Designing bedrooms and playrooms with kids in mind

When is a room more than just a room? When it’s a place to dream and to form your identity. When it's a clubhouse or an enchanted kingdom, the lair of pirates and princesses.

Children’s bedrooms, nurseries and playrooms allow for something deeper than mere design. For the children who occupy them, they are filled with endless possibilities. And it is up to the adults in their lives to be creative and open-minded enough to allow that expressive potential full rein.

Or, as Lithonia interior designer Lakeitha Duncan advised, “Have fun! Children’s spaces are the only areas in the home where it’s OK for your imagination to run wild.”

Every expert on children's rooms surveyed agreed that consulting with the child to find out their likes and dislikes and helping them make the space their own is crucial.

“You want them to feel great about their room and proud of the fact that they helped in the design,” Lake Lanier interior designer Jennifer Reynolds said.

“A successful design comes about when you observe how the child lives in the space, consider their  interests, and ask engaging, open-ended questions,” interior designer Erika Ward said.

Experts also warn to think about cords for blinds and glass-framed artwork as potential safety hazards when designing a room for a small child.

We polled area designers, architects and children to find out what sorts of spaces they think work best and the big dos and don’ts to consider when designing for children.

Jennifer Reynolds, interior designer, Jennifer Reynolds Interiors, Lake Lanier

Stay clear of a theme that your child may quickly grow out of or tire of.

Make things easily accessible and keep the child from climbing.

Decor styles and selections for nurseries and kids' rooms have come a long way. The days of baby blue, pink and yellow are well behind us. Pastels are making way for bright (even fluorescent) colors, with neutral colors such as brown and black thrown into the mix.

If a child has a craft zone or snacking in their room, from time to time messes will happen. Instead of using one expensive area rug, opt for carpet tiles. When a mess happens you’ll only be replacing that tile and not the entire area rug.

Make sure the rug/flooring is comfortable to roll around and play on. Get down there and try it yourself.

Don’t forget the windows. Use blackout shades or drapery panels with lining to help absorb sounds and block out light. Don’t forget about the acoustics of the room; when you’re downstairs and he’s playing the drums you don’t want to have to reach for earplugs.

Use chalk board paint in fun, new ways; paint an entire wall or a dresser with it.

Create a unique headboard for the room. Use something you can find at a thrift store like an old gate or surf board.

Display their team uniforms in shadowboxes for artwork.

Karen Soorikian, architect, Soorikian Architecture, Decatur

You have to think about a space transforming over time. Little children you want to be close by, but as they get older you want to give them more their own space, like a basement room or an attic room. Spaces should be planned so that they can be adapted to the changing needs of a growing family.

Lots of storage to control the chaos is the key to a parent’s sanity.

Places to make a mess are also key: In an art room using a linoleum-type floor spills can be mopped up.

Maximize the floor space for play.

Create special niches that relate to the child’s scale, such as a reading nook. These special spots can go in locations that otherwise might be unused space, such as a stair landing, under stairs or in an attic dormer.

Good natural lighting always benefits a play space. A beautifully lit room is a draw for parents and children alike.

Choose materials that can be cleaned easily or fabrics like tweeds that hide wear and tear well.

Lakeitha Duncan, interior decorator/blogger, Swoon Worthy Interiors, Lithonia

Hold off shopping at stores or in departments specifically for children. Children are older longer than they are younger.

In a little girl’s room, make her feel like a princess by adding a chandelier.

Instead of a changing table, find a vintage dresser at a thrift store, paint it a funky color, put a changing pad on top -- the changing table can grow with the child.

Make your own curtains with fabric and Stitch Witchery (no sewing machine required).

Don’t be afraid of color, but don’t go wild with it. Yes, children like color, but it can be brought into the room with accessories and furniture, not always on the walls.

Frame pages from books.

Give your kids canvas and paint and let them create their own art for their room.

Erika Ward, interior designer, Erika Ward Interiors, Atlanta

Leave as much open space in the room as possible. Kids often mistake the house for a playground. They tumble, wrestle, roll and bounce without regard for your antique console table or the 100-year-old vase passed down from your great-great-grandmother.

If they have a space of their own to do as they wish, your furniture in other parts of the house will stand a chance at longevity.

More parents are requesting sophisticated kid spaces. Mature fabrics and nontraditional color combinations are making an appearance in kids' rooms more than the character-based designs we've seen in the past.

Be sure to incorporate your child's interests into the design. In the early years, kids love to experience various sports until they find a favorite. Accent walls, sport-inspired accessories such as pillows and rugs, and even light fixtures help you support their athleticism while providing the flexibility to change when their favorite sport is no longer soccer, but football.

If you have a wild sleeper, choose a bed that has a low profile so climbing into and falling out of bed are effortless and painless.

Play with your children in their room. Children often want to be wherever you are. By playing in their room, you show them how to use the space and gain the most satisfaction from all the amenities you have provided.

Antonio Duncan, first-grader, Lithonia

Six-year-old Antonio Duncan's mother, Lakeitha Duncan, is an interior designer and consulted him when it came time to transform a former playroom into his first room separate from his two younger brothers.

“I wasn’t ready to put him in his own room,” his mom admitted. “But we went out for a mommy and son day and he told me he wanted to have his own room.”

She had him look at catalogs for inspiration and included Antonio in painting the room. Antonio talked with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about his room:

Q. Were there certain things you wanted to have in your first bedroom?

A. I picked out the color for my room.

Q. What did you want to make sure and have in your room?

A. My nightstand with all my clothes.

Q. What’s your favorite thing?

A. My orange desk. I draw cartoon characters. Sometimes I do my homework at my desk. I do a lot of projects. A lot.

Q. What did you think when you first saw your room after your mom decorated it?

A. I wanted another color.

Q. What would you like to have in your next bedroom?

A. I’m still going to have my desk. I want to have my drawings on the wall.

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