DEAR DESIGNER: My 4-year-old daughter is ready for her own room. I want to decorate it with a fairy princess theme and possibly add a mural. Is a mural too garish for a child’s room? Where do I start? — Laura
DEAR LAURA: Designing a child’s room is like the dessert of decorating. We get to revisit our childhood fantasies while creating a wonderful space for our child. Although it can be loads of fun, a successful project of any type takes thought, organization and planning. Your theme is the perfect place to start.
Write a list of all the things you want to accomplish in your daughter’s room. Form follows function even in fantasy rooms. First decide how the room will be used (the function), then you can add in all the fun elements that will give your room its theme.
Here is a list to get your creative juices started:
Flooring: In a child’s room, carpet is a forgiving surface. I like knowing that her little feet will land on a soft, warm floor when she hops out of bed. And carpet is good for lying on the floor to play. If your floors are already selected and hard, include a big area rug to add warmth.
Lighting: If your daughter will use her room for playtime as well as sleeping, be sure you have ceiling lights. Most lights are easily added with the help of a licensed electrician. A few recessed lights can be put on a dimmer so you can control how much light there is at all times of the day or night. A ceiling fan also can be useful. Reading lights on the nightstands are a nice way to give your child’s room a low glow, adding to the nighttime ambience.
Furniture: By drawing a floor plan before you go shopping, you will save time and money. It’s important to put the furniture sizes on paper to be sure your purchase won’t be too large for the room. With all the cool kid stuff out there today, it’s easy to over purchase for a small room.
When drawing your floor plan, include some space for your child to move around and play. Every wall does not need furniture and every corner does not need planned. Consider a closet organizer to eliminate the need for a dresser. Adding a wall of shelves makes favorite items reachable at every age and helps to keep toys both visible and organized.
In our age of technology I’m amazed at how early children start playing on the computer; 3 years old is not too early to have a desk in the plan.
Walls/Mural: A mural is lovely in a child’s room. Like all good design, it must be incorporated into the complete plan. I recommend using one or two walls for a mural.
Unless you are purchasing a wallpaper-type mural, you can have it custom designed so the best parts are seen around your furniture. Start the mural above 29 inches high (the height of a desk and nightstand). Consider installing a painted wainscoting (wood panels from the floor to chair rail height) around the bottom of the room.
Wainscoting adds a rich feel and keeps all the fun of the mural from getting blocked by the furniture. Use the mural as a springboard to select your other wall colors. In keeping with your fairy princess theme, I’m guessing there will be pink, yellow and other pastels in your plan.
Windows: Don’t block the window with furniture. Sometimes a desk or dresser will fit under the window, and that’s OK. If that is the case, you will want a window covering that goes up and down (no side panels) to stay clear of the furniture. If you have the space, long draperies puffed up and held with a large big bow, ruffles and a puffy topper will add to the fantasy of your fairy princess room.
By using a simple honeycomb shade, wood blinds or shutters as the privacy part of the window covering, the over treatment can be changed as your daughter grows up. I like window coverings that allow lots of sun in the day and complete privacy at night.
Accessories: Children’s rooms generally don’t need a lot of accessorizing. Their personal items are cute and fun to sit around. It’s nice to have a picture of family on her nightstand, desk or dresser. If you have a mural on two walls, you won’t need any wall hangings there.
In the spaces you need to fill, try framing your daughter’s own artwork. Also, include in your room a place to display her work. A height-appropriate corkboard within a custom shelving unit or a free-standing art stand works well. It’s important to accessorize with the things that are dear to your daughter.
And finally, when making your choices for each item that goes into your child’s room, keep in mind that the items don’t all have to represent the theme. If every item in your room has painted characters or other busy elements, the room will look messy even when it is not. Be sure to keep some things simple to direct attention to the items you want noticed.
With preparation and planning you can create a room for your Sleeping Beauty that is functionally fantastic.
Cindy Payne is a certified interior designer with more than 25 years of experience, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers, as well as a licensed contractor. E-mail questions to her at deardesigner@projectdesigninteriors. com or send them to her at Project Design Interiors, 2620 S. Maryland Parkway, Suite 189, Las Vegas, NV 89109. She can be reached online at www.projectdesign interiors.com.