How I created a family-friendly living space


I’m so excited to share the beautiful new look I’ve created for our living room! This is a hugely multi-purpose space for us. We don’t have the luxury of a play room, tv room, or even a separate home office in our house, so this room does it all! I thought a lot of you are probably in similar circumstances, living in pretty close quarters with young children under foot. So how do you keep your living space practical but also looking great?


Before we go any further, that show-stopping leather sofa is by Early Settler Furniture, who we were so lucky to partner with on this project. Ah I love it so much; it has completely transformed the space. Find out more about it below…


 A bit about our living area. This is a space we spend A LOT of time in. We live in a standard first home kinda home – 3 bedrooms and a bathroom off a hallway, then you come through to our living area. We made it open plan a few years ago - it used to all be separate with some ‘lovely’ archways and sprayed concrete ceiling -ah you can imagine! So, we opened it all up, and now this area of our house contains our kitchen, my home office nook, the dining area and our living space.

To top it off, we also use the living space as a play room for the kids, workout space AND it’s my studio! Yup, that feature wall you see is actually my photography backdrop. When I’m shooting a new project, I paint it a colour to suit, clear out all the furniture, and turn it into a space you wouldn’t recognise.

So, I’ll let you in on some of the ways I’ve made this space work:

First up, choose wisely with your sofa!

With kids, I think it’s important to choose a practical fabric that is forgiving for sticky fingers, spills and muddy clothes. Our new sofa is the Carson Leather Sofa in Vintage Brown (we have a 3-seater and a 2-seater). I chose leather specifically because it wears beautifully over time, and you can wipe it clean. I also think leather has an elegance and timeless appeal to it that is pretty hard to replicate.

If you are choosing a fabric sofa, I’d highly recommend choosing a fabric that has texture or a fleck in it, so that it won’t show up every mark your kids make on it.

Another consideration – how high does the base of the sofa come up off the floor? From experience, you want one that is high enough to easily reach under and vacuum under – or one that goes right to the floor. The amount of times we lost toys under our old couch and couldn’t quite reach under to get them back…

Think about furniture silhouettes

In a small space, I find that less is more when it comes to furniture. I moved away from chunky furniture, and spent a lot of time choosing a dining suite and desk that have as light a silhouette as possible. By this, I mean I chose dining chairs that you can see right through in the bentwood style. The table has white legs, and the desk is also white and a simple shape without drawers. We also removed the coffee table - it was quite a hazard when the kids were little and learning to walk, and I found that it just ended up being a dumping ground for things anyway. We also hung our tv in the corner (with a neat little shelf hiding behind it to store all the tech stuff).

Plants are key – but you can fake it!

I think any interior room comes to life and is way more inviting with the addition of plants. I used to have a lot of real plants, but when the kids were little, they’d literally rip them out, tip them over and I was so distracted I forgot to water them. Cue - dead plants and empty pots. Then I discovered that you can actually get stunning, realistic artificial plants! Sure, they don’t have all the wonderful benefits of real plants in terms of purifying the air etc, but they are a great back-stop until I can get back into the real thing. Or you can mix real plants with artificial ones (I have some smaller hardy plants in pots out of reach).

With placement of plants, think about having lots of variation, in terms of size, hanging plants, potted tall plants, creepers, little bits of foliage. I really think you can’t overdo it on the plant front!


 Also, use plants to help soften and disguise areas that aren’t so pretty. For example, I’ve put a large rubber plant in front of where all the tv cords run down the wall, and now you don’t even notice them. 

Toy Storage – this is SO important!

If you’re going to have a lounge that doubles as a playroom, invest in a big toy box. That way no matter how many toys are thrown about in the day, it’s a simple job of loading them all into the box at the end of the day, and rolling it back into place.

I made a really cool DIY Toy Box for our living area, because I couldn’t find what I wanted in any stores (within my budget). I searched for ages to find a large plywood or wooden box, and in the end bought a plywood Box Jump from my gym. Then I bought some castor wheels from Mitre 10 and screwed them onto each corner. To add a bit of style, I cut out a scalloped pattern in some sticky vinyl and stuck that around as a border, and painted underneath. Once the paint had dried, I took off the sticky vinyl, and it left a pretty scalloped painted border.


Give me all the Sheer Curtains

I can’t recommend adding in sheer curtains more! I bought these from Harvey Furnishings, and they are a linen-look sheer fabric. They are on a separate runner to the black-out curtains behind. This means I can pull the sheers only, which gives a lovely softly lit look to the room, and hides all the black framing behind (and covers all the finger prints from the kids!). They are also a really light, soft look which works well in a small space (we used to have dark curtains and they were so overwhelming and made the whole room seem smaller).


Artwork can be affordable

One thing I’ve learnt over the last few years is that you can put up gorgeous, stylish art that totally sets the tone in a room, without paying a fortune! One day I’ll be able to buy original pieces, but in the meantime, you can get stunning artwork prints from local kiwi artists. They look amazing, and because they are prints you can easily order them online and frame them yourself. I’ve combined some prints by Maiko Nagao and Leden Design in our living room. Maiko has the most amazing range of prints that are a little bit boho, natural and warm. Leden always has the loveliest range of botanical prints. I’ve discovered they go so well together!

I have also tried loads of options in terms of frames. I think the key is finding frames that are a nice thin style, so you can get that sleek Scandi look. My favourites are Poster frames from Spotlight, which come in natural wood look (or white and black). They are totally affordable and have glass fronts.


Add in a touch of handmade or Vintage

The easiest way to make a space look comfortable and inviting is to throw in some pieces that are handmade, vintage or upcycled. In our living area, we have a DIY Leather Strap shelf I made. See the tutorial here, they are so easy to make and the leather looks so luxe.  I also always put a woven wall hanging up in the office nook, changing the colours to suit the mood for the season.



We opted to fit out the entire area with vinyl planks, and I’m so unbelievably glad we did! It’s so practical with kids, we can vacuum it daily, and to be honest I just steam mop it once in a while. It never shows up any marks, thank goodness.

We used to have a rug in the lounge area, but I found it more of a pain than anything, as it put fluff everywhere and I got sick of moving it every time I had a photo shoot. But it was a nice soft option for when the kids were in the baby stage, rolling around on the ground.

 So, there you have it, I hope you found this useful if you’re in a similar boat to us. I’ve added in a supplier list below, and let me know if you have any questions. 


Shop the Look 


 Dining Space

  • Table: Maine Dining Table from Early Settler

  • Chairs: Bentwood style from Early Settler

  • Shelf: DIY Leather Strap Shelves, see the blog here


Office Nook

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