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A kid-friendly, baby proof yet stylish living room, ohjoy 2.0.

The words, “kid-friendly, ” “child-proof, ” “storage solutions, “ and “safe” are quite possibly the least sexy words to hear as a designer. I’ll go further than that, we run from them like Charlie Sheen runs from sobriety or Ramona Singer runs from sanity. Design is a constant battle between form and function, and in this case Captain Function tends to win the championship all “Mike -Tyson-biting-ears” style.

I know it’s important and it has to be safe, but it’s hard, really hard, to make a space indestructible to a baby, full of things that won’t destroy a baby, AND still have it look beautiful, stylish, and grown up. I mean, what else do you want? Do you want it to also be affordable and high quality?


UNTIL NOW. Put your kids down for their nap. I don’t care how old they are — 13 years old? Fine. Give them a pencil and tell them to draw their feelings, because listen up, folks:
It’s a redo of a design savvy space turned all kid-friendly.


photo by laure Joliet

Here’s the back story: I designed Joy and Bob’s house for one of the first episodes of my show “Secrets from a Stylist, ” which you can watch here, “Single Malt Nouveau” — still one of my very favorites. I broke down the original episode here,  here, and here in case you are curious. We’ve remained friends since then, and I watched her get pregnant (not literally, please) and give birth to a really beautiful daughter named Ruby (again I didn’t actually watch it), whom I am now obsessed with.

If only she was cute. God, it’s hard to look at her, right?

But one day, all of a sudden, that beautiful Ruby turned nine months and began trying to destroy my perfectly selected and styled accessories — GASP! All these glass laboratory bottles, porcelain sculptures, and expensive fragile design books. But that wasn’t enough, no, her tirade increased as she started ramming her head into the corners of their beautiful mid-century coffee table, practically denting it with her soft little skull.

But she didn’t stop there, no. Then she insisted on getting the white sofa all dirty with her grubby little hands and feet, probably thick with germ-free baby spit and other such poisonous serums. Naturally, my first inclination was that there were a lot of other families that would love an adorable 1/2 Korean 1/2 Thai baby named Ruby, and possibly she could go live with them. But right before I could set up the proper paperwork to get that little baby out of there and save my design (and reputation), Joy calls me and says “Hey, E, do you want you to re-design my living room to be Ruby-friendly?”

Hmm. A kid-friendly, baby-proofed, yet beautiful adult space?  I cancelled the paperwork and started pinning.

Listen, I’m at baby making age (more on that later) and I obviously know that it’s a solution that I’m going to have to come up with at some point for myself (if I’m lucky), so I may as well have a dress rehearsal with Joy. A dry run, if you will. It’s a question I get all the time, it’s constantly on my mind, and frankly I knew I could do it, and do it well.

So here she is, folks, Joy and Bob, 2.0 — kid friendly and actually way better in every way:


joy cho's living room baby-proofed -

Let’s break it down to what really are the biggest non-kid friendly problems in a living room.

Major problem number #1:  Light colored upholstered furniture. In this case a white sofa.
The sofa is only two years old and they/we really like the style of it. I bought it for them pre-Ruby so it was fine … plus white sofas always look great. But yes, they become a problem once kids discover chocolate and dirt. Getting a new one seemed wasteful, and upholstering in a kid friendly fabric would be at least $1000.

Solution:  A chic DIY slip-cover.
I decided to buy a vintage piece of batik fabric and give it a bohemian looking slip-cover. I didn’t want the slip-cover to move a ton so I actually had it sewn into a fitted sheet the size of the bottom cushion and it fit perfectly. I just measured the length, width and height of the cushion and gave those measurements (with a drawing and a picture) to a tailor. (All resources at the end of post). You could, however just tuck it in if you wanted to spend money only on the fabric.

joy cho's slipcovered couch - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

This pic makes it look more loose than it is, but it’s basically as tight as a fitted sheet is on a bed. It moves a bit, but mostly stays pretty wrinkle free. Now you could EASILY do this yourself with a sewing machine and some elastic, BUT both of my sewing machines are broken. We also needed to add some material to the sides because the vintage fabric was four inches short and I didn’t trust my sewing skills for a client.

The solution turned out totally great.  Perfect even. It looks awesome and is completely kid friendly. The pattern of the batik is different enough from the rug so that it doesn’t look too busy, and since it’s in the same color family, it looks really considered and designed.

Here are some things to think about when making a child friendly slip cover:
– Make sure to get kid-friendly fabric, aka washable, dark, patterned, sunbrella, or a high poly/rayon linen.
– Don’t get anything too precious or thin. You don’t want to bother doing this unless this fabric is thick and strong so you truly don’t have to worry about it. You don’t want to be screaming, “Not on the slipcover!”
– I like to stick with these bohemian fabrics, but as long as your sofa is a solid color then you can really take some liberties and have some fun. Stay away from any white in your pattern.
– If you have double cushions on the bottom, get two sewn so there isn’t a weird gap in the cushion in the middle underneath the fabric. Joy’s was single so we did a single slip cover.
– Bring measurements and pictures to the tailor or upholsterer. You could take it to a tailor for about $80 OR an upholsterer/drapery maker (which would be better quality depending on your tailor) for $150. It seems like a lot, but in the scheme of things it’s NOT as much as a new sofa or upholstering a sofa. It’s a chic solution to an annoying problem. I’m in love with it, if i do say so myself.

Problem #2: Hard wood furniture. This coffee table is sharp, hard, and just waiting to give a concussion or gash to little soft-headed Ruby. LEAVE HER ALONE, YOU BULLY!

joy cho's living room - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by Laure Joliet

It’s an awesome coffee table that they had pre-Emily, and I incorporated it into the design. But it’s just not terribly baby-friendly. It has sharp corners and can get damaged with water glasses and various other dangerous kid-loved liquids. But, what is kid-friendly and what would work in this space?

Kid-friendly coffee table options:
1. An ottoman upholstered in a kid-friendly fabric (ultrasuede, poly, sunbrella, leather, patterned, or dark)
3. No coffee table at all. I’ve seen this done a lot, and while it makes sense it does throw the room off obviously.

But in this space a big upholstered ottoman wouldn’t look too great because we have a lot of fabric — carpet, rug, upholstered sofa, and two chairs with upholstery. PLUS, it would have to be either a pattern or a dark fabric to be kid-friendly (unless I wanted to do leather [no], or sunbrella [no]) but I couldn’t do dark because the rug and now sofa slip cover are dark AND I couldn’t do a pattern because I already have a pattern on the rug, pattern on the slip-cover, pillows, and patterned wallpaper.

Phew. This is why you hire someone.
Solution:  Two massive extra large white leather poufs. 

joy cho's living room baby-proofed - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

Genius. If I do say myself (full resources below, but we got the poufs at Room Service in Los Angeles). They are soft so Ruby can have free reign of the living room and not get hurt. The poufs are indestructible because they are leather (in a perfect world they would be vintage leather). They are white so they brighten up the space and contrast against all the blue perfectly. And lastly they add a different finish and shape, not just soft upholstery and not just rectangular. When grownups come over to play TWISTER and other adult friendly games, Joy and Bob can grab a tray and throw it on top to create a surface for cocktails.

Ruby loves to bang on them and hold onto them while she practices walking.  Also, she likes to pretend talk on the phone when she is near them. I’m pretty sure she is trying to call that little boy with glasses from Jerry McGuire that every little girl is still obsessed with. He had her at hello. She’s all “haaaaay.”

ruby from ohjoy - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

Problem #3: Breakable accessories. In this case, lots of glassware and porcelain pieces that are easily broken and can easily hurt the Rubes. Oh, and all at kid-height that are begging to be picked up and thrown off.


trunk side table -
milo baughman chair - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by joy … I think

Accessories are what often makes that final layer, so to take them away is tragic. Styling suicide, really.
So what’s the solution? How do you have accessories that are kid-friendly but look grown up and still give the room personality? Well this turned out to be the hardest part. The thorn in my crown, the Achilles in my heel … hmm …what?

Again, before:


joy cho's living room - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by laure joliet

And now:

joy cho's living room baby-proofed - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

The surfaces are way less styled and a couple of them are actually empty, which normally would kill me, but this time makes complete sense and still looks good. Nothing on the poufs, it just doesn’t make sense to style them. And on the cute little lacquer tables that I just got are just some adorable sculptural cardboard balls (see resources, from Poketo). Nothing can endanger her. The books on the right are heavy and she can’t lift them. The globe is light and if she knocks it off it’ll just roll around (even the base is plastic).

mid-century modern tv stand and milo baughman chair -

You know what is not kid-friendly? Glass apothecary jars on tables that are 16″ high.

mid-century modern tv stand and milo baughman chair - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

Joy had a really cute little wooden toy that looked like a sculpture that I styled (aka “put”) on the martini table. And yes, I did rearrange and the room is wildly better. More on that later. The items on the credenza are way more kid-friendly — a cardboard globe and a wood toy that kinda look grown up (yes, it’s a stretch, I know). Ruby is totally uninterested in the brass giraffes and can’t reach them nor does she try, so we are going to keep them there for as long as possible because they look so good.

joy cho's art wall - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

Adding the console behind the table was something I’d wanted to do for a while — it created a surface for the grown-ups to put their drinks on and to keep things out of reach of The Rubinator. It also made the composition of the room SOOO much better as it brought the sofa further into the room making that vast expanse from the sofa to the TV way more intimate.  But back to accessories:

Solution: 5 keys to kid-friendly accessories:
1. Toys made from soft materials — paper mache, fabric, silicone or paper.
2. Toys that look like they could be grown-up accessories — globes that are plastic and roll, OR paint plastic animals gold so they look like they are brass (see resources, totally awesome).
3. Toys in unfinished wood that can kinda pass as sculptures but that kids can play with and not destroy.
4. Accessories that are either so heavy they can’t move them (like really chunky books or boxes) or so light that if it fell on them they wouldn’t get hurt.
5. Raise all breakable accessories to heights that kids simply can’t reach — like on a cabinet or floating shelves.

joy cho's dining room -

While I would argue that a child can really never start tolerance training too early, Bob and Joy were less lenient on Ruby’s exposure to the booze. So the bar cart was replaced by this awesome piece from West Elm, which yes, bar cart sounds so much like my cat Bearcat that when I say bar cart I start missing the Bear even if she is right next to me. Clearly, I need a baby.

Now, check this out:

west elm wall unit - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

The bottom shelves provide storage for Ruby’s stuff and she knows that these are her shelves. The top cabinets are now where the bar is, plus new pretty (and very breakable) items. Up on the top top is where a lot of the previously low and grab-able pieces are now being displayed. The key to this piece is to either find a piece with cabinets on the bottom (wood NOT glass) or find a piece that has open shelving like this and then buy cute storage bins (see resources). Oh and as a side-note, Joy has had this piece anchored to the wall so if and when it gets top heavy it can never topple.

joy cho's living room baby-proofed - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

Lastly, yes, I replaced all the art. The good thing about organic gallery art walls is that you can switch them out. I always wanted this wall to have more coherence — less high contrast and more white frames with pretty subtle art. It’s a busy space with wallpaper, so I think that these pieces look WAYYY better than what I did before. Keys to great art HERE and keys to great frames HERE.

joy cho's living room baby-proofed - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

Just look at it. Going back to a house is extremely satisfying. When you are designing for television things happen real fast, like in four days, so yes, mistakes are made and often you want to change things but you can’t because you run out of time. But I had the fortune to go back and make their space better for them, but also more satisfying (aka, more beautiful) for me.

I’m very proud, Joy and Bob are totally happy, and Ruby is very safe. All’s right in the world.

joy cho's living room baby-proofed - stylebyemilyhenderson.comphoto by bonnie tsang

Childproofing and kid-friendly should be the least sexy thing ever, but look at this living room. It’s awesome … nay, hot. Thanks to The Honest Company for partnering with Joy and I to show and tell you how to recreate an adult and kid-friendly home.

OH and check out Joy’s blog for her perspective, and to see more adorable pictures of that amazing child playing in her new living room, she also wrote up a fun piece for The Honest Company blog as well, which you can read here. Hey, Hallmark, you got a new spoke baby yet? Check it.

Please read the resources and support these great vendors — and no, not because free stuff was given, we simply like these companies and vendors and want them to succeed because they are awesome.

Wallpaper: “Petal Pusher”,  $125/roll, by Hygge & West designed OhJoy
Rug: Madeline Weinrib, 8×10, $1800
Rug Pad: No Muv, 8×10, $185,  Rug Pad Corner
Knitted Basket: Ferm Living, $90
Navy and White Striped Pillow: Dash & Albert, $48 purchased from Lawson Fenning
Silver Metallic Pillow: Frosted Foil Pillow Cover, $29, purchased from West Elm
White Coffee Table Poufs: Morrocan Pouf, $595 each,  purchased from Room Service, large poufs not available on website,  call for information
Vintage Slipcover Fabric: Rose Bowl Flea Market, 3 yards for $75. Sewed into simple slipcover by Gypsy Palace for $150.  A similar, non-vintage fabric option can be purchased here for $28-$58.
Gold and White Paper Bowl: by Up in the Air Somewhere, $24-$68, purchased on OpenSky
White Sofa: Clarke Sofa $2, 099, purchased from Room and Board
Brass Dome Standing Lamp: Vintage, $80, Rose Bowl Flea Market
Jen Gotch Polaroid Prints: “Static, “ $85 and “Lucky 13, “ $85
Portrait of Woman: Zoe Pawlak, Price on Request
Summers End Print: by Aeropagita Prints, $39, purchased from Little Paper Planes
Before Print: by Leah Giberson, $35, purchased from Little Paper Planes
Original Abstract Painting: by Michelle Armas, Price on Request
Get in Here, Heart Print: by Christopher David Ryan, $10
Ceramic Woman Wall Hanging: $50, Rose Bowl Flea Market
Brooklyn Print: by Jim Datz, $60, purchased from Three Potato Four
Chandelier: Ikea PS Maskros, $89.99
Vintage TV Credenza: Vintage, see similar at Organic Modernism
Chrome Rocking Chair: Milo Baughman, $1200-3500, purchased from Rose Bowl Flea Market
Chrome Midcentury Chair: Vintage
White Side Table: Martini Side Table, $149, by West Elm
Brass Deer: Vintage, $120, purchased from Rose Bowl Flea Market
Standing Lamp: Vintage, $285, purchased from Rose Bowl Flea Market
Vintage Silver and Gold Radio Globe: $99 from Pasadena Antique Center
Wooden Horse: $19,  Poketo
Paper Globe: $48,  Canoe Online
Love Pillow: by Alexander Girard, originally purchased from Urban Outfitters
Navy Velvet Pillow: Sanela, $7, purchased from Ikea
Horse Throw: $158, purchased from Loopy Mango Striped Throw: Herringbone Throw, $250, by Serena and Lilly
Vintage Globe: $90,  Pasadena Antique Center
Brass Standing Lamp: Vintage, Rose Bowl Flea Market
Wooden Midcentury Chair: Vintage
Panda Pillow: $42, purchased from Yolk in Silverlake, available online here<
Gold and Silver Trunk: Vintage, $80, Rose Bowl Flea Market
White Rubber Fruit Bowl: Dropp! Bowl, $50, purchased from A+R
Cabinet: Freeman Storage, $89-$489, by West Elm
Dining Table: by West Elm, unavailable, but similar to this on
Gold Lion and elephant: DIY by Jenny Batt
Gold Canisters: by Seletti, $18-90, purchased from OpenSky
Gnome: by Imm Living, $56, can be purchased here
Chrome Hand: Vintage, Rose Bowl Flea Market
Calendar Blocks: Vintage
Wooden House Frame: by Ferm Living
Geometric Mobile Orbs: Themis Trio Mobile, $37, available at Poketo
Vintage White Side Table: $35, purchased from Pasadena Antique Center
White Dining Room Chairs: Eames Molded Plastic Dowel Leg Chair, $399, from Design Within Reach
Male and Female Planter Busts: $300, purchased from Floral Art LA
Geometric Mobile Orbs: Themis Trio Mobile, $37, available at Poketo
Vintage White Side Table: $35, purchased from Pasadena Antique Center
White Dining Room Chairs: Eames Molded Plastic Dowel Leg Chair, $399, from Design Within Reach
Male and Female Planter Busts: $300, purchased from Floral Art LA
Navy and White Striped Baskets: by The Container Store

joy cho's living room baby-proofed -

So those of you who have kids, please tell us if we have helped you or what we missed. Is there something that you wish you knew earlier about style and kids? Like that one blanket that promoted hugs or that one rug that absorbs all spit? Any and all secrets welcome …

Oh and yes, you’ll have more problems and solutions next week … this post was long enough.

P.S. The Honest Company has kindly offered a discount to all Oh Joy and Style by Emily Henderson readers on their wonderful and eco-friendly baby and household products (they have the cutest diapers!). Simply enter JOY10OFF40 at checkout. Only first-time buyers can redeem the coupon for $10 off a minimum purchase of $40. The coupon is limited to one user/account and can only be put toward one purchase/transaction. It expires 11/21/12 at 11:59 PST.

For more Oh Joy Makeovers: Oh Joy’s NurseryStorage & Shelving | Toe Kick DIY | Oh Joy’s Studio: The Living Room 


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