Whether it is a room to spark their imaginations or a private teenage den, the younger members of our families deserve a unique space to call their own. Here are the latest design ideas to create a practical room to stand the test of time.
Pirate and transport themes are all very well, but for something a little different for boys look at the new urban-style themes that are emerging for room décor.
Choose funky wallpapers for statement walls. Bricks, aged wooden planks and map designs are age-proof and work equally well for young boys as well as older ages, giving their rooms the ‘cool’ factor.
Roz Mannock, owner of The Paint and Paper Emporium in Cambridge (01223 506136, www.paintandpaperemporium.com) comments: “At the moment, the urban look is very popular for boys. Galerie Wallcoverings has a great selection of designs, such as bricks, wheel cogs, trees and world maps, which are all great for a statement wall in a boy’s room. I’ve also been advising on Scion‘s geometrics and seagull prints, which are bright and lively and are great alternatives to the usual jungle or under-the-sea designs.”
A nod to an industrial theme, but with a fun twist, is also currently on trend. Adaptable metal bedsteads, like the Dulwich style available from the new kids’ range by Made.com (03442 571 888; www.made.com), are robust and practical. Made.com’s version is also available as a day bed and comes with a matching trundle – essential for sleepovers – and is a good sturdy choice for boys.
Ruth Wassermann, design manager at Made.com, gives her insight: “As a mum I know that finding stylish and affordable furniture for kids is tough; it’s either pastels, pine or something super cheap that lasts one year. We wanted to bridge that gap with modern pieces that not only last but mean design-savvy parents can finally have the same amount of fun decorating their kids’ rooms as they do the rest of the house.”
Add in bright clocks, such as Newgate’s primary-coloured rubberized versions from Daisy Park (01769 579077, www.daisypark.co.uk), and hexagonal shelves, available from Next (0333 777 8000; www.next.co.uk) to complete the look.
Ample storage and room to study are essential considerations but by adding in quirky accessories, these practical areas can be easily livened up. Seek out the chirpy range of robot and dog lights by RED5 available at John Lewis (01223 361 292, www.johnlewis.com). While home emporium Out There Interiors (0208 0997 443, www.outthereinteriors.com) is also a fantastic source for unusual items for children’s rooms.
“Sparking their creative juices early is key to a child’s development. Help this process along by providing an area, which is just for them – their own chair for reading in is ideal,” says Out There Interiors owner Jenny Hurren. “A blackboard to draw on will encourage their fine motor skills plus ensure that your wall don’t get drawn upon! Remember to inject a sense of fun into the room- a rabbit on a scooter rug, oversized button hooks or a set of ‘textual’ boxes – stops a palette from becoming bland. Finally a T-Rex Skull is ideal for the young adventurer/explorer in the household and will probably appeal to the ‘young at heart’ in the household as well.”
Crucial to creating a comfortable room is choosing the right bed. Sofa.com’s (0345 400 2222, www.sofa.com) Kandahar single bed comes with storage and can be ordered in a range of fabrics, such as those inspired by Quentin Blake illustrations. A cabin or mid-sleeper style of bed, like those available at Great Little Trading Co (GLTC) (0344 848 6000, www.gltc.co.uk), offers extra space for smaller rooms.
“The most important thing to consider is choosing the right bed,” says Tracey Thomas, head of buying and merchandising at GLTC. “A bunk bed offers a spare bed option, which is invaluable for sleepovers. A cabin or mid-sleeper offers extra storage or even a desk, which will prove to be essential for all the toys that inevitably accumulate. While a high sleeper is appropriate for older children who need all of the above.
“Try a toddler bed for very small children; they are low to the ground and have high sides to reassure your child. Also make sure the mattress is soft enough; due to their lighter weight kids tend to sleep more comfortably on less firm mattresses. Bedding should be pure cotton: children cannot regulate their heat as efficiently as older children and adults, so to stop getting hot and bothered in bed you need to opt for cool, breathable cotton.
“As they get older sleepovers will become increasingly frequent,” she continues. “If you have a bunk bed you’re already one step ahead, but if not then you could opt for an under-bed truckle or a spare bed such as GLTC’s Bed In a Bag; they’re easily stored away when not in use, but require no inflation so you can just roll them out as you need them.”
A SPACE TO CALL HER OWN
When it comes to girl’s rooms, there are many alternatives to the swathes of pink-coloured accessories that are widely targeted at young females.
“For unusual wallpaper, L’Envol designs by Manuel Canovas, for Colefax and Fowler, are ideal. They feature hot air balloons in lime greens, pinks and turquoises,” advises Roz Mannock at The Paint and Paper Emporium in Cambridge (01223 506136, www.paintandpaperemporium.com). “They are pretty enough for a girl’s room but not too saccharine.”
Mirrored furniture matched against a sumptuous white padded headboard, like those available at Sweetpea and Willow (0345 257 2627, www.sweetpeaandwillow.com), are ideal for older girls looking for a grown-up theme.
Alternatively, blend neutrals with bright pops of colour for a contemporary look. Bright rugs, cushions and pouffes like those at Dash and Albert (www.dashandalberteurope.com) work well with a neutral colour scheme. While the cheerful patterns on Becky and Lolo’s (01420 544055, www.beckyandlolo.co.uk) bed linens mean that you can simply change your colour palette when wash-day comes around.
“We are seeing a move away from the usual primary colours in kids’ rooms to using Scandinavian-inspired softer and neutral colour palettes,” says interior designer Nicky Parkin, owner of Luku Home (020 8943 3683, www.lukuhome.com), which stocks a wide range of whimsical wallpapers. “Pastel colours are very much on trend at the moment along with individual more sophisticated designs in wallpapers and fabrics.”
Urbane Living’s (020 7138 38 38, www.urbaneliving.co.uk) wallpaper cut-outs, meanwhile, are clever alternatives to wallpapering a whole wall and are ideal for introducing colour into a room.
Adam Robertson, owner of Urbane Living, says “Many parents struggle when it comes to decorating their children’s room. Our wallpaper silhouette range is perfect for allowing parents to adapt the same sense of style as they would when decorating the rest of their home without compromising their own taste. After all, no-one wants to be left with a fully themed room that’s suddenly no longer their child’s ‘thing’.”
Talking of which, it’s advisable to include your child in the planning of a new scheme, but essential to not get too carried away with childish whims.
Tracey Thomas, at GLTC (0344 848 6000, www.gltc.co.uk), agrees: “Given that your child’s tastes may change with the wind, it’s wise to stick to two or three main colours; you can then achieve a unique look with accent colours and designs here and there. Don’t get carried away with things that can’t be replaced easily for a quick update. Also, do remember that kids’ bedrooms need to be warm and welcoming; they also need to reflect the personality and interests of your child, not you! With a little thought kids bedrooms can be places of play, relaxation, learning and, hopefully, sleep.”
She continues: “It’s a good idea for children to be involved in the planning of their bedroom – it’s their space after all. But to avoid arguments (and decisions they’ll come to regret when they’re older) it’s helpful to choose two or three things that you’re happy with first, then leave the final choice to them. This way they get to have a say, but you’ll be happy too.”
For girls who want a feminine, fantastical look to their rooms, choose a simple, white wood bed frame and then dress it with pretty linens, that way when tastes change you won’t have laid out a large investment. Visit Belfast Beds based in Cambridge for a wide range of children’s bed styles (01223 411311, www.belfastbedsuperstore.co.uk). For a cosy feel, choose thick carpets in pastel shades. If you have a little girl who likes her arts and crafts, then opt for a hard-wood floor for a more practical choice. Both types of flooring are available at Carpet Mill (01223 316866, www.carpetmill.co.uk) also in Cambridge.
Emma Lycett, founder and director at Hibou Home (01892 511867, www.hibouhome.com), which offers a stylish range of muted wallpapers and fabrics, gives her advice on creating a magical girl’s room: “Choose timeless, classic designs inspired by nature that will evoke happy childhood memories and transform bedrooms into a magical lair that children will love. Charming wallpapers featuring delightful woodland animals and forest folk will conjure up visions of their countryside surroundings and bring the outdoors in to homes. Create a harmonious interior look with a soothing and fresh colour palette of duck egg blues, stone greys and mint greens that not only draw on the colours of nature but will also create the perfect backdrop in little one’s nurseries and bedrooms.”
Hanna Wendelbo-Hansson, creative director at Swedish interior brand Sandberg (www.sandbergwallpaper.com), suggests taking inspiration from fairy tales: “Faraway lands and mystical kingdoms are a lovely starting point to create a sprinkling of magic in your young child’s room. Hanging canopies is the simplest way of doing this and let the children’s imaginations invent the rest. Layer different patterns together to create a gently invigorating space for your young ones to spend time.”
TEENS AND THEIR DENS
When it comes to the teenage years, it’s all about giving them their own space and privacy without compromising on style.
“For teenage rooms the choice is so much more varied than ever,” says Nicky Parkin at Luku Home (020 8943 3683, www.lukuhome.com) “Using interesting lighting from hanging pendants to fairy lights can really give their room that designer edge. Having a seating area is great for teenagers when they have their friends over. Beans bags and colourful small sofas are an economical and fun way to achieve this. Place a funky contemporary rug in the room to add a little extra style.”
Ambient Lounge (0844 579 1112, www.ambientlounge.co.uk) supplies design-savvy beanbag furniture, such as the shell-like Acoustic style and the Avatar Home Cinema Lounger, ideal for teens who want to chill out with friends, watch movies or play computer games.
Storage is also key for keeping rooms in ship-shape order. For something a little more grown-up than the usual children’s storage solutions, seek out quirky cabinets. Shimu’s (0800 088 6800, www.shimu.com) brightly lacquered Chinese cupboards add a sophisticated touch to any room, while the Buddy Larder from Lilly Loray (01788 486 001, www.lillyloray.com) is a versatile option.
Bryony Disbury, founder and designer at Lilly Loray, comments: “Lilly Loray’s Buddy Larder is a great addition to any children’s playroom or den because it’s so versatile with a multitude of uses. Teenagers, in particular, always need a helping hand keeping things tidy in their bedroom and the Buddy Larder does just that by adding a touch of style. It can be used as a desk, clothes cabinet, DVD cabinet, music station and/or library. What’s great is the teenager can be creative in using it so making it unique to them.”
Sure to get you in the good books of style-conscious teenagers is choosing funky options for the boring essentials. Instead of curtains, for example, opt instead for shutters, such as the solid type available at California Shutters (0800 195 0196; www.californiashutters.co.uk) and paint then in vibrant tones for a youthful feel.
Chrissie Harper, operations manager at California Shutters, gives her tips: “Full Height Solid Style shutters are a stylish solution and also a practical one for keeping the light out. Keeping the shutters closed will block out all light in the evening, whilst during the day you can open them fully to clear the window allowing daylight light in.”
Another idea is to swap the bog-standard radiator for a contemporary version, like The Play model at The Radiator Centre (01727 840344, www.theradiatorcentre.com). As well as giving a hipness to a room’s scheme, director Nick Duggan points out that it might also be a practical choice: “The Play sits in The Radiator Centre’s efficiency range of radiators. While producing unparalleled levels of heat from its Low-H20 heat exchange it also offers a low surface temperature for the more safety conscious. The fun, painted MDF panels with pencil proof grille, integrated TRV controls and hidden valves make it an ideal radiator that could sit in a young person’s room and not go out of fashion.”
With teenagers becoming increasingly sophisticated in their tastes, it is advisable to include them in all decisions in their room decor. Top of the list is to choose a bed that will stand the test of time.
Adam Black, co- founder of Button & Sprung (0333 320 1801, www.buttonandsprung.com), makers of hand-made beds and mattresses, suggests: “Be bold with your fabric choice, bright colours and patterns are great for a teenager’s room as they can inject a bit of personality and fun into the scheme. If you choose a patterned fabric you must consider how the design repeats and the style of the headboard you’re after. For complicated prints it is best to keep the headboard design simple, and opt for a plain style, as button backs will distort the pattern and limit your fabric choices.”
Claire Vallis, design director at Harlequin (0845 123 6815, www.harlequin.com) gives her say: “Create teenage kid’s rooms with a funky vibe using bold blocks of colours with a hint of rebel black. Best not to adorn the walls in their favourite fashion of the moment, as teenagers have been known to change their minds frequently. Instead, choose generic but trendy motifs that will stand the test of time and can be mixed in with their current interests and tastes.”
Seek out affordable accessories, furniture and bed linens at stores such as Dunelm (0345 165 6565, www.dunelm-mill.com) and Made.com, which stocks teen-friendly Piggy Bags and sofa beds – ideal for when friends stay over.
Finally, for those who really want their own space, why not invest in a purpose-built garden room. Stacia Greenaway, director at Cambridge Timber Buildings, (01353 667268, www.cambridgetimberbuildings.com) suggests a space away from the house could be the ultimate den for teens: “We work with clients to devise the best space that fits in with their family needs,” she says. “And an increasing number of people are using their gardens as extensions of the home. For older teenagers who crave their own space and privacy, a modern garden room can be the ideal solution. It can be set up as a den, a games room or even a study for those who need some independence away from mum and dad.”