Tags: Featured Story, Food & Home, Parenting, Party and Entertainment
When you’ve got kids, you know that social interaction is a huge deal! From preschool playdates all the way up to high school and group prom dates, kids and parents like to be around each other. Many mamas need the adult bonding and venting time as much as the kids need to learn valuable social skills. It’s inevitable that some of these meet-ups will take place at someone’s house. No matter the age of the kids, you quickly learn that some homes are more kid-friendly than others. You figure out which ones are cozy and simple, where the kids can run and play without breaking a vase, and the others that are gorgeous, pristine and Instagram perfect, but where you might also want to confine the playdate to the backyard.
Then there are the homes that are a perfect balance of the two - thoughtfully coordinated decor and furniture that is beautiful AND functional for every stage of kid life. It IS possible to have a beautiful home that is conducive to life with children, and Nancy Alvarado is just the person to show you how to do that!
I had the pleasure of meeting Nancy, who is an interior designer for Castle and Cooke. She stages all of the new homes throughout their master-planned communities and also has the privilege of working with Gaskill Rose Luxury Home Builders as their in-house designer. Her love of design began in college and over the past 20 years she’s grown that passion into a successful business. After raising three boys, she is equally passionate about helping others create kid-friendly, attractive homes.
1. How has being an interior designer influenced you as a mother?
My three sons have all worked with me at some point. They know how hard I work, and that I expect the same from them. They may or may not appreciate that I’m a perfectionist, but I think they realize that it makes me so happy to create such beautiful spaces for my clients. It’s a blessing and a curse for them in our own home, because they know I have definite opinions and expectations for their bedrooms …but they do have great looking bedrooms!!
2. What advice do you offer to clients with children, even before you start the design process?
So, I like to say that three boys is a bit of a theme in my family. My dad was the oldest of 3 boys, my oldest sister has 3 boys, and I have 3 boys. One of the most important things that my sister has taught me is to “make your home the place where your kids and their friends feel welcome and want to hang out.” Not only did I take that advice and run with it, I also impart the same advice to all of my clients who have kids. Over the years, the majority of my clients have had kids. They’ve ranged from newborn to college age, but that advice holds true regardless of age. Obviously, it will need to transition as kids become adults, but I think most people still want to have the house that others want to be in. Creating a space that is welcoming and “family” or “kid” friendly is the way to ensure your home is always the place
3. Are there any must-have items in a family-friendly home?
Storage ottomans or benches are great for a bunch of reasons - they become additional seating, and they are handy for storing soft blankets, games, or lots of little messes when in-laws make a surprise visit!
Floor pillows are also wonderful additions to a family room, living room, or game room. They’re perfect for lounging on while watching movies or playing games, and they can serve as beds when your kids have sleep overs. I still utilize floor pillows and throw pillows, a recliner, and every inch of our sectional sofa when teenagers end up “camping out” on the weekend at our house.
I also love lamps! I’ve had clients who actually believed that they could not have table lamps because their kids might break them. First, never encourage the breaking of anything in your house. Next, there are plenty of “kid safe” lamps out there..metal, wicker, and wood, to name a few. Lamps create warmth and welcome like nothing else, and I recommend timers or smart bulbs so you can pre-program your lights to turn on/off. It’s really nice to come home to soft lighting that’s already on, and it’s a great safety measure too!
4. When it comes to flooring options, what do you recommend for high traffic areas? How would you “cozy up” a space with hard flooring?
So many innovative products have helped with the cleanup aspect of making your home “kid friendly”. Luxury vinyl plank flooring is waterproof, pet proof, and crazy durable. There are carpets that actually repel stains, solid surface countertops with no grout lines to keep clean, and some really luxurious looking synthetic fabrics that are easier to keep clean than ever before. It’s easy to create a look for your home that is both beautiful and durable, when you have so many innovative options.
If your floor material is hard ...add an area rug, and don’t forget a comfy pad underneath to make it nice and cushy for lounging on.
5. With tiny hands (or even grownup hands) touching every surface in sight in a busy home, what are some things to consider when choosing paint and furniture colors?
“Flat” or “matte” paint is a big NO NO for families!! Try paint with at least a “satin” finish so your walls will be easier to clean when finger prints, miscellaneous marks, etc. inevitably find their way to every single wall in your house! (Oh, and “Magic Eraser” is one of the best inventions since air freshener ...invest in both!)
However, don’t be afraid of light colored furniture. That’s what upholstery cleaner is for! The benefit to light furniture is that you can SEE when it gets dirty. Of course, that’s also the bad news.
6. What are some ways to incorporate child tastes in the design of your home?
One of the greatest little secrets I have for anyone who wants to give their kids the opportunity to incorporate ideas is…LARGE PHOTO FRAMES
Yep, frames are a fantastic way to add ANYTHING that your child wants to their space. If they love superheroes, cartoon characters, or princesses, buy/print pictures of those favorites and put them in the frames. If they love to draw or paint, FRAME it. If they love a sport, or a sports team, buy/print photos of anything related to that sport or team and frame that. It’s honestly the easiest, most cost effective, and frankly the most BRILLIANT way to help your kids create a space they love!
OH… and as they grow and their favorite things change, all you have to do is change the photos to their new likes!
7. Any final pieces of advice or words to live by?
Especially now during this global pandemic, people are remodeling and decorating more than ever. This is still the age of HGTV, DIY Network, and my personal favorite...YouTube videos!! TV shows give people what I call “instant and inexpensive” expectations, but it’s simply not reality. Most home improvement shows are filmed over the span of months and can take a year or two before they even air. Things change so quickly in the construction and design industry that what you see could be outdated already, or prices and availability could change. It really is true that anything worth having is worth doing well, but that means time and patience. Rushing leads to mistakes or missteps, and that can prove to be more costly. Take the time to figure out what you want, what you already have, and what you can afford.
Your home is a reflection of you, your family, and the life you lead. The most important thing is that it should meet the needs of you and your family. It should be the place that you are most comfortable in.
If you desire the house that everyone else is also comfortable in...then the most important thing is always, YOU. It won’t matter what is inside your house for people to feel welcome and comfortable, because when you make people feel welcome they will want to be in your home.
And honestly, couldn’t we all use that warm and welcoming feeling this time of year, and especially with everything happening in our world? I think so.
Nancy shared some practical and inspiring ways to make our homes more kid and family friendly! Even better is how easy and affordable her suggestions are. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some new storage ottomans!