Big or small, boy’s or girl’s – a children’s room is more than just a place for the little ones to sleep. Let your imagination go wild and inspire your children by giving them a stylish room that meets all of their needs and more.
Like no other room in the house, a child’s room has a multitude of functions. It’s a playroom, a den, a place to do homework, a retreat to daydream and somewhere to sleep (only if they must, of course). It is also one of the only rooms that will need to continuously adapt to differing needs over time, as your children grow. With some clever design tips and a few investment buys, however, you can design a room that will adapt with their changing needs, with just a few simple adjustments. While practicality is key, it’s also essential to remember the fun factor. Get your children involved in the planning stages and show them a variety of options before agreeing on a theme or a colour. It should result in them having an emotional investment in the room they helped design, and so they will be less likely to want to change it after a year or so. What’s more building a creative space for them will also encourage creative minds to develop.
While for most adults, the bedroom’s primary purpose is to get a good night’s sleep, it’s not necessarily the case for children (much to our exasperation at times). But that’s not to say that it’s not essential. Children need a lot more shut-eye than adults, which is why it is a wise idea to spend a healthy chunk of your budget on a quality bed.
After the cot stage, when a child is around the age of two, many parents plump for a junior-size bed as a child’s first proper bed. This can make sense if there’s more than one child in the house – who will also be able to use it further down the line. For homes that only have one child, it may be more practical to purchase a single bed, and additional guardrails or removable sides for when they are toddlers, which will see them through to the teenage years.
From elaborate bunk-beds to specially-designed novelty beds, these days the choice of beds designed with a child in mind is immense. Idyll Home (01270 812717; www.idyllhome.co.uk), a stylish home emporium, has a choice of imaginative beds for children, such as its Belgium-made Caravan Bed and Tent Bed. Offering a room-within-a-room, these charming pieces are ideal for children who fight their bedtime routine, as the bed is almost secondary, hidden away within the structure, giving more of a ‘playtime’ impression.
Noa & Nani (01303 872957; www.noaandnani.co.uk), meanwhile, is a specialist in cabin beds that will fire up a child’s imagination. Models have built in tents, slides, ladders and desks in a variety of designs, offering practical storage and space-saving solutions, as well as appealing to a child’s sensibility.
For smaller rooms, a storage bed is a wise choice. Caitlin Price, Beds and Bedroom Furniture Buyer at John Lewis (0844 693 1709; www.johnlewis.com) advises: “Think about investing in a storage bed with drawers or a built in desk area. Ranges such as the Stompa Bedroom Furniture collection work really well. If funds prevent this then consider drawers, which are sold separately, that you can slide under an existing bed – just make sure you check the height from floor to side rail.”
David Norman, Director at specialist The Storage Bed Company (0845 2000 128; www.thestoragebed.co.uk), agrees: “Children’s bedrooms can soon become overwhelmed with toys, clothes and other clutter so it is important to think about helpful storage solutions when furnishing their room. Their bedrooms are often the smallest of the house so maximise available space by choosing furniture that has multi-uses. A practical storage bed provides a surprising amount of extra space; perfect for tidying away toys, sports equipment and general bit and bobs after playtime. Our storage beds do not compromise on quality, single bed designs are built to adult-sized proportions so they will last them until they move out! A great long term solution.”
Mid- and high-sleepers are also good options if you are short on space. They feature an elevated bed with a play area, desk, storage or even a second bed (in the form of a futon) underneath. Remember to check your ceiling height and ensure that there is enough room for a child to sit up in their bed, especially as they grow older.
Christopher Lusty, Managing Director of Aspace (0845 872 2400; www.aspace.co.uk), which offers a huge range of children’s furniture, says: “While storage is important, so too is creating a space for children to play and relax. Look for an all-in-one space saving solution, such as a High Sleeper Bunk Bed with a built-in futon and desk, or a Cabin Bed with built in furniture and space to play beneath, giving you double the function without taking up any more space!”
Many parents spend money on novelty beds only to find a child quickly outgrows them. Consider instead more of a sophisticated design ethos, such as the contemporary range at modern kids boutique Nubie (01825 724160; www.nubie.co.uk).
Feather and Black (www.featherandblack.com) also have a selection of practical bed choices, many of which come in neutral colours yet with a stylish twist, making them suitable for all ages.
“Feather and Black understands sleep and children,” says Dan Wade, Managing Director of Feather and Black. “Our extensiveKids range offers great flexibility while not compromising on the needs of the children. Our classic and contemporary designs combined with excellent quality ensure whatever you choose is built and designed to last beyond childhood. “
Lastly, don’t forget how important it is for children to have quality time with friends, cousins and siblings – especially if they don’t share a room. A bed with a secondary trundle bed underneath means simply pulling it out when they get to an age of wanting friends to stay over, making sleepovers hassle-free for parents.
Amanda Short, Founder of Nubie, comments: “At Nubie we are seeing an increase in parents wanting their kids furniture to be multi-functional. A child’s bedroom is not just a place to rest your head, but also somewhere to accommodate sleepovers, storage and homework, too. Beds that house a trundle are a great option for those occasional overnight guests, but also have storage boxes or drawers built in as well. Once you have a bed which multi-tasks like this then you find you have much more space in the bedroom too!”
One of the biggest challenges in thinking about a child’s room is fitting in the amount of storage that is often required. Their space often doubles up as a playroom, a creative area and a room for study, not to mention housing their clothes. While it should be practical, it should also be lively, bold and joyful.
Nubie’s Amanda Short agrees: “At Nubie, we think that keeping a room tidy should be a fun experience. Our advise would be to provide plenty of stylish storage options and keep it varied with soft colourful bins and baskets for ‘cuddlies’ and then stackable boxes for cars and dolls. Also bear in mind your colour palette. Storage is a great way of introducing a pop of colour into a neutral room, meaning you won’t have to be constantly redecorating. Use bright door handles or paint inside a wardrobe for an interesting feature – this can look stunning against a neutral background. Introduce bright flashes of bunting or jewel-coloured accessories to bring life to a room – these are also very easy to update if you feel like a change.”
If money is no object, buy a few pieces of magical, painted children’s furniture to hide away the clutter – it may not last them a lifetime but it will be something they will always remember, and good quality pieces can even be kept as heirlooms. O’Nessy’s (01527 916447; www.onessytoys.com) stocks colourful ranges of hand-painted mini tables, chairs, chests and dressing tables in pirate, dinosaurs, princess and magic garden themes.
Furniture store Oliver Hayden (0844 3350 710; www.oliverhayden.com), meanwhile, also stocks unique furniture for children, such as its Captain Lifestyle range, which feature wardrobes and desks with a nautical theme and a hand-carved range of boldly-coloured quirky bookshelves, drawers and cupboards.
For something extra special, check out the traditional Italian furniture from Florentine company Grifoni, available at LuxDeco (www.luxdeco.com). Inspired by the artwork and opulent architecture of Florence, the brand specializes in decorative creations – many of which are bespoke-made – crafted of wood, enhanced with gold and silver leafing. The hand-painted Cirque du Bebe and Pinocchio pieces may be beyond most of our budgets, but are wonderfully characterful pieces to cherish.
To hide the ever-growing piles of playthings, maximise space with clever storage solutions, such as stacking toy boxes and cubby holes in shelving. Check out the lovely personalised toy boxes and coat racks, made from apple crates, from £16.95, available at Plantabox (www.plantabox.co.uk) and the tree bookshelf, £560, available at White Rabbit England (01625 419622; www.whiterabbitengland.com).
Christopher Lusty, Managing Director of Aspace, gives his advice: “A child’s ever expanding collection of toys, gadgets, clothes and books means that space is increasingly precious. Optimizing storage space is often the biggest challenge. When there is limited floor space, plump for wall-hung storage and shelving. Shelves are the ideal solution for storing books and toys; leaving the floor clutter-free and opening up the room to its full potential. Additionally, in bedrooms with limited square footage, avoid storage units that take up precious floor space. Instead, choose storage units that have the option to be placed vertically; minimising the footprint, whilst maximising storage space.”
Decorating a child’s bedroom should be a fun experience and something you should encourage your child to get involved with. Whether you go for a striking colour scheme, a specific theme for the room or a neutral backdrop to highlight colourful accessories, remember to consult with your child – their imagination may run wild, but can always be tailored and harnessed to keep everyone happy.
Bernice Say, Director of luxury homeware store Oliver Hayden gives her tips on styling a child’s bedroom: “Start off by listing the colours and the things your child loves. Does he/she like numbers, shapes, cars or dolls, for instance? You can then incorporate these elements in your design. Choose a neutral or subtle colour for the walls with youu child, and get it painted. Don’t worry too much if your child is veering towards bright colours. Direct your child back to the subtle, after all, your child must be able to sleep in the room at night! Then, choose a wall to showcase a piece of artwork. Get a large stretched canvas and some paint and give it to your child to get creative. This will be their masterpiece – something they will be proud of. Be sure to incorporate accessible shelving for books and toys. Lastly, I always like to create a ‘cushion area’ for either the bed or floor, as a little zone for them to relax.”
An expert in colour is Farrow & Ball (01223 367771; www.farrow-ball.com). Sarah Cole, director of the heritage brand, agrees with choosing an adaptable colour as a foundation for the room: “We’ve found that the key to decorating young people’s rooms, from nurseries to teenage bedrooms, is to use colours and patterns that will grow with them. For example, if you have a little girl who is determined that only pink will do, but you know she may well grow out of the ‘pink phase’ as soon as you’ve put down the paint brush, why not compromise by using a neutral colour like Great White on the walls and ceilings and painting the door, woodwork and accessories in Cinder Rose? That way, when she’s moved on to other colours, it will be easier for you to update her room. Wallpaper is also an interesting addition to consider, a feature wall of wallpaper is often a popular choice among parents as it’s easy to update as children grow in age as well as sophistication.”
She continues: “To create a calming and soothing atmosphere, the subtle tones and interesting pattern of Vermicelli is great for nurseries; stimulating young babies and helping to lull them off to the land of nod. Wallpaper also works well across all ages. For example, Bumble Bee is a great way to create an animal friendly room for younger children, whereas Ocelot is a great choice for teenagers who want to make a statement.
“Children’s playrooms and dens are a great place to be bold and have fun with colour. Bright colours like Rectory Red, Charlotte’s Locks, Yellowcake, St Giles Blue and Arsenic are brilliant colours to add vibrancy to a room and create pops of colours. You don’t have to use them on the walls, apply these colours on stools, chairs and tables to create a happy environment for your child to play in.”
From interesting, quirky wallpapers, such as the Spots range from Lovably Me (www.lovablyme.co.uk) and the Hibou Home Enchanted Woodland range at Nubie (www.nubie.co.uk), to practical wall stickers, available at Peanut and Pip (www.peanutandpip.com), these days décor is increasingly sophisticated for the young. Perfect for a feature wall, and educational to boot, are the giant map murals available at Maps International (www.mapsinternational.co.uk).
You can also dress a child’s room with pretty bedlinens and cushions made from textiles that don’t meet the usual ‘pink for girls’ and ‘blue for boys’ stereotypes. Search out the elegant range available at The White Company, (www.thewhitecompany.com), the British-themed cushions at Jan Constantine (www.janconstantine.com) and the naïve drawings found on fabrics at cool children’s website The Kid Who (www.thekidwho.eu), which appeal as much to parents as they do to the kiddies.
Lastly, let’s not forget the all-important aspect of sleeping. Vital for any child – and parent – is ensuring the little ones have an uninterrupted night’s sleep. Invest in a night-light, to ward off night-time terrors (there are lovely animal versions at White Rabbit England) and make sure you fit the room with black-out blinds or curtains. Hand Made to Measure (01625 837 404; www.handmadetomeasure.com) are experts in the field and have a wide choice of fabrics on offer. While the Energy Saving Blinds at Duette (08000 663 662; www.duette.co.uk) have been designed with children in mind. They help to keep the heat in during winter, have black out properties for long summer nights and are child-safe.
Sarah Quilliam, Head of Product Design at blind experts Hillarys (0800 328 4192; www.hillarys.co.uk) adds: “Blinds with a blackout function are a great choice for kids’ rooms. They make it much easier to settle small children on light evenings and should help stop them waking up at dawn in the summer months. Blackout roller blinds also allow you to let in as much natural light as possible at other times. Always ensure that safety devices are fitted to keep control chains taut and out of harm’s reach or choose a window dressing that doesn’t have any cords such as shutters, a tabbed pleated blind or have roller or venetian blinds fitted in a perfect fit frame.”
No matter what design you choose – and the scope is endless – a child’s room is their first ‘room of their own’, and one they will recall forever. No pressure, now!
This article also appears in this month’s issue of The Cambridge Edition