The Trick to Designing a Home That's Both Beautiful and Kid-Friendly

How a mom with two kids (and a dog) pulls it off.

Joanna Ballentine Bedroom
Photo: Joanna Ballentine

Whether your kids are five years old or fifteen, it can be almost impossible to keep your home looking nice. Among the toy clutter, the spilled plates of food, and the crayon scribbles on the wall, living with little ones makes maintaining even the best home decor plans difficult.

But when we stopped by the home of Joanna Ballentine, the blogger behind Irrelephant, we saw that she kept an effortlessly beautiful house while living with two kids under four and a dog.

What's her secret? As it turns out, designing with the kids in mind and letting them inspire her decor choices helped Joanna create a home that's as much a sanctuary for her little ones as it is for her and her husband.

Here are some easy-to-follow tips to turn your home into a stylish, family-friendly space.

01 of 04

Be Practical With Big Purchases

Joanna Ballentine Living Room
Joanna Ballentine

When you have a “dream home” in mind, it can be hard to reconcile the design choices you want with the reality of living with kids. To help make practical decisions that are still pretty, Joanna says she would envision what she wanted and then ask herself an all-important question: “Is this going to get destroyed?” If so, it was time to consider something else.

“So, for example, I wanted a linen couch,” Joanna explains. But with two young kids and a dog, it just wasn’t in the cards. “So we went with a leather couch.” It's still a beautiful natural material, but one that’s much more durable than her original plan.

02 of 04

Embrace a Perfectly-Imperfect Aesthetic

Joanna Ballentine Sitting Nook
Joanna Ballentine

Joanna's personal design aesthetic? “I like things that have character and flaws,” she says. Luckily, that wabi-sabi-inspired, bohemian-influenced look pairs well with little ones.

“Even if we didn’t have kids, I would probably still want things that have texture,” she says. Choose vintage finds with patina, and you won’t have to worry if something shows a little wear and tear. Most importantly, this will help you create a home that’s as much for you as it is for your children.

“I don’t want to create a home where I get frustrated with my kids,” Joanna explains.

03 of 04

Don't Be Afraid of Color

Joanna Ballentine Explore Play Room
Katie Holdefehr

Joanna’s natural style is pretty neutral, so after having kids, she realized that she was going to have to relax the color palette. “I want them to have memories of our home being joyful, and like a sanctuary for them, and I think color can bring that out,” she explains.

Small bursts of color pop up all over the home, from the supplies in the "explore" room to the kids’ framed artwork. And she's added painted pastel circles on the walls of Theo and Alma's shared bedroom.

04 of 04

Make It Their Space, Too

Joanna Ballentine's Son Theo Washing Dishes
Joanna Ballentine

Alma and Theo have helped inspire their home’s design. To make things easier, Joanna has strategically placed storage, so it’s accessible to her little ones. Kid-friendly snacks are stashed on a low shelf in the kitchen so the kids can help themselves without having to bother mom and dad. And next to the kitchen sink, an IKEA hack stool helps her kids wash their dishes or a piece of fruit without having to be held up (or worse, climb on the counter).

The result of all of these carefully considered kid-friendly choices is a space both kids and adults will love. “We have a lot of adults come in, we love hosting and having people over, and I want them to feel comfortable and relaxed and feel like this is a little sanctuary for them, too. It’s just a good balance of children and adults, combining and feeling like it’s a retreat.”

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles