Our children are unquestionably the most important part of our lives. We want to do everything for them. We want to be everything to them. And we are willing to do almost anything to look like heroes in their eyes. This is the unspoken beauty of parenting. And of course, we want their bedrooms to be an expression of our children's personalities, to unite character with class. We want them to love their rooms, to feel connected to them.
Where individuality in a bedroom will be expressed by your unique ideas, there are some basic guidelines in a bedroom's design to balance form and function. Some local experts have offered their advice to help you successfully accomplish this goal.
The Basic Theme
Of course, being so passionate about our children can cause us to make some illogical decisions, especially when it comes to their interests and desires. If your eight year old son expresses an interest in flying, for example, you may embark on a shopping spree and decorate his bedroom in every single aviation-related item that you can get your hands on - an airplane bed, airplane models, a dresser with propeller drawer pulls, white paint for puffy white clouds on every sky-blue wall, and a dozen hot air balloons to dangle from the ceiling. However, six months later, when the child's ever-evolving interests switch from flying to Gorillas & well, you get the idea.
Before depleting your entire family savings on children's bedroom makeovers, some planning should be considered, with versatility as a high priority. There is no reason that a theme cannot be expressed throughout a room, yet be able to transition to a different theme in two day's notice. As the children grow, their rooms should grow with them; after all, their rooms will continue to be their sanctuaries for as long as they remain in your care.
Joe Kendall, owner of Furniture 4 Kids in Frederick, Md., offers us some guidelines on versatility: "The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing a new theme is to use accessories to highlight the theme. Don't get trapped into the theme. Don't get a custom bed in the shape of a train if you want a train-themed room. Get accents, lamps, lighting, bedding, things like that, to help bring the theme into the room."
Also, some basic planning for the room is essential, explained Allison Irish of Bratt Decor in Baltimore. "Themes are great, whether you're doing just a total color theme or a theme based on an event or hobby, like ballerinas or airplanes. It is most important to plan out what items to include for the room, because a theme can get out of hand very easily. Find your basic pieces, and build the theme around those pieces - and color is one of the best themes to go by."
A theme with lasting interest should be considered as well. "Parents should think about what the child likes all the time instead of just a fad, "advised Phil Cropper, a designer for Creative Concepts. "A bad theme would be Spongebob Squarepants, because the child would be tired of the room once the novelty of Spongebob is gone."
The Three S's: Sleep, Storage, Study
No matter how creative our ideas, they would be poor choices if they intruded on the functionality of the bedroom. "The three magic words in the children's industry are Sleep, Storage and Study," Joe explained. "The most important thing, of course, is sleep, but storage is also paramount in a child's room, because the way they are building houses now, the third and fourth bedrooms are often on the smaller side. If space is an issue, this may have an impact on your choice of bed furniture. "Trundle beds I don't like, but storage beds underneath the beds, I do like," Joe said. "I'm not a big fan of trundle beds, because trundle beds take up so much room when you pull them out. A trundle bed pulled out from underneath a twin bed equals a king bed. And if your kids are like any others, make sure you have enough storage space to keep the room tidy. Kids have a lot of stuff; always be mindful of that. Kids need a lot of storage for all that stuff."
As with the room's theme, versatility is key with furniture as well, Allison explained. "One of the most important things to keep in mind is to find furniture that can be reusable for any needs. If you choose furniture for a kid from, say, age five to seven, they may very well choose to get something completely different as they approach their teen years, so it's a great idea to pick furniture that can be very versatile in its application, as well as in color." Bratt Decor has a particular line of furnishing specifically designed to grow with a young child, as Allison describes in detail: "A lot of our cribs convert to toddler beds. We have one line of cribs, the Heritage series, where you can switch out the finial tops. You can do plain finials, or star finials, or many others."
A fourth "S" should be considered as well, especially for infants and very young children: safety. Phil explains that "Cribs should be researched, and you should make sure the manufacturer is a reputable furniture maker. The manufactures should be a member of the JPMA (Juvenile Products' Manufactures Association)." He recommends some things to look for when choosing kid's furniture, storage beds and cribs: smooth surfaces inside and out (to avoid splinters), automatic drawer stops, anti-tip restraints, and, of course, plenty of storage space.
Paint Schemes: How to Accomplish the Goal at Hand
People are becoming less bashful with good use of bright color. The subtle pastels and creams to which we have become so accustomed are starting to fade awayand, especially for kid's rooms, this may have some positive psychological impact. "Bright colors are more visually appealing than dull colors," Phil explained, "and they also help stimulate learning."
"Pink and lavender have been the biggest colors for girls room lately," said Allison.
"A lot of people are also doing combinations of chocolate and sage." And what about for a nursery if you don't want to find out if you're having a boy or a girl? "About half of our couples who come in are waiting to find out the sex of the baby, which makes things a little difficult for the people that are shopping for them, because who wants everything in yellow? So we're seeing a lot of gender-neutral color combinations in yellows and sage, rather than just a single solid color. Also, a lot of people are going into black and white for cribs and crib bedding, which is a great option for a really cosmopolitan look, without having everything be soft, cream colors."
Joe Kendall explained that manufacturers are respecting parent's choices: "bedding manufacturers are being mindful of the fact that parents are not wanting to find out the sex of the baby before it's born, so there are a lot of neutral choices available."
But there's no reason for our color choices to be limited to a solid color, or, for that matter, limited to paint. Phil provides more detail: "Painting stripes on one wall will add visual interest for the child, and help to make the room appear taller. Also, upholstered panels of fun, bright fabrics are a new way to add color to a room, and this will also add padding to the walls."
Murals also add fantastic visual element to the room: "Doing a decorative mural on the wall or wallpaper is a great alternative. A lot of wallpapers now are kid-friendly, and are easy to hang and remove once the kids are tired of the theme. "Allison explains that at Bratt Decor, "we are seeing a lot of murals lately. You may see three walls of a solid color and then a mural on the fourth wall, landscaping the theme throughout the room on the main wall of the play area." And if you are not confident enough in your artistic abilities to tackle the task yourself - and hiring someone to paint it is out of your budget - Joe offers an attractive option: "Some wallpaper companies can do some murals with themes for about $1000, installed."
Accessorize and Beautify
For all the careful color choices and sensible purchases in furnishings you have decided to make, few considerations will have more influence over a successful bedroom design than the accessories. However, they are best utilized in moderation. "Too much of a good thing can overdo a room, which is why it's also great to work with accessories, lamps and bedding. You don't want the room to be screaming in theme," advised Joe. And the accessories can be simple and easily changed. "Artwork on the walls is great, and canvas prints on paintings are great, because they can be changed around and reshaped for an updated look to the room. You can swap these out and change the theme the very easily as the child grows," said Allison. "Remember to work accessories in, rather than by starting off with everything everywhere."
One thing to keep in mind: you may get so wrapped up in your own ideas that you may lose sight of who the room is really for. Be sure to include your children in the decision-making process - after all, it is their space. "Keep the kids involved. Kids like to have a choice," Allison said, "and it's great to really involve them in the design of their room - it makes them feel special, because it's their room, it's their little corner of the world where it's just all about them. It's just a great idea to have the kids involved and let them have a say in their own room."
FURNITURE 4 KIDS
7272 Guilford Street
548 E. Belvedere Avenue
Millville, DE 19967
Written by: Stefan Braham