Give the young ones in your house room to grow (and be messy) says Emily Brooks
The teenager’s bedroom is at the heart of all the clichés about how young adults are supposed to behave: dirty socks, discarded crisp packets and of, course, the moody occupants, unwilling to set foot outside the threshold.
But maybe it’s the rest of the house that’s the problem: according to recent research undertaken as part of Homebase’s “life improvement” campaign, only 69 per cent of teenagers said they felt truly relaxed at home. That figure includes their own bedrooms, meaning that three in 10 don’t feel they can unwind even in their own beds.
Sounding a note of optimism for teenagers is the rise of the “third space” dedicated to their needs – somewhere that’s not a bedroom or shared living area. Whether it’s the conversion of an old playroom or the creation of new space in the loft or garden, teenagers are learning how to be adults by being entrusted with more territory of their own.
“A third space can offer a level of independence and safety, located in their own home,” says Oliver Heath, designer and Homebase’s wellbeing expert.
Surrey-based interior designer Susan Venn agrees. “It’s becoming more common to have a separate reception room for teenagers, especially in larger houses.”
Hang on, though: isn’t this really about parents wanting their kids out of sight at what might euphemistically be called a “challenging” time?
Venn disagrees: when she received a brief for a boys-only snug for two teenagers as part of a wider project for a family home, “although there was definitely an element of it being about them not trashing the rest of house, it was more coming from a good place, allowing them their own space to socialise and grow”.
Because the snug was part of the main house, it had to chime in aesthetically and not be too childlike, so there’s a brightly coloured rug, and cushions in Paul Smith’s signature stripe – it’s smart and laid-back, rather than too slouchy and informal.
Durability is a must in teenagers’ spaces, says Venn, so she’s used wipeclean vinyl wallpaper in a dark colour and, on the sofa, a commercial-grade faux suede normally used in hotels that resists almost any stain you can throw at it.
At the top end of the market, Helen Green Design overhauled a Chelsea town house for clients with teenage boys, where they each have a floor to themselves.
A more achievable solution for most is building at the bottom of the garden: James Willmott of Harrison James, which designs and builds garden rooms, says that there is growing demand for structures to accommodate older children.
Not everyone can give up a room to their teens, so if they’re stuck with a bedroom, how can it suit their needs? Multi-functional furniture is essential, for example a desk-cum-dressing-table, seating with hidden storage and a sofa bed for overnight guests.
The most important element of designing rooms for teenagers, be From £650 by Made (made.com) it a bedroom or third space, is longevity. “It was part of my brief that, in four years’ time when the boys go to uni, the room would still feel relevant when they come back as young men,” says Venn of her boys-own snug.
Children’s tastes change wildly over these years, so the pink pony wallpaper that seemed cute at 13 could be the source of excruciating embarrassment by 18. According to the Office for National Statistics, half of 21-year-olds still live with their parents, so your teen scheme might have to last longer still if you don’t fancy fully redecorating.
Think ahead about how rooms will be grown in to: Verity Woolf, design director of Woolf Interior, redesigned a teenage girl’s bedroom but also suggested that the box room next door be repurposed as a dressing room for when she got older. For the bedroom itself, “future-proofing her space meant that it needed to be comfortable, timeless and transformational”, says Woolf. ”
Rooms that successfully bridge the teenage years are about creating an “envelope” that is actually quite adult – plain walls, double bed – and then subtracting or substituting the more childlike elements over time.
Accessories such as cushions shouldn’t blow the budget, because they get ruined, and because tastes change, says Venn. “My advice is to make the backbone a bit more neutral but encourage them to style up their own space quite inexpensively so it can be changed easily.”
She recommends websites such as Rockett St George for irreverent accessories, like hooks in the shape of pointing hands, and Society6 and Print Club London for cool artwork. These are not places that you might normally associate with teenage style per se – but their wares have a sense of fun that’s universal rather than childlike.
Allowing teenagers to personalise their rooms is clearly important to engender a sense of ownership, so include plenty of shelf space for photographs and other keepsakes. According to Heath, Homebase’s research suggested that “when teenagers are consulted about the design of a room, they are more likely to look after and respect that space”.
This is encouraging stuff: by getting your children more involved, you might even solve the problem of all those old socks on the floor.
£599, by Made (made.com) £57, by Red Candy (redcandy.co.uk)
Fleetwood sofa bed