4 Tips for Designing Great Rooms for Kids

Stylish. Comfortable. Fun.

Every parent aims to hit all three of these marks when kitting out the perfect bedroom for their little one, but what other attributes should a truly great kids’ room have?

From determining the right color palette to solving the puzzle of too-small spaces to creating rooms that evolve as kids age, Chelsea Reale—a principal in the Manhattan-based children’s interior design firm, Sissy + Marley—shares her tips for designing fun, fashionable rooms for kids. Fair warning to parents: Reale’s ideas might have you reevaluating your own bedroom’s cool factor.

Pair Neutral Colors with Bold Patterns

Every parent wants to know how much color is too much—and how to avoid the pitfall of creating an environment that’s perpetually locked within a child’s baby or toddler years. Reale—who runs her firm with her mother and sister—gravitates toward the use of neutral hues, such as light-grays, warm oatmeals, and (yes) shades of white, and prefers using monochromatic color palettes. Bold, saturated colors may have their places in some kids’ rooms, but keep them to a minimum (especially on walls) for maximum longevity.“If it feels good to you or your child, then go for it,” she says.

That’s not to say that a child’s room should feel too grown-up while she’s still a little girl: Pattern also plays a key role in creating a room that’s kid-approved. Reale often hangs wallpaper in playful, graphic patterns (think stylized raindrop shapes and big stars) to create accent walls that really up the fun-factor. “We love wallpaper in just about kids every room because it’s a form of artwork that easily makes a kid’s space feel special,” Reale says.

Divert Attention from Small Spaces

Dedicated, and often built-in, sleep, play and toy/book storage areas help make tiny bedrooms seem larger for pre- and grade-schoolers—and adding a trundle or day bed to a space offers a way to accommodate visiting family members.

No real estate for an additional bed? Think vertically: Custom bunk beds are close runners up. Again, wallpaper offers a tool to make rooms seem bigger and more like “special jewel boxes,” despite their small footprint.

Keep Design Simple for Lasting Impact

“The reality is that any kid’s room will transition,” says Reale, “and it might need to be rethought two to three times until he goes off to college.” To stave off the inevitable changes, keep the design “simple and clean” and choose furniture and accents that are “adult-worthy” and yet still will “resonate” with your child.

Careful, though: Trends (cutesy wall decals and sayings, chalkboard walls) come and go. Instead, opt for classic details, such as monogrammed bedding, shaggy Moroccan area rugs, global and handmade decorative accessories and adult—rather than kid-sized—furniture that look good at any age. The aim, says Reale, is to create a well-balanced room that coexists with other rooms in the home while still “feeling special and magical” to mommy’s little helper.

Dedicate Space for Toy, Book Storage

It’s also important to include things kids really love so that they feel safe and comfortable, even if they don’t correspond with an adult’s idea of good design. Incorporating and assigning dedicated space for your child’s beloved action heroes and more helps prevent his playthings from taking center stage—and gets him involved in his own bedroom design. “Truthfully,” Reale says, “We love to hide the not-so-pretty toys in fun bins and baskets, but in having kids of our own, we know they come out as soon as we leave the room.”

Along with the latest toys, try to incorporate unique (often custom-made), one-of-a-kind items that your kids can even give to their own children one day.

Because, according to Reale, a reading nook is must-have in every kid’s room, Sissy + Marley teamed up with children’s furniture company, DucDuc, on a set of three wall-mounted book ledges to create a handy vertical library that takes up very little space.

Yes, children are notoriously fickle, but great rooms for kids need not become obsolete as quickly as they change their minds—and styles.

All images by Marco Ricca Studio.