Updating my Kitchen/Dining Room To Be Kid Friendly

Yesterday we came to a crossroads in the battle of Henry vs. My Decor.  While most of my previous choices have been okay (and some changes made already, like my ottoman)- some have not. Namely the grasscloth in my dining area off the kitchen.  Last weekend I made Henry blueberry pancakes and blueberry juice ended up splattered on my paper.  After an incident with mashed beets and a close call with a crayon I’ve decided its best to replace it with vinyl grasscloth- which has gotten SO much better looking in recent years!  Sometimes its hard to tell the difference between the real deal and vinyl.

And while we’re at it, we decided we want more room in the dining area for Henry since he seems to love playing in there.  I loved our dining table set up and style since it’s our only dining area and currently provides some sense of formality- but we’re going to get a corner banquette instead so we can push the table into the corner and gain more floor space.  Since we NEVER have dinner parties there’s no point to having anything formal! So now basically I’m re-doing the whole room!

A reminder of what it looks like now (at 5:30 this morning- pardon the lack of light!).  We had to remove a window in order to make our garage big enough so I hung Ballard window-style mirrors there instead to make the room feel more open and reflect light.


The kitchen will stay as is (this photo is pre-mudroom addition but the best pic I have of it!) I am only going to change the pendants (yes- AGAIN- these only have down light and I’ll need ones that illuminate all over since I’m losing the big dining fixture)

Erin Gates Newton_378 copy

So here’s where I’m headed- a banquette in blue or a neutral strip- either way in a really durable outdoor fabric- a must for high-traffic, food-centric areas of the home!  If our round table doesn’t work, I’d do the trestle version of my Gates table from Huston & Company. A chest would give us another spot to hide Henry’s toys and allow for a small discreet TV in this area.  Our favorite family-friendly bar stools from S&l and wipeable Windsor chairs finish it off…. what do you think?


vinyl grasscloth // banquette // chest // tv // ceiling light 1 // ceiling light  2 // pendants // counter stools // side chairs // dining table // roman shade fabric // high chair (although I also LOVE the look of the new Skiphop one!)

I think the warmer neutral tones still work great with my kitchen materials.


(similar mug here- it’s my favorite // counters are White Macaubas quartzite- which have held up great! despite my fondness of red wine and not wiping them down as often as I should)

The floorplan showing the abundance of floor space we will gain!


I think this makes the most sense for our family as we never formally entertain and we need a little more room to move.  Other small changes to the house will be happening this year (and hopefully one big one- redoing the sunroom into a family room!)  I am actively looking for a local small builder to work on that project- the big guys don’t want to do just one small room even thought it’s a new build project).  If you know of any great ones pass them along!



  1. I’m slowly working on turning my furniture/fabric options over to more kid friendly ones as we speak, its been a slow process but I am happy with the options. We just installed vinyl grasscloth and I cant believe how amazing it looks especially after longing after real grasscloth and being told by the wallpaper installer it was not a good choice for people with children. I would love to know which fabric brand/type you are going with for recovering the banquette….I am currently looking at indoor/outdoor fabrics for recovering our breakfast nook chairs and need something that is VERY stain resistant for the three children under 6 crew that I have ;)

  2. Great post. These changes seem very natural with Henry on board, and I actually love the idea of a corner banquet. I’m not very formal and haven’t been sold on the traditional dining room setup for a while now, so I really like this. I also think that by using the right colors and materials you can still have a very smart, attractive dining area, regardless of how kid-friendly it may be. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished project.

  3. We have a corner banquette in our kitchen as well and LOVE it. I upholstered the bench seat in marine-grade vinyl, and the back in cheetah print Sunbrella fabric from Ballard (we have a discontinued colorway of this fabric: http://www.ballarddesigns.com/cheetah-taupe-sunbrella-c2ae-fabric-by-the-yard/382823). It’s ridiculously easy to clean up, but the dog isn’t allowed up there because her claws may puncture the vinyl. I’ve found that Sunbrella handles anything from spit-up to spaghetti sauce!

  4. We had a banquette in our old kitchen because it was the only way to fit additional seating into our tiny space. I had the Ballard one and I loved it more then I thought I would. We could fit so many more people and it was great for the kids to do activities and eat at the table. I also loved that I could store kitchen items I didn’t use everyday like a roasting pan etc under the benches. When you have little cabinet space you have to get creative, right? I also have those barstools and they’re going on 2 years and still look like new and my boys are 8 and 11 so they’re hard on stuff! I think you’ll be happy with the decision to have it work for your family. The kitchen is where everyone hangs out and having that great open space will be awesome.

  5. It’s amazing how much more room you’ll gain! I love the whole vibe. We renovated our kitchen recently and added kid friendly features like outdoor fabric on the banquette and stools. The S&L bar stools will get food and everyday grime wedged in the woven seat–a headache to avoid although I love the look! We have vinyl Phillip Jeffries “silk” wallpaper in our powder room and it looks like the real thing. A good choice given we have boys. ;)

    1. I was going to ask about vinyl grasscloth because we have a 2 1/2 year old and I’ve been nervous to pull the trigger on the real deal with an active toddler who plays in that space. Thanks for the rec!

  6. Love it all, but not very fond of having a tv in the dining room. That is just my personal preference though. I hope to have a banquette in our kitchen one day. Off topic, but the house you posted on IG with the beautiful pantry? i guess that isn’t happening or you probably wouldn’t be planning these projects. It was beautiful though and I can’t stop thinking about how awesome the space was.

    1. Yes, that is not happening. They were asking way too much for what condition the house was in and fixes it needed. So we’ve decided to stay put until we find our dream home/ absolutely NEED to move. :)

      1. I was going to ask the same question re: the house move. Whilst a new home is a fantastic new challenge, your current home is the dream home (to this UK gal!). I missed the first go round of most of your decor ideas so looking forward to seeing these ideas evolve. I just know it will look effortlessly stylish. If only I could pull off the same!!

  7. Hi Erin,

    I live in MA and had great luck redoing just my family room with Gilman, Guidelli out of Somerville many years ago. It is definitely hard to find someone to do one room, but they were willing! Their finish work was outstanding (they did an entire wall of built in’s that we designed) and we completely changed the ceiling/lighting/windows so think they would be perfect for your job. Good luck! Really enjoy your blog!

  8. I have the Thibaut vinyl grasscloth in a guest bath and love it! Super durable and timeless! Great choices!

  9. I love your new plan! It’s so important to have a house that functions for real life, and this will be great for the space. Will you be selling your existing pendants? Might be interested in purchasing, if so :)

  10. Beets are dangerous indeed.
    Don’t give up on entertaining! It’s possible with kids (and it means you get to socialize without having to get a sitter). It’s good for your kids, too.

  11. Looks great! My contractor, who works with Suzanne and I, is great! He would definitely work for your job. He’s Worcester based, but works all over, he worked with me in Boston too. Let me know if you want me to send you his info.

  12. Love these plans! Looking forward to the family room renovation, too. A while back you posted about maybe doing a double – sided fire place to separate the living room and family room. Is that still on the table :-)?

    1. Love these plans! Looking forward to the family room renovation, too. A while back you posted about maybe doing a double – sided fire place to separate the living room and family room. Is that still on the table :-)?

      P.S. I don’t know if these guys would fit the bill for the project you are looking at, but I have long admired Cedar Hill Design and Development – they say they do additions on their website… https://cedarhillresidential.com/

  13. I think getting away from what a room “should” be or look like is smart. I have a formal dining room that I love that NEVER use. I often think about turning it into a playroom since my three year old like to be downstairs to play instead of in his second floor playroom by himself.

  14. Great post! I’ve been wanting to do kid-friendly grasscloth wallpaper but haven’t had the time to look at the options so this is helpful. We got rid of our formal dining table last year and replaced it with a pool table, which gets more use :) We also have a nook/banquette so that’s where we eat now. I really enjoy your blog and that sweet Henry!

  15. Oh, Erin…can you please just come to Dallas and re-do my entire LIFE? I love this – I always get such great ideas from your blog.

  16. Love your choices for materials. Can’t help but wonder if you wouldn’t be happier with a round table? Easier to get in and out of the banquette, softer on little heads, easier to pull up chairs and high chairs. Also, maybe soften all the hard angles in the room while still giving you the floor space you desire. Whatever you choose will be great. Look forward to seeing the finished room.

  17. Have you heard of Elitis? They do really good vinyl papers, especially grasscloth. And yes indoor/outdoor fabric is key for the banquet. I think contract grade fabric has gotten *so* much better looking in recent years, don’t you?
    For additional lighting, would you consider wall sconces? I’m thinking the plug in kind with cord covers.

  18. Can you post the link to your original kitchen reveal? We are in the process of planning our own and I know my fiance would love the aesthetic!

  19. Erin it is perfect and a very wise and practical design besides being beautiful. Love the banquette, have thought about that for my own home so it will be fun to see yours come to fruition. Love the vinyl grasscloth and have looked at that for my guest bathroom since water and grasscloth do not mix well, just like food splashes!!

  20. Sitting on my banquet now. We added it after realizing I could have a large rectangular table in place of our old 4 seat square in our tiny eat in kitchen. It’s also the only place to eat in the whole tiny house. It’s worked out great with kids 2, 6 & 14! We all fit so much better. After about 18ish months my kids all refused to sit in their high chairs at all.

  21. Contact Altair Associates (John Willett) who is based in Waban (he basically has done most of the houses you have seen in Waban) ASAP. They are right now focusing specifically on smaller projects and do a phenomenal job.

    They just redid a kids bath for me and basement playroom and did it UNDER BUDGET AND ON TIME!!! John has done everything from building houses from scratch to total gut jobs and can do anything. He and his team are meticulous and very reasonably priced.


  22. I love this design and have exactly the same plan for my kitchen/dining Reno. I have a similar layout to yours and we just took down the wall separating the kitchen and dining space. We are adding a peninsula and I think a upholstered banquette would be so cozy and make the space feel casual and welcoming. I have three kids, so every space has to be functional yet durable. Also, the banquette can be moved around if needed and is not permanent. Good luck! Also, I have a great contractor if you need one,

  23. You ask for a recommendation of a builder. For a new build project (or any redo that involves moving walls or windows), I recommend involving an architect who won’t waste your time with over-the-top suggestions, but sticks to the problem at hand. An excellent architect who works both large and small is David Torrey of Torrey Architecture Inc. He’s right there in Boston, and probably knows some good small builders in your area, too. I hired him to assist me on a project in Maine — an interior reconfiguration — his solution was ingenious and one I could never have conjured myself. We interviewed contractors together, which was so enlightening for me and we picked the perfect one. Without doubt, he is the most responsive and talented architect I have ever worked with. I paid him by the hour. His work was so flawless that the contractor came in on time and under budget! What a pleasure. Contact info: david@torreyarchitecture.com 617 227 1477.

    1. That’s a great find (invaluable, really)- but my Dad is an architect and did the plans for us :)

  24. We did a similar thing in our dining room – pushed our rectangular table against a wall, got a kallax bookshelf from ikea for toys and a patterned, flatweave rug to hide spills – and it has basically doubled our play space and makes our apartment feel much bigger.

  25. I love the redo, especially the vinyl grass cloth and banquette with extra storage. I’m a big believer in using the space you have and this nails it. We use our dining room everyday, and it’s not formal at all. I look forward to the reveal.

  26. Love it all! This is my beach condo inspiration. I am a huge fan of vinyl/ pleather for dining and kids. Keep us posted.

  27. I love it. I just want to tell you – don’t anticipate that Henry is hard on the house because he’s a toddler. We have a 9 year old and 12 year old boys, and they are so rough on everything…they actually tore a door off the bathroom just goofing around. I swear they are like puppies that leave destruction in their wake…and they are GOOD kids. Really! They just have no idea where all their limbs are at any given moment.

  28. Hopefully that beautiful banquette has loads of storage underneath. Henry would love it for hide and seek and you’ll love it for the stuff you don’t need often but want to keep. I loved mine even if it wasn’t stunning in blue (just birch wood with cushions).
    I hope one of those contractors will work with you because I’d love to see the sun room family room transformation. I usually love all your transformations! Make that ALWAYS love all your transformations.

  29. I highly recommend the Tripp Trapp highchair because it’s so versatile and long-lasting. We’ve used it for our infant and three-year old. They both love it. It’s also narrower on the base (vs other highchairs that have wide-splayed legs) so it’s really easy to push into the corner. It’s also super easy-to-clean. I swear I don’t work for them or anything. I just really love the chair and recommend it to everybody!

  30. We had a banquette and loved it but we moved and now have regular dining chairs. The banquette is the way to go! So comfy for the kids. I’d second the round table instead of the rectangular. We tried a rectangular and it’s so awkward to get in/out. Also pointed corners are no good! Your plan looks wonderful!

  31. I have the Tibault vinyl grasscloth ( in Straw) going down my hallway and absolutely love it- so easy to wipe down and looks great!

  32. I would be very interested in buying your dining room fixture if you are going to sell it. Your plans look wonderful!! Very welcoming and comfortable. I always choose to sit at a banquette over chairs when given the choice.

  33. I love the window mirrors you have from Ballard but I can’t find them online. Can you reply with the link or with something similar? I need more light in my living room and I think they would be great!

  34. Why not add wall sconces so you have more light? Seems strange to make more light in the kitchen when the place you need it is in the dining room.

  35. My husband, PJ Antonik, does custom homes and renovations in Hingham and would be interested! Please check out his website! Oakdd.com

    I know you are friendly wth My brother and sister in law, Tripp and Audra Boyle!

  36. I’m sure you use them a lot in your projects, but the S&L barstools are amazing! I have a 2.5 year old boy who is pretty brutal on our home, and our barstools look as beautiful as the day we got them 2 years ago! Good luck with your update!

  37. Your selections are beautiful and will coordinate really nicely with the kitchen. It will be a cohesive family area for you all to live in so much of the time. Consider the tabletop finish for your new dining table with Henry in mind. Our kids love to color and do activity books – great while we’re in the kitchen getting meals ready. Only have washable markers, of course (although Sharpies come off our quantize with Soft Scrub) and make sure that top will be easy to clean of crayons, etc. You will love your new space!

  38. Love it. I am going through the same things with my 16 month old daughter. The struggle is real. First off, we have that highchair and love it because it easily works into the decor without being a big, colorful plastic eyesore like all the other baby gear, and my daughter loves playing with the clasp for some reason. I see her using this chair until it is time to dine in an adult chair. Second, that Thibaut grasscloth has been a savior for so many of my clients. I have used it on boats, kitchens, bathrooms, etc.

  39. Hi Erin,
    I love your new plan! As a mother of 3 (soon to be 4!) the need for more floor space is real. Happy to pass along my husband’s contracting company information. His company specializes in remodels and handyman services. He can be reached at mbogart@thebogartfinish.com. Check out some of his work at http://www.thebogartfinish.com. He does a lot of work in Newton!
    Good luck with your project and I can’t wait to see the final product!

  40. Hi Erin! You should contact Nik Monahan at Monahan Contracting. He’s a great guy and very easy to work with! He grew up in the area and does a lot of work locally.

  41. I just put vinyl light sand colored grasscloth in our dining room. I love the look and durability especially since we’re expecting our first baby in the fall! I love those Ballard window mirrors, if you’re selling them in the remodel, please let us know!

  42. Check out the new Crypton fabric, I understand it holds up to pets and kids pretty well. The fabric choices look designer friendly also.

  43. For its worth, we had outdoor fabric on our benches in the breakfast room. No bueno. Benches are now vinyl also. Everything wipes right off but sharpie. To which my decorator questioned why I would even have one in the house. Ha!

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