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)

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

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

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