Children's Rooms Don't Have to Look Juvenile

Decorating children's rooms with taste and sophistication

Anyone faced with decorating a space for kids has come across the bedroom-in-a-bag approach to interior design. Usually themed and available at big-box relatilers, these kits include bedding, wall boarders, matching lamps, wall decals, waste baskets and rugs. 


Although it’s easy to give in to the whims and desires of little ones, creating “matchy-poohie” rooms is a mistake. Not only will you tire of the nauseating overkill on colors and cartoons, the children will grow out of the theme quicker than you can complete it.

Instead, create timeless, classic rooms for kids by sticking with traditional themes and colors pleasing to both parents and children.

I remember when my son was 4. He was obsessed with Batman. He wanted all things associated with the Caped Crusader. Instead of redoing his room, which was painted in classic pale blue with classic bedding, I bought him a retro red phone from Pottery Barn, just like the one used by Commissioner Gordon.

The overall look of his room was traditional Ralph Lauren with red, white and blue plaids and blues that could work with a retro sports theme or Ivy League prep look. When he became immersed in all things NASCAR, I hung a Jeff Gordon Fan’s Only parking sign and a couple of posters. Looked great with those red, white and blue linens.

He is now 15, rows for the high school crew team and could care less what is on his wall. He just wants cool shoes. The point is, his room remains decisively male without being stuck in one theme or moment in time.

Just like kids quickly grow out of shoes, they can grow out of fads and television character favorites. Unless you want to find yourself constantly scraping the latest Disney character off walls, it's best to keep kids' rooms with a sophisticated color scheme.

Leave the trendy stuff to easily movable and replaceable parts, such as duvet covers, toys, pillows and wall art.

Three examples of spaces designed for children without looking too juvenile can be found at the Washington DC Design House.

Reston-based designer Elizabeth Krial designed what she calls the Modern Nursery. Krial uses bold pink accents in an otherwise subtle green-and-white palette. She chose Peony wallpaper and Skimming Stone paint by Farrow & Ball. She stained the wood floors white. The result is a tranquil escape for mother and child.

In a teen hideaway, Alexandria’s Victoria Sanchez created a space hip enough for the most trendy teens, yet stylish enough for fashion forward adults.  Sanchez used Missoni fabrics, stock and vintage furniture to give the room a relaxed, yet edgy feel.  

Nancy Twomey is a principal designer at Finnians Moon in Old Town. She incorporated boy-themed accessories like a fire truck, animals and sporting goods. But take those things away and a house guest would feel right at home. She also mounted a queen-size headboard behind a twin headboard, allowing the child to grow into his surroundings.

mommymommymommy May 01, 2012 at 01:19 PM
great points in the article, but I am really over these nurseries and kids rooms looking like an adult room...muted colors, prints that are dull, etc. Also, while that pink nursery is lovely, is it really baby friendly? A mirror hanging over the crib? We have to be practical, but let's not forget to be realistic!
Merlisa Lawrence May 02, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Good point about the mirror. I'm sure that was purely for style. But I do think because parents spend as much time in a nursery as the baby, and certainly use the furniture more, it's important to keep them in mind when selecting furniture.


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