Discussion Topic: Can you have children AND nice things?

You all know Liz from Say Yes to Hoboken. Well she tweeted the other day that her two year-old broke her beautiful lamp (seen below, available at Overstock) and she wanted to know if she should replace it. Would it just get broken again, and end up being a waste of money? I told her…

You all know Liz from Say Yes to Hoboken. Well she tweeted the other day that her two year-old broke her beautiful lamp (seen below, available at Overstock) and she wanted to know if she should replace it. Would it just get broken again, and end up being a waste of money?

I told her that I would replace the lamp if I were her (and affix it to her table with industrial-strength velcro). But I’m a decorator and probably care more about this sort of stuff than the normal person might. Plus, I have girls (and girly girls, at that), and I have a feeling they are much easier on my house than little boys might be.

Anyway, the situation made me start thinking about the old saying “You can’t have kids AND nice stuff.”

image from Cottage Living – the LEE Industries sofa shown here was upholstered in an outdoor fabric by Duralee.

Recently a woman introduced herself to me and said she loves reading my blog for the pretty pictures. Then she said she doesn’t actually decorate her house now because she still has young kids at home. Her pretty things were boxed up for “someday” and her floors and walls were bare. She told me her story all matter-of-fact – like, of course my walls would be bare, I have kids.

Should we just give in and face the fact that our houses are going to be dirty and trashed and undecorated until the kids are in college? Or do we decorate with Raoul and Spitzmiller and then freak on the kids when the inevitable happens?

Do we buy the lamp a second time?

In our house, I try to shoot for a balance between kid-friendly and inexpensive things (that I don’t care about it they get ruined) and then a few special things that I talk to my girls about and set rules for. And then I take a chill pill when those things get messed with on occasion.

What do you think, readers? I’d really love your opinion here for something I’ve got brewing on my back burner. We’ll call it market research.

Join the Conversation

168 thoughts on “Discussion Topic: Can you have children AND nice things?

  1. I was so excited to see this post; my husband & I are always lamenting that we can't have anything nice with our boys (ages 5,4,2). But after reading 150 comments – I just feel like a bad parent. Seriously, despite trying to teach my boys boundaries and respect, everything nice gets broken. And according to all the commenters here, it's my fault for not teaching them correctly.

    Also, I feel like the only commenter that has a monthly decorating budget of about $20, despite a good job & a nice, big house. If I save up 6 months to buy a fancy $100 lamp – it's not a question of SHOULD I replace it. I'm lucky to pick up some things I like here & there for cheap. And my kids manage to tear things off the walls, despite my not knowing how they could possible reach them. I can't stay in the same room with them for 15 hours a day.

    I hope they grow up & learn a little respect soon. Or I learn how to be a better parent. Because I long for nice things! And I'm tired of feeling bad about it.

  2. Its not the little one – three year old – because I think she knows her boundaries and enjoys the prettiness around her. Its the dogs! HELP!!!! The upholstery on the sofas, the beautiful pillows – worn out before time. And the rugs that need constant cleaning as potty training for the dogs is happening. At my wits end. The husband doesnt think anything of it…..

  3. I am pregnant with my first and my mother-in-law looked around my house the other day and said "so I guess you'll be putting a few things away when the baby comes." !!! I'm sure I will be doing some baby-proofing (the basket full of sharp household tools will definitely get moved to a higher shelf!), but it's nice to see that there are others out there who believe that children can coexist with "nice" things. Granted, most of my pretties came from the thrift store so if (when?) breakages happen, it won't be too tragic!

  4. I think everyone has to find their own balance. It is certainly in the job description of parent to teach your children how to maintain their own things and be respectful of other people's property. I also think you need to be honest with yourself and ask yourself – if your child broke (fill in the blank) would you go bonkers? If the answer if yes, put it out of reach. Save your sanity, no one else is going to do it for you.

  5. I'm late to this conversation but did you ever notice in the print version of the kid-friendly duralee-fabric blue and brown living room pic (was it Cottage Living? Thought it was originally in Southern Living and in their makeovers book as well?)… they have the coffee table you show. In another view there's a sturdier, non-glazed table that is lovely wood. That to me is what decorating with kids is about — you can still have gorgeous stuff, but there are safety concerns that will mean you can't have glass coffee tables and anything that is too fussy down where little kids are.

    And although I appreciate the value of setting boundaries, kids' temperaments are very different even within the same family! My oldest and youngest (4 and almost 1) are very obedient and listen to "no" immediately. My toddler is (ahem) what you could classify as a spirited child — everything and every emotion is MORE MORE MORE. She's a climber, a lets-see-what-this-does type of kid who will experiment with anything within her reach, and so I've had to adapt my household just for her.

    And I love that duralee fabric, do you know the name of it?

    Melissa D

  6. As a mom of two wild boys (3 and 1)…my definition of "nice things" has changed.


    I wish I would have opted for much more kid and pet friendly fabrics. Our microfiber isn't holding up so well to spilled drinks and sticky fingers.

    That being said, coffee tables are a thing of years b.c. (before children)…I've taken more to artwork and diy-ing my pillows and curtains.

    Washable is key. Bargain hunting is a must.

    I recall hearing on NPR a while back that children create a few hundred million dollars a year in home property damage.

    That made me reassess my situation. My home isn't a model home or a museum.

    It's a home with peanut butter on the dining room chairs and a gallery wall of family photos. It's postmodern and messy most of the time.

    It's lived in.

  7. I am due with my first and am a Decorator soon to be Stay at Home Mom. Yay!
    I have had so many people with kids tell me that I am going to have to change things and remove stuff when the little guy gets here.
    But as a child my mom decorated and I don't remember ever touching stuff I wasn't supposed to.
    Also I feel, like so many others said, if you teach them as they grow up to respect things and admire pretty things I feel they will do just that.
    Also I see so many people running after their kids at other peoples home's because they are so worried their kids will break something. If they have nice things around them at home and respect them, they will do the same at other peoples homes.
    I intend to keep what I have, and just teach my children to not touch. If something breaks it's not the end of the world.

  8. I think like you said, it needs to be a balance. Nice things but not heirlooms. Nice things, but things that can take getting a bump or scratch. Nice things, but things that can be replaced if they are broken. Perfect timing with this. My SIL was just commenting about a neighbor who has an "off limits" white living room that contains some sort of glass table and glass cups, etc. displayed on said table. Well the neighborhood kids were all playing while she was upstairs. They did the inevitable and ignored the rules and went into the off limits room. Long story shorter, the table and its contents were all broken. My feelings were a) why do you have an all white unwashable living room with children? b) why do you have so much glass with children? c) why did you leave them unattended and assume they would follow your rules? They are kids! I think they need to be taught to value things and respect items that aren't theirs but you have to be prepared for the opposite to happen as well.

  9. This is encouraging to read! I'm not a mom yet, but someone passed on to me that website sh** and I totally started freaking out that having kids would mean every piece of furniture would be covered in fingernail polish and peanut butter! It's good to know that kids can be taught to respect things! :)

  10. Funny I just saw this. We were invited to a friend's parent's house for dinner this Sunday. I was there with my 3 boys – 8, 4, and 2. Anyway, everything in there was breakable. My four-year-old wasn't even allowed to sit on the dining room chairs (the only table in the house) b/c they were rattan and would stain if he spilled anything. I wouldn't want to live like that.

    We have things that are breakable that we keep out, but we also don't set our kids up for failure. If you don't want that priceless seashell broken – put it up higher than a toddler can reach.

    I want a nicely decorated house, but I also want people to be comfortable here. I think we are working toward achieving that balance, and at the end of the day people are always more important than things.

  11. I think it depends on the kid. I have one daughter, and she has never really ruined anything. (My cat certainly has.) If I had something totally precious, I wouldn't risk it until she was older, but I think some kids are just more contained than others.

  12. Although, I have to add that I once ran into an antique vase my mother inherited from her dead mother when I was about 12. It was during the night during a lightning storm, and totally unintentional, but she was DEVASTATED. I felt so bad. I will try to keep that in mind with my daughter; accidents happen, although of course, they are upsetting.

  13. I have a 7 month old girl so am interested in reading all of the comments thus far. Kate is not crawling yet but everyone keeps telling me I won't be able to have anything nice anymore. P-shaw I say! I agree with most of your readers that you should put away anything you will truly be upset over if it's ruined but kids should be taught as early as possible about respect and appreciation of their environment.

  14. My sister has 6 kids, (5 boys and 1 girl.) They range in ages 4-16. Her house is fabulous. YES–you can have nice things!

  15. Water clocks did not depend on the observation of the sky or the thomas sabo sun. The earliest water clock was discovered in the tomb of Amenhotep I who was buried around thomas sabo online shop deutschland 1500 B.C. Greeks called them clepsydras ; they were stone boxes with sloped sides that allowed water to drip thomas sabo anhänger at an almost unceasing rate from a small hole in the bottom.Other clepsydras were cylinders or thomas sabo charm club anhänger bowl formed engineered to slowly fill up with water coming in at a near sustained pace. Markings on the thomas sabo anhänger günstigangebote thomas sabo anhänger at night, it is thought they were utilized in the day hours too. A metal bowl with a hole the bottom was placed in a bigger bowl crammed thomas sabo charm with water.It would fill and then sink in a certain quantity of time.Since water flow was not exactly predictable sabo charms and difficult to control the flow accurately, timepieces that depended on water were very inadequate. People sabo charm were drawn to develop more accurate ways of measuring and telling time.The development of quartz crystal clocks and timepiecesthomas sabo anhänger sale depended on the crystal size, shape, and temperature to create a frequency.

  16. I agree! Of course we can still decorate with children around. Sure, you may end up with a little playdoh in the carpet or some scratches on your table, but kids can and do learn to have proper boundaries. If your kids don't have any respect for nice things and breakable items, you are not doing them a favor by not teaching them!

© Jenny Komenda. All Rights Reserved.
Site by