Tip: Designing a Room with Kids

As a mom, I idealized what it would be like to design my daughter’s room with her help. I thought it would be really cool to provide her a space that was uniquely designed by her, especially as my own mother was very controlling about my bedroom when I was a child.

However, it quickly got a bit of a hand with some big plans that would not be doable.

For example, she wanted a bunk bed with a desk underneath. Not only were they pricey but I was skeptical that she would want to sleep it all the way through high school. Her room does not have a high ceiling and would she really want to climb up that ladder everyday?

Her idea on painting the walls was also over the top with originally a dark navy blue on all four walls, which later got switched to walls with a pattern and four different colors!

I realized that I would need to take a step back and reduce her involvement. Yet how to do so while respecting her wishes?

1.) Take the child WINDOW SHOPPING… look at beds, dressers, nightstands and bed comforters. Whenever they say “I like that!” try to ask questions that give you a clearer understanding of exactly what they like.

For example, daughter liked extremely different looking (on the surface) dressers but they all had certain things in common:  bowed dresser drawers, drawers that were flush to the unit, little to no molding or carving, and a modern/contemporary style. She also clearly wanted it painted – not stained.

2.) Discover the colors the child likes by looking through her/her clothes and together shopping for bedding. You can even go and look at paint chips. Find 1-3 colors, that go well together.

If the color is strong or trendy, aim at using it in accessories that can later be changed and not wall or furniture paint. Shopping for accessories is also a fun outlet for the child to personalize their room.

3.) Does the child like patterns (i.e. stripes, flowers, circles, checks, plaids) or prefer solids?

4.) And always go back to what the child wants the room to do. Older teens need space for homework and computers; preschool children need plenty of floor space. Let the child brainstorm a list of what they will be doing in their room: sleep, playing with Lego, drawing cartoons, playing their game station, story time with a parent, sleepovers with friends etc…

5.) Storage is essential. Go with clear containers for younger children and a combination of solid and clear containers for teens. Clear allows easier sorting; solids are for decorative purposes and serve as accent pieces.

6.) Wall decor – for tweens and teens, plan for posters, cork and magnet boards, and other things that speak to them of their hobbies and interests.

Start with an inspiration piece. This is even more important with kids, as you can then use it to keep them on track in terms of color and style. If it doesn’t fit the inspiration piece then you know you need to move on.

An inspiration piece should have some of the colors you plan on using as well as inspire the theme of the room – is it a shell for a beach theme? a horseshoe for a girl who loves horses? a group of soccer trophies? a poster…?

For a basic bedroom, look for furniture before accessories:

Bed – twin, full or bunk bed?

Dresser – if the room is small go with a chest of drawers. For clotheshorse teens, you may want to go with a larger horizontal dresser. However, be sure to measure the door width and if a two-story house, how heavy something is before buying, as moving it up the stairs and fitting it through narrow doors and sharp bends can be a nightmare!

Nightstand – definitely needed for pre-teens and teens who require a bedside lamp, clock, music player, place for glasses etc…

Desk with chair – more needed for children who are old enough for writing, doing homework or drawing. Some child-sized desks will be outgrown – if the area for legroom is small or low, your teenager may need to upgrade in size.

Shelves/Bookshelves – for young children make sure they won’t fall over on the child if the child tries to climb the shelves. More necessary for the tween and teen; for a young child I would go with a unit that has drawers below, shelves above to prevent tipping of the unit.

Lamps – task lighting for reading and working at a desk; and night lights. Avoid floor lamps for young children who might tip them over upon themselves. At least two lamps are needed for an even light coverage in a typical secondary bedroom.

The main thing I’ve learned with daughter is to keep focused and on task. She has a lot of creative ideas but we also need to stick to a budget and what mom thinks will last for a few years.