Sometimes it's best to treat a kid's room the same way you do any other room in your house -- by putting a premium on comfort and style that won't go out of fashion next year. For this room, the parents made the space architecturally appealing with wide-plank paneling. It also buffers the walls from bumps and scrapes over the years. The top edge of the woodwork is a narrow display ledge for collectibles or favorite picture books. (Be sure to secure anything heavy or breakable to the wall when the child is young). The rug is soft and warm underfoot, and bedding is easy-care with removable, washable covers. By skipping the head and footboard, the bed becomes an inviting lounging spot. Finally, sock monkeys are playful touches, and they can be switched out as the child grows up.
Sometimes the best decorating scheme is the simplest. A single pattern can be enough to make a room feel energetic and interesting. The key is to pick a bold, graphic pattern in an exaggerated scale: 4-inch wide awning stripes or these salad-plate-size polka dots, for example. Splash the pattern over a focal-point piece of furniture, such as the bed, or on a large surface like an accent wall. Let the pattern take center stage by keeping other elements neutral with solid colors or minimal patterns that don’t rival it in intensity or size.
Many kids get to share rooms with their siblings. It's a lesson in bonding and cohabitation that will serve them well throughout their lives. It's also a lesson in organization, as you have to squeeze twice the people and twice the stuff into one space. Stacked beds help. Some bunks even include built-in storage, such as underbed drawers or headboard cubbies. In the case of twin beds, use the space under each mattress for storage, and drop concealing skirts from the bed frames. Make the room's occupants feel special with individualized artwork and bedding, but coordinate them with the same color or motif. The little boys in this room each have a super hero print to relate to and a monogrammed pillow to mark their spot.
When a decorating scheme relies on vintage items, it creates a uniquely personal look, and it can be a budget-saver, too. Instead of investing in showroom-new pieces, you can scrounge family members' attics, flea markets, and thrift stores. Pull together a romantic look, like this one, using a wrought iron bed, an old-fashioned-style dresser, and weathered architectural remnants. Or, look for midcentury pieces for a bright, modern look. Whatever style you settle on, be wary of lead paint, which was was banned in 1978. Buy a test kit from the hardware store. If the test is positive, do not disturb the finish, but you can paint or seal it to make it safe. Call the lead hotline (800/424-LEAD) or go epa.gov/lead for more information. If the test is negative, simply enjoy the timeworn look.
Kids have an insatiable urge to imagine, tinker, and embellish. Rather than have them embellish your white walls, give them opportunities for expression that you can control and clean. An older child will appreciate a large, protected work surface to spread out art papers, markers, paints, models, and glue. Squirmy little ones don’t easily sit at a desk or table, so give them a wall to scrawl on. Chalkboard paint and dry-erase paint takes the fear out of scribble time.
In their early years, kids can develop single-minded focus on what they love -- passing through dinosaur phases, ballet crazes, and sports passions with intensity. Tapping into their fixation-of-the-moment can be a fun way to decorate their room, as long as you acknowledge the fleeting nature of these whims. Skip hard-to-change investments, such as themed wallpaper or huge decals. Instead, add throw rugs, patterned pillows, and art or accessories that are inexpensive and easy to switch out. This bedroom features a child’s favorite sports in a balanced approach: Sheets have a sports design, but the pricier duvet is neutral. The accumulated accessories get the idea across, but the throw rug, wall clock, and even the chandelier shades, can all be traded for something new when the time comes.
Some children love the creative stimulation of crafts. Sometimes, their focus is on a narrow interest, such as jewelry-making, but often there are many pursuits, from card collecting to loom-weaving, that might occupy their time. No matter what the hobby, there are tools, supplies, and completed projects to organize and store. Build plenty of structure into a hobby space, including cubbies, shelves, and a work surface. Then, choose plenty of small and flexible organizers. This space uses clear paint cans as containers. If you choose boxes or bins that aren’t see-through, attach labels or photos to encourage little ones to put things away. Be sure to include adequate task lighting and a supportive seat, as well. Finally, make the space feel inspiring and youthful, not mature and hard working, by choosing bright paint colors and accessories.
Who doesn’t love a beach getaway? Whether your child has been to the shore or just dreams about it, you can give her the feel of a seaside locale in her room. Clean, white furnishings, woodwork, and walls boost the sunshine, making the room feel light and bright. A nubby natural-fiber rug, such as sisal, feels like sand under bare feet. Pick a few coastal accessories, such as linens with Hawaiian patterns or a seashell collection, to reinforce the theme. If you have a favorite destination, frame some postcards, snapshots, or travel posters for the wall.
Showing off collectibles, knickknacks, and little objects like baby's first shoes is an easy way to decorate a child's space. You get a lot of bang for your buck by grouping small items into a large array. Build the look with wall-hung shelves, ready-made picture frames, or shadowboxes. You can cluster them in an orderly arrangement for a more formal look, or in an asymmetrical layout for a casual presentation. These shadowboxes have colorful backgrounds made from fabric-wrapped foam core that make them youthful and bright. You can do the same with picture frames by choosing patterned mats, or with wall shelves by painting them vivid colors.
When that sleepover request comes (and it will!), be ready with extra sleeping spots. For the occasional visit, floor space and a sleeping bag or blow-up mattress can do the job in a pinch. But super-social kids and visiting cousins might need more durable accommodation that stands up to frequent use. Bunk beds are time-honored ways to add sleepers. If you don’t want the extra bed visible all the time, choose a trundle sleeper, which slides out of sight when not in use. Other sleep options that can be handy include foldout sofas or ottomans and built-in window seats. This room has both a trundle bed and a spacious bench that’s padded with thick cushions and pillows.
As little ones grow into big kids, they itch to have a more grown-up look in their room. One way to give them what they want without losing the youthful vibe is to capitalize on their favorite activities. Beyond just featuring a sports team or favorite boy band, which may be a passing craze, the idea is to reinforce an enduring talent or hobby. If your child plays clarinet, for example, build a look around vintage jazz pictures. This bedroom is for a voracious reader. Tall bookshelves make room for her current collection. The bed is positioned to take advantage of good natural light, and the pillows are supportive for long periods of reading. A small desk shows off a vintage typewriter, in case she wants to try her hand at novel writing. Switching from pink to peach walls, and using worldly textiles for bedding, also boosts the room’s maturity level.
No matter their size or age, kids come with a lot of stuff. To keep yourself sane, look for creative storage spots (under the bed and over the door) and organizing tricks (clear plastic shoe boxes for small cars and doll clothes) that help you control the clutter without breaking the bank. This little boy's room shows the benefits of re-purposing. A large bank of lockers from an old school gym is a colorful focal point that holds everything from toys to clothes to extra bed linens. Stenciled numbers help you remember where things are stored. Under the window, an inexpensive shoe organizer benefits from a kicky coat of bright paint, and then it's put to use as a toy truck garage.