Last week I received this email from a reader: “I keep reading about designers picking sturdy, stain resistant fabric, but without more detail. In other words can I have a white room that is child proof? ” I feel that the best room is one that is great looking, but simultaneously meets your current lifestyle. This reader has a 3.5 year old boy and almost 2 year old girl? My bottom line answer to her is yes with conditions….Here is my top list of ten ways to have kids + white rooms.
1. Use a few pieces of white furniture (consoles, side tables, etc), all in varying shades of white. This will give variety and depth to the space. White furniture is easy to clean and touch up if it gets scratched.
2. Zippers and Scotch Gaurd on seat cushions. When I need fabrics pre-treated I send them to a company (Proseal Plus) who specializes in this before sending them on to my upholsterer. They also sell a special cleaner to be used on fabrics that have been treated. I tell you that this stuff works miracles. Zippers allow for cushions to come off easily and be spot cleaned or partially replaced.
3. Slipcovers are also a good way to get longevity out of a fabric. If there is a spill or damage to one part of it a seamstress or workroom can replace that section. Make sure to buy a few yards extra in case your fabric gets discontinued or runs out of stock. Slipcovers can be very fitted and tailored, using them does not mean you have to do the shabby chic look.
4. Skirt around all white, this is where I fake it a little yet still achieving the look of all white. Some of the upholstery should be a khaki or neutral color that will wear a little better. The upholstery is going to get the dirtiest. You can always add white throw pillows on it as well.
5. Durable fabrics to me mean a workhorse fabric. It can get pulled, jumped on, spilled on, and still last a long time. In order for a fabric to be considered really durable it has to pass the Wyzenbeek Test. The Association for Contract Textiles uses this guideline for heavy duty fabrics intended for general upholstery. Contract fabrics are stronger than residential upholstery fabrics and many companies make fabrics that are contract grade and still comfortable.
General Contract Upholstery
ASTM D4157-02 (ACT approved #10 Cotton Duck)
15,000 double rubs Wyzenbeek method
ASTM D4966-98 (12 KPa pressure)
20,000 cycles Martindale method
There are many residential grade upholstery fabrics that meet these standards. If you are shopping for fabric the information card about the fabric would say exceeds 15,000 double rubs (or something similar). I call it the tushie test. You can sit on the fabric 15,000 up and downs before it starts to fray. Strong Cottons, Linens, Twills and Velvets fall into this fabric category. This Robert Allen fabric (Chevalier) is a cotton and viscose blend. It has passed the Wyzenbeek test and comes in a bright white too but it is too hard to see here on the white background, so here it is in Pearl. Keeping the price of the fabric reasonable will also help to prevent a complete breakdown should #10 happen…
6. Mix in light and dark wood. It may not be white, but I feel as though our senses need some differentiation.
7. Be open in your rug choice– We have an Oriental rug in our LR and it hides every fleck of dirt that comes through there. Rugs with white in them show dirt immediately and and sisals can be a good alternative but aren’t always as comfy on bare feet. I know I have posted this picture before but it is quite applicable. Mariette Himes Gomez achieves the look of a fresh and bright white room while still using an Oriental rug.
8. Top White Paints: My favorites are BM (Benjamin Moore)- Super White, Cloud White, Linen White and China White. Use it in an Eggshell finish which is more easily cleanable than a flat paint. It is more expensive but for a very high performance, cleanable and durable paint ask for a BM Aura.
9. Colorful accessories also help to give some dimension to the room.
10. A good and realistic attitude. Stuff gets dirty to begin with, with kids it gets dirtier and white shows it the most. But if you can and want to constantly keep children somewhat clean, no crayons, no shoes (if you can), no food or drinks (at least for the kids), no pets on the furniture and pre-treat your upholstery you can do it. Life happens and you should enjoy your home as much as possible. If it is going to make life too hard on you and your family to have a white room right now, wait until your kids are older.
It was good timing that I got this email. The talented writer and blogger Courtney Barnes (aka. Style Court) wrote a post called “Surfing Inside” about designer’s attitudes towards kids and their rooms last week. She was kind enough to ask for my opinion on what happens at our house. If you want to a bit more of a peek into what goes on at my house and some other of my favorite bloggers thoughts on the subject take a read through her great post click here. Thanks Courtney!
Do you have a topic you want to know my opinion about? Send me an email….I am open to any and all reader requests. I would love to hear comments from everyone on this one and so would the one who asked! Even if you don’t have kids, I hope that these tips are helpful in creating a long lasting white room! Anyone have any other suggestions? Do you have an all white room and love it or regret it? Can you do it or do you want to?
Photo Credits: Domino Magazine (1,3) Shakin Style (2) Cottage Living (4) Robert Allen (5) Victoria Hagan (6) Mariette Himes Gomez (7) Phillipe Starck (8) Cartoon Stock (9) Courtney Barnes (10)