Kids want to make their own decisions. Parents don't want their kids to have a hideously decorated bedroom. Here's how to help your kids make choices for bedroom decorating you can both enjoy.
When Julie Hill’s 5-year-old daughter Macy requested a pink bedroom, the 34-year-old mom didn’t enlighten her to the broad spectrum of pink hues that exists.
Instead, she picked out three shades she liked and presented them to Macy, then 4, for her to pick. Both mom and daughter walked away from the decision happy.
“She’s thinking she’s picking her own color,” said Hill, of Springfield, Ill. “But she’s not picking out Pepto Bismol pink walls.”
Narrowing choices and compromise are two keys to working with children when decorating or updating their bedrooms. Whether it’s a nursery being converted to a toddler room, or a child’s room upgrading to a teenager’s haven, it’s important to consider the child’s age and the stage they are moving into before making big decisions, parents and decorators say.
The toddler room
With younger children, it’s best to keep a room simple and classic, while finding ways to easily personalize the room without having to make big purchases on hard-to-replace items, said Hill, a medical sales representative and licensed Realtor who, with a friend, recently launched an interior design business, H&H Interior Design.
Wall color can make or break a room. And with kids’ rooms, parents may be tempted to choose youth-inspired, too-bright colors that can be harsh on the eyes when a room is covered wall to wall.
“It’s important that wall color not be something you’ll be sick of in a year,” she said. “With a kids’ room, the wall color can really ruin it if it gets too bold.”
Once the walls are covered, Hill suggests parents tastefully accent the room in a way that is easy to upgrade when a child’s taste changes.
Macy decided on a magenta pink room, which Hill originally accented with fairy artwork and accents on her walls. When Macy recently declared her desire for a Barbie room, it was easy for Hill to swap out artwork, rugs and bedding without having to make drastic changes.
She is using the same approach for her 3-year-old son’s room. Originally, his tan room featured a few 18-by-24 framed prints of motorcycles and other accents; once she noticed his interest had switched to construction vehicles (a result of her husband’s career as a home builder), she simply printed out new artwork from a Web site — she recommends Art.com — and plans to replace the motorcycle prints in the frames and buy a few other accent pieces.
“It’s really not a big deal to change stuff like that out,” she said. “Even when they’re little, their room should be a place they enjoy being in. It’s important that they have their own special place.”
Other tips Hill has for decorating younger kids’ rooms: Pick a starting point, such as bedding you like, or a print, and build the other decorating decisions for the room around that. And don’t go overboard with character rooms. If your child loves Winnie the Pooh, buy a few pieces — a toy box, a framed print, etc. — but don’t cover the whole room with it.
Most importantly, she said, “Pick what’s important to you and start building from there, so it all ties together.”
The preteen room
Denise Holman, Hill’s business partner, enjoys her four (soon-to-be five) grandchildren so much, she moved to Springfield four years ago to be closer to them. Her Springfield home has a room just for them that has a bed, ample space to play, a desk and shelves for their belongings.
Considering a room’s intended functionality is one of the first things a parent should do when planning a child’s bedroom, she said, especially as children grow older.
When helping decorate her 7- and 9-year-old granddaughters’ rooms, she considered things such as whether they’d be having guests for sleepovers, or if they needed space to do their homework. Once those spacing and furniture decisions were made, they could focus on the fun stuff: colors and themes.
“A new bedroom to them meant figuring out the color,” Holman said. “Color was the big factor.”
The older a child is, the more say they can have in a room, but it’s always wise to limit their choices so they don’t become overwhelmed, Holman said. She recommends offering them no more than three choices.
Once an older child settles on a color, it’s best to continue offering them limited choices — a few options for drapery fabric or bedding, for example — so they feel like part of the decision making.
At this age, it’s key to consider how long you’d like the room’s décor to last and go with colors and items that will carry them through to their next stage of life — the teen years — without having to do more than a little refreshing to make the room older as they age, Holman said.
Storage is also something to consider at any age, especially as a child gets older, she said.
Always consider incorporating a space for them to display what is important to them: a shelf to display a collection, a bulletin board to post artwork or posters, or some chalkboard paint for self expression.
The teen room
When Tamara Burris, a Springfield native who runs her own interior design business from her Williamsville home, assists a teen in decorating a room, she has one overall goal: to design something that will carry the teen into his or her adult years.
Her strategy is simple: Create a contemporary design for someone a bit older so the teen grows into the room and not vice versa; keep expensive, hard-to-replace items, such as furniture, classic and neutral; and don’t do anything too trendy.
That doesn’t mean a teen’s room can’t still have a “wow” factor — you just have to be smart about it so that it’s tasteful and a place they can feel comfortable calling their own, Burris said.
“(A child’s bedroom) is the only place they have that is theirs when they are home,” she said.
Burris said she’ll start with a teen’s favorite color and work from there to figure out the overall scheme of the room.
To make sure it appeals to an older teen, she’ll choose contemporary fixtures and accents to avoid creating a look that will quickly seem too young. She also allows for plenty of space for individual expression and recommends framed, upholstered bulletin boards for a teen to pin up photos of their friends or celebrity crush of the month.
“Then, in six months, when she doesn’t like the Jonas Brothers anymore, she can switch it out,” she said.
If a parent wants a teen to keep her room clean, Burris can’t stress the idea of storage enough.
“If you want them to keep it clean, you’ve got to give them places to keep things, so storage is really important,” she said. “You can’t expect a room to stay clean if they have no room to put their things.”
One tip that creates extra storage is to use chests of drawers instead of nightstands next to the bed. Not only do they store more stuff, but they allow lamps to sit up higher and better illuminate the room.
If a teen wants something overly dramatic that a parent fears is a result of a fleeting interest, consider compromising — agree to one hot-pink wall instead of painting all four that color, for example, Burris said.
Though it may be hard to listen to a child’s wants when it comes to something as expensive as a bedroom upgrade, it’s always important to make sure the room is a place they want to be in, she said.
“You want them to express their ideas, but you don’t want to shoot their ideas down right away because that will make them want it more,” she said. “Let them express their creativity, and give them some headway.”
Kelsea Gurski can be reached at 217-788-1515. State Journal-Register.