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