Did you, like me, get all psyched to fill your baby’s room with unique nursery decor only to learn that “child time” moves really fast and now all of a sudden you have a full-blown kid on your hands? It’s one thing to get rid of the crib and changing table, but are you really expected to conduct a full redesign every time your kid moves up a grade and/or decides she’s now obsessed with turtles instead of elephants? What about when he starts having sleepovers? Are you required, as a parent who is supportive of your child’s grade-school social life, to install bunk beds?
No you are not.
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The trick to designing a kids’ room that stands the test of time — and varying tastes — is to approach it like any other room. Those living room pillows, throws, tchotchkes and artwork that you rotate out whenever you get bored? Those are the adult equivalent of kids’-room mobiles, string lights, bulletin boards, stuffed animals… you get the idea.
We spoke with two interior designers on how to avoid the constant kid-room revamp — turtle obsessions be damned.
Invest in “adult” furniture
“A bed, a dresser, a nightstand, a shelf and a lamp can live in your child’s room until they are ready for college. Pick neutral pieces to keep the basis of decor simple — so you can work around them for years to come,” explains Melissa Milakovic, founder of Canadian design company Joydom Design.
Donna Mondi (of Donna Mondi Interior Design) agrees: “Always choose adult furniture so you aren’t replacing major pieces every couple of years,” she says. “If you decide to go with a wall covering, never choose a juvenile print; instead, select a simple pattern that would work for a baby or an adult.”
That means… skip the twin bed
“Kids don’t need to transition from a tiny bed that’s shaped like a truck to a twin to a full to a queen,” explains Milakovic. “And you certainly don’t need to purchase a new bed and mattress every few years until they’re 15.”
Mondi concurs. “When your little buddy is ready for a big-kid bed, go straight to a full or queen. I love a good upholstered bed, so I can change out the fabric every few years without buying a whole new one.”
The bedroom should feel calm & soothing
That means steering clear of bright colors and wild patterns. White is always a great option, as are “muted, warm and dark colors that will create a cozy space for your kid,” explains Milakovic. That said…
Never let a child choose a paint color
“It’s hard enough for adults to understand what a color from a small strip is going to look like on the wall!” laughs Mondi. “A child can’t be expected to do this well… What looks good in a crayon color doesn’t always translate.” Instead, let your kid pick the general color — pink, green, blue, etc. Then, choose the perfect shade (“one that won’t give you anxiety,” Mondi urges) yourself.
Still, “because paint is a simple way to change a room, you don’t need to worry too much about choosing a timeless color as much as something both you and your child will enjoy for now,” Milakovic adds. “Painting a wall in two or three years isn’t as much of an investment as replacing wallpaper or bedroom furniture.”
Be playful & childlike in accessorizing
Milakovic is adamant that “the goal of a child’s room shouldn’t be ‘magazine-ready’; it should be ‘kid-friendly.'” Amen. So feel free to go live with the glow-in-the-dark star stickers and hanging up your kid’s artwork. Other than that, “bedding, pillows and a rug are also easy to replace over time,” she adds. “And maybe a plant or two! A fun way to get them caring for a living thing — without getting a puppy.”
Remember how messy kids are
Mondi, a mother herself, is also a fan of rug-replacing. “Keep the rug, bedding and accessories affordable so you won’t freak out with the first nail polish spill,” she says. “Instead, I like to put money in the walls (durable choices, of course), ceiling and overhead lighting.”
Incorporate wall tattoos
But there’s no need to spend wall dollars if you don’t have to; these are pretty low-commitment and low-cost. Plus, “their simple installation and removal makes this a great option to completely transform a space,” Mondi explains. “Still, I’d select a graphic that would be feasible in an adult room too.”
It’s OK to personalize…
So many kids’ interests change constantly — seemingly overnight. (“My favorite thing is bugs! No, painting! I mean, space travel!” said every kid ever). But don’t stress about longevity here. “It’s OK to let them customize their rooms,” Mondi assures us. “My rule is to do it in a way that isn’t so permanent or expensive. For example, I designed a room for my son with a cool millwork-grid feature wall that was painted in an earthy Mondrian style. This backdrop lasted for years! The changes came with the items that were hung within the grid: colorful skateboard decks, guitars, artwork. Bonus: It was easily adaptable for a guest room once he was in college.”
…just make sure the “theme” is easily replaceable
Again: bedding, accessories, artwork. “Your kid won’t want a princess room forever,” Mondi says. “Hop on Etsy for inexpensive art to make them feel like a royal — without investing in a full-blown canopy situation they’ll hate in a few years.”
Most important: Keep it simple
This is, after all, a room for a kid — and probably not a celebrity kid, either. “Children don’t need added distraction when they’re off to sleep,” explains Milakovic, “so a simple, thoughtfully decorated room with a few of their favorite things is all you (and they) should need.”
Sounds like solid design wisdom all our grown-up rooms could use too.
A version of this story was originally published in 2017.
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