The Proof is in the Pudding.

In a house where renos seem to be ongoing, the concept of ‘baby-proofing’ often has me doing the glaringly obvious: making sure the table-saw is off, hiding all small, plugged-in appliances and tools, and being careful that my floor-filing habits don’t give Vee a penchant for manila folders. But recently, with my office HQ moving downstairs, I have been motivated to make my living room a kid friendly and safe zone, that still lets us multitask. Let’s face it. My whole house is still 800 square feet. Even after renovating, we’ll still be doing paperwork at the dining table at times, And as small as 800 sqft seems, it is still a big impromptu playground for my 10 month old.

Here’s what I’ve found that helps your space adjust to a near-toddler without giving up your style and sanity in the process.

1. To White Couch, or NOT to White Couch?, it’s an Ektorp from Ikea. And yes, it was under $500. And you are right again. It is white. Gasp!

I spent a long time thinking about it and in the end, I decided that no colour would be safe. If I went for a dark sofa I would be living in fear of white spit-up, and so forth. No matter what there will be crumbs and spills of all varieties, some even stemming from yours truly. So I decided to give in to my craving for an airy white. I know. I’m living life on the edge!

Of course we immediately bought 2 covers for spills, and love the ‘so-not-custom’ versatility of buying different slip covers if we want to try out various looks. Also, the sofa and the extra covers still tallied up to under $700, and we liked the idea of the warranty too.

Don’t be afraid of having light furniture just because you have a baby or small child. Scotch Guard is your friend, and also, you and your partner probably have a higher chance of smearing a crumb of chocolate or splashing salsa, than your baby does. I say go for it.

Also, I really do think that Ektorp and Karlanda sofas from Ikea are competitive on the bargain end of the sofa circuit. They are practically always being used in decorating ‘Spend versus Splurge’ spreads. For now I’m okay with dressing up my Ektorp. The no-brainer for us is not investing in something from Avenue Road just yet. (I’m looking at you, Lobby Sofa.)

2. Bring the Outside, In. don’t know if I’m alone in this, but my household uses our living room cushions for everything. My husband scrunches them into bizarre shapes for his neck or lumbar support; they immediately get thrown on the ground for Vee’s safety, creating make-shift baby perimeters. They are used as bolsters for bottle feeding, support walls for forts, you name it. When I finally get to flop on the couch I am usually greeted by these sad, clumpy looking things that I spend way too much time trying to revive and reshape. Then I got this wonderful idea.

Why not go for ‘outdoor pillows’ instead? These pillows are usually not going to be made of toile or silk, but they will be mold and mildew resistant, water resistant, and filled with happy synthetic materials that don’t lose their shapes. Now thanks to so much design emphasis on ‘bringing the inside, out’, they are available in really striking colours and patterns. There’s something for everyone. Price-wise you can really clean up after the summer when everything goes on clearance. I had my eye on beautiful Restoration Hardware outdoor pillows that were around the $40 mark. They went on sale for $10. I felt like I’d just won the lottery. Naturally I bought a zillion of them. I may have become a little too excited, I admit, but the living room looks beautiful, beachy, and fresh. Plus, I don’t have to worry about cushion abuse any more.

3. Yes Virginia, Clutter is a Choking Hazard child is like a Velociraptor. She’s smart, she hunts, and frankly her teeth and nails scare me. She can also get to the other side of the room so fast that all I can do is sweep things out of her path as she goes. It’s sort of like curling, actually. At any rate, as much as I want to change my storage habits, motherhood isn’t going to make me or Hubs any less of the collectors we are, and even being as genius as she is, Vee is still going to put everything in her mouth.

The worst ‘clutter zone’ for us is in our living room by the front window. That area beckons to my husband. That’s where he takes off his watch, empties his pockets of all change, stashes his fast-food ’10th one free’ cards, and where our mail pools for days. It’s also where random bolts, nuts, and screws go to socialize. Every time Vee would do so much as glance over in that direction, I would feel my heart palpitate. I had to find a solution fast.

I usually have a love-hate relationship with the following materials: rattan, wicker, sea-grass, banana leaf.. basically anything bendy and organic. It’s not that I don’t like them because I do! I just have a problem seeing them as anything more than accent pieces, let alone useful babyproofing tools. Not anymore. In the $10-$16 range, these baskets and boxes make the world a little more boring for Vee with their uniformity and ‘conceal-the-mess’ qualities, but a little more relaxing for us not to mention organized. I actually hid all of our purses, shoes, gloves, mitts, and of course spare change in them. Aside from distracting my ‘clever girl’, the uniformity also helps keep things looking bigger and cleaner for us. So important when you only have 800 sqft to house a dinosaur.

To cap things off, we grounded the space with a nice storage ottoman that we also use as a baby-friendly coffee table and, well, ottoman. It’s grey so it can take dirty socks on a regular basis too. We leave it empty for drop-bys – if guests, neighbours or parents come over, we can shove things into the compartment, out of sight, quickly and with no one the wiser. Nice.