When you plan a room for a newborn, bear in mind that decorating a nursery can be as much about creating a comfortable space for you as your child. With babies rarely spending time alone in their room, a peaceful nook for you to nurse your little one is essential. As they grow, energetic toddlers will need a place for supervised play, as well as a secure and cosy bed to encourage them to snuggle down alone at night. The more independent tweenies will hanker after their own den for games and sleepovers with friends, while for self-sufficient teenagers, privacy and somewhere to do their homework is all-important – what was once your domain will very definitely be their own.
But it’s also important not to lose sight of your own aesthetic. ‘It’s easy to abandon your sense of style when it comes to decorating kids’ rooms,’ says Esther Wise, founder of cool bed-linen and accessories company Renegade Kids. ‘Instead of going all out with pink or puppies, adapt the same procedure as you would when decorating the rest of your home. Don’t compromise your own taste.’
So, with the ideas on the following pages you’ll be inspired to create a room which will adapt to your children’s ever-changing needs, without breaking the bank or compromising your personal style.
Calm and comfort are all-important for newborns, so choose delicate shades and tactile fabrics for cosiness. Rather than furniture specifically designed with babies in mind, choose well-made items that can adapt with your child. For example, a chest of drawers can be topped with a mat to make a changing table, and wardrobes with adjustable rails can be raised as your child grows up. For a really trendy tot, white lacquer furniture has a timeless Scandi look and works well with colourful accessories and textiles.
‘New babies need shapes and movement to stimulate them,’ says Laura Slack of Places and Spaces. ‘Mobiles are great for this but make sure they are hung high enough to be out of reach when your child is old enough to stand.’
A two-in-one cot bed will last until your baby is ready for a grown-up bed. For a beautiful Scandi design check out the designs by Stokke.
Blackout blinds are a good choice for babies’ rooms. They make it much easier to settle small children during the day or on light evenings and should help stop them waking up at dawn in the summer months. Roller blinds also allow you to let in as much natural light as possible at other times.
To avoid your baby becoming too hot or cold, don’t position their cot right next to a window or by a radiator. It may also be a good idea to invest in a room thermometer. Babies are far more sensitive to temperature than adults and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) has been linked to overheating, so it’s important to try to keep the room at around 18°C
Children grow out of the latest fads as quickly as their first pair of shoes, so rather than succumbing to an entire room of Dora the Explorer, choose a neutral backdrop and introduce colour with textiles, graphic wall stickers (which are quick and easy to change) and fun accessories. ‘Mount pictures of characters in inexpensive frames,’ suggests Anita Kaushal, author of HomeFamilyLifestyle, ‘or encourage your kids to draw their own pictures and frame those instead.’
Teach toddlers to be tidy as early as possible by hanging pegs low and keeping storage within easy reach.
‘Little children spend a lot of time on the floor, so treat them to a huge rug to keep small bottoms warm,’ says Laura Slack. The Speed rug from Habitat has a fun racetrack design.
Boxes and baskets are ideal for storing toys and games, and can be easily transported around the house if need be. Label the fronts for easy identification and keep one basket at the foot of the bed for stray toys that are still kicking around at bedtime.
Dimmer switches are a boon for checking on a sleeping toddler and can be left on low for an infant who’s afraid of the dark.
Cover electrical sockets and keep trailing cords out of reach
Older children will relish having some input in the way their bedroom looks. ‘Ask kids what they like about their favourite toys,’ suggests Laura Slack. ‘Use these colours, textures and motifs and base the scheme around them.’ If bubblegum pink and electric blue go against all your interior style principles, compromise with powder pink or dove grey. ‘Instead of dousing whole walls in vivid colours, buy cheap or second-hand furniture and paint that instead,’ suggests Anita Kaushal.’Then your kids can have what they want, but it’s completely disposable.’
Bunk beds make the most of every inch, and they’re great for sleepovers and as dens. Alternatively, choose a single bed with a pull-out truckle that houses another mattress for when friends come to stay. The White Company has stylish designs.
Adjustable shelves can accommodate big picture books for small kids, then be adapted for paperbacks as well as CDs and DVDs.
Fairy lights are an easy way to add a magical touch – string twinkling lights round a mirror for a little girl, or pin up a net of lights to create a personal cosmos for a budding spaceman.
Murals can create a focal point in a kid’s room. ‘A modern, minimalist room that appeals to grown-ups can be completely updated with a stylish, graphic mural’, says Mandy Colliss of Funky Little Darlings, who can create a bespoke mural with all your child’s favourite things. ‘Pick contemporary furniture and soft furnishings in the colours of the mural to create a coherent look.’
Don’t position furniture near a window, and fit catches on windows as an additional safety measure.
When kids hit the teenage years, a whole new challenge in designing their rooms awaits,’ says Judith Wilson, author of Teen Zone. ‘The layout may require radical readjustments as fresh issues arise, from controlling noise to allowing privacy.’ Let teenagers personalise the space so they can create a place where they will enjoy spending time.
‘A montage of pictures, photos and memorabilia is a great way for teens to express themselves,’ says Anita Kaushal. Cover one wall in cork tiles to save the wall from Blu Tack marks and insulate the rest of the house from the sound of the latest Sugababes CD.
Some sort of study area is essential in every teenager’s room. A work station with closing doors or a desk hidden in a cupboard is a good idea, or sectioned off with shelving, a curtain or a panel.
As with all students, teenagers need good task lighting for reading and homework. Anglepoise lamps are design classics.
Conquer mountains of clothes, shoes and CDs with ample storage. Try toy baskets for shoe storage, underbed drawers for private items and a second-hand filing cabinet for homework.