When it comes to bedrooms, the conventional design wisdom is less is more: neutral walls, tranquil bedding, maybe a tasteful zen rock garden if you insist on expressing yourself.
But kids? They don’t need to escape to a Restoration Hardware-induced coma – they need an imaginative, exciting space to dream, play and create. We hit up Pennsylvania-based interior designer and illustrator Lou Marshall for décor tips (hey, it’s hard to think for yourself in a gray-cloaked cubicle).
Spark imaginations Amazingly, kids don’t need a screen to keep them entertained – a simple wall will do. “I like to inspire kids to play, and create rooms they can play with,” says Marshall, who frequently hand-paints interactive, eye-level murals (check them out at loulouswhimsicals.com). “If they’re sent to their room, I want them to be happy about it.” No art skills? No problem. A fool-proof, inexpensive coat of chalkboard or magnetic paint can turn any wall into a canvas.
Color theory Kids’ worlds are colorful, and their rooms should be, too. That said, Marshall recommends staying away from harsher primary colors and keeping things light and bright (sleep is the end-game, after all). Swap the hot pink for a softer cotton-candy hue, the bright blue for a chalkier version, and dark greens for a cheery apple shade.
Make a five-year plan Before you commission that “Frozen” mural, think about what your aspiring princess will be aspiring to next year. “I want a room to grow with a child, to last a good five or six years,” says Marshall. If your little one is obsessed with a certain Disney character right now, consider buying the bedding, but go less-specific with bigger investments such as wallpaper and rugs.
The golden rule Ultimately, designing a child’s bedroom isn’t (or shouldn’t be) that much different from designing your own. “Above all else,” says Marshall, “think about when you’re going to sleep: what would you want to be around and look at before you close your eyes?”
Cheap trick For quick, cheap art, Marshall recommends perusing the party store’s wrapping paper section. Bright, cheery and frequently starring the latest princesses and trendiest robots, it’s perfect for framing and will only set you back around $3.
Pint-sized product pick If you're packing up for the beach this summer, we love this petite chair-and-umbrella set from Pottery Barn Kids. Chair ($17) and umbrella ($11), www.potterybarnkids.com