means eliminating sharp corners from the paths of little ones on the go.
When it comes to couches, it’s all about the fabric. Some moms liked leather for how easy it is to wipe clean (unless your kid squirts hand sanitizer on it; ask me how I know) and for how it gets more comfortable over time, while maintaining its shape and structure.
Another mom chose a couch made with navy Sunbrella fabric. Yes, indoor couches are made with this material (we aren’t suggesting you put patio furniture in your living room). With five kids and a hamster to care for, she also praised the ease with which she can wipe her couch clean.
Time and again, we moms sing the praises of a machine-washable slipcover—even white and beige ones! The trick is making sure it fits your couch as well as possible, just like you would a blazer or tailored pants. If you find yourself re-adjusting more often than you’d like, try tucking a narrow cylinder (like the cardboard from a roll of wrapping paper or even a pool noodle) in the crevice between the seat and backrest after you apply the slipcover. Also try arranging the slipcover when it’s still slightly damp from the wash, to minimize wrinkles.
Quality secondhand pieces
For seating as well as storage and dining sets, moms frequently recommended purchasing used items from places like Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist rather than buying new. Look for pieces made by higher-end manufacturers, as they will stand up better over time. Searching these sites with the brand name whose style best suits your aesthetic can help filter what’s available and make the process go faster.
The best advice we got, though, was about the mentality with which we approach furnishing our families’ living spaces. One mom recognized that it’s natural for kids to make messes as they grow in creativity. She also noted that with less furniture in her home, her space doesn’t feel as cluttered, which calms her.
Another mom told us, “It is very important for kids to grow up with a sense of beauty,” and we agree. Function is important, but so is truly feeling at home in the places where we spend so much of our time with the people we love the most.
Interested in more home inspiration? Verily Home, a twice-a-month newsletter, features home projects big and small, from choosing a new couch to upgrading the knobs and pulls on your dresser to setting a beautiful dinner table. And if you want help with a particular area of your home, we can help: subscribers are invited to submit an area of their home they’d like advice on, and our designers will offer ideas with their style and budget in mind. To start your free trial or learn more, click here.