Family-Friendly And Fabulous: Designing Your Dining Room With Kids In Mind

If you're looking for a way to create a contemporary, modern space in your formal dining room, you might be concerned about how great furniture pieces will hold up after your young children are regular guests at the dining table. There are a few ways that you can choose your furniture to be both stylish and kid-friendly-- without resorting to toddler tables and plastic tablecloths. 

1. Choose the right material.

The great thing about modern furniture designs is that outside-the-box pieces are becoming the norm. This means that you don't have to settle for a plain wooden table and matching chairs. When you're eating with kids, you'll want to move away from fine-finished wood and choose a material that is scratch and stain resistant. Try to look for:

  • metal finishes. A metal table topped with stainless steel or aluminum is a great way to work around the mess that kids leave in their wake. If you're worried about dents and dings, look for a metal table that is already distressed-- any damage your kids do with simply add to the character of the piece. 
  • stone or faux-stone tops. Marble is not the best choice for kids, as it etches easily, but quartz or granite will hold up wonderfully to normal spills and dropped silverware. You can also look for tables made from recycled glass or acrylic. These look like stone but are incredibly durable and scratch resistant.
  • distressed wood. Unlike fine finished wood, distressed wood has scratches, dings, and stains built in. Any mark your kids make can be easily disguised by the original finish of the table. If you are worried about distressed wood looking too farmhouse in style, try pairing the tabletop with metal legs and fabric chairs with smooth lines and solid colors to provide some modern balance. 

For chairs, choose smooth leather or a heavily textured or brightly patterned upholstery. Modern design favors white, cream, or black, but that's a no-no for kids. Bold patterns are the best for hiding stains. You can balance the patterns with clean walls or a solid-colored tabletop. 

2. Keep the decor simple and out of reach.

After you have your table and chairs picked out, you'll want to have a formal centerpiece and design pieces to bring some life into the room. Usually, this means having a nice set of display dishes, placemats, bowls of ornaments for the table or sideboard, and other paraphernalia. However, kids can easily wreak havoc on "just for looks" design pieces, especially if they are toddlers who regularly like to pull things down from the table. You can compensate by:

  • showcasing dishes on wall-mounted shelves instead of on the table itself.
  • using a single-piece center feature, such as a statue of an animal or a candelabra. 
  • choosing modern art for the walls, or hanging non-art pieces, like old road signs or even decorative dishes in shadow boxes. 

3. Cover what you can.

If you have your heart set on upholstered chairs and a smoothly finished wooden table, hope is not lost. Protect your fabric chairs during the growing up years by having a professional upholsterer cover the fabric with clear plastic. After your children reach a responsible age, you have have plastic removed and your chairs will be as good as new. Also, you can have a clear, hard plastic top fitted for your table to allow the smooth wood finish to shine through without compromising on style. These are similar to the tops restaurants use to protect fine linens. 

You might also consider protecting your dining room hardwood or tile from falling food by purchasing a low-budget rug to sit under the table during mealtimes. The rug will be ruined over a few years of falling or thrown food, but once your kids grow out of the messy stage, you can remove the rug to show off your still-new floor. 

Contact a local furniture vendor, such as Modern Home 2 Go, to see what they may have to offer as well as any suggestions they might have for creating kid-friendly, functional spaces.