Monthly Archives: December 2018

Designing for Siblings

Kids have definite ideas of how their rooms should look.  Over time I have developed some strategies that make both parents and kids happy when decorating their rooms. It’s important for children to have their own spaces, to learn how to take care of that space and to incorporate treasures and mementos from their experiences growing up into their rooms. It’s great for them to have that sense of comfort and to know that their rooms are their own special space.

When children are young and, especially if they are the same sex, they want everything to be exactly the same. They can perceive anything the other has as something that is more special than what they have — right down to a pillow. I always try to ensure that there are equal and same elements for both. As they grow older and their interests start to diverge, kids begin to have clearer ideas of what they would like their room to be like and what colors they would want.  Sometimes these ideas can get quite fantastical and more than a parent can bear. Have an initial meeting with your children and get some ideas of what they would like in their rooms and what colors they would like. (Note:  The idea of what they would like can often change from hour to hour and day to day). Think about what you can handle in their rooms in terms of design, too. Painting the entire room a bright purple may not be a parent’s idea of a great color choice — although, I have done many a teenage girls’ room in shades of lavender with purple shag rugs.

When I am hired to do a child’s room after the initial meeting with the parents and kids, I create two or three scenarios of room designs and go over them with the parent before we show the kids. This ensures that no matter which design the child selects the parents are comfortable with moving forward. It also creates less confusion and possible conflicts between parent and child.

There are some patterns I have noticed over the years of designing kids’ rooms. Often when kids are young, parents create really charming baby rooms and before you know it, the children are grown and ready to move on to a more older child-orientated room. They can have a hard time changing and updating their personal, familiar, comforting space even though they want to. Just give them some time until they feel ready. I have done over rooms for teenagers who still have their baby wallpaper up. And here they are getting their driver’s licenses.

If children aren’t ready to update their rooms, give them the extra time they need and when you do update their rooms, remember to bring some elements of what they had before into their new spaces. In my own children’s rooms, some childhood cactus plants have made it through a couple of room redecorations and have even moved with them into their own adult apartments.

If you are redoing a child’s room when they are preteen, try to create a room that will grow with them. Go with a full or queen-size bed, nightstands and, if possible, a desk that can function so they can have space for their computer and printer and good task lighting. It’s about this time that they move from doing their homework at the kitchen table to doing it in their rooms. Since teenagers tend to be a bit messy, make sure there is ample room for storage in the pieces of furniture that you select. Redecorating is expensive, so buying furniture that can grow with them as they move from being college bound to adults bringing home significant others is important. When kids finally move out and you are officially an empty nester, their rooms often become a home office, guest room or exercise room or some combination of the above.

Once you are an empty nester and your children have moved on to living on their own, you will find, as I am experiencing with my own children, that they don’t want to take their accumulated childhood stuff with them. They also don’t want you to throw it out. Their apartments are now incredibly neat and organized (never happened in their rooms growing up) and are quite nicely decorated in a mid-century style. It is jaw-dropping to see all those years of messy rooms translate into clean living spaces.

Written for: WAG Magazine

Break the Rules


re there rules to break in decorating? Yes and no. Following design rules may get the job done but it doesn’t create particularly inspiring rooms. The typical layout of a sofa, two chairs, a rug, matching end tables and lamps is so over. Create your own personal vision when you decorate. Don’t be afraid to add color, pattern, artwork or treasures that mean something to you. Forget about the “in” color palette of the moment but do use more current shades of your favorite colors.

To keep rooms personal, unique but updated, choose your color combinations carefully. You want your rooms to still feel fresh and not stale or like you are walking into a time warp.

Mix both traditional and modern pieces throughout your home. Walking into an individually themed room in each room of your house creates a disjointed feeling.  Mix a modern table with traditional chairs or try a classic Chesterfield sofa and mix in more modern armchairs. A European look that breaks the rules juxtaposes modern artwork with traditional furniture. The tension created is timeless and your rooms will feel less static and more interesting.

Wallpaper is not just for walls. Wallpaper the ceiling instead of the walls. Using wallpaper on the ceiling gives your room a fresh spin. A subtle pattern looks wonderful or go bold and really create some energy in the room. Another great way of using wallpaper is to take interesting panels or fragments of wallpaper and frame them — instant artwork. 

Another rule to break is one involving rugs, specifically that your furniture should be all on or all off the rug. Many times I like pieces of furniture half on and half off the rug. If you have a small beautiful rug but it’s clearly too small for the room try layering it on a larger sisal or jute rug. The larger rug will ground the rest of the room but you will still get to use your small beautiful rug. The smaller unusual rug will go far in giving your room that special personal look.

I find the often touted recipe of using only three colors in each room too confining. I prefer layered variations of colors. Sometimes I select them from artwork, a rug or a client’s favorite color, but I almost never use only three colors in a room. I often use many shades of one color or several colors mixed together. I don’t love the feeling of walking into a one-color room.  An example would be a room of all gray. These one-color rooms tend to look dated quickly.

Lighting can create personality in a room. A mix of lamps in a room creates visual interest. Use different lamps in the same room. I do, however, like pairs of lamps often using them on end tables that don’t match but are the same height.

Don’t mix different metals in the same room is another rule to break. Use antique silver pieces on top of a white lacquered Parsons table or gilt frames on modern paintings to create a chic look. I also love creating gallery walls using all the same frames or all different ones mixed in — silver and gold leaf or lacquered black. 

Books belong on bookshelves: Break this rule. Books should be read and looked at. Keep art books stacked on a coffee table or keep a few stacked under a chair.  Make them part of the décor of a room and within easy reach, not just left to collect dust on a shelf. Once you have read them and no longer want them then share them with friends or donate them so that someone else can enjoy them.  The feeling of having a physical object to look at and read from cannot be stressed enough.

Hide your televisions — another outdated rule. Televisions and technology related objects are a part of our lives. I don’t find the need to hide the TV behind closed doors or armoires. It’s fine to have it visible in our homes. Today, TV stands keep televisions visible. I do object, though, to TVs in every room. I also object to having television on all day every day. Take a break, get off your sofa and enjoy interacting with people.

Entertaining today is more informal. Formal entertaining was an important part of designing and decorating homes. Storage for china, silverware and crystal were important things to consider. Now homes are more fluid with open-concept living and more casual entertaining. Although it‘s always nice to have a formal dinner party, don’t wait until you have enough space, china, crystal and silverware.  Have more casual parties. Buffets are a great way to entertain if you are tight on space or have to work the next day.

That’s one rule you’ll want to keep.

Written for: WAG Magazine