How to Live with Kids: a room-by-room guide.

How to Live with Kids: a room-by-room guide.

I’m not a home design junkie by any means, but I do love a good interior design book, especially the coffee-table sized ones packed with glossy pictures. Nor am I a regular reader of Gabrielle Blair’s site Design Mom, but everything she does is top-notch, and when I found out about her new book Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Blair’s (glossy, photo-packed) book is all about how to live well with kids, and that doesn’t just mean how to look good. It’s about creating a place where every member of the family feels at home.

She believes good design is about finding solutions for your home and your life—about making day-to-day duties more intentional, more stylish, and way easier. Her optimistic tone makes you really believe whatever your situation is, you can make it work.

I know I’ve found a good design book when it inspires me to actually change things in my home—I don’t mean just that it inspires me to buy stuff, but that it empowers me to make positive changes, immediately, with what I already have. That was absolutely true with this book. I couldn’t wait to put it down and hang some pictures, move a bit of furniture, print some artwork, and go buy new dishtowels.

The book was packed with good info; these are the tips I’m especially taking to heart.

There is no due date for your home. The best things evolve over time.

Setting up a functional entry is key to gracefully managing a home with kids. Things to consider: shoe storage, a place to sit, how to utilize the walls, and where to put a command center, even if there’s only space for a dish to hold your keys.

gallery wall 2

Figure out what you love, and don’t be embarrassed about it. Start with your favorite and go from their. Your walls should tell your family’s story, so consider hanging children’s artwork, family photos, memorabilia, maps, and quotes that are meaningful to your family.

Snowglobes, magnets, minifigures. Whatever floats your boat, as long as you start right now.


Whether you use baskets, buckets, files, hooks, clothespin lines, or fairy dust, there is no system that will keep your family 100% organized, 100% of the time. And the system that works (pretty well) for your family today might not work tomorrow. Stay flexible.

They’re a reality for millions of families. It’s not magic; it’s problem-solving.

Choose dinnerware that will grow up with your family, sturdy flatware, and don’t underestimate the value of real (if cheap) stemware.

bookish tea towel

New dishtowels have a way of making the whole kitchen feel fresh and new. Blair’s favorite places to get affordable, cute dishtowels are Etsy and World Market.

Do what you can to love whatever house you’ve turned into your home, right now.

What’s your favorite tip about living well with kids?

Books mentioned in this post:

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29 comments | Comment


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  1. I love DesignMom. I fell in love with her after reading her swoon-worthy posts about her family’s life in France. Great review, the book has been on my wish list but I was afraid it would be too highbrow for my situation.

  2. Maggie says:

    I enjoyed this book also. I think the best thing we can focus on is making our homes work for us NOW rather than waiting for that perfect future time when there are fewer legos, stuffed animals, etc. The reality is that we live right here… today… with these people.

  3. Kate says:

    I really enjoy this book – and I’m not particularly *into* design. I loved that it inspired me to work with what we have and re-envision our spaces to work for us right now. Good stuff!

  4. Hannah says:

    I, too, resonate with the idea of making your home work for you now. We’ve moved so often, including overseas, that the idea of waiting until I felt that things were ‘perfect’ in our home(s) was simply not an option. If I’d done that, we’d have been in boxes for most of my children’s early childhoods. On the other hand, now that we have a new home, I realize I don’t have to rush to do everything at once. It’s better to find workable solutions and like what you’ve done!

  5. Sarah R says:

    I read this in one day over Memorial Day weekend, and I loved it! I have read her blog for years and really admire how she runs her household and family. Yesterday, she wrote a great blog post about what to clean first when you have 30 minutes before guests arrive. She mentioned that she does not clean her office or toy room because they are supposed to be messy, and I love that attitude.

  6. 'Becca says:

    These are great strategies! I always enjoy visiting homes where the kids’ artwork is included in the decor. That was very uncommon in the area where I grew up–most parents wanted homes that looked like Sears catalog vignettes or hotel rooms–so my friends loved drawing at my house because my parents happily covered ALL their kitchen cabinet doors with children’s artwork!

    My best tip for getting the most out of your home (with or without kids) is to think in terms of SPACES instead of rooms. I explained this in a lot of detail here: Why I’m Sleeping in the Dining Room. It’s still going well after a year; I’m thinking of writing a follow-up, mainly about how the lessons I learned when living in a tiny dorm room 20+ years ago have transferred to keeping the baby toys tidied up….

  7. Katia says:

    Great tips! It really is all about small steps and figuring out what works for my family, as opposed to trying to find a universal solution.

  8. Heather Anna says:

    My favorite tip for living well with kids: I can’t for the life of me remember where I read it, but it was something like, draw lines between where your kids sleep, play, and exit the house. Expect these paths to be messy and strewn with toys. Once you accept that, you can come up with solutions. For example, our upstairs hallway gets pretty messy, so I keep a bin there for quick de-cluttering. Also since the kids play in the kitchen’s breakfast nook and generally leave the house through the kitchen/garage door, I just have to accept that my kitchen floors are (Okay, maybe when they’re off to college). But the dining and living rooms are not in the kids’ pathways, so I strive to keep those areas de-cluttered, and in the end it evens out. 🙂 If we happen to move I’m going to keep this in mind when touring new houses. Kid clutter and entryways and how they relate to floor plans was the last thing on my mind when we bought this house and had a single baby with only a small box of toys!

  9. Alison S. says:

    I just got my library to order this book. Can’t wait to ready it! Love all these ideas. I work outside the home and have two young kids. A few years ago we built our home. It is so tempting to let our house just stay plain and let the kid’s stuff take over because life is just busy. Reading The Nesting Place lit the flame of hope that I can have a beautiful, LIVABLE home now. 🙂

  10. Kayris says:

    I’m always up for tips for shared bedrooms. I have opposite gender siblings in a room with no closets. And one of them is approaching puberty. The fighting over the space is one of the biggest reasons we’ve started to talk about moving.

    My house tends to be on the neat side, even when everyone is home and I think it’s because I have a good handle on how much “stuff” our house can hold. I’m trying to decide what to do with the picture books now because they are both too old for them now. But it makes me a little sad to let them go.

    The other thing that helps is having a place for everything to go. Shoe bins by the front door, enough hooks for coats, etc.

  11. Tim says:

    When I clicked onto this post, Anne, the banner ad at the top read “Bankruptcy Lawyer”. It made a nice juxtaposition for your headline “How to Live with Kids”.

  12. Kimberly says:

    I picked this book up the other day after you mentioned it on Facebook (or maybe I just saw it in a photo that you had on facebook). Either way, I’ve been trying to get a handle on our entry point for YEARS! I didn’t have much luck because the house belongs to my inlaws and some of their stuff was still on the porch. I finally just went for it. And I LOVE the new space I created following some of her tips.

    I’m making my way around other areas of my house as well. It was inspirational and the photos are beautiful examples of living with kids. Thanks for all of your good book recommendations.

  13. Jamie says:

    Anything that inspires me to use or repurpose what we already have is a win in my book! We’ve been in the only home we’ve owned for 3.5 years and are just now getting some things finished. But we’ve been truly living in it and with others the whole time, amidst incomplete areas. My best tip would be: don’t be afraid of color. And decorate with stuff that you like but won’t freak out about if kids are kids around it/on it.

  14. Emily says:

    I love the idea of your home evolving over time. Part of the reason I haven’t done much decorating is that I’m afraid I’ll be “locked” into it and then I won’t like it later. (And I don’t want to spend a ton of money on a design that I might not always like.) It would be good for me to accept that my home will never be “done.”

  15. Jenny says:

    I love this! We are getting ready to move to a new home and I appreciate the comment “it evolves over time”. Yes, no pressure to be perfect right away.

  16. Don’t rush is so right. We have been in our house over three years and are still painting rooms, moving around furniture, and deciding how we really want things. It takes time to figure out how things best work for your family.

  17. C.T. Brooks says:

    Rotate their toys.
    Give away toys with small pieces UNLESS children are old enough to play with them responsibly And keep them picked up and stored properly.
    Give grandparents the 3 gift rule for holidays and birthdays. Ask them to make one gift an”experience” gift.
    Books can and should be culled, given to younger children as needed, and or given to schools, shelters or donated elsewhere.
    If children have a love of a particular hobby, say music, dance soccer, cooking, these suggest wonderful avenues for gift ideas.
    Storage for toys, including kids’ furniture and decor for their rooms make fabulous gifts.

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