How to Decorate a Child’s Room

Author: Alecia Pirulis

themed room

Fanciful, bright colors and small-scale, curvy furniture … a child’s room is a fun space to decorate. But you may face some challenges depending on your living space. If you live in an apartment and can’t paint, for example, your child’s room becomes a little more difficult to decorate. If you have more than one child sharing a space (especially if there’s a large age difference), that can also be a decorating hurdle you’ll have to clear before the kids – and you – are all happy. If your budget is tight, that can make purchasing items for the space more challenging. And as your child grows, his likes and dislikes will change right along with his shoe size. So, how do you keep from having to redecorate your child’s room year after year?

First, be sure to choose furniture that will grow with your child. An infant or toddler will need a crib, but make sure the rest of the furniture won’t have to leave when the crib does – choose a dresser and end tables with classic lines that your child can use until the day of his or her high school graduation. If your budget won’t allow for new furniture (except for the crib and mattresses, which should always be purchased new), look for great items at garage sales and thrift stores. (No matter where you purchase items, always remember to check and make sure it hasn’t been recalled.) The furniture doesn’t have to match – paint them all the same color and replace all the handles and drawer pulls with coordinating ones and your dresser, side tables, bookcase, and desk will be an interesting combination of distinct and uniform.

You may be tempted to decorate in a theme. That’s fine, but remember: just because your four-year-old is fascinated by lighthouses today doesn’t mean he won’t toss them over in favor of dinosaurs or monster trucks or superheroes in a few short weeks. Keep your theme-inspired décor to a minimum: the bedding, which can be easily changed with his or her newest passions, wall decals and wall art, which is easily removed and replaced, and perhaps a few of the beloved items on a shelf. One shelf containing a couple of lighthouses and perhaps a blanket with a nautical print and maybe a book about lighthouses in the bookcase or on the nightstand will do – add lighthouse-themed wallpaper, curtains, throw pillows, etc. and you’ll have a ton of work to do when today’s passion becomes yesterday’s news.

If you plan to paint your infant’s room, you may be tempted to go all-out traditional baby decor: bubblegum pink for a girl and powder blue for a boy. Instead, consider choosing colors that will grow with your child. Choose a whimsical meadow green or a snappy saffron yellow instead – colors that add a vibrant backdrop to your young child’s cheery stuffed animals and fanciful toys, but will still look great when your child is a teen and you’ve decorated with a funky wall clock, a chic floor lamp, and other hip accessories.

If you like to follow trends for decorating inspiration, consider adding three-dimensional wall art, textured items such as woven baskets and natural-fiber rugs, painting the ceiling, and repurposing old toys into room décor. Other trends include neon (you might want to only use hints of neon, though – a little goes a very long way), stripes, and using antiques (painted bright colors or embellished for a child’s room).

Keep in mind that your child is going to grow fast. Today’s tiny kindergartener could, in just a few short years, tower over you. If you purchase a twin bed, think about where that will leave you when your child is suddenly a nearly-six-foot-tall, gangly teenager. Consider getting the full-size bed (or even queen-size, if the room is large enough) instead.

If you have more than one child sharing a room, consider loft beds (using the space underneath for desks and storage), bunk beds, and other ways to make use of vertical space. Modular units and beds with storage (drawers or cubbies, for example) are also great for shared spaces. If you are very handy, know someone who is, or have it in your budget to hire a carpenter, built-in units can add an interesting dimension to a small space. If you choose built-in beds, be sure the size and style is something that will last until the children leave for college.

To create “separate” areas for each child, consider dividing the shared room with an open book case perpendicular to the wall – this will allow for privacy and the kids can each add their own personality to their space. (You might want to anchor the bookcase to the wall for safety.) The areas can also be painted different colors to create a separation. You can also create division with curtains or beads strung from the ceiling.

Be aware that your child’s room will probably need to be updated a few times – the transition from infant through toddler (with the crib and baby paraphernalia that inevitably accumulates) to a “big kid” room for your preschool to school-age child, then again when your child hits the “tween” and teen years. As long as you choose the right furniture and paint colors now, updating the room will only require a few tweaks here and there instead of a major overhaul.