Planning a room for children of any age from toddlers to teenagers should be great fun. Imagination, spirit and a clear vision of what they do and don’t like make kids a marvel to work with. And that is the key to a successful room — get as much input from your child as you can.
It’s your job to make sure a child’s room is a safe place in which to play and sleep. It’s up to you to work within a budget and to execute the ideas, especially for the little ones. And it’s you who will be thinking about storage space and study space and furnishings that will grow with the child.
However, when it comes to choosing the wallpaper, picking out paint colours, thinking up a theme or deciding whether to go for a painted sky ceiling, encourage your child to please him or herself. They spend a lot of time in their room and should feel like it was their creation.
Here are some photos and pointers from Debbie Travis’ Kids’ Rooms, a charming new book that punctuates the joy and character that should come alive in every child’s space.
Safety precautions are top priority for children’s rooms. Climbing and exploration are part of growing up. Before you begin decorating, run through this checklist for everyone’s peace of mind:
1. Furniture should be sturdy and well built.
2. Remove locks and heavy lids from storage containers.
3. Secure open shelving or bookcases to the wall so that they cannot topple over if a child decides to climb or hang from them.
4. Avoid sharp edges and corners on beds and tables.
5. Install overhead lighting. If a lamp or other electrical equipment is used, tape the cord down behind furniture and use a safety plug.
6. The cords on Venetian window blinds are a hazard. Choose roller blinds or curtains that are securely installed.
7. When decorating, use non-toxic latex (water-based) paint on walls and furniture.
8. When decorating, if you are using a ladder or there are open cans of paint, remove small children and pets from the room.
Children accumulate ‘stuff’ at an alarming rate. Clothing, toys, books, art work, and sports equipment all compete for space in a room that’s usually not too big and has only one small closet. How do you organize all these precious possessions?
It may be necessary to do a little pruning; a sidewalk sale will reap rewards that can be spent on a cool new acquisition for their bedroom. And then take advantage of hidden spaces, corners and dual-purpose furniture. Try some of these tricks.
1. Baskets and boxes are available in every shape, size and material from clear plastic to coloured cardboard and wicker. Fill them with clothing and toys and line them up under the bed.
2. Plastic garbage cans and laundry baskets make excellent containers with handles for easy totting.
3. Bookshelves are perfect for storing small items and memorabilia.
4. A single shelf built near the top of the walls is a good solution for storing items that have sentimental value but aren’t used every day.
5. Build a window seat with storage underneath.
6. Line up a row of clothes pegs on the wall at a child-friendly height.
7. Choose a bedding system that will grow with your child. In a small space, the bed can be raised and the space underneath used for a desk or play station.
8. Cut off the lower section of a dresser so that it is a good height for a tabletop. You can screw wheels into the bottom and you have a piece of movable storage that doubles as a play or work surface.
9. Divide up existing closet space with a combination of hanging rods and shelves. If space in the room is tight, remove the closet door and hang a curtain panel to hide clutter.
10. Transform a wall into a multi-purpose memo center. Begin by painting the wall with blackboard paint. It comes in a variety of colours. Then cut a piece of corkboard about half the size of the wall, position it in the center of the wall and screw it on. Do not use glue, it is very difficult to remove when you decide to redo the wall. Finally, add a piece of metal, available in sheets at the hardware store, to the center of the cork. You now have a large surface for writing erasable messages in chalk, pinning up notices and displaying photos held on by magnets. The cork and metal can be framed with wood trim.
Favourite Looks for Kids
Now that you have some ideas of what should be in the room and how to make it work, it’s time for the serious fun to begin. Explore your child’s likes and dislikes together. Would a theme-room be appropriate? What colours does he or she love? What are their hobbies? Have they a movie, music or sports idol? Decide together how you can transform their room into a space that nourishes their unique personality.
Paint is the most versatile decorating tool. It’s available everywhere and good quality paint is the least costly decorating medium. It is easy to apply, comes in every conceivable colour, and can perform magic. Always take the time to prepare your surfaces properly before painting to ensure your work will last.
1. You may be surprised to discover that your child’s favourite colour is purple. Rather than discard the choice as too overpowering, use it in different strengths in the room, Solid colour can be harsh, so apply the paint using a broken colour technique, such as colour-washing. Pick two shades, a medium and a lighter purple. Apply the darker shade as a base coat and then mix the lighter shade with glazing liquid. Rag or roll this coloured glaze over the wall and you will create a layered effect that is a softer version of the two purples.
2. Stenciling is a simple art that can really boost a theme. Look for stencils at art and craft stores or on the internet. Choose a neutral or pastel background and then add the stenciled motifs around a door or window, or to divide the upper and lower wall. Or tell a story with paw prints climbing up a dresser and along the wall.
3. Build a montage around a favourite sport. Make photocopies of players in various action positions and use wallpaper glue to adhere them to the wall.
4. Put some imagination underfoot as well. Wood floors are easy to keep clean, warm and comfortable. Paint a garden of daisies, a game board or a basketball key. Cover with several coats of varnish for protection.
5. Create a royal mood with a sheer bed canopy hung from a golden crown. Or camouflage a kids’ hangout with canvas tent flaps. Fabric can be dyed or painted to suit the occasion.