{my home style} Tips for Mixing Modern Decor & Life with Kids

One of the design challenges many people face is finding a good balance between their style and that of their spouse. But somehow I managed to get lucky because Scott and I have very similar taste and typically see eye to eye when it comes to decorating our house. 

When my friend Stephanie, of Casa Watkins, recently invited me to participate in a blog hope all about mixing and matching different decorating styles, I initially declined because I feel like our style is pretty cohesive - modern, graphic, and colorful. 

But when I stopped to reflect more on how we decorate, I realized that over the past five years we've actually done quite a bit of mixing and matching in order to coordinate our modern style with the reality of life with kids!

If you've just stopped by from Iris Nacole or if you're visiting from any of the other fun blogs participating in this hop, WELCOME! Let me start with a little introduction... I'm Angela, an attorney turned DIY blogger / decor consultant and I'm married to an accountant / professional musical theater actor. We've both got that right brain/left brain, analytical/creative thing going on, and it's reflected in our home. We like things streamlined and organized, but also bold and colorful. We moved into our current home nine years ago and immediately began making it our own! Five years ago we welcomed our first son, and then a year after that a second son. Like most little boys, our kiddos are loud and silly and full of boundless energy! 

I hear people assert all the time that you can't have nice things or a stylish home when your kids are young because raising children requires being surrounded by lots of primary-colored plastic. Well, I'm here to disagree! I want to show you some examples of how we've successfully managed to mix and match our love of modern style with the realities and demands of raising kids!

A couple of years ago I was asked to define our style in just three words, and I came up with Modern. Graphic. Family. While I realize that "family" isn't a style in the traditional sense of the word, family has a huge impact on how we decorate and live in our home and we now make all of our design decision with the whole family in mind. But rather than hindering our style, we've learned to design with our kids in mind in a way that makes our home even more bold and fun!

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The kitchen is always the heart of the home, so let's start there! Our home doesn't have an open floor plan, so when I'm in the kitchen cooking or doing dishes, I can't see the kids if they are playing in the living room or family room. Now that they are a bit older, this is less of an issue, but when they were both toddlers I really wanted to keep them in sight at all times. We came up with some simple ways to keep them entertained in the kitchen, starting with our chalkboard wall.

We painted the narrow wall at the entrance to the kitchen with black chalkboard paint {and magnetic primer} to create a fun place for the boys to draw and play right in the kitchen.

This black wall looks good with our style, but keep in mind that chalkboard paint can be mixed in a wide variety of colors, so you don't have to have a black wall in your house in order to give your kids a chalkboard surface. I love seeing the kids artwork {and now their writing practice} on this wall, but it was I also found a simple trick to get it totally clean when I want to {because let's be honest; chalkboards can become a smeary, dusty mess}.

To make this chalk wall feel more like a design feature in our kitchen, I turned the upper part of the wall into a chalkboard clock

The clock is functional and stylish, but also does double duty as a fun way to help the kids learn everything from reading numbers and simple addition, to more advanced math when they get older!

Another way that I keep the kids entertained in the kitchen is with a kitchen of their own!

By putting the kids play kitchen right in our kitchen {rather than in the playroom}, I can keep an eye on them while I cook and clean, and they enjoy being able to do the same thing I'm doing without being in the way when I have hot food on the stove. When I started shopping for a play kitchen, the first thing I noticed was that most of them were pink. Apparently some manufacturers think only girls like to play kitchen... they certainly haven't met my boys! The next thing I noticed was that many of the more neutral and stylish play kitchens, from places like Pottery Barn, were CRAZY expensive! Fortunately, we ended up finding an affordable and stylish kids' kitchen that is made of wood, rather than plastic, and actually looks a ton like our real kitchen!

Here are some stylish kids' play kitchen options:

In the living room, the shelf on our coffee table used to be filled with my collection of art books collected from various museums around the world. When the boys were younger, it wasn't practical to keep these expensive books right at the kids eye level at expect them not to touch.

Instead, I relocated those art books to a higher shelf, and replaced them with some kid-friendly board books about my favorite artists. The boys still enjoy these books, and it has allowed me to share my love of art with my sons and make the living room more kid-friendly at the same time.

These are some of our favorite kids' art books:

While we keep most of the kids toys in the basement family room and in their bedrooms, no room of the house is off-limits to play. In order to keep the living room {right inside the front door} looking nice and not overrun with toys, we limit the toys in the living room to what can fit in to a few stylish baskets.

And since the open hardwood floor-space in the entryway and living room makes a perfect place for building roads and playing trains...

...one larger, lidded basket in the corner of the living room keeps all the roads and train tracks stylishly out of sight between play times.

Moving upstairs, our recent makeover of the boys' shared bathroom is one of my favorite examples of how we blend our style with kid-life. At the top of the stairs we have an open hallway area that opens into the kids' bathroom. Unless we keep the bathroom door closed all the time {which is pretty impractical}, we have a direct view of the toilet when we reach the top of the stairs. 

The boys love super heroes {an interest that I suspect will stick around for quite a while}, so when they started asking for a super hero bathroom, I decided to design a space that would blend in with the existing decor of the hallway, as well as one that they wouldn't outgrow too quickly. We created a "sophisticated" super hero themed space with sleek black walls and simple, graphic DIY art work. The boys think it's the greatest, and I love the way it coordinates with the black and white decor the hallway.

The boys' super hero bathroom only has a shower, so bath time happens down the hall in the bathroom attached to the guest room. Since we only have guests on occasion, we needed this space to be super hard working for us as a family, but also wanted it to look nice and feel relaxing when we do have company staying with us. One of the biggest challenges was what to do with all the bath tub toys. We came up with a solution that allows us to stylishly store bath toys on a daily basis {holes in the bottom of the buckets allow the toys to properly drain and dry out}, and then when we have guest, I can quickly move the buckets of toys to the cabinet under the sink and use the same rail to display adult bath items that give the bathroom a spa-like feel.

Those are just a few examples of how we've been able to balance our love of modern decor with kid-life and keep our home looking stylish while still being totally kid-friendly.

Of course, I also love infusing our modern, graphic style into the dedicated kid-spaces as well! In those spaces, it's less about striking a balance between our style and their needs, and more about giving them a space that's all about fun and play, with lots of stylish storage. You can read more about the kids' bedrooms and under stair playroom in these posts:

I also have a post with tips for creating a shared family room / playroom that you might find helpful!

And I also recently helped a client create a functional and stylish shared family room space with lots of hidden toy storage and a stylish art corner for the kids. You can read all the details of this family friendly family room here.

Living with kids doesn't have to mean you can't have a stylish space! But designing a house for a family does mean that function has to be a top priority! Create stylishly organized spaces will make your day run smoother and allows more time for family fun! You'll find lots of tips for organizing kids stuff throughout the house in my organizing and kid-life archives. 

Now my blogging friends have lots more inspiration for you on ways to mix and match other decor styles. Follow the links below to see each of their unique styles and design tips: 

Wednesday Home Styles:

Thursday Home Styles:


  1. Angela, I adore your wonderland of a home! I would have had the best time there as a kid, and heck, I would today as an adult as well! You're styling is gorgeous!

  2. Oh my goodness Angela. I love your perspective in decorating. Staying true to yourself and still making the adjustments needed to create the perfect home for your family. Gorgeous styling and I am in awe of the chalkboard clock. The math component with the formulas is SUPER creative! I love it.

  3. perfection, angela! i love the focus on family you see throughout your home! what a fun place for your kids to grow and learn!

  4. Ok that upstairs bathroom IS SUPER COOL!!! You are right, it is definitely a sophisticated way to do a super hero theme. You have some great ideas!

  5. Hi Angela! Your home is so fun and bold! Free but very streamlined and sophisticated too! I absolutely love it, and I love all of your ideas on working your kids needs into a beautiful home. People are always telling me that it's impossible to have nice things when your kids are young as well, and I totally agree with you. With a little creativity, it's totally possible! Love your home!

  6. Amazing tips, Angela! As a fellow boy mom...I'm taking LOTS of notes! The boys' superhero bathroom is awesome --- fun and sophisticated, so you totally nailed it! Always love your bold colors and patterns, too! xo

  7. Proof that you CAN do stylish with kids. Love your colours, they're always so bold and I can't get enough <3

  8. Your home is so stylish and your kids spaces are amazing!! So many great ideas for making your home family friendly and posh!

  9. This is GREAT advice, Angela! Totally agree that function comes first in a home -- especially when you have young kids -- but it's definitely possible to have a stylish space as well. Love your home and style!