5 Tips for Creating Great Kids’ Rooms from a Design Editor

updated Jan 4, 2022
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For many years I worked at a parenting magazine, and while there I discovered a curious phenomena: Pinterest and Instagram are full of picture-perfect nurseries, but school-aged kids’ bedrooms were elusive. Beyond the realm of professionally decorated rooms and ones designed specifically for blogs, cool big kid bedrooms were conspicuously hard to find.

Now that I am more than six years into motherhood myself, I suspect this is because kids’ bedrooms are never “done.” Kids keep growing and changing, their toy collections evolve, their clothes get bigger, their books go from board books to picture books to graphic novels, and along the way, kids develop opinions about what they want. A good kid room is almost always in a state of flux — at least, that’s the case in my home. So I talked to fellow parents and design professionals to get their advice on how to navigate the ever-changing kid bedroom, and here’s what they told me.

Credit: Anna Spaller

Start with a strong foundation

The key to keeping things from feeling chaotic lies in the core furnishings, says Katrina Peralta, founder of Livlet Studio, a Brooklyn-based interior design practice. “I always try to make sure staple items are ones that will grow with your child,” she says. “For example, instead of buying a changing table that will be short-lived, invest more in a dresser that is better quality and place a changing pad on it instead.” Peralta also uses more “grown-up” rugs and duvet covers that can be used for many years and then layers them with smaller kids’ rugs and playful pillows that appeal to kids’ ever-changing interests.

Embrace minimalism early on

Parents of babies and toddlers would be wise to adopt a minimalist aesthetic. My own kid’s relatively plain baby bedroom quickly filled up with papier-mâché creations, extremely special rocks, and of course, toys. My pal, writer Virginia Sole-Smith admits, “I decorated a super-cute and minimalist kids’ room when my older daughter was 3, and now 5 years later, the walls are so covered with her creations that you can’t see paint. The lesson here may be to not give your kids access to Scotch tape, but I sort of love letting go and seeing where she takes it.”

Know when to compromise

With shared bedrooms, you’ll inevitably need to make compromises (one thing my only child doesn’t have to worry about!). When architect Yaiza Armbruster, founder of the New York-based design firm Atelier Armbruster, updated her daughters’ room recently, she needed to make room for a desk for her older daughter, so it was time for the toddler table to retire. “My younger daughter probably would still use the table, but we still wanted to have some open space to play,” says Armbruster. “With two kids you can’t accommodate every item or a room would quickly overflow.” 

Wait a bit before you jump to “solutions”

While it’s important to keep up with your child’s development, Armbruster recommends a more slow and steady approach to kids’ rooms. For example, instead of rushing out to buy a kid’s desk at the first homework assignment, Armbruster waited until her older daughter, who is now in third grade, could truly do her homework independently to make the purchase. When you notice your child’s needs changing, take note of your observation, then wait a few weeks (or even months!) before rushing out to buy something new.

Test-drive, borrow, and repurpose

Because kids’ rooms are always changing, they are a great place to experiment and explore the world of secondhand furnishings. While you’re mulling over a big change or purchase, look around your house to see if there’s a way to test-drive something similar to that item first. If your big kid suddenly needs a bedside table, is there a stool or small table you can borrow from another room? If your kid is dying for a beanbag chair, can you ask your Facebook friends if anyone else’s kid has outgrown theirs? Try making buying a new item a last resort, since you know the room will be changing again in another year’s time.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Here’s Why the Design of a Good Kid’s Bedroom Is Never Done