How to Decorate with White When You Have Kids

How do you decorate with white when you have kids? This post shares all the tips, tricks, and ideas I’ve learned to maintain a light and bright house, even with kids running around!

Tidy, organized living room with lots of white

Whenever I share photos of our house, especially our living room, inevitably I am asked the question: How do you decorate with so much white when you have kids?! I’ve gotten that question so much, in fact, that I decided to write a post explaining how exactly this works (and sometimes doesn’t work) in our house. 😉

So if you’re new around here, you should know that there are four of us living in our house: myself, my husband Donnie, and our sons Connor (age 13) and Caleb (age 10).

I lucked out and Donnie is particularly neat. In fact, if you asked me which one of us is more neat and organized, I would tell you that he is, because it’s true!

Family with mom, dad, and two sons

The boys, on the other hand, are not particularly neat at all. They are normal boys. They don’t mind being dirty, they don’t like to clean up, and they’re really unaffected by clutter and mess– it’s like they can’t even see it in the room.

The boys listen and pay more attention to rules now than they did when they were, say, 1 and 4, but just in case you thought I was working with extremely tidy, neat-nick children, that is not the case.

So how do I decorate with so much white when I have (very normal, messy) kids?

Decorate with White When You Have Kids– Strategies that Have Worked for Us

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

1. Keep food in the kitchen and dining room.

The boys know that if they’re eating, they need to be either sitting at the island in the kitchen or sitting at the dining room table. Our kitchen and living room are one big, open space, so it is easy to feel like you’re still part of what is happening in the living room (and they can still see the TV if we’re watching a movie or something) if you’re sitting at the kitchen island.

Living Room and Kitchen with Lots of White

our current living room and kitchen

At our last house, the dining room and living room were in one large space, so they could eat at the dining room table and still be in on the action if everyone was hanging out in the living room.

townhouse living room with white IKEA EKTORP sofa and dining room in the background

living room and dining room in our last house

In both situations, this helped corral the mess in a designated area and kept our whites white! Occasionally the boys will wander into the living room with a bowl of popcorn or something and we live a little on the wild side (ha!), but for the most part, they keep food in the designated space.

2. Remove shoes in the entryway.

This happened more just naturally rather than us making a rule about it, but we enter the house from the garage into the mudroom, and the first thing the boys do is kick off their shoes before they walk into the main part of the house. They just don’t like wearing them unless they have to, which keeps them from tracking junk into the house too. Win-win.

Coat closet with bins for shoes
The boys keep the shoes they wear most often in these bins in our coat closet.

3. Store toys and crafts away from the main living space if possible.

I have loved this setup in our new house! The playroom is a bedroom upstairs. So craft projects and any messy fun is typically done in that space, which is set up to handle that kind of thing.

Playroom with desk, storage cubes, and beanbag chairs
Playroom in Our Current House

Even in our last house, their craft supplies and little art table were upstairs in their room rather than close to the living room/hang out area. This way, the mess stays away from the main living space.

Art station for young children with craft table and chairs, and an organizer on the wall with paper and crayons

the Cs’ craft corner in our last house

Housing the toys upstairs also cuts down on clutter in the rooms we use most. Of course toys make their way downstairs sometimes, but I keep a basket in our entryway right next to the steps, so it’s easy to load playroom gear into the basket and take it back up the next time they go.

Entryway with white walls, a cream cabinet, and a large, round aqua mirror

entry in our current house

Pegboards with Art Displayed

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4. Choose washable couch covers.

As I wrote about in this post, we have the IKEA EKTORP sofa, love seat, and chair, and I have both tan and white covers for each piece. I would say the tan covers are our “everyday” covers and the white ones just come out every so often.

It is a big job to change everything out though, so when the white ones come out, they stay for a little while!

small townhouse living room with IKEA EKTORP sofa and chair with tan slipcovers

our townhouse living room with the tan couch covers

The other nice thing about the EKTORP covers is that they are washable! I don’t worry about them getting too messy because if something happens, I can take them off and throw them in the washing machine and they are as good as new.

And if something major did happen to one of the covers, they are fairly inexpensive to replace. (Though we’ve had them for several years now and haven’t had to replace one yet.)

With young kids, I am not going to spend big bucks on expensive sofas and constantly be nagging everyone who comes into my house to be careful with them. That’s just not us! The EKTORPs are a practical choice that also allow me to have the light, bright look that I love.

(And while I’m at it, I try to pick washable pillow covers that can be removed as well!)

5. Stay away from flat paint.

When we first moved into our house, the builders had painted all of the walls in a flat white paint. This was great for hiding imperfections in the drywall, but every single little touch and smudge showed up on the walls.

(At one point we had the perfect imprint of a hand on the wall in our living room!)

white living room with flat white paint on the walls
our living room shortly after we moved in, with flat white paint on the walls

Flat paint is really hard to wipe down and get clean. So especially when we’re using white, we try to use a more wipe-able sheen. (We typically use eggshell for walls and satin for trim.)

6. Don’t discount white kitchens.

I have talked to people who have had white kitchens and felt like the cabinets got messy a lot. But we have had white kitchens in two houses now, and in both of them, I have felt like the cabinets and countertops were a breeze to keep clean.

(I have actually had people with darker cabinets tell me that those were more difficult to keep clean than white ones!)

small white kitchen in a townhouse

white kitchen in our last house

If I see a spot (which I can’t say happens often), I just give it a quick wipe down with a rag and it’s gone in a second.

In both of our white kitchens, the floors (an area rug over tile in our last kitchen and hardwoods in our current one) have actually been harder to keep clean than all of the white. This may not be everyone’s experience, but it truly has been for us.

White Kitchen
the white kitchen in our current house

7. No space will be perfect.

We are far from perfect! The pictures you see on the blog are akin to what your house would look like when you’re getting ready for company to come over. I pick up, put everything in its place, wipe away smudges, etc. before I take photos of anything.

If you would look closely at the walls and furniture in our house, you would see plenty of evidence of kids living here! There are scuffs. There are scrapes. And there are plenty of smudges.

And every room isn’t tidy 24/7… sometimes our house looks like this:

Messy Playroom

We live in our house. I love to create organizational systems and figure out the best ways to store things to keep it as tidy as possible, but the reality is, sometimes (a lot of times) it gets messy!  We are not this Stepford family that lives in a showroom all the time.

Every decorating style will have its challenges. Fingerprints and crumbs can show up easily on dark cabinets and countertops. Any color upholstery is capable of getting a stain. Paint gets chipped and scraped. Things get broken.

I just do my best to merge our family’s style and the things that make us happy with the phase of life we’re in right now (the two crazy boys phase)!

I hope the boys look back and think of their house as a welcoming, inviting, cozy, and safe place to be, a place where they are loved beyond measure and are also free to be their sweet– and sometimes messy– selves. 🙂

Do you decorate with white when you have kids? I’d love to hear your best tips and tricks in the comments below!

Thanks for following along! Have a wonderful week!

xo, Abby

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

17 Comments

  1. Your house is literally just, GOALS! You have a beautiful home (and family!) and I totally applaud you for managing to keep everything organised and looking lovely. The craft corner is adorable, and I like the idea of how close and connected the dining room is to the living room. That makes for a really convenient setting! I surely wish my future home will look like yours haha, have a nice rest of the week! xo

    Joanne | Life in Blue Skies

    1. justagirlabby says:

      You are so sweet! Thank you, Joanne! Hope you’re having an awesome week as well! <3

      ~Abby =)

  2. Michelle Johnson says:

    I love white! I think it’s just so beautiful and bright and easier to work with when you want to change things for holidays. I love this post and will come in handy when I have kids!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      I agree! Thank you, Michelle! Hope you have a great weekend!

      ~Abby =)

  3. I love all the pops of turquoise/aqua throughout. Everything looks so beautiful, and I love reading about the “imperfections” too 🙂 It’s good to know we’re all human! Either way, your home is beautiful!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Aw, thanks so much, Erica! Happy Friday! <3

      ~Abby =)

  4. Tiff|18thavenuemom.com says:

    Joanne nailed it with her first statement! You do a great job of keeping your home presentable while still LIVING in it. I can sympathize with you on the flat paint – my boys (1 and 2) have managed to get everything from spaghetti to glue on our flat (orangey) walls; and every time I clean up a mess, there’s just another big dull spot on the wall! Thanks for sharing your lovely home with us!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much, Tiff! Happy Friday! <3

      ~Abby =)

  5. Marly @ A Brick Home says:

    Abby,
    I LOVE these tips! I have a 7 month old and am currently trying to find ways to keep our house looking its best. I love the idea to put the playroom upstairs. I originally thought to put it downstairs but I am now reconsidering. Also, it’s such a good idea to take off your shoes when you come inside. That’s one thing I’m going to really try hard to enforce at my house. I think it will make such a difference.

    Best,
    Marly

    1. justagirlabby says:

      It really has in ours! Have a great weekend, Marly! <3

      ~Abby =)

  6. I always wonder about this! Your house always looks so beautiful!! There are so many beautiful houses decorated with white and I often wonder how it is kept so nice all the time. Nice to know that everyone has the same issues. I have two teenage girls at home and two dogs. And I find keeping what I have to clean to be a difficult task sometimes. It is true though that everything has it’s cleaning issues. I have dark cabinets and I find they show fingerprints and spots also. I guess it is just a matter of simple maintaining no matter what you have. 🙂

    1. justagirlabby says:

      So true, Debbie! It is certainly not always looking perfect around here! 🙂 Have a great weekend!

      ~Abby =)

  7. Thanks Abby. I know I asked you about this just last week. We also only eat in the kitchen. The shoe rule applies here too but I often here my kids say “but mom I just need to grab something real quick”. Or they come in and kick off the shoes but forget their clothes are filthy from rolling in the dirt, and plop on my couch..grr! Maybe I need an outdoor tropical shower by my entrance.:) With three girls in softball and one boy in football I feel like we can’t keep up some days lol

  8. We had white carpet in our house growing up and we were never allowed to eat on the carpet or to wear shoes indoors! I didn’t mind at all! 🙂

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Our boys don’t seem to mind the “rules” either! It’s been pretty easy!

      ~Abby =)

  9. Amy Greene says:

    I love to read these ideas and am impressed you can have a family with white in your house. You’re definitely braver than I am! It looks great!

    1. justagirlabby says:

      Thanks so much, Amy! They do a pretty good job with all the white. 🙂 Hope you’re having a great week!

      ~Abby =)

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