How to Design a Creative Children's Room at Low Costs: Fun Decorating and Paint Ideas

Make-over Your Child's Room

I enjoy the likes of HGTV with all of the designs and home makeovers. The transformations are often awe-inspiring leaving little to desired, except that I don't have a budget that matches most shows nor do I have bedrooms the size of a large living room. But, I have a nice home with normal rooms, plus a dash of creativity and perfectionism. Although spending money makes me nervous, I want our rooms to look complete and satisfying. When my oldest daughter, then two (now four), would soon need to be transitioned into a new bedroom to make room for our second daughter on the way, we really had no furniture or bedding. I was starting from scratch. I wanted the room to be bright and happy and to fit her young age while at the same time being able to "grow" with her. Allow me to introduce the end results, and give you a few steps I took along that way that allowed me to create a room that makes me smile each time I walk through the door without breaking our bank. Perhaps you can incorporate some of these ideas into your child's room.

Bedding along with the bed skirt made out of sheets by my mother-in-law.
Bedding along with the bed skirt made out of sheets by my mother-in-law.

1. Choose your bedding as a basis for your color palette. Shop sales, preferrably clearance, but make sure it's bedding that really strikes you.
Growing up, we always shopped on the clearance rack for our clothes. We would walk through stores with blinders on for the first 20 racks and head straight to the clearance section in the back. That was the only real options to consider. This sticks with me even today. I rarely consider purchasing a full price item. So, on this one particular night I was strolling the aisles of Target's home section when I discovered some bedding that had much of the "look" and colors I was hoping to find. At the same time, over half of the peices to this set had nice little red tags on them signaling a clearance. I debated, calculated and purchased a bedspread, multiple sets of sheets, and two throw pillows.

Bedding is a good place to start the palette for your room. It's ok to have an idea in mind in regards to colors or a certain style, but make sure bedding actually exists for it. Once my Mom and I chose colors for my room first, even painting the walls in a very creative manner, but then had an incredibly difficult time matching any curtains or bedding to my vibrant color choice. We made it work in the end, but I wouldn't make that same mistake twice. Often you have one idea of what you want, but in shopping for bedding you find another style or different colors that catch your eye instead. Go for what you like and make sure it's on sale or at the very least in your budget.

My mother-in-law sewed the valance as well as the square and cylinder pillow below the window out of extra sheets I purchased.
My mother-in-law sewed the valance as well as the square and cylinder pillow below the window out of extra sheets I purchased.

2. If you have a secret weapon, use it.
My mother-in-law loves projects and has a heart to serve. She's also extremely good at sewing, and I have recruited her numerous times for home sewing projects. Maybe you have a special talent or a special "helper" with a special talent. Embrace it and incorporate it in your room's design. I asked my mother-in-law to sew up a curtain and a bed skirt with the extra sheet sets I purchased. We used some of the left over fabric for extra pillows (we covered old pillows with new fabric, so no "stuffing" had to be purchased). If you're like me and you don't have a sewing skill in your body, try to think outside the box. My friend has a sister that's a great artist, and she recruited her to paint a mural on her daughter's wall. It became a delightful focal point in her room. The nice aspect of a loved one helping you is that their fingerprints are represented throughout the room. If you have a special talent you can do on your own, even better. The nice part of doing things yourself is you end up with special touches you can't buy.

"Mirror, mirror on the wall, you're the fairest mirror of all."
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, you're the fairest mirror of all."

3. Refurbish old furniture.
After researching the cost of a new nice-quality dresser, I felt overwhelmed by the prices. So, my mom and I decided to visit a used furniture store. Furniture was stacked upon furniture. You had to be looking for your treasure. Some furniture was dated in a good way and others left much to be desired. We walked through narrow aisles scanning the piles. I spotted a dresser that had a really fun shape, and a nearby nightstand that had a similar style (though not actually an exact match). They were both sturdy, good quality, and probably top quality in their day. The finish on the dresser and nightstand was out-dated, but that's where PAINT comes in. I decided to buy them as a set and paint them white. Toward the end of our exploration at the store, we spotted an amazing mirror that we suspect may have been part of a set with the nightstand I planned to buy. The practical side of me said it wasn't a necessary piece, but the child in me found it irresistable. All I could think of was "Mirror, mirror on the wall..." The price for a mirror was extremely reasonable, the addition to the room is fabulous, and best of all my two little girls (now four and two) love having a mirror their size for "dress-up" and dance times. Sometimes a special piece is worth it. Though it's been 2 years, I know we walked out with a dresser, nightstand and mirror for around $300-350. Later, my mom picked up an old magazine rack at a antique store for a low price. With a little paint, it became an adorable unique book holder for the room. The yellow shelf on the wall was an old shelf from my room as a little girl, once again painted.

First painted white, I then painted along fun grooves in pink and orange accent colors.
First painted white, I then painted along fun grooves in pink and orange accent colors.

4. Put in some effort. Dare yourself to be creative with a palette of paint or special touches.
Paint comes cheap, but painting furniture well isn't easy. I spent a lot of time painting every piece of furniture for my daughter's room, and swore by the end I would never paint furniture again. But, I would. I would do it again for the same satisfying results. Allow me to recommend a little creativity in the painting. On the one hand I considered keeping the furniture all white so that I could reuse it in any room without having to repaint. But, there were so many details in the furniture that I could really make pop by adding some color. In the end, those small detailed touches added to the personality of the room. I don't regret the extra effort for a little more fun.

Border on the wall was easy to make.
Border on the wall was easy to make.

5. Go beyond plain painted walls for something a little more exciting. This is more achievable in a children's room where your imagination can soar. Search for painting and decorating ideas online or in decorating magazines.
In a design magazine for children's rooms, I saw a border for a room centered around the sea that inspired me. The room had a large upper border with wave crest shapes. I adapted that idea into more of a curved boarder with polka-dots to match the bedding. I was amazed at how simple it ended up being. First, we painted the wall the base color (in our case yellow) up to the top, avoiding the time consuming trim painting. Then, I cut the basic curved shape out on some poster board (basically tracing half circles from a large bowl in my kitchen). My husband would hold it up straight on the wall, and I would pencil the curved line on the wall. Later, he rolled the top part, while I took a small brush (about one inch width) and painted along the penciled line filling in the curved area where the roller couldn't reach. The polka-dots were super simple with the purchase of some cheap circular sponges (attached to a wooden handle) for painting at a local craft store. Dip in the paint of your choice and punch onto the wall. Incredibly simple and rewarding to hear my 2 year old rave about the "bouncy balls" on her walls. I really do believe the border is an instant eye-catcher in the room.

Letters on the wall and lamp on the dresser serve as cute yet inexpensive accent pieces.
Letters on the wall and lamp on the dresser serve as cute yet inexpensive accent pieces.

6. Find some cheap little accent pieces.
I purchased letters for her room to spell her name. I skipped the costly Pottery Barn options, and went to Hobby Lobby where I purchased whimsical letters originally at $2.50 a piece but on sale (as wall hangings there often are there) for 50% off for a total of $1.25 per letter. Not bad, especially for a three-letter name like my daughter's. I also found some cute fabric at the fabric store and then bought a cheap lamp kit at Hobby Lobby where you simply stick the fabric right on to the sticky lamp shade. You don't even have to sew! Lamps can be pricey, but this was of minimal cost and an extremely easy craft. We use a night-light bulb in the lamp, and the lamp stays on through the night to make the room less dark for little ones. Most of the other decorations were ones I already had whether frames from other rooms, toys and trinkets, or a few mementos from my childhood days.

7. If you KNOW, plan ahead. In our case... A room for sisters.
In our case, we were certain that someday we would have a third child, and so our two daughters would share a room. In fact, I waited to design this room until I found out if our second child was a girl or boy. I was elated to decorate an all girls room. Now, two years later, my oldest daughter is sharing this room with her little sister. We did end up buying two of the same bedspreads and two sets of sheets ahead of time, while my mom got a steal on two matching head boards that she negotiated with the furniture salesperson for a better price and gifted to us. It's a little extra cost up front, but not as much money as if we had to start all over again just two years later or not as much hassle as if we tried to find a matching or coordinating bed set after nearly two years.

In the end, we produced one of my favorite rooms in the house and a place my little girl was excited to make her own. Even after two years, I still smile entering this room. And the transition into a room for two came easily for two little sisters that enjoy sharing a space they love. We didn't have to make a large payment (or obtain debt) for new furniture. True, money is often replaced with effort and time, but with every paint brush you pick up and every idea you engage, your imagination finds a home on the palette of your child's room.

Two years later, my two daughters (2 and 4 years old) share the room.  All of the furniture still fits with some rearranging.  The reversible bedspreads allow each girl to have a different color.
Two years later, my two daughters (2 and 4 years old) share the room. All of the furniture still fits with some rearranging. The reversible bedspreads allow each girl to have a different color.

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Comments 19 comments

Emile R 5 years ago

Great article and very useful tips. You did a wonderful job with that room.


Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

Thanks so much! I love seeing rooms transform from scratch.


Beverly Stevens profile image

Beverly Stevens 5 years ago from College Station

You forgot the before pictures, but I think your photos show your makeover is worthy of being featured on HGTV.


sangre profile image

sangre 5 years ago from Ireland

That's the best bedroom I've ever seen. You did a great job with it. The colours you picked are great.


Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

Beverly, I suppose I did forget before pictures. :o) I guess there wasn't much to show. It was a bare room (no furniture), white scuffed walls, and the same fine neutral carpet. We didn't do anything to that room when we moved in until we decorated it for our daughter. So it was a clean slate. Thanks so much for the compliment. It was a lot of work, but I LOVE the results even today. I enjoy using my creative side.


Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

Thanks, sangre! The rest of my house isn't that bright, but I do love bright colors. They make me happy. I think that's one reason kids' rooms are fun to design... you can step outside the box more easily.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America

Wonderful illustrations can really make a quite nice Hub in support of the text! Rated Up and others.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 5 years ago from San Francisco

This is seriously awesome. And that room looks fabulous!


Tiffany Regan profile image

Tiffany Regan 5 years ago from Colorado

You did a wonderful job with the room. Thanks for sharing!


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

Congratulations on your hubnugget nomination.

II have a friend from highschool who designed her children's bedrooms the same way-a lot of artistic talent instead of spending lots of money and full of bright colours


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

This is great information and I love the "secret weapon" idea. Surely everybody has one somewhere.


frugalfamily profile image

frugalfamily 5 years ago from Houston, TX

Congrats on your nomination (and my vote!) I look forward to many more articles from you!


Ashlea B profile image

Ashlea B 5 years ago Author

Thanks for all the encouraging comments. I do like decorating... and just finished redecorating the nursery at our home for a boy instead of a girl.

I'm happy too to be nominated for a hubnugget. I enjoy being creative, and writing is one of those outlets as well... so writing on hubpages has been fun for me.

I hope to get another hub or two published before having our baby boy (due date is in 2 weeks... so any time now). If I don't respond much for a while, it may be because I am busy with a new little treasure (and adjusting to 3 kids, 4 and under. :o) )


cardelean profile image

cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

I love the ideas that you shared and the photos of that beautiful, girly room! There are a lot of things that I will think about as my daughter begins to move into the next phase of her room! Great job and congrats on the nomination.


ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Great ideas! Hmmmm...I would like to have a children's room like that using blues and greens..thanks again!

Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! To read and vote, this way: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/Nuggets-for-El...


raniagul 5 years ago

wow!!! u did amazing job,, ur daughters sooo lucky that their mom do so much 4 them, may GOD help u in ur next GOAL


Kate Spenser profile image

Kate Spenser 5 years ago from Austin, TX

I love the ideas you give here! And the photos are fantastic - they really make the article come alive. I LOVE the large dresser with the pink accents - it's subtle yet really fun. I'm definitely going to use some of these ideas!


ChristinCordle12 profile image

ChristinCordle12 5 years ago

Great and very useful hub! Looking at those pictures;they are so much cute. Love it.


Happymommy2520 profile image

Happymommy2520 5 months ago from East Coast

This is an amazing Hub. The sentence that states "money is often replaced with effort and time." It is so true and brilliantly written. Very inspirational. Your daughter's room is beautiful, a true blessing created by their mother that enhances their childhood. Love it!

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