An interesting phenomenon to me when I moved here were the number of houses in with what should be the dining room was being held captive by Spiderman, Barbie's dream house and a kitchen that produces only wooden pizzas.
It must have something to do with the move from apartment living to suburban house living. After all, a dining room set is a bit of a stretch in a lovely apartment with sweeping views, but only 4-5 rooms in total in which to fit a growing family. The last piece of furniture we should even consider is anything to actually dine on-how 1950s, how...adult??
In a world where the the Dr. Spock strategy of being a member of the "clean plate" club could radically impact your child's chance to eat anything more than nut butter on whole grain bread with seedless preserves (a.k.a. PB&J), the dining room seems like less of a necessity than a spot for the kids to have as their own.
So, if you are still waiting for your kids to reach a golden age where they no longer spit food out in disgust because the vegetables comingled with the chicken for a brief interlude, why not make it a space you actually can ALL enjoy? Make it a space that, regardless of age, you are immediately drawn to and actually WANT to spend time in rather than an afterthought for the land of misfit toys.
Whether for you that's color/ theme/ texture-there are a myriad of ways to make a room kid-friendly AND less Universal Studios for your guests who are under AND above the drinking age.
- First off, have somewhere to sit that is more than a foot off the ground and actually is the radius of your backside. Let's face it-we're not getting any younger and sitting on the floor will not make it a place you are psyched to hang out. Treat yourself to a comfortable seat that you can actually extract yourself from without the jaws of life. Ikea Klippan Custom Loveseat
- We are all busting at the seams with artwork from our budding Jackson Pollock or Frida Kahlo and, ooh, do they pitch a fit when they find it in the "recycling." Wexel Art has a great way to display your kids' artwork on the wall that is both chic and easy to swap out (day after day after day after day....). Pictures or photos are held in place by pairs of magnets, making it easy to switch out the item being displayed. Wexel Art Acrylic and Magnetic frames
- Ikea should be your best friend in the playroom department. Take an afternoon trip there and tap into your inner child for furniture and toys that are both beautiful and functional (not to mention affordable). Just make sure to have a large glass of scotch ready for daddy after a Saturday afternoon of putting it all together with that $*&^ Allen wrench or have Greenwich Handyman on speed dial...203.618.1234, Childrens Ikea
- Organization - OK, so in reality, you will still be doing the majority of the cleaning up until they find a spouse to do it for them, but having bins and boxes to keep all those little Legos, one-armed Polly Pockets, and the remotes that actually GO to their respective cars will make the room look fun; add a dimension of color (of your choice, not Fisher Price's); and begin to teach them the age old Chinese proverb-"Take care of your own stuff." Colorful storage boxes-Land of Nod, Shelving units-Ikea
- Village Paint in Larchmont, (914) 834-3300, carries an amazing selection of chalkboard, magentic and dry erase paints that can actually turn the wall into a surface for the kids to draw or magnetize to their hearts desire. Make the walls interactive! Village Paint is also happy to offer a discount for mentioning this article and supporting your local merchant! Chalkboard paint-Benjamin Moore
- If you don't want to start messing with the walls, consider decals. Foley's Hardware in Larchmont, (914) 834-7200, carries WallPops Decals including maps of the world (that can also be drawn on with dry erase markers) or other themed decals like flowers, robots or calendars. Also, a colorful rug is an easy way to make it more cozy and lived-in looking.
- Artwork - Find a way to combine their interests into artwork that you connect with too. Take a less literal approach to your kid's interests; are they into superheros? Find some cool vintage comic posters and blow them up on canvas. Is your daughter gaga for princess paraphernalia? Think Audrey Hepburn with her tiara in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Is your little guy into race cars? Blow up a vintage Bugatti print! Vintage Bugatti prints
Editor's Note: The description of how a WexelArt frame works was clarified from an earlier edition of this article.