HOW TO: Create a Baby- (and Pet-) Friendly Home

Megan Carroll Kulick, a Chicago-based freelance writer, was mom to a new black Labrador puppy named Gus, four months pregnant with her first child, and house-hunting in the spring of 2015. So she knew that whichever home she and her husband, Aaron, decided on would have to be baby and dog friendly. Which ruled out quite a few listings—like vertical town homes with lots of stairs, tiny one-bedroom apartments and lots in not-so-safe neighborhoods. Luckily, she found real estate agent Scott Newman, who, in turn, suggested the spacious converted loft unit in the heart of desirable Lincoln Park the couple ended up moving into and falling in love with—just in time to welcome daughter Lily, now 20 months old. Megan talks us through her home selection process, interior design approach aided by Nicole Radford Oehler of Radford Design, and some tips and tricks for any expectant (child or dog) parents out there.

How did preparing for a family inform your real estate search?

I was about 4 months pregnant when we found our condo and about 6 months pregnant when we moved in. Back then, it seemed like we had all the space in the world, but as we think about having more kids, it’s amazing how a space can start to feel very small very fast.  But, we can and will make it work—after all, New Yorkers raise entire families in one room!

Did your interior design plans change when you found out you were expecting?

We bought the condo from a family with a toddler.  They had the toddler’s room in the lofted bedroom, which is closest to the master.  We thought we’d copy their plan, but then realized that it would be nice to have some sound separation from baby, so we moved her to the fully enclosed bedroom and kept the lofted room for guests. Also, having a dog and expecting a baby encouraged us to declutter a ton. We wanted to keep the living space open with lots of flow so the “kids” could run around as freely as possible.

Are there areas of the house that Lily can’t go or is it all kid friendly?

It’s all kid friendly; it’s too open to close off any space completely. That being said, she needs constant supervision, since it’s hard to contain her!

Now that Lily is walking and getting into things, do you have any tips for other new parents or expecting parents looking to create a baby-friendly space?

Absolutely! Here are a few things I either learned from making mistakes, or wisely listened to friends’ advice:

Wait to spend on a nice rug until your baby is at least 5. Spills are inevitable. Until then, I love FLOR carpet tiles.

Save on upholstered furniture. You never know when baby will decide to take off their diaper or wipe their dirty hands on the fabric. We wanted something beautifully designed, but in a fabric that would hide stains well and would be able to handle wear and tear without breaking the bank, so we decided on the Asher sectional sofa from Interior Define in a dark gray material. It has been our lifesaver. Opposite the dining area, we created a little seating nook with vintage upholstered chairs that we found at Scout in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago.

Switch out furniture with sharp, jagged edges. There are nicely designed options out there now that don’t scream “family-friendly.” Our dining table is made of solid wood with slightly rounded edges, as are most of our casegoods. We did decide to put away our coffee table for the time being, because it was the perfect height for Lily to bang her head on, and the marble top detaches from the metal base, which scared us.

Place delicate home accessories up and out of baby’s reach. We love the built-in book shelves in the living room. They are a great way to add character and color, and its easy to move anything sharp or breakable out of babies’ grasp and turned the lower shelves into ‘play stations’ for Lily (inspired by Montessori). We had to dismantle our really cool vintage bar cart because it had a million sharp edges, wheels, and lots of glass. Our new theory is that we will have a home filled with beautiful pieces when our kids are over the “climbing on everything” stage. For now, we are fine with our very minimalist approach!

 

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