In the family room of a custom home in McLean, interior designer Barbara Hawthorn covered the sofa in an iridescent blue fabric by Knoll that she describes as “indestructible.” The handmade, egg-shaped coffee table doubles as storage for toys. Photo: Kenneth M. Wyner

Family Central

Expert advice on how to create kid-proof spaces stylish enough for entertaining

Ideas from our H&D Design Partners

Laura Hildebrandt
Interiors by LH, LLC
Photo: Jenn Verrier


As lifestyles change, homeowners increasingly value using all their rooms every day rather than only on special occasions. Manufacturers have embraced this trend by developing beautiful yet hardworking fabrics that can take spills and messes. And improved finishes mean that not using a coaster won’t ruin the table. A well-designed home can stand up to everyday life and still look gorgeous when company comes to visit.
—Laura Hildebrandt, IFDA, NKBA, Interiors by LH

Barbara Hawthorn
Barbara Hawthorn Interiors
Photo: Kenneth M. Wyner


Today’s new technologies are producing fabrics, flooring and carpets that combine the feel of luxury with the ease of cleaning with natural soap and water— or even bleach if needed. Upholstered pieces should be of the highest bench-made quality so as to stand the test of time, active children and pets. There should be plenty of storage for flexible seating.
—Barbara Hawthorn, IFDA, Barbara Hawthorn Interiors, LTD.

Laura Fox
Laura Fox Interior Design, LLC


Creating separate zones is key. Utilizing furniture and floor coverings to define spaces for TV time, board games, formal entertaining and even study areas can impart balance in a space that is functional for both kids and adults.
—Laura Fox, Laura Fox Interior Design, LLC


Purple Cherry Architects



Today, no one expects formality, so the family-room-as-living-room has become the trend. As long as it doesn’t become a recreation room, this space will stay relatively clean; durable yet sophisticated fabrics and leathers and a large wool area rug will keep it presentable. Flexibility is key to successful entertaining. Lights on dimmers and room for last-minute additional seating helps. For the kid stuff, a cocktail table with ample storage is the answer.
—Cathy Purple Cherry, AIA, LEED AP, CAS, Purple Cherry Architects

Melanie Whittington
Whittington Design Studio


The secret to a family- and pet-friendly space that is stylish and welcoming for entertaining lies in what you put where. We choose durable performance fabrics on heavily used furnishings and save the showstopper elements for locations that can deliver impact without taking a hit from the kids. These include eye-catching art on the walls or a glamorous light fixture on the ceiling.
—Melanie Whittington, Whittington Design Studio