Having the passion and the drive to keep things looking 'cool' around the house after kids is a little bit of an obsession for my husband and me. I guess I should define our thought of 'cool' – a modern, neat, functional interior that you enjoy and you're not tripping over toys (all the time) and can have the toys put away within a matter of minutes, if needed. We strive for this and while wanting to give our son all the toys and space to play he can handle, we need to be able to sit back in the evening after he goes to bed and not stare at the Hot Wheels track and cars, books, blocks, drums – you get the idea. Of course, it's up to us to actually get the stuff put away but away is a relative term meaning you have to have a place to put it that doesn't look out of place.
Solution: We designated the bottom drawer of a 'buffet' for all toys in the living room. The toys that can't fit either go into the canvas bins in his room (that fit under the crib) or larger things make their way into the garage or his closet. We don't have a big budget for new furniture or storage so using what you have is key. This takes some purging of your own stuff to make room, but who doesn't need to purge once in awhile? I use the word 'buffet' loosely because technically ours is a dresser, but a cool looking dresser similar to the blue one shown below from Ikea.
It is extremely functional and inexpensive. We've had ours for years and have used it in several ways. Don't limit yourself to only the type of furniture you're looking for. Sometimes you can find a very functional piece that's termed something else and is less expensive than what you thought it would be.
I'm a fan of Ikea – I think they have some great solutions for furniture and you don't have to spend a lot. Of course, you get what you pay for but with toddler(s) running around, a $3,000 buffet doesn't seem to be the best option at this point. Below are a couple of other buffets from Ikea that would work and look cool. Below left is the Norrsten Cabinet, $399 and below right is the Torsby Sideboard, $299.
Another option, if you're looking for a longer term piece, is the beautiful wood buffet, called the Hudson from Room and Board.
In a quest to always keep things looking 'cool and neat' in our house, I hope some of these ideas help you or at least inspire you to keep your own 'cool'.