The long view on children's rooms makes for happy kids and parents

By Sarah Richardson


What could be more upbeat and fun than decorating a kid’s room (or two)? This is your chance to lighten up, take a step back in time, and imagine what would excite the young mind of a child! Sure, you can always default to superheroes and trains, princesses and fairies, but that just guarantees you’ll be right back at the drawing board as soon as they outgrow the theme du jour. I prefer to take the long view and decorate for little people who are quickly growing into big personalities (plus, let’s be honest, I can’t afford the rights to Disney, so you’ll never ever see any trademarked icon appear on my shows … I call that a blessing in disguise.). In this house, Tommy (my trusty design partner) and I tackled a pair of rooms and designated one for him and one for her. We looked to field, forest and meadow for inspiration, filling each room with a youthful, yet sophisticated palette to ensure that these rooms would connect to the overall design vision of the house, and survive the test of time (and the changing whims of little ones). Lets compare what we did in each room…


FOR HIM – At first blush you may not think that an over-scaled leaf and fern printed linen screams little boy, but I looked outside and imagined the forts they could build, the trees they could climb, and the adventures that would happen as little boys took off into the woods pretending they were on an adventure, a mission, or just away from the realm of parent-land. Instead of the predictable, every-boy shade of navy blue, the print I started with pulled together bright sky blue, verdant apple green, deep olive, and toasty walnut. With four great shades to pull from, it was a breeze to add additional boy-themed patterns in plaid, stripes and houndstooth.

FOR HER – I’ve historically resisted the pink/purple go-to girly palette, but then I happened on the fabric that changed it all (you know it’s always the fabric that gets me going and starts the whole creative ball rolling). Instead of looking like the inside of a sugary sweet dollhouse, this deep aubergine floral grabbed my attention with its lyrical, yet dramatic pattern. How could a fabric be so rich and exotic looking, but so happy and playful all at once? Therein lies the magic of beautifully designed and coloured textiles (and the reason I can never tire of flipping through samples in showrooms). To keep the mood headed in the direction of exuberant over elegant, I filled out the scheme with a rainbow-hued graphic, a peppy polka dot, and a preppy wide stripe.


When you’re packing the room full of colour and pattern, you’ll never go wrong with basic bedding in good old plain white (to keep it easy to sort at wash time, try to find sheets with a woven pattern (stripes for him and hexagons for her is an easy way to know what’s what).

FOR HIM – If your little guy is running around like the Commander in Chief, why not bring a little army surplus into the mix? Vintage army blankets cost us about $40 each, can be washed easily, and help take the colour direction down a notch.

FOR HER – Patchwork quilts can be found in every colour of the rainbow, but over the years I’ve amassed my fair share of them in tones of pinks and purple. If this is your desired palette you’ll have no trouble finding a pretty one filled with flowery fabrics and fresh prints. You can spend any amount but I paid $50 and $75 for the two I bought to use in this room. They add an extra layer of warmth over the duvet in winter, and are the perfect light covering in the summer. In addition to vintage quilts I was able to add a nostalgic nod to the old house in the girls room thanks to a tattered old chenille bedspread that was left in the house when I bought it. The centre of the bedspread was threadbare from use, but the perimeter was preserved, so I snipped the salvageable sections and had my seamstress sew it into a bedskirt and accent pillows. They just don’t make chenille coverlets like they used to, and I will forever have a soft spot for them as they conjure up the happiest memories of summers at family cottages.There’s nothing softer or more country appropriate!

Bedside tables

Even little ones need surfaces beside their bed to store their treasures and worldly belongings. But a matched pair is not mandatory. Why not focus on choosing one for storage and one as a table/desk/vanity?

FOR HIM – An antique walnut dresser was irresistible at $800. I know that sounds a bit rich for a kid’s room, but the quality is exceptional, the drawers slide perfectly, the finish was flawless. I figure this sort of a purchase is more of a future heirloom than temporary fix (and you can’t say that about too many pieces of kids’ furniture). The opposite bed gets a small work table (it’s not a big desk for creating crafty school projects of the solar system, but it’s open underneath and can be used as a writing desk if desired).

FOR HER – What I splurged on his room, I saved on hers thanks to a dresser with lots of storage and a pretty little vanity complete with mirror, each for only $175. You’ve likely noticed that I have a penchant for painting just about any piece of furniture, but I found the extra dark mahogany tone of these two items pulled out the deepest shade of the stem in the inspiration fabric – talk about serendipity.


We didn’t want the house to look like a dormitory, so we treated the bed sizing differently in both rooms, with twins for him, and a queen for the princess.

FOR HIM – Working with wood tones is a fine line of balance and knowing where to match and where to contrast is key. Since I already had beautiful, rich wood elements introduced via the bedside solutions, I felt that a painted option would be appropriate. These panelled beds were a good deal at less than $700 each, and the creamy white finished helped brighten the room. Not to sound snobby, but the wood tone finishes available on a $700 bed would look cheap in comparison to the items we’d already committed to. With a cannonball accent on head and footboard, and a bead board panel, these beds are country, but not cutesy.

FOR HER – When I fall in love with fabric, I want it everywhere. Not satisfied with a single hit of plum on the drapes, I wanted to see more – and designed a headboard to fulfill my wish. The peaked top plays off the shape of the ceiling (and was inspired by a Georgian style door pediment).


Lighting isn’t just practical; it adds huge decorative impact to every room, especially when you’ve got high ceilings that draw the eye up.

FOR HIM – A chandelier seemed too feminine, and many other options were too formal, so Tommy struck just the right balance with an old, rusty lantern boasting a beautiful patina. Standard eight-foot ceilings allow for a much smaller fixture, but when the ceilings soar, so too does the necessary scale of pendant light.

FOR HER – Wanting to avoid princess clichés, and favour the garden motif, I went in search of a vintage metal floral chandelier. What I found was pretty and French, delicate, yet not prissy. Instead of looking tropical and sharp (like they sometimes do), this pendant appears as though it’s wrapped in delicate woodland wildflowers.

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Topics: Sarah's House, Sarah Richardson, Season 03, Episode 07, Renovating, DIY, Kids Room, Pink, Purple, Green, Blue

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