As I may have mentioned before, I have four kids, currently ranging in ages from 6 to 16 years old.
I really enjoy decorating, and decorating a baby, child, tween or teen room allows you to have some fun with color and accessories that you might not use in your everyday living spaces.
Over the years, I have painstakingly stenciled the alphabet and puppy paw prints on walls, put up multiple wall paper borders and painted furniture in bright, coordinating colors. Eventually, the children grow up and then those things all become obsolete and must come down. THAT is a lot of work, my friends – a lot of work. And it is more than a little sad to reflect on the time and money investment that you are now changing in favor or a different time and money investment.
It took me a while, but I think I have finally come up with the key to redoing kids rooms on a budget that more than works for just the current design. If you plan well, your basic elements can grow with your child from nursery to elementary school, to middle school, high school and even into a guest room from there. Once you make your initial investment (wisely, more to come on that in a bit), you can make some small changes with big impact and keep everyone happy – most especially your wallet and time budget.
So what is it already???
It seems painfully obvious to me now, but it is fundamentally genius. Design the basic room around 2 or 3 colors that are somewhat neutral with a bit of color pop and keep that part of your design simple. I am talking about the window treatments, furniture, carpets, paint and even the bedding. Then, add the fun elements (the ones that may change over time) into the art work and other accessories that are less expensive and more easily changed down the road.
Here are two examples from our house:
The first test room for my theory was our son, Max’s room. When Max went to Kindergarten, we redid his room. I picked ‘Max’colors (what, your kids don’t have their own colors? Mine totally do, but maybe it is just me): green and orange. I went with a very neutral cream as the top half of the room, painted the lower half a fun green and then put up an orange chair rail made of simple wood pieces. I added 4×6 black frames all around the room, just above the chair rail. I picked bedding that was a patchwork quilted look in a rustic vibe that picked up all the colors, added in some browns and went well with the rustic bunk beds we already had. We used the existing dresser and bookcase, an old desk from my grandparents and added in an IKEA storage unit with green and white drawers. When it came time to replace his window blinds, we opted for wooden blinds that matched the trim in the room, so that would always work in the space.
In the frames, we added pictures of fun, tropical colored frogs, plus some photos of him with frogs he caught in the yard. We added in a large frog picture and a big poster of types of frogs. He had a bunch of frog stuffed animals, as well as some other fun boys stuff like stuffed snakes and lizards. Max had his frog room.
Sweet little Max loved his room. But, as kids do, he turned into a 3rd grader and decided he had outgrown the frogs, and could we maybe consider something around Lego creations instead? This was the true test to my theory. Could I redo the room for minimum time and effort? Would my design choices hold up?
I am thrilled to report that they did, in fact, hold up! We spent about 90 minutes arranging his favorite Lego figures on the arm rest of one of our wooden outdoor chairs and taking close up pictures of each one. It was very fun! We shipped the best pictures to Walgreens and picked them up a couple of hours later. After switching out the frames that previously held frog pictures, we rearranged them on the wall and BAM – a big part of Lego transformation was complete.
We also hung some Lego creations from the ceiling (completely Max’s idea – I can take no credit) and displayed some of his creations around the room.
After putting a large poster that came in one of the Lego sets into the poster frame that previously identified species of frog, our Lego switch was complete.
To the tune of $15 and about 2 hours of time. Success!
The second room is our youngest, Will’s room. Will went to Kindergarten this year, and as is our family tradition, when you go to Kindergarten, it is time for an update from your nursery decorum. Will LOVES superheroes. It is almost beyond words how enamored he is with Hulk, Spider-man and Captain America. It is so cute. But, alas, I know it won’t last forever, so we used the same formula for his room redo: basic, neutral colors that can be built upon with inexpensive accessories.
When we set out to redo his room, I chose gray walls with white and navy accents. My reasoning was that those were masculine colors that would transition well into almost any future space design, and it could be easily transitioned into a guest space down the road (likely to happen sooner rather than later, as my older two are racing towards college). We already had lots of white shelving and frames from his nursery design, as well as dark colored furniture that was mine growing up. We also already had the IKEA storage unit with the red, white and blue bins, which matched well.
For accessories, I stuck with two vintage superhero prints (found in Metropolis, IL while driving to Florida on vacation), white frames and plain canvases that I painted with superhero graphics. His multitude of superhero toys are displayed on open shelves, making for great decorations, but still easy to access when he wants to play. I already had red, white and blue sheets, so we purchased a white bed skirt and a white and navy striped comforter duvet and sham for the pillow, and added a white sheet set for a second set of sheets.
While he loves his superhero room now, I am confident that we will be able to change it up with minimal time and cost when the time comes.
So, my advice to someone just starting out having kids is this: Stick to a basic, classic look when picking out furniture, carpet, window treatments and wall colors. And save the fun, design-specific details for throw pillows, sheets, wall hangings and accessories. Try to keep the cost in those items down, and making a switch later should be efficient – both in cost and time.