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How to design a children’s room by interior designer, Laura Stephens

Decorating a nursery seems relatively easy (cot, chair, changing table, some sweet wall stickers, maybe a rug), but as children grow up (how dare they?!), it seems to be harder to design a room that will not only suit them when they’re young, but also when they’re a bit older and have more opinions of their own (again – how dare they?!) And so, we turned to Wear & Where’s favourite Interiors Guru, designer Laura Stephens who is amazing when it comes to creating family-friendly spaces that are also stylish. If you are thinking about redecorating, then you’ve come to the right place…

What are the main things to consider when designing a child’s room? 

So the main thing to consider is the age of the child and what their needs are now and how they will change in the next few years. I also consider how the room will be used in practice, other than for sleeping. For example, is this the main room to store toys, or is there a play room or area elsewhere in the house for that? Will homework/music practice be done here? Do we need space for extra kids (sleepovers?) Once all of those things are established I set about designing the space.

I’m thinking storage is probably key?

Absolutely, it’s the only way the room will work successfully. Even in the smallest bedrooms creative storage solutions can be found. For example, in this small boy’s bedroom (above) we built a long bed along the whole wall incorporating three deep pull out drawers which hold all his clothing. The bed is also long enough to have a friend to stay over, top to toe.

In this little loft bedroom (below) I had a joiner build shelving across the wall above the bed and into the slant of the roof.

How do you go about creating a room – for example- for a five year-old that will last them until they are 10. Is that possible?

Well, children are notoriously fickle but I find that if you involve them in the design process you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what they come up with. Their needs will change and it’s important to create adaptable spaces. For example, what could be a five year old’s ‘art station’ could upgraded to a more grown up desk as they grow. Also, guiding them to choose a design they won’t grow out of is key. This wallpaper by Hygge & West (below) was used for my 6 year old but my 10 year old loves it too. In fact I have used this wallpaper again, but in blush and gold for a 13 year old…

How about older children? Is it possible to design something that will take them from tween to teenager?

10 year olds can have strong opinions when it comes to their own spaces as they’re entering into teenage hood and will undoubtedly be spending more and more time there. For me it was essential that the scheme wasn’t too little girly. We went for a double bed, partly because the rooms was large enough for it, but also, in a practical sense, it means no more trundle beds/blow up mattresses etc for sleepovers and I knew she would appreciate it as a teenager. My mini client was presented with a choice of 4 schemes (run past her mother to ensure she was happy with them) and we settled on this lovely aqua and coral scheme. We built in a lovely window seat with lots of cushions (designed for chatting with friends on, with wall lights for reading and a lift up lid for masses of storage to store out of season clothes). So the space is super practical as well as pretty.

Rooms are obviously places they can have fun and play, but they also need to be somewhere calm where ether can sleep. How can you strike that balance?

I think storage is the key here. If the mess and chaos can be easily tidied away this contributes to a sense of calm. I also like to create quiet, spaces, such as the window seat (above), or even just some floor cushions next to a book shelf would work. Although I love to use colour in my work it’s always a palette which works together to feel cohesive and not overwhelming and garish. Lighting is also key to calm. If there are only glaring down lighters, or poor lighting provided by a single pendant, add some side lighting to be able to tone things down.

What easy, not-to-expensive ways are there to adapt a child’s room as they grow older?

Toddler’s dressing tables swapped for desks, baskets of toys exchanged for beanbags for older children to lounge on, and adding pin boards so growing children can put up photos, notes etc to make the room their own are easy, inexpensive ways to adapt a room. Adding a single wall of wallpaper is relatively inexpensive and can transform the look of a room. I adore a wallpaper! I think it gives a room a real sense if identity. Below is a 3 year olds room, but the wallpaper is so pretty it could easily be turned into a spare room as kids get older and rooms are swapped around.

Wall stickers can be a great, inexpensive way to decorate. This room (below) was painted a beautiful warm grey (Paint & Paper library ‘Cotton II’ and then was used gold star stickers (from Etsy). In such a small space it didn’t make sense to use wallpaper and of course, they’re easy to take off should the use of the room change. I also love this design (for an 8 year old) as it will grow with her easily into teenhood….

With school-age children, you may want to incorporate a desk/work area. Do you have any ideas on how to make that space friendly and inviting and not too ‘homeworky’? 

In the my 10 year old client’s room we wanted to create exactly that, a work area without feeling too ‘homeworky’/officey. I sourced this desk on ebay and painted it white. I find my little clients love to have pinboards and stationary and this ‘grid board’ allows her to personalise the space using fun clips and photos but you can still see the wallpaper underneath. Task lighting is essential to ensure homework done by done in the evening light.

Great desk finds on the high street include this white Habitat desk, which is great to fit into small spaces – and I love the midcentury vibe and larger size for bigger children, of this white Maison du Monde desk…

Let’s talk storage! Do you have any advice/go-to places for great toy and clothes storage?

I love baskets from Edit 58, Olli Ella and Tala Designs, they’re beautiful but spacious and practical. Zara Home is always a winner for baskets and storage and I’ve also rediscovered Habitat for great storage baskets and boxes, particularly for boys’ rooms. I also love these crates from Ines Cole for holding anything from kids shoes to toys in.

And beds. Do you have any places you like?

I love this iron bedstead from Maisons du Monde (below) which I have used in several projects as it’s got a great vintage vibe. I also love these beds, all from Maisons du Monde. Another favourite is the ‘Dormy House’ sleigh bed, it comes painted in a variety of colours and lovely big storage drawers underneath are available, and a matching ‘sleep over’ bed too which slots right underneath.

And what if children share? How do you go about giving them both a space that feels their ‘own’?

I think, if possible, allowing each child to have their own bedside table, or even a little shelf if space is tight, plus also their own pinboard, allows for some space and individuality.

How much ‘input’ should a child have when it comes to design?

I think that, as you’re paying for it and have to live with it too, parents should be heavily involved in choices made. However, it’s important for children to have a sense of ownership and ‘choice’ in order for them to love (and look after) their own space. I always carefully edit choices presented to my little clients with parents first, to make sure they would happy with any of their choices. Involving them is essential (even from as young as 4 or 5) but also fun and inspiring for me – children can have amazing ideas even if sometime they need to be adapted a little!) I do, however, always manage to sneak in a signature pom pom trim somewhere…

Finally, any great shopping places for children’s interiors that you love? Anything from cushions to baskets to toy storage, book shelves?

The Dormy House has lovely painted wooden, attractive furniture from wardrobes to beds. I love Birdie Fortescue for block print, Swedish looking cushions in lovely colours, Maisons du Monde do great kids furniture, Molly Meg always has something I love for kids’ rooms, great shelves, lights and bits and pieces and Bobo kids in Chelsea is possibly the most gorgeous children’s décor shop I have ever been in, worth a trip in itself.

Images: Chris Snook and Pinterest.

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