Whitney McGregor found her calling two years ago when she found out she was pregnant with her first child. She had just returned from studying fine art and painting in the south of France and began pouring creative energy into the space that was to be her daughter’s nursery. “I felt like I already knew her,” so designing came easily, McGregor says. Around that time, she started a blog called The Avarice as a personal, online inspiration space. “People started reading and I started answering their questions,” she said. By the time her second child, Liam, was around, her South Carolina-based interior design firm Whim Interiors was up and running.
When it comes to McGregor’s own home, washability and versatility are major concerns for the new mom. While her personal tastes veer toward elegant whites and luxe fabrics, she’s shifted to practical solutions that at least look the part. For example, she always wanted a white couch, but the Belgian linen she had picked out to for a re-upholstery project seemed too pricey. After all, the chair would be shared with an eight-month-old and a two-year-old. One day, McGregor threw a drop cloth over the chair in frustration, and noticed that the canvass was the exact same shade of off-white as her dream linen. Bonus: The drop cloth costs next to nothing and is easily washable. “I keep in mind that they’re only going to be at this age for a short time,” she says. “Someday I’ll have my Persian rug.” For now, her DIY décor solutions work for parents of all tastes. —Artie Niederhoffer
Use washable materials
Almost any fabric you find can be treated with new stain-resistant technology. (Just ask an interior designer about the treatment.) If you’re decorating on your own, just make sure to use materials that are washable. “In Lilly Grace’s room, I repurposed a $10 thrift store chair using white paint and a few yards of outdoor fabric. I had the chair painted in a high gloss finish that can be easily wiped clean and the fabric is stain and soil repellant, so I don’t worry about spills.
If buying expensive pieces is not an option, scour Craigslist and thrift stores for pieces that have “great bones,” suggests McGregor. Pictured is the chair she had reupholstered in canvass: “I used a drop cloth from the hardware store to reupholster a second-hand wing chair. We washed the fabric on high heat several times before sending it off to the upholsterer to ensure that there would be no additional shrinkage after the dozens of spills we knew it would endure.”
Once you find a shape you love, the rest is always fix-able. “Lilly’s bed is actually two twin beds I purchased at auction for less than $150 total. They were in rough shape and two of the four rails were missing pieces, but the shape was beautiful and they were very well made. I used the two remaining rails to attach the headboards. I then had it painted (again a high gloss finish cleans easier) and reupholstered in yellow velvet. I loved the shape and knew that when she was finished with it, it would easily function as a day bed in a guest room or screened porch.”
“The bergère in our bedroom was a Goodwill snag. It’s already been reupholstered twice to work in different areas of our home. The combined cost of the chair with the amount to reupholster twice has still not totaled the purchase of a new bergere from a catalogue store or retailer,” said Whitney.
Mix it up
“When you have kids, expensive upholstery is not an option, but a beautiful lamp might be,” McGregor says. “Spend money on the things they can’t hurt.” Pretty safe bets? Curtains and art. “In our bedroom, I mixed high and low to ensure that anything eye level for my two year-old was either washable or not too dear. Our nightstands were $20 and I repainted them myself in a gloss finish for the ability to wipe crayon, marker, sticker finger marks clean. The dresser is IKEA with switched out hardware for a higher end look. I Windex the dresser all the time, but on top of the dresser is artwork that is irreplaceable and therefore out of reach of the little ones.”
“I love white,” McGregor admits. But as any mom knows, it’s not exactly a safe choice. To create a clean, bright space in her daughter’s room, McGregor painted the floors and walls white but used patterns on living and play surfaces. “High contrast patterns just don’t show dirt,” she says.
Create an inspiring space
“I try to give my kids a lot to look at,” she says. “In my son’s room, I wanted to create a gallery wall of sorts. Art is so important and I want my kids to appreciate and enjoy it. Above his crib, I curated a little collection for him. None of it was made for kids, but it’s all very kid-friendly and enriching: Jackson Pollock, Robert Indiana, and a Christian Chaize photograph.
Frame children’s art
In McGregor’s home, her children’s art is framed alongside her own art and gallery finds: “It gives them weight,” she explains. “On our mantle, I have a ‘beautiful mixed media piece’ created by my 2 year-old and paired with one of my own pastel drawings.”
Whitney, Lily Grace (2), and Liam Thomas (8 months)