When it’s time to transition a baby or toddler space into a bona fide kids bedroom, forward-thinking design choices can help make the trade up exciting for both parent and child. But for school-age kids who have formed (strong!) opinions about what they like and don’t like, finding common ground can seem challenging. Local interior designers say it is possible to fold in your kids’ preferences without going down the theme-room rabbit hole.
“Maybe they love soft things or they love pink or they love sports,” says Courtney Wells of Denver-based LuSi Design. “You can take bits and pieces of what they like, and get a direction and color scheme.”
To get started, take a cue from Wells’ professional playbook and preselect 10 kids room photos you find online. Ask your child what he or she likes and doesn’t like about each. That way, your jumping-off point will capture both what is realistic for your budget and space, and what you as the parent lean toward design-wise. Then, drill down with these tips from the experts.
Bed + Dresser
Once they are ready for a real bed—we’re talking no rails, and a twin-size mattress or larger—Beth Armijo of Armijo Design Group in Denver is partial to day beds with a trundle, in a gray or other neutral tone kids won’t outgrow.
In a shared room, the trundle provides a bonus area to lie down, read books, and play with the baby while the older child is at school. Additionally, Armijo says, look for a dresser that’s not too narrow on top so it can double as a changing table. “I’m an advocate for finding pieces that can work through teenage years if done right,” Armijo says.
If your square footage allows, a spot for kids to unwind with a book or drawing pad can make a kid’s bedroom space feel like a mini home of their own. Sarah Kingdom of Sarah Kingdom Designs in Boulder looks for furnishings simple in form that have a big bang for the buck. Egg chairs are “like a little cocoon,” she says, and create a sensory experience that both little kids and big kids love.
Armijo likes setups that include a bean bag or small-scale chair with a colorful, cozy rug. Be selective when picking the rug, however. Some rugs, such as ones with viscose, can’t handle kid-caliber action, Wells says. “It’s the softest fiber, and a lot of retailers are putting it into rugs because it feels nice, but dirt does not come out of it,” she says. “And if it gets wet, it will not come back to its original shape, even with a professional cleaning.” Instead, she likes wool rugs—easy to clean—or flat-weave rugs because they aren’t as easily tripped over as thicker varieties.
Don’t overlook task lighting like wall sconces or bedside lamps, especially in the reading space, Kingdom says. A recessed light is handy in the ceiling right above the bed, with a switch nearby for easy off/on, or a wall-mounted lamp also works. Kingdom is also a fan of dimmer switches on all bedroom lighting—and science is, too: Studies have shown that dimmer lighting before bedtime can increase sleep quality in both kids and adults.
Every parent knows kids come with a high “stuff” quotient, but there are ways to keep it at bay—or at least conceal it. Wells likes the Ikea Kallax cube-like shelving for its depth. There is space to line up books and still have room to display kids’ favorite trinkets in front of them. “That is my go-to piece for a kid’s room,” she says. “One flat shelf across a wall will fill up too quickly.”
A nightstand with a basket is a versatile choice, Armijo says, because the basket color and material is an easy swap as the child gets older.
Art + Display
For displaying paper treasures, think beyond the bulletin board to display paintings, cards from Grandma, and science fair ribbons. Consider convertible bulletin boards with pegs that can move around; an “art wall” made from a simple curtain rod and clip-style curtain rings; or a shadow box to display favorite figurines.
“Artwork does not have to be an investment,” Wells says. “Grab a bunch of large Ikea frames and put three or five of them together straight across.” Swap out the contents of the frames—wallpaper samples, fabric samples, photographs, you name it—to elevate the look from little girl to tween in a flash.
Paint + Décor
If you’re feeling bold, paint an accent wall color—but keep it light. “If they must have pink, choose the palest, lightest pink,” Wells says. “It always looks darker once you get it on the wall.” If you do a pink or purple wall, she says, keep the others walls white; it gets too busy otherwise, and kids’ rooms should be calming spaces for them. “Kids already love stuff and their knickknacks, so eliminate busyness on the walls,” she says.
“You can even paint the ceiling a fun color,” Armijo says. “Just don’t do all four walls turquoise.” For non-textured walls, try removable wallpaper as an alternative to a bright paint color.
If your child has an of-the-moment obsession you would like to weave in, there are creative ways to do it without the theme taking over the whole space.
“If they are really into Pokémon right now, maybe pick a yellow lampshade—something you can remove within a couple of months,” Kingdom says. Another approach is to buy that Avengers accent pillow, and put a poster in a cheap frame instead of scooping up the entirety of branded bedroom items that match it, Armijo says. That way, when they outgrow the latest superhero or princess, or dinosaur obsession, décor can be easily and inexpensively switched out, and the pillow or poster can be passed to a friend or neighbor to make room for the next stage.
4 Neutral Paint Colors for Kids Rooms
Whether painting a nursery or a teen room, our experts suggest these neutral colors that can grow with your child.
Gotta Have It!
These clever products, from practical to whimsical, take a kids room to the next level.
- Ruggable rugs are fashionable, stain-resistant, waterproof two-piece rugs that can be washed in the washing machine. The removable rug cover can also be easily separated from the rug pad and replaced with a new design. New Disney designs blend the mouse into sophisticated patterns (like hidden Mickeys) to make the rugs more versatile.
- Chalkboard, magnetic, or dry erase paint can transform a wall in a kids’ playroom or bedroom into a creative space. Benjamin Moore Noteable Dry Erase paint comes in a classic white or a clear version that can be applied over any paint color.
- Ceiling-mount canopies turn a simple bedroom corner into a hideaway or reading nook. Hang the canopy and drape around a comfy chair, bean bag, or simple floor pillows to make a space for kids to relax, read, hide, or imagine. Fabric canopies, like the Pinkalicious Tent from Colour Addiction, come in a variety of colors, fabrics, and prices.