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DECOR ADVICE: Plan it, then place it

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Children and their things can be integrated into adult spaces with some careful thought

EXPERT: Interior designer Erin Gates of the blog Elements of Style has just written her second book: Elegant Spaces for Everyday Life 

Q: How do you balance wanting your house to feel “done” with finding the right pieces for your space?

A: I advise clients to take their time when creating a home. I like to get the main pieces settled quickly so you can live in the house comfortably – for example, it helps to have a sofa and coffee table in the living room – and then take your time choosing the finishing touches and accents such as rugs and art.

Wait until you feel strongly about something, because if you really love it, you will not tire of it.

Q: How do you integrate kids’ and adults’ needs and styles in one (small) apartment? I want my children to feel at home, but I also don’t want the place to feel as if it’s one big playroom.

A: It’s all about storage. Try ample bookcases or built-ins with lower cabinets to store toys. Storage ottomans or benches can do double duty, such as seating or a coffee table that also store stuff. I use attractive big baskets instead of plastic bins to store toys. Look for some with lids (they may be listed as “hampers” online). And when it comes to kids’ tables and chairs, there are many attractive options beyond bright plastic.

Q: What are your tips for transforming a nursery into a “big kid” room?

A: Design a nursery that can easily transition – nothing permanent that is too babyish, such as wallpaper, a rug or window treatments. I like to keep these pieces age-neutral so they can evolve with the child.

Swop the cot for a bed or a day bed, update the wall art to something “older”, add some more attractive storage for the toys which will accumulate. You could also change the wall colour to something bolder and less babyish.


Q: We have a 7-month-old son and a home which is traditionally styled. Right now, we let him play on a blanket on the floor, but we know he’ll need a soft floor space when he starts to crawl and walk. Do you have any recommendations for attractive play mats, gates or other solutions which will blend into our style enough to stay in the room sometimes but also can easily fold up and tuck away?

A: I understand this issue. There are some play mats these days that are one solid piece of foam or rubber, are rug size, and can be rolled up instead of being in 20 different puzzle pieces.

For gates, I just look for the most inconspicuous white gate I can find – but there are some really amazing custom-designed wooden baby gates that I have seen in client homes too, if you want to invest in something unique.

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