Monday, 30 November -0001

Small & beautiful

Children’s rooms can be every bit as stylish as the rest of the house. The Lady discovers some designer secrets…

Written by Hugh St Clair

Fashion designers have been making children’s clothes for years, so it’s no surprise that interior designers are being asked to create suitable bedrooms for these beautifully dressed girls and boys. Two books just published provide tips from British and American designers that go beyond pink spots and chunky, chainstore miniature furniture.

‘I think the proudest moments of my career were when my sons told me how much they loved their rooms,’ says American interior designer Kelly Wearstler in her foreword to Susanna Salk’s Room For Children. High praise indeed, as a growing child does not always have the same idea of decor as their parent. Generously, she writes, ‘It’s important to involve the children early in the process. I always advise parents to let them pick the colours of their bedroom – even the concept.’

House-July27-02-590Left: A pink and green combination turns preppy to playful when the scale is oversized and paired with animal-print wallpaper. Right: A child can develop a sense of the world from a wall paintmap

She must be very adept at steering those impetuous young things away from bubblegum pink and shades of camouflage. Sometimes, though, a girl just has to have pink, but clever decorators/advisors/parents seem to use it sparingly. For example, in one room in the book there are pink ticking-stripe curtains against a steelgrey wall; in another, an armchair in wine-coloured linen piped in cool blue.

A comfy armchair is a vital part of a child’s bedroom – first for a weary parent at story time, then later for an examstressed teenager. Wallpaper is a good way to diffuse strong colours. Andrew Weaving, author of Playful Home, has used a few rolls of 1960s and 1970s wallpaper to good effect in rooms for both boys and girls.

House-July27-03-590Left: Boy’s own room, styled with masculine tones, aeroplanes, and car-track rug. Above right: Shades of soft grey and stencilled white forest decorate a nursery for newborn twins Below right: Arts & Crafts-style room with a wall hanging that represents the story Puss In Boots

‘Whatever you do, don’t make it white,’ Susanna Salk was told by a friend when she was expecting her first baby. She chose to ignore this advice – her view is that white paint and furnishings make the room timeless and serene, and also act as a blank canvas for the growing child. Colour can be brought into the room by the things in it. She counsels against buying a special changing table – she used a French étagère with three shelves, which can be used as a bookshelf afterwards.

Well-designed storage seems to be a key ingredient in a successful children’s room so that teddies and other toys can be put away. Some rooms have built-in desks, but as one designer suggests, make sure you position the desk in an interesting place. Surrounding it with globes and maps seems to be a popular idea, or have a blackboard where a student can write down thoughts and revision notes.

Maybe a lovely room will sow the seeds of a future business empire. ‘My childhood bedroom had such an influence on me – my love of rosy chintz eiderdowns stems from an early age,’ says Cath Kidston.

House-July27-04-590Have fun with colour and shapes, for a modernist look

American potter Jonathan Adler says children’s imaginations thrive on overdecorated rooms. A father I know who grew up in the 1970s filled the walls of his baby son’s room with album covers from the period. The boy is now a teenager and listening to the bands represented there.

However, parents must not despair if their darlings’ carefully cultivated and stimulating surroundings are destroyed once they reach the age of 15. A worried mother felt her teenage son was going off the rails because he had repainted his room black, but was reassured when a friend pointed out, ‘It’s only paint!’

Room For Children: Stylish Spaces For Sleep And Play by Susanna Salk, £30; Playful Home: Creative Style Ideas For Living With Kids by Andrew Weaving, £28.95, both published by Rizzoli.

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