When your kids are teenagers, your family room might finally look the way you imagined when you decided to buy a new house. But if they’re very young when you move in, you’ll be happier if you start out on the spare side and let the family room “grow” with your children, advised Skip Sroka, a Bethesda, Md., interior designer and one of nine children himself.

When kids are small, they need space to crawl, play and run around, Sroka said. If you put a lot of furniture in there, it will just be in the way. A sofa, a side table and possibly an arm chair will be plenty, especially since only the adults will be using them – your kids will spend most of their time on the floor.

Since you’ll be down there at least half the time as well, you’ll want a flooring that you can sit on comfortably. Your best option comfort-wise and cost-wise is wall-to-wall carpet with a good pad. That way, no matter where your children take a fall, they’ll have some cushioning.

To keep your sanity, your carpet must be easily cleaned in a color that will hide the dog accidents, throw-up, spilt juices, dirt, and all the other abuses that will be inflicted on it during those early years of child rearing, added Deborah Wiener, an interior designer in Silver Spring, Md., and the mother of two energetic boys.

A wool carpet will do nicely, but wool is pricey and some kids are allergic to it. For durability, she recommended a synthetic carpet material such as polyester, olefin or nylon treated with Dupont’s Stainmaster. Most home builders offer all of these as upgrades. Darker colors like chocolate brown, medium to dark blue or a dark taupe will hide stains, but they can make the room look more somber than you want. To add some fun, Wiener suggested a bright colored but inexpensive throw rug from a store like Pier One or Target. The rug should also be cleanable, but if something awful happens, you can pitch it and get another one.

Comfort in a family room also means adequate lighting – both natural and artificial, Wiener said. All those windows that make the family room in the builder’s model a bright and sunny space are not necessarily included in the base-priced house, but they definitely enhance the space. On those cloudy days and in the evening you also need illumination. Wiener suggested recessed light fixtures because with these you don’t need lamps with chords that will get tripped over and pulled out of the wall all the time.

Some Web sites to check out:

Crypton: www.cryptonfabric.com

Gore Seating Protection: www.goreseatingprotection.com

Arc-Com (a commercial fabric manufacturer offering both Crypton and Gore Seat Protection treated fabrics): www.arc-com.com

Duette Shades: Many manufacturers make these. Among the most widely available are made by Hunter Douglas: www.hunterdouglas.com

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