Decorating a child's room should be easy -- a splash of pastel color, a few posters of baby animals, a bed, and the biggest toy chest your local FAO Schwarz boutique has on offer -- and you're done, right? Not so fast. Kids are people, too, with their own special needs and preferences. Take these into account when you redo a room for a youngster.
Children tend to love bright colors -- although these are best tempered with softer shades in a bedroom. Too much can overwhelm and make it difficult to sleep. The modern trend is to forego the traditional blues and pinks and go for gender-neutral hues. Think spring green or sunny apricot. Pennywise parents choose top quality paint in shades which will go the distance from infancy through adolescence. (The best interior latex is an investment that pays off, often lasting 10 years or longer. be sure to choose a low- or no-VOC version for the sake of your offspring's health.) Try citron yellow or marine blue. And, yes, kids, just like their elders, enjoy accent walls.
The biggest question you are likely to have about your youngster's room arrangement is how to encourage play while discouraging chaos. The key is thoughtful organization. Dump that bottomless pit toy box in favor of smaller bins or baskets. Then sort playthings into the containers by type -- dolls, blocks or Legos, puzzles, and so on. Label with pictures, not words, for the preliterate set. Rotate the toy supply -- stash half of them at a time in a basement or garage. This keeps down clutter and makes old toys seem new when they're brought out again. Consider a carpet (you know, the type printed with a street map for matchbox cars and hot wheels) to visually separate the play area from the sleeping quarters, or even a room divider to screen it off. A child-size table dedicated to messy play with paints or glue is necessary.
We've got news for you: the most carefully designed and chosen educational decor will turn into a major fail if it's not fun. So tap into your own inner child and get creative. Since small folks are attracted to the oversized and the unusual, experiment with hanging a gigantic alphabet poster ... on the ceiling, perhaps? One quirky idea we especially like is educational furniture hardware -- dresser knobs and closet handles adorned with images of what belongs inside -- to help teach the very young how to dress themselves. For older children who will be doing homework and preparing school projects in the room, set up a comfortable desk or worktable, complete with bookshelves and storage drawers.
Most children begin asserting their independence at an incredibly early age. Fierce demands for privacy are frequently part of this process, particularly if they share their bedroom with a brother or sister. Should the square footage be big enough, you might consider a mini bedroom remodel to accommodate both kids. Otherwise, fabric curtains are one of the most flexible solutions to the need for personal space, whether they are sheltering a bottom bunk or an entire section of a room. Another possibility is two lofted beds, each with an individual homework area/reading nook underneath; this will minimize the sense of one sibling being the underdog. In a small room, placing beds toe-to-toe (preferably with a nightstand in between) feels more private than the more usual head-to-head arrangement.
Don't ignore the age your child is now, cherish it. At the same time, keep the future in mind when outfitting his or her room. Choose a few special features to grow into -- for example, elegantly framed art which has the bold colors that appeal to a tot, yet is sophisticated enough for a high schooler. Classic furniture pieces can be embellished with stickers of your little one's favorite Disney or Sesame Street characters, to be removed when they're no longer best buddies. Use statement upholstery fabrics, window treatments, and rugs; they won't get outdated. Just make sure that they are easy to clean.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.