Design a children’s bedroom your kids won’t outgrow
Children’s rooms don’t have to be tacky. Emily Brooks asks designers for top tips (and when to involve the little ones)
Children can be fickle: best friends change by the week and today’s favourite toy is forgotten tomorrow. So what should parents do when it comes to decorating their children’s rooms? Worried about spending too much on something that will be quickly rejected, or unable to work out how their child’s needs will change as they grow, the temptation is to go for something ultra bland or give in to that cheap Frozen duvet cover, because it’ll do for now. But there are more options.
Decorating children’s spaces is becoming a specialised affair. Interior design companies such as Room to Bloom and MK Kids Interiors focus on nothing else, helping parents create a tasteful room that fits with the aesthetic of the rest of the house while still creating a sense of wonder for the child.
“Children are by nature braver and less conditioned to be sensible,” says Alex Michaelis, an architect at Michaelis Boyd. He has applied this playful approach to the whole of his home, not just the kids’ rooms, with a fireman’s pole and little hiding spaces. “Houses can be too serious at times. It’s easy to introduce elements that will make you smile and make the children laugh and love their homes. Fun elements can be enjoyed by the entire family.”
Even the parents who prefer to keep their children’s style contained to their rooms are more interested in what goes in to these spaces than they were a decade ago. “They spend much more time and go into more detail now on the design,” says Ed Godrich of Godrich Interiors. “Once they see their friends concentrating on their kids’ bedrooms, it escalates. They realise that they can have fun with it and be more lighthearted. If we’re doing a big project for a client, we’re constantly asking them to make major decisions, so it almost comes as a relief to them that they can be a little more lenient with the decision making.” It’s little wonder, then, that Godrich says the child’s bedroom is “one of our favourite parts of the job”.
There are as many ways to
decorate a child’s room as there are for adult spaces, from the current vogue for a modern monochrome look to blaring vintage comic wallpaper or classic English nursery. There are also some truly gorgeous products on the market for young ones now, helping parents realise that child-friendly doesn’t have to mean tacky. For sweet, Scandi products, try websites such as Smallable, Søren’s House or Nubie; for chic French homewares, Maisons du Monde recently launched a colourful junior collection. The internet has also opened up lots of possibilities for personalised products, a charming way to give children a space that feels theirs – visit The Letteroom or Not on the High Street.
On the walls, Hibou Home’s collections are whimsical without being sickly, while Graham & Brown’s mixand-match wallpapers in spots, stripes and stars are an easy way to make an impact. Alternatively, large wall decals are perfect for creating a bold statement – and, crucially, they are easily removed. Look outside the dedicated children’s brands to those companies that veer towards the colourful and graphic, such as Habitat and Ikea, as they can work equally well without the designer price tag sometimes applied to kids’ products.
Children’s bedrooms should be where imagination can come to the fore. For one project, Godrich Interiors worked with an artist who created a decoupage effect of pretty paper butterflies and flowers across the walls and ceiling. Louise Holt, an interior designer, says that “children love to climb or to be in nooks, so we have often created high reading spaces or sleepover beds, with ladders to access them.” Mindful of changing needs, one of Holt’s projects featured a nook accessed via a circular hole in a high cupboard: when the child outgrows it, the front panel can be replaced with a plain door.
Storage is a key aspect of these spaces, she adds. “When the children are at a young age they need easy storage for toys, which makes tidying up much quicker. As they get older, books and school folders need somewhere to go.”
Future-proofing is a concern for parents, and the experts’ advice is exactly the same as they would give for any other room: make the walls, floors and
window treatments plainer and more robust, and bring in furniture and inexpensive items such as lighting and cushions as they grow. “Obviously you want some things in there that are specific to that child’s phase of life, but you don’t want to be redecorating on a regular basis,” says Godrich. “Kids usually get quite excited even by one or two new things – they’re more easily pleased than the adults are.”
How much (or little) to involve children in the design process depends on the designer. Some like to take a brief solely from the parents, but Holt prefers a family decision. “We like to get the children involved and ask about their interests, favourite colours and details of anything they would specifically like to include,” she says. “Then we present the ideas to the parents first for their approval, before showing the children. Once the scheme is completed they’re so proud of their new rooms as they have had an opportunity to help design them.”
Sammy Wickens, director of Helen Green Design, believes that “children have much greater design awareness than they used to, and in fact, have very adult tastes. For example, some really like the industrial look – leather swivel chairs, an architect’s desk, metal lamps. It is really interesting from a designer’s viewpoint to involve the children because we learn how their lifestyle patterns and priorities are shifting in this tech-led age.”
Helen Green Design is so preoccupied with how children can shape their own spaces that it runs an annual design competition for them, the Green Ribbon Award. Accepting submissions this year until Nov 12, it invites entries in three age categories to design a cool kids’ space. A room template can be downloaded from its website, although children are encouraged to use everything from the written word to 3D modelling to create their entries. As well as a £250 prize for the winner in each age group, the oldest 16-18 category also wins a week’s work experience at Helen Green Design Studio.
Housebuilders are catching on to the idea that children’s rooms are helpful sales tools. For family buyers, “the children’s reaction to a new home is as important as their own,” says Karrina Oki, sales and marketing director for Berkeley Homes. “It can also help set a property apart, especially when they’ve visited a lot of options during the house-hunting process. We focus on creating fun, playful and practical spaces that capture the imagination.”
At Royal Wells Park in Tunbridge Wells, Berkeley worked with Phoenix Interior Design to create magical children’s rooms featuring oversized coloured pencils on the walls, thick grasslike rugs and plywood animal trophy heads. So if you thought “pester power” was just about your kids persuading you to buy that extra packet of sweets or the latest toy, think again: you might also end up buying a new home.
PETAL POWER A decoupageeffect wall of butterflies and flowers for a home designed by Godrich Interiors
Marshmallow Clouds and Dotty Grey wallpapers are £15 per roll from Graham & Brown LIVE ON CLOUD NINE
THE PLAY’S THE THING A lion storage desk and grassy carpet at Berkeley’s Royal Wells Park show home, main; a reading nook that could be turned into a cupboard, above, designed by Louise Holt