Michelle Farnsworth
Table at Soul Interiors. (Michelle Farnsworth)

Leslie Eckert, owner of Soul Interiors. (Michelle Farnsworth)

Home decor and furniture from Soul Interiors. (Michelle Farnsworth)

Ali Arndorfer, owner of Hidden Treasures Home Decorating. (Michelle Farnsworth)

Furniture at Soul Interiors. (Michelle Farnsworth)

Imagine you are a young couple starting out in life. Let's also add to the equation you have a toddler and another baby on the way. Now add a dog and of course throw in a cat for good measure. There are lots of people, fur and activities taking place at any given moment in your home. You want to create a comfortable, family home, but you don't want to lose your sense of style and live in a child-proofed, sterile environment. What can you do to make your home a place for family fun, function and durability?

Be Magazine sat down with two local decorators who not only have children of their own and have first-hand experience, but also own their own businesses and often deal with clients who wonder how to make this very dilemma all work to their advantage.

Leslie Eckert, owner of Soul Interiors in downtown Bismarck, believes that creating a family home must be functional but not to lose sight of who inhabits the home.

"A family home is a reflection of who lives there, which includes the pets. They're a part of the family, too," Eckert said.

Keeping the family in mind, Eckert believes one of the top investments to make in creating a durable family home is actually what you walk, run, skid and play on every day -- the flooring.

"Get something that is classic. Spend a little more money on it and do it right the first time, so you don't have to do it again," Eckert said.

Ali Arndorfer, owner of Hidden Treasures Home Decorating, likes the idea of investing your home decor budget on other items.

"Spend the money on what you put on the walls, because young children cannot reach what's on the walls," Arndorfer said.

"Yes, I agree, anything smaller than a football -- forget about it. That does not belong in a home with toddlers," Eckert said.

Now what about furniture? There are so many options to choose from, but both decorators agree that investing in a good leather or pleather piece of furniture will save your patience when having to clean spills, stains and pet hair.

"Leather wipes off easily. Cleans up well and is stylish. I don't think you can go wrong," Eckert said.

But Eckert acknowledges that she has had white (Gasp, white!) slipcovered furniture for years, even through the toddler stages. She invested in a good quality slipcover for her sofa and has been able to keep it clean by simply throwing it in the wash.

Soul Interiors has many home decor and furniture items that are made from sturdy salvage pieces or up-cycled furniture. The salvage trend is strong and a popular choice for young families. Durable wood items that may already show a little wear and tear. So when there is an accident, well, it just doesn't hurt as much to see those scratches and nicks, because they blend in with what is already there and add more character.

Another way to bring style into a family home is to mix and match your furniture. Gone are the days of everything matchy-matchy. If you have oak cabinets, then you must have the matching oak bar stools. Not necessarily. In fact, you can really make a statement by mixing different kinds of wood, surfaces and flooring options.

"Everyone thinks it has to match. But mixing it up creates interest, depth, character," Eckert said, "Don't be afraid to mix it up."

Arndorfer loves to shop for families and get them started on the right path by helping them pick out the core pieces for their home. She also finds that people may not know how to do a mix and feel comfortable with their choices. Many young families feel the need to have it all right now.

"I do love to shop for people. And when I come back and see that they've mixed in what they like and love," Arndorfer said, "that's what really makes me happy."

Eckert agrees and urges people to take their time choosing what they want in their home.

"Their home is a reflection of themselves, which is what we are all about at Soul Interiors," Eckert said.

Adding family mementos or unusual finds from travels really adds to the life-blood of a home. Waiting to find the perfect piece of artwork from a local artist can mean much more than running out and buying something to fill the space. Taking the time to add that conversation piece that everyone remarks upon and asks you where you found it will be much more gratifying in the long run.

Priorities in making your home comfortable, functional and stylish for a family:

* Quality flooring

* Artwork or appealing decor that you can place on the walls and out of the way of little hands

* Furniture that is durable and easy to clean

* Mixing it up with different kinds of furniture and decor items to create interest

* Taking your time to do it right and add the things that really represent your family life

Now, go out and conquer your family home hurdles. Shop local and find those special items that truly make a house a home. Remember, there's no rush.

Michelle Farnsworth loves travel, writing, photography, daily devotions, gardening, making jewelry and finding old treasures. Her greatest accomplishment is her two sons, who bring life, love and laughter to her each day.