Back to School: When Siblings Share, Carve Out Some Solo Space

Siblings Brooke and Jack Merz each chose the color of one wall in their shared bedroom.
Siblings Brooke and Jack Merz each chose the color of one wall in their shared bedroom. (By Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Decorating a child's bedroom should be fun, but decorating a bedroom that siblings share can be a challenge.

D.C. designer Annie Elliott offers this advice to parents before they tackle such an assignment: "When kids share a room, the more personal space each child has, the better." Elliott has firsthand experience with this: Her 5-year-old twin girls, Ruthie and Georgie, share a bedroom.

Recently, she helped client Jennifer Fiore of Georgetown set up a room for 5-year-old daughter Brooke and 3-year-old son Jack as the family made way for a newborn. To delineate space for each child, they painted one wall lavender for Brooke, the opposite wall green for Jack and the other two walls yellow. "They chose their favorite colors, and Annie helped pick out shades of those colors," Fiore says.

Each child has a bookshelf, bed and closet. "They really love it," Fiore says. "They play in there now more than they do in their playroom."

Here are more design ideas from Elliott to help preserve a child's autonomy -- and a parent's sanity -- when siblings share:

-- If you allow each child to choose a color for one wall, limit their choices to ensure the colors look good together.

-- Allow each child a shelf that's completely theirs to display collections. (This is also a good way to control clutter.)

-- Let each child choose their bedding.

-- Divide the closet so each child has a side. If the closet is small, hang two rods and have a step stool handy.

-- If there isn't enough space for separate dressers, give them separate drawers.

-- Hang a canopy over each bed to create a private space.

-- Consider a loft bed for an older child; it creates a room within a room below the mattress. Ikea's Tromso loft bed (from $199) is a good example.

-- Finally, don't expect the children to share everything. Siblings are expected to co-own games, DVDs, etc. Their bedroom should be a place where they can have some things that are all their own.

Terri Sapienza

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