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.

Room: Daughter’s blue and chocolate modern bedroom

About 8 months ago, Daughter started talking about re-decorating her room again. Now age 12, her previous room incarnations hadn’t really pulled it all together and used colors, as well as furnishings, that she was not that keen on. Turns out she has the heart of a modern girl, not one into pink, flowers and frills!

Room: 11′ 3″ x 11′ 8″ (without room entry)

First we started by having her pick out the bed linens. These would be the INSPIRATION PIECE to plan the room off of. This duvet cover was bought from Bed, Bath and Beyond, and the duvet was bought on deep discount at J.C. Penny home store. Probably about $200 in all when you consider pillows and sheets too.

Wall Paint: The walls colors were originally a soft pastel pink. They got re-painted with semi-gloss interior with Valspars’ Betsy Ross House Blue (5002-8A) and American Traditions’ Chef White (7002-15), about 1 gallon of each. Chef White is also the color of the trim throughout the house so it made it easier to just paint trim as well as the wall.

I used semi-gloss paint as this girl is tough on her walls and I want to be able to clean them easily. Semi-gloss is more commonly used in high traffic areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.

She wanted a feature wall (the blue wall the bed is against) something I usually don’t do but it turned out super cool so I may need to re-think that!

NOTE: it took a FULL WEEK for the paint smell (open windows and fan going) to really be gone. We did the painting when daughter was out of town with grandparents and are really glad we did.


Bed – the original four poster had been bought years ago and suffered a lot of damage. Two of the posts had been swung on by the daughter and splintered off. We chopped off the remaining posts and spray painted the frame Valspar Java Brown just to fade it away. Mattress was still good.

Headboard – (above photo) Came out a bit more expensive then I wanted… Daughter has great taste but also champagne taste! She picked the most expensive, upholstery fabric in the store (Interior Fabrics), thankfully it was on sale, 40 percent off, for a total of $50 and I have to admit looks fantastic! Upholstery fabric is much wider fabric that that which is sold on bolts so this also saves money on “wide” projects.

Foam was another $50 and with wood for the frame, came out to be about $125.

Side Table – this yellow, Cosco kitchen cart ($40 on CL) is metal and in great condition. I again, lucked out because we snatched it up (literally) from the junk store while another person was looking at it! Me bad…

The side table was a great find and it switched the accent color from pink (not my daughter’s favorite) to yellow which I think makes the room a bit more cutting edge.

Dresser – The chest of drawers ($40 on CL) were originally stained brown but had been sanded before I bought them. It actually took me some time to find a chest of drawers that had a modern feel to them. This one has clean lines, no additional molding, bowed drawer fronts and flared sides. The only drawback was that the drawers cannot be removed so painting was more time consuming then I had planned.

I painted the frame of the chest Valspar Swiss Chocolate 3010-10 semi-gloss, and the drawers were spray painted with Valspar’s Mediterranean Blue. The unit also needed a new back (it had been splintered). The hardware (picked by daughter) was the most expensive part of this, coming in at $60 for a total of  about $120.

Glass Computer Desk – from CL at $50.  I really lucked out finding this piece for this price!

Anything the eye “sees through” can help make a room seem bigger. Also I love the modern feel to it.

Desk Chair – bought from a 1950’s Retro store for $40. We will be recovering it in the very near future. This price was a bit high for me but I knew the daughter was going to want a comfy lounge chair vs. a streamlined modern office desk chair (my preference) and I was right!

Bookshelves – were made by hubby years ago and will be repainted next week in the colors of brown, white and blue. I’ll post an updated pic when done.

Windows: The heavy 6′ long, 2″ white, faux wood blind was hard to move up and down being that it spanned 6′. They also got horribly dusty and were hard to clean.

I switched these out for white cellular blinds that have no cord and go up and down with a touch. 35″ in length, from Bed Bath and Beyond $35 each.

This window faces west and gets a lot of late afternoon sun so two, brown thermal window panels with a block grid of icey-blue lines of color were bought from Target ($25 each).

The wooden curtain rod pole was one sale from Lowes at $18. It was black, so I spraypainted it Valspar Java Brown to match the room.

Altogether the window treatments were expensive – about a total of $160-$180. However, I’ve already found that her room is staying cooler throughout the day if the blinds are down and the curtains pulled.


Lamps – Lighting for this room was always a problem. She had too few lights and not the right lamps for tasks such as reading, desk work and night light. This was another bigger then expected investment but the result was so cool and functional I don’t regret it.

This brown, desk lamp was from Pier One ($50). The original Pier One shade I didn’t like so we switched it to another lamp and bought a replacement shade from Target ($20).

The round, brown ball lamp with shade (see photo of dresser) was bought on sale from Lowes ($17). The clear, stacking ball lamp (see photo of yellow table) with separate shade was bought from Target, $38 total.

Storage boxes – Another purchase from Target at $10 per box. Daughter loves sorting and containers for her collection.

Desk Accessories – in yellow, bought from Target from the kitchen (plastic glasses) and bath areas (storage container with lid).

Magnet and Cork Boards – 4 from Target $20 each.

Brown Rug – Craigslist $5

Brown Chair– Craigslist $5

Brown Armchair Bed Pillow – Bed Bath and Beyond $20. This was purchased because she loves to read in bed and this should save wear and tear on the headboard.

Still to be done: new carpet and adding more yellow accessories.

Room Views:

Desk Wall (North)

Bookshelf and window wall (West)

Bed wall and closet door (South)

Dresser wall (East)

Personally, when I watch HGTV’s Decorating Cents, it blows my mind that they can do a room for $500… I simply don’t believe it! Whoever, bought paint for $12 a gallon and then had enough to do an entire room with it!? Even a small room like this will take at least 1.5 gallons of paint.

This room ended up being far more costly then I had planned, however, it has such good bones now it should last her well into her teen years with minor changes.

Project: Updating a Ceiling Fan

I’m going for a bit of retro-1940’s look in my son’s room with earth tone colors of green, beige, and tans accented with silver metal. One of the items I found recently was a modern/contemporary styled ceiling fan on Craigslist for $40.


The fan blades were originally a light, shades of white, pickled oak with shiny top glaze  that wasn’t going to suit where it was going. It was also a dated color, probably more to the 1980’s then now.



First, I did a very light sanding to break the surface. The primer used was from a spray can; the first time I’ve used a spray primer and really I wasn’t very impressed. I’ll stick to paint with a roller or foam brush.

There were some nicks on the blades so if these are too severe you can use a filler to make the surface even before re-painting.


The base coat used some of the paint (Pecan) already in the room.


The top glaze was Burnt Umber, which was applied with a drag technique.

fan blade with dragged glaze topcoat

I let it dry 24 hours to reduce any paint smell and then re-attached to the main fan motor.

I liked the body of the fan so didn’t change the silver. However, if you wanted to do this you need to be aware that spray paint can get inside the workings and gum it up. Any spraying you do, the working area of the motor and electronics need to be firmly protected and sealed.


Before you throw away those ceiling fans because of their dated look, see what you can do by changing the blades or the light kit. You might be surprised into saving some money!