Rita Konig is interior design royalty. Famed for her crisp yet comfy style, her newly launched Rita Says website is a one-stop online interiors destination. Here she shares her top tips for creating a stylish family haven
When I returned to London in 2012 after six years in New York, creating a family home wasn’t on the agenda. Instead, I found a flat perfect for a single girl who loved entertaining and set about remodelling it. However, life is nothing if not surprising, and soon after I moved in I met Phil (the biographer Philip Eade) and before long, I was both married and expecting a baby.
Some big changes were needed if my little one-bed was to become a family home for three. We were hugely lucky to be able to buy the flat next door so we could expand laterally, but the arrival of Margot (in early 2014) didn’t mean that my own sense of style suddenly upped and left.
When it came to doing the conversion, my priority was to make a comfortable, stylish home for all of us, not to create something specifically ‘child-friendly’ (which is so often short-hand for wipe- clean, primary-coloured plastic and strangely named items from Ikea).
Of course we did essential things like installing a stairgate and safety catches on cupboards, but we didn’t make a lot of other concessions. Our breakables remained, as did the armchair covered in snowy-white sheepskin, which is still (miraculously) white several years later. And the result is a home that I think is child-friendly – it’s relaxing and welcoming for Margot, but is just as much our home as it is hers.
Here are my tips for creating a home that is both grown-up haven and practical family space.
1. If you don’t have good storage your life is a mess. This is doubly true once you have children. Good storage is expensive and people don’t like to put it into their budgets when they’re renovating, but it’s crucial. Sacrificing floor space for storage is worth it if it means you are clutter-free.
2. Leather dining chairs are terrific because they just wipe clean. I had my Philippe Hurel chairs covered in bright yellow leather, which look wonderful and means not one smooshed fish finger has left a mark.
3. Get a big wooden table that improves with age – spills and scratches are an asset. The marks of family life add to the charm rather than detract. Ours is from Dean Antiques at Lorfords and I’ve had it for six years now. You can’t be too precious with it. Ours has traces of glitter and ground-in slime – but it has got character.
4. I love a wall crammed with pictures – my walls at home have got more crowded as I’ve added to them over the years. I like to mix my daughter’s paintings in amongst the art. Rather than having her masterpieces framed, I just stick them over the top of what’s already there. Or they go straight onto the wall in my dressing room using brightly coloured Japanese washi tape, which doesn’t take the paint off.
5. Baskets for toys are a godsend. You can ferry them from bedroom to sitting room and just shove everything easily back in at the end of the day. Bobo Kids has a great selection.
6. When it comes to your child’s bedroom, avoid theming everything or getting it all from one place. With Margot’s room we used what we already had and it’s stuff that will see her through to adulthood. Then you can focus on the fun task of adding accessories. I love wall stickers by Mimi Lou from Bobo Kids, Cable and Cotton fairy lights and Rabbit night lights both from Hedgehog.
7. If you have wooden floorboards you’ll need a good rug to add padding for little hands and knees. We have a Berber rug in our sitting room that is wonderfully hard-wearing but also thick and soft – far preferable to bright, foam playmats.
8. Perhaps the most important advice I can give is not to be too precious about your home. Buy the things you love and enjoy them, and if something does get broken, then that’s life. Put it in the bin immediately and forget it. After all, it’s better to have loved and lost… and what’s tragic one day can be an excuse for a shopping trip the next.
To see Rita’s edit of the most stylish home decor products for children, go to ritakonig.com/ritasays