Back to School 2009

Back to School: Designing Rooms That Grow With Kids From Toddler to Teen

By Terri Sapienza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 6, 2009

Very soon, parents everywhere will start gearing up for a new school year: plotting schedules, reorganizing desks and going though drawers and closets to remove items their children no longer use. In some cases, parents may find that it's not only clothes their children have outgrown, it's their bedroom, too.

Pastels, primary colors, firetrucks and fairy princesses: all sensible choices for a baby or toddler's room but not so cool for a tween or teen. Unfortunately, a makeover every few years isn't budget-friendly. Nor is it practical, says D.C. designer Annie Elliott. "If you're running around with kids, you're not going to have the energy to update their rooms," she says. "You're just going to be too exhausted to want to deal with it."

Terri Sapienza

Avoid Themes

"Themes can be very, very cute, but it makes it very hard to transition later," says Christiane Lemieux, founder and creative director of DwellStudio, a home furnishings company. "You're going to have to eventually redo it. Avoiding themes is going to save you money in the long run."

So, forget the wall-stenciled soccer balls and the bunny rabbit area rug. Make less of a long-term design commitment by incorporating your child's interests and hobbies with accessories.

"Have a motorcycle on the dresser or on artwork or pillows instead of on the rug or textiles," suggests Lily Kanter, chief executive and co-founder of Serena & Lily, a baby bedding and furniture company. If your child loves ballerinas, Kanter suggests putting a tutu into a shadow box and hanging it as artwork. For a baseball look, find vintage baseball cards on eBay to frame and hang on a wall.

"Themes are so hard to resist, especially if you're a first-time parent," says Elliott. "But I think you should carry out themes on things that are easy to change, like bedding, lampshades and inexpensive curtains."

She also recommends hanging a piece of original art. Nothing expensive, she says, perhaps something found on Etsy ( or at a flea market that doesn't have a kid's theme. "As the child grows, the piece doesn't go out of context and the child can get a different appreciation of it as he or she gets older," she says.

When Sally Aman of Capitol Hill redid her 5-year-old daughter's room, she took into account the preferences of Aman Aine, now 6, (lots of pink) but with the help of D.C. designer Sally Steponkus chose a sophisticated and timeless look.

"I didn't want to spend a lot of money having to redo the room over the years," she says. Aman mixed pink walls with an heirloom bed, an upholstered chair and a desk that doubles as a vanity, so her daughter "has a place to put all her lip glosses."

To personalize the space, Aman had the bed linens monogrammed through Chevy Chase's Whyte House Monograms. "She's so proud of her room," Aman says of Aman Aine. "She'll show someone her room and say, 'These are my initials.' It gives her ownership."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company