June 16, 2024


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How to design kids’ rooms, according to Houston designers

Nadia Laghari had just finished law school and was studying for the bar exam so simply didn’t have the time, energy or ideas to transition her young daughter into a big-girl room.

She had no idea the impact a wall of shelves would have, nor how sweet a twin-sized daybed would look. She was at a loss for art and hadn’t given a thought to lighting.

With help from Yésely Love at Canaima Design, Laghari and her husband, Muhammad Laghari — Pakistan natives who lived in Canada before arriving in Houston — were able to finish the room just before the coronavirus pandemic settled in.

“We didn’t know we were going to be housebound,” Nadia said. “This bookshelf has been so incredibly useful. We didn’t expect to get so much use out of it. I could see this in our study when my daughter outgrows it. I could use it in the living room or my bedroom.”

Children’s rooms have always been important to them — places where they sleep and play, bring friends and store their treasures. Places so sacred that no one blinks an eye if a young boy or girl posts a “Keep Out” sign on the door.

COVID-19 has brought new meaning to everything — just as adults are using their houses as home, office, school and gym all in one, children’s rooms are doing more, too.

Better lighting is required and seating have never been more important. Air quality is important, so low VOC paints are a must and you can even find ceiling fans with built-in air purifiers.

“Parents are putting more thought and more money into their kids’ rooms. That has completely changed this year,” Love said.

Not just for sleeping

Kids, from young children through teen years, want rooms that reflect their personalities and their age. That means using favorite colors, hobbies, sports teams — and interior designers are finding creative ways to deliver.

A young fan of the Los Angeles Lakers got a black-and-gold-themed room and an elaborate Kobe Bryant peel-and-stick wall decal courtesy of Nikole Starr of Nikole Starr Interiors. The boy’s sisters got dramatically different treatments in their rooms. The college-age sister got a more sophisticated space with a mirror-front dresser and a chair and ottoman covered in fluffy white Tibetan sheepskin. The 9-year-old got a room bathed in pink, with sweet wallpaper and a hanging swing chair — perhaps the ultimate decorating item for girls.

“I’ve gotten so many requests for hanging swing chairs and vanities that can be a desk, too,” Starr said. “Fuzzy stools are good, too, because kids like lots of texture. There are sheepskin rugs, and everyone loves a good shag rug.”

Jana Erwin and Nest Design Group made the most of a whole home renovation for one client, using what had been an office as an indoor playground for 5- and 6-year-old brothers. One brother loves camping, so he got a statement wall with a hand-painted mural of a woodsy mountain scene, plus a vintage camping lantern that was wired to serve as a bedside lamp.

The indoor playroom is tricked out with everything two young boys could want, from a spot to work puzzles or draw to swings and a climbing wall that delivers them to a net strewn across the reinforced vaulted ceiling.

The Kobe Bryant decal is an example of one of the biggest trends in kids’ rooms: wallpaper and statement walls. Girls love wallpaper, and since their taste can be ever changing, a single-wall treatment isn’t too much of an investment.

Peel-and-stick wallpapers are popular right now, and manufacturers are making it easy for parents and interior designers. York Wallcoverings and its sister brand, RoomMates, are making wallpaper that operates as a dry erase board so kids can have an ever evolving decoration or use it for school and homework. Other brands have decals that don’t need quite as much room and can be applied directly to a wall or to a small board if you want it to be mobile.

RoomMates’ newest peel-and-stick patterns cover many Disney characters, from Mickey and Minnie Mouse to Moana, “Frozen” favorites and the whole lineup of princesses. You can hire a professional to hang them, but they’re highly affordable and are perfect day projects for DIY’ers.

“It doesn’t always have to be 100 percent beautiful. Think about the things that are important to a child. Let them have the Star Wars pillow and find a way to display their personal items, like a spelling trophy,” said Marie Flanigan of Marie Flanigan Interiors. “Find a way to celebrate who they are. Especially in today’s time we all need our own spaces in our home.”

Storage, the eternal struggle

Cabinets with drawers or shelves lined with bins are necessary to keep a child’s room or play room orderly. The added bonus is that children learn responsibility when keeping their room or play room tidy is their job.

Sophia Vassiliou of Sophia Designs turned the third floor of a home into a play room for 6-year-old and 8-year-old sisters, incorporating a small table and chairs for school work, games and coloring. Window seats got cushions for more comfortable reading nooks, and sleeper sofas and chairs are covered in more durable performance fabrics so the girls can host sleepovers and not worry about anything getting stained from spills.

There’s a small refrigerator, microwave and popcorn maker and drawers for storing food.

“The drawers are deep, so as the girls grow they can use them for other things,” Vassiliou said. “We kept reminding ourselves that this isn’t just for children — it will be for tweens and then teens and then the parents get it back when the kids are grown.”

Drawers and storage bins are more important than ever, as kids and families return to playing cards and old-fashioned games. When you’re done playing, they need to be put away, so game pieces don’t get lost and boards aren’t damaged.

Creative options include beds with storage underneath and storage ottomans, pieces of furniture with more than one use — favorites of Flanigan.

Furniture for now, later

Before 2020, most parents didn’t think about putting a desk in their kids’ rooms. Now it’s essential. A year or two from now that could change — and we’ll see all of those unwanted desks in thrift stores and on Facebook marketplace — but for now, desks are as hard to find as bicycles and exercise equipment.

Parents and designers are mixed on how much the furniture in kids’ rooms should age with them. Some want furnishings that will last, while others are willing to adapt as their children age.

One popular choice is a trundle bed, which can grow with a child and provide extra bed space for sleepovers. Daybeds are a unique alternative and come in twin, full and queen-size options.

For the young boy’s camping-themed room, Erwin chose a stylish acrylic side table for a less obstructed view of the unique mural but it could easily move to any room in the home.

“Seating in kids’ rooms has become really important,” said Rainey Richardson of Rainey Richardson Interiors and owner of the RR Home showroom at the Houston Design Center. “It used to be that you only saw nice comfortable seating in parents’ bedrooms, but now we’re seeing an interest in chairs for kids’ — particularly older kids’ — rooms. And they’re being picky about what they have.”

Kids’ views

Lighting has become more important now that kids are doing more schoolwork from their rooms. Table lamps do the trick, and Richardson said she’s seen a lot of interest in “fandoliers” — and chandeliers with built-in ceiling fans. They keep air moving and provide white noise for better sleep.

Richardson said the focus should be on good light, 2,700 to 3,000 Kelvin — a shade that’s not too yellow (warm) and not too blue (cool).

A simple bookshelf, bulletin board or fabric covered board is a great place for self expression, and kids can update them any time they want. Paired with even a small bookshelf, this space can become where kids display their artwork, ribbons, trophies and other treasures.

“For a boy — it never fails — they want a place to play videogames and girls at a certain age want a place for personal grooming. By the time they’re preteens they’re like ‘can we make it dark?’ and that’s when blackout window treatments become important.”

“Children are thinking about their rooms more because they’re home more. They’re getting ideas and they’re quite creative, but it’s not about expense,” Vassiliou said. “You can do a canopy really simply by throwing a swag with little pompoms, or get a new lamp from TJ Maxx. Any spark brings joy.”

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