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Tips For Decorating A Child's Room

Updated on January 30, 2010

There are generally two approaches to decorating a child's bedroom. Some parents are so thrilled to be furnishing a nursery that they do everything they can to make it look like the room is specifically for a baby. Others try to create a place their child can grow into over the years. Children's rooms should always be designed to age gracefully. With the right planning, a nursery can be decorated so that it requires few changes until the teen years, and updates can be made just by changing the room's accessories.

If you're decorating a nursery, try not to get caught up in wallpapers, borders or carpets that immediately suggest "baby"; permanent fixtures like these should not give away the child's age. Accessories and removable items such as bedding can be age-specific since they're easy to change as time goes on. Even if you decide to use primary colors (to convey a circus theme, for instance), you can present them in a timeless way. For example, if you'd like to use a primary color, consider wallpapering with an awning stripe (two-inch stripes, usually white with another color). This treatment is graphic, but tailored and classic. And paint the room's woodwork white to convey a traditional feel.

Floors and Windows

Floors: If you have wood floors, keep them exposed, and use fun area rugs purchased from childrens' catalogs or stores such as T.J. Maxx or Marshalls. Area rugs are a great way to add whimsy, and they're easily replaced with more sophisticated choices when the room needs a lift. If you have solid-colored wall-to-wall carpeting, you can still use area rugs on top to add pattern and different flavor over the years. Consider choosing a bright wall-to-wall carpet, yellow (with a pin dot of another color to deflect wear) or vibrant red, that looks alive and fun, and not too childish.

Windows: You should also consider window treatments. Often people will choose cutesy valances or drapes, which may be nice when the child is under 3, but may be less appropriate as he or she ages. Young, fun, whimsical drapes can be nice, but if you do choose them be sure they're easy and not overly expensive to change. Basic white sheers or lace panels are a wonderful choice for all ages. Another option is to use white two-inch wood Venetian blinds fitted with neutral or brightly colored fabric tapes. I love windows that combine a couple of different effects. If you, too, like the look of layered window treatments, white wood blinds easily can be dressed up or down with a valance or side panels. Pick and choose what works best for you, but remember: Traditional and classic styles are your safest bets.

Furniture and Bedding

Furniture: This is probably the biggest-ticket item you'll be purchasing. You can economize on furniture by getting hand-me-down, clunky dressers (and headboards, too) from Mom, Dad or Grandma. Take the unattractive pieces and paint them semigloss white. You'll be amazed at what the paint can do, giving the old stuff new life. I know many people hate to paint wood furniture, but the pieces I'm suggesting usually haven't been finished in a top-quality way. The furniture assumes a beach-house look. And if the drawer pulls are unattractive, replace them with more playful hardware, and you'll be happily surprised by the results!

Bedding: Linens are another simple way to make a quick change. I suggest starting out with a simple, pleated or ruffled bed skirt in a solid color, classic stripe or plaid. Bed linens and throw pillows can be more youthful, as they're easily swapped for mature designs down the road. The comforter can be patterned, but consider instead buying a plain, light-colored duvet and fitting it with a cover. That way you can get a new duvet cover (much less expensive than a new comforter) whenever you want to change the look. Because the covers do not fit tightly over the duvet, many people wonder if they're a good decorating choice. Personally, I prefer this more casual look over tailored bedding. I love anything that has the appearance of being down-filled, crumply and cozy. Mixing and matching bed linens is fun, so use childrens' patterns along with more sophisticated stripes and plaids, and enjoy yourself.

Accessories and Advice

Accessories are the easiest items to change as a child grows up. Stuffed animals can be thinned out, and sports articles and other collections can start filling in bookshelves, allowing your child to personalize his or her bedroom. Avoid visual clutter by keeping collections organized, rather than scattered throughout the room. Parents beware: Posters and magazine clippings will become an important part of an adolescent's signature style. Be prepared, and present this compromise to keep the mess to a minimum: Use a large corkboard to keep the clippings together in a designated area of the room. As your child requires more display space, you'll need to add additional boards, but they're easily removed from the wall, or they can be updated with photographs, postcards and more attractive items.

Keep this last advice in mind:

Treat the room like any other room in the house, because someday it may not be a bedroom. To avoid redecorating every few years, keep the background as simple and traditional as possible: whether you're decorating for a boy or girl, age 5 or 15.

Revive any old, salvaged or hand-me-down furnishings with a new coat of paint and fun hardware. Accessories should be the pieces that change over time.

You should now have a good idea on how to decorate for growing children. Just remember: A classic room never goes out of style. Good luck!


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