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Colorful area rugs, colorful paint all combine to make a great kid space. Colorful area rugs, colorful paint all combine to make a great kid space.

With a wall of cork, your kids can decorate for themselves. With a wall of cork, your kids can decorate for themselves.

Create an organized place to work in your kid's room Create an organized place to work in your kid's room.
Designing Dilemmas August 2007


'Back-to-School' decorating tips that help parents get the biggest bang for every decorating dollar spent.

Back-to-school decorating is often a wallet-buster for parents. A new bed, desk, dresser and carpet and other must-have accessories cost a pretty penny and these are only things your child likes now.

A great kid's room must have privacy, a place to work, a place to play and a place to show off the things your child likes. Making your kid's room functional keeps everyone happy. Learn to compromise-let your child have their favorite sheets and comforter in exchange for a practical desk that keeps school work organized. Your kid will be happy and you'll have your sanity.

For a while it seemed that every back-to-school season my own kids needed new rooms-new paint, new carpet and taller furniture. I learned to get it right and design rooms that grow with the kids- to save time, money and aggravation. This is not to say that my kids can't re-do their rooms with their latest sports heroes and this year's favorite colors. I just think some design fundamentals have to last till college, like work space, storage space, lighting, flooring and the bed.

Here's my advice to create a great kid-friendly room:

  • Let lighting show you the way. Too often lighting is an afterthought in room design, but it should be the first thing you consider when planning a child's room-think ahead to late nights of homework.

  • Sketch out, however crudely, where the furniture will be placed and install recessed lighting over work surfaces, bookshelves and the bed, where kids often read.

  • Place additional lighting around the room's perimeter because that can help reduce the number of fixtures you need elsewhere. Using recessed lights instead of table lamps means fewer breaks and less damage from those indoor football games and pillow fights you aren't supposed to know about.

  • Place a lamp or light switch by the bed, low enough so it can be turned on or off while the child is lying down.

  • Preserve window shades from getting pulled down or covered in finger prints with remote control blinds that go up and down with the push of a button and provide the light control and privacy your child needs for a good night's sleep.

  • A good closet stands the test of time. Storage space is vital in keeping a kid's room organized. It also reduces the frustration that comes from losing a toy, an important homework assignment or the latest CD.

  • Invest in modular closet storage. You can install it yourself by purchasing the materials at a home store, The Container Store, or Hold Everything. Or have a professional do it for you. Movable shelves and rods can be re-adjusted as your child grows and your storage needs change.

  • Stay away from the drawers and hanging gadgets that quickly run up the expense of closet design.

  • A place to work and a place to play. Kids' rooms-and parents' budgets-come in all shapes and sizes. Whatever your budget, try to think beyond babyhood and plan for roomy work surfaces. That toddler will one day be a student with piles of school papers.

  • At the high-end you can choose a custom furniture and cabinetry system, offered by closet companies, that comes in laminated finishes or in wood veneers. You can design a custom wall unit to hold toys, games, and plush animals now and books, papers and projects later for the older student your young child will become.

  • At the mid-range is bedroom and home-office furniture in wood and wood veneers from Stanley, Lexington and other American manufacturers which offer office furniture that coordinates with bedroom pieces.

  • You can mix and match wood finishes or colorful painted pieces that won't go out of style anytime soon.

  • If your budget is very tight, be creative. A solid-panel door placed on top of file cabinets spray-painted in coordinating colors makes an attractive desk with plenty of work room. If all else fails, convert a long, narrow hall table or kitchen table into a desk with rolling plastic file cubes stored underneath for papers.

  • Match finishes and colors to a set of sharpie permanent ink magic markers, so you can camouflage dings and dents. Your furniture investment will last longer and look better over time.

  • What if your child wants purple walls? Individual style is what makes a kid loves his or her room. It's a good thing to let your child choose a dominant paint color, but you can reserve the right to temper it.

  • If your child favors electric blue, you can do one wall in blue, three in off-white and accessorize with bedding, throw pillows and curtain in shades of blue.

  • But what if your child prefers chartreuse, black or purple? Don't panic. If your kid's color palette is tough for you to live with, incorporate it in a lesser way. How about purple stripes on the bedding? Or black mini-blinds. Think compromise.

  • Kids love to pin things up, but favorite teams and heartthrobs change, and that can mean a lot of holes in your walls. Covering an entire wall in cork-floor to ceiling and corner to corner-and then paint it to match the other walls. Magnetic paint also works- but multiple coats are needed to hold anything more than a poster.

  • Vomit Happens! Anticipate how your child might destroy his or her room.

  • Use colorful area rugs that can be removed for cleaning on top of wall to wall carpet, placed strategically by your kid's bed.

  • Solution-dyed acrylic makes a great wall to wall carpet- it's impervious to most stains from accidents and spills.

  • Furnish your kids' rooms with washable, fade-proof fabrics for lasting style. Use white sheets (they can always be bleached) with a colorful comforter. Dark upholstery fabric hides ink and marker stains on desk chairs.

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