How To Curate A Designed Home That Works With Kids
Mention the name Cristina Toff, and the local moms in the digital community sphere will all widen their eyes and jointly wonder about her beautiful home. She happens to be an incredibly down to earth, nurturing and kind spirit so none of it feels annoying to any of us watching. I know many of us spending more time at home with kids crave for curated corners that help us enjoy these moments more so I asked Christina to give some guidance for any of us looking to reset our environment for the season ahead. She generously offered below her strategies and selections for her own home and family.
1. I think you have such a distinct look and feel to your home and lifestyle that stands out on Instagram. How would you describe your design?
Thank you! The look I try to go for is ‘modern farmhouse meets coastal craftsman’ but I’m honestly not sure how well that describes my design. Ultimately, I strive for a balance between clean and cozy, modern but comfortable.
2. In my opinion, your home has polish combined with coziness. Do you have tips to strike that balance when planning a space?
Thank you! I think two main things: 1. Determine what your priorities and values are and consider your day-to-day. Home design should not just work for you, it should work for you. If anything is making your life more difficult, it’s not the right design. And 2. buy what you love - what really, really speaks to you - for this season of your life. I, admittedly, often choose form over function, which is not ideal with two young kids and two messy dogs. But, when you love the items in your home, you make them work with and for your lifestyle, and you just feel better in your home.
3. We know Instagram is a small window to the day to day but you seem to know how to tame clutter with a toddler and a baby. What organizing products or solutions do you highly recommend?
Okay, first, it’s true that Instagram is a small window! I saw someone say once ‘don’t compare your private to someone’s public’ and I feel like that applies so much to home. I post photos of different parts of my home and I try to capture them in a relatively tidy state (I do try to stay organized at home because it makes me feel a lot better mentally and emotionally), but there are OF COURSE parts of my home that are disasters at the same time (and you’ll likely see those on my stories because I’m trying to keep it real).
Okay, so back to the question: there are definitely some favorite items and strategies I use to tame the inevitable kid clutter.
Bins and baskets - my number one, ride or die. They’re beautiful and functional - whether it’s housing toys in the living room or being a vehicle for moving things from one room to another.
Furniture with storage - the key is multifunctional. Everything - especially in small spaces - should serve multiple purposes. If it doesn’t, it’s not doing enough work for me.
Closet organization - closets, cabinets and drawers can become black holes for clutter - from legos to puzzle pieces to art projects. Establishing an organizational system - I’m a big fan of clear boxes and labels - so that everything is easy to find.
Clutter assessment & purge - It’s so easy for our homes to just fill up with things. We accumulate and collect and, before we know it, every empty closet we had when we moved in becomes packed to the brim with who-knows-what. Every once in a while, just take inventory of what you have and KonMari (yep, I went there) what doesn’t light your joy on fire. Kids really don’t need much (and, while I know we want to give them the world and that means, to some, buying everything in the Target toy aisle), less really is more in so many ways. Purging is also an awesome teachable moment for kids - it’s a great opportunity to start a conversation about children who have much less than you do.
Buy smart. Okay, I know this is subjective, and I’m not saying don’t buy that Paw Patrol Marshall fire truck (yep, we’ve got that), but try to focus on buying toys that can be used in a lot of different ways (like magnets, loose parts, etc.), that can be used for a wide range of ages (so they’re not outgrown so quickly) and that don’t require a ton of pieces to use (so that if something gets lost, the entire toy isn’t useless). This’ll give toys longevity and reduce how frequently you’re buying new stuff (aka clutter).
Toy rotate. Putting toys away and bringing new toys out regularly - also known as ‘toy rotating’ - is really helpful in reducing clutter and dealing with toy overload. The fewer options kids have, the more in-depth they’ll engage with the toys they have. But this also means clean-up is easier and there’s just not as much stuff out to be organized.
4. What are your personal favorite pieces in your home that are fun and functional? What are a few favorite pieces that add happy detail?
I love this Pottery Barn Kids bookshelf in our playroom - I love that there’s a ton of storage but the book rack displays our gorgeous book covers and doubles as decor.
We have this console in our dining room that houses everything from my toddler’s art supplies to electronics to extra vases - I love the rustic look of it and that I can decorate the top of it with books, vases and photos.
I also like to buy pieces that kind of mask damage. For example, we have a reclaimed farmhouse dining table that doesn’t look messy if my toddler accidentally spills on it or makes some marks. And patterned, textured (not super light!) rugs are always helpful :)
My husband and I love to collect antiques (kind of the opposite of clearing clutter), and we’ve found some really beautiful pieces over the years. Displaying these - like a vintage globe in my toddler’s bedroom, a vintage play cash register in our playroom, and a vintage camera in our living room - along with family photos - adds so much happy detail to our home.
5. Do you have decor brands you default shop to design areas that are both, elevated and family friendly?
I think elevated and family-friendly style is less about a specific brand and more about certain tenets. Define the type of style you’re going for and then consider things like soft and round rather than sharp corners, neutral colors and natural materials (instead of bright red plastic), and simplicity over design-overload.
As far as sources, I’m a huge fan of Wayfair - they’ve got an incredible selection of high-quality, beautiful items and many are very affordable (which makes me feel better if something were to happen to them with 2 kids and 2 dogs).
Cristina Toff lives in Jersey City with her husband, two children and two dogs. She is a website designer, doula and founder of The Motherhood Common.