Flexibility, safety key when designing child’s room

Few people realize that a child’s room is one of the most challenging of all spaces to design. You may wonder, how difficult can it be? After all, what do children really know about design? Surely they’d be satisfied with a comfortable space of their own as long as they have their favorite toys, a comfy bed, TV, etc.

That may have been true once upon a time, but things are obviously different now. Children expect so much more, and they seem to be growing up much faster, while parents are more aware than ever of precautions that need to be taken to help guarantee a child’s health, comfort and safety.

No wonder then that so much thought goes into creating just the right look for a child. Take heart in knowing that great results can be achieved when certain basic and fundamental guidelines are considered and followed through:

n To begin with, furniture should be properly sized for a child. Make sure that the furniture won’t collapse or fall over if the child stands on it. Heavy lids that can possibly slam down on little fingers are verboten, as well as hard-to-open drawers. Glass mirrors can be very dangerous for children, so it’s much better to specify plastic ones that are somewhat more expensive, but oh so much safer.

n All surfaces and materials need to be nontoxic as well as suitable for the age of the child and should be easy to keep clean without the use of harsh chemical cleaners. Try to use products that minimize the presence or spread of germs and other microbes. Some carpeting, drapes, upholstery or wall coverings can release gasses or fibers into the air that can sometimes irritate young lungs and air passages. Consequently, proper circulation, ventilation and filtration also are very important.

n Objects with sharp or ragged edges, small pieces that can break off or be swallowed, that give off excessive heat or require cords or ties of some kind need to be avoided and kept well out of a child’s reach. Be sure to keep chairs, stools and benches away from windows and shelves.

n Natural light and plants will help to create a positive environment as well.

Having paid attention to the basic health and safety considerations, you can then move on to the creative aspect of designing for your child’s room, which is not only a place for exploration of imaginative ideas and learning, but for fun and rest as well.

Perhaps most fundamental of all, buy furniture pieces that will not only appeal to the child’s favorite themes and activities, but will grow with your child. It’s so important to buy designs that will work now and into the future.

Children grow and develop quickly so design with flexibility in mind. Include sufficient storage that anticipates how clothing and personal effects will change over time.

For example, an armoire that will store clothing today can be used for electronics later on. Stackable bookcases, drawers and cabinets can work for a small child and then be used as components for a handsome wall unit many years later.

Some bed frames can be easily modified to suit a toddler and later a preteen. Modular pieces can be added to or altered as need arises. Designs that can do double and even triple duty in a child’s room, such as an all-in-one sleep, study and storage unit, are great ways to go. That’s forethought.

With children’s furniture, as with any room in your home, always begin by first considering the better quality pieces, the cost, construction, size, finish, shape and overall appearance. If cost is a problem, you might consider looking at gently used furniture that you can “jazz up” with a new finish and fun hardware.

But, whenever possible, allow your children to become involved in the design process. Listen as best you can to their needs and wants that will hopefully reflect and shape not only their personal style but, at the same time, perhaps be a welcome addition to the cohesive design of your home.

And when it comes to color, it goes without saying that children’s rooms can be great fun because they provide an opportunity to actually play with color and be extremely creative in the process. Using too much of a bright color may not be such a good idea in the long run because children grow up so fast, developing their own likes and dislikes.

Keep things fairly neutral from the onset, choosing one color that will be the main focus of the room and making your decorating plans around that. This will allow you to easily add and take away things that they grow out of and replace them with new ones.

But do try, in any case, to step away from the pale blue and the stylish pink and create a room that is as unique as your child.

From the onset, plan the full design of your child’s room and not just “the look” so that you not only enhance the child’s enjoyment of the space but your own peace of mind. Consider all of the above while creating an environment that is cheerful, fun and welcoming because a child’s room is a special place and furniture can be a link between the real world and a child’s dreams.

Stephen Leon is a licensed interior designer and president of Soleil Design (www.soleildezine.com); he has been designing and manufacturing custom furniture and cabinetry for more than 25 years. He is past president of the Central California/Nevada Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and is a certified professional in green residential design. Questions can be sent to soleildesign@cox.net.

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