Decorating a Kid’s Room to Last

There’s something inherently fun about decorating a kid’s room — bright colors, whimsical prints and accessories — but it’s tempting to go overboard. A room swathed completely in hot pink or centered around a theme may not work in a few years, or even a year from now.

How, then, do you create a kid-friendly space that will last? Two designers — Jennifer Jones, the principal designer at Niche Interiors in San Francisco, and Claire Paquin, the principal at Clean Design in Scarsdale, NY — offer their tips.

Choose big pieces that will transition

A child will eventually outgrow a few pieces in his or her room — a crib, for example, and perhaps a rocking chair — but otherwise, when buying furniture for the room, both designers advise finding items that can transition.

Jones designed a nursery in California for a child named Dylan and specifically chose darker, modern furniture — pieces that the family could use for years to come.

The dresser in Jones' design can transition into other rooms or be used for years to come.

The dresser in Jones’ design can transition into other rooms or be used as the child ages.

“When you’re selecting large pieces in the room, you want the pieces to transition,” Jones said. “I like dressers in kids’ rooms, rather than a changing table, because a changing table can only be used for a year and a half. On top of the dresser, you put a changing pad.”

Other items such as a rug or a rocking chair should also be pieces that you’ll be happy with for several years.

The kid touches in Dylan’s room are found in the whimsical dragonfly print wallpaper, the art prints adorning the wall and the aqua chair and pouf.

A punch of color is found in the aqua, orange and red touches in the room.

Aqua, orange and red touches add punches of color to the room.

“The wallpaper is neutral, the rug is relatively neutral. It’s really the chair and window treatment where there’s still a lot of color, but if they wanted to change it in a few years, they could,” Jones said.

However, even as you choose basic, big pieces for a child’s room, Jones cautions against going too far in this direction.

“I don’t think going full neutral is the way to go. Kids and children need color stimulation, so I don’t agree with the rooms that are taupe and grays and browns. It’s too drab for kids,” she said. “I think bold, saturated color is great to make the room feel fun and young.”

Go vibrant — with limits

Like Jones, Paquin reiterates that color is necessary for a child’s room.

“People are afraid of color. They’re afraid they’ll get sick of it, but if you put color on the walls, it’s fairly easy to paint over time,” she said.

Paquin designed rooms for two young sisters, painting one space a bold aqua and another pink.

The soft pink is more grown-up with chocolate brown, orange and aqua accents.

The soft pink becomes more grown-up with neutral shades of chocolate brown and white. Donna Dotan Photography Inc.

“When I design kids’ spaces I try to find two or three shades that are vibrant that work together,” she explained. “In the aqua room, it’s aqua and yellow, with pops of other colors, because you’re always going to have other color. But substantially it’s aqua and yellow.”

Choosing a limited palette of bright colors keeps the room from becoming overwhelming. And like Jones, Paquin chose neutral shades for the investment pieces in the room.

For example, the pink room has a chocolate brown velvet headboard. The aqua room’s bed is a cream chenille with polished nickel accents.

White bedding with pops of yellow make this child's room fun.

White bedding with pops of yellow make this child’s room fun. Photo by Donna Dotan Photography Inc.

“These are things that can grow,” Paquin said. “You can always repaint, but furniture lasts. You can reupholster, but it’s a lot of work and a lot of money, and if you buy a durable fabric, you won’t need to.”

Be practical but creative

You’ll always need certain items in a child’s room — if you have an infant, for example, you’ll likely need a crib — but try choosing pieces that are more contemporary or that have clean lines.

Want a rocker in the room? Jones said a recent client chose an Eames chair instead, and it’s a piece that can be used elsewhere in later years.

A rocking chair doesn't need to be traditional, as is shown in this design by Jessica Gersten.

A rocking chair doesn’t need to be traditional, as is shown in this design by Jessica Gersten.

Or, as Paquin mentioned, you may want dark roller shades for sleep purposes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add fun window treatments over the functional shades.

“In the pink and aqua rooms, I added stripes of grosgrain ribbon at the bottom in aqua, pink and orange,” she said. “They’re really cute and make the colors [in the room] very intentional.”

Making the room your own, whether with fun curtains or classic furniture, is always going to be the best way to make the decor of a kid’s room — or any room — last, Jones says.

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Erika Riggsa real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers celebrity real estate, unusual properties and home design trends. Read more of her work here