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Plan a room your child won't outgrow

  • Story Highlights
  • Child's room is normally smallest in the house but serves the most purposes
  • Select a twin or full-size bed instead of toddler-sized car beds
  • Use timeless themes instead of bunnies or cartoons youngster will outgrow
  • Consider a child's interests and activities when purchasing flooring
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By Elaine Martin Petrowski
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This Old House

(This Old House) -- Kids' rooms have to fulfill some unique requirements. Besides being a place to sleep, they must provide space to play, study and store a mountain of clothes, toys and all other kinds of kid stuff. All this in what often is the smallest room in the house.


A child's room needs to be cozy enough for sleep, safe enough for play, capable of storing kid's stuff and tough enough to take a beating.

Kids' rooms also get a lot of rough treatment. And if you choose the wrong furnishings, the kids could outgrow their rooms long before you are ready for the next remodel.

In addition to gathering a variety of inspired products that make creating the ultimate kid's room child's play, we spoke with veteran designers Dianne Carchesio and Kris Kaczynski, of Julian Katera in Freehold, New Jersey. Here are their tips for designing a kid's room that fits your child for years to come.

Tip #1: Look down the road

You can't decorate a room for a 2-year-old and expect not to update it for the next 20 years. But you can choose basic furnishings such as beds and dressers your child can use into young adulthood.

Forget the red car bed or the bunnies painted on the dresser. Instead, select neutral colors and stains. And choose at least a twin if not a full bed. For wall coverings, stick with classic patterns that stay current longer, such as geometrics, stars and checks. Or choose a timeless theme like ecology, space travel or celestial motifs.

You can also change looks instantly with Easy Ups wall appliques from Village, a wall coverings manufacturer. These stick-ups are available in several themes and come off easily.

Tip #2: Think like a kid

Sheets and curtains are a great way to indulge your child's current interest in boats, ballerinas or dinosaurs, because you can change these soft goods when they wear out or your child's interests change. Then use your child's favorite items to decorate the room.

For example, tack kites, model planes or stars to the ceiling. Build a decorative ledge or shelf from moldings to neatly display favorite toys, books and collections. And paint the room, or at least one wall, your child's favorite color.

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Also provide a spot where your son or daughter can display an art project, an "A" paper and posters. One classic way to do this is to glue corkboard on an entire wall or a portion of it. Or buy a chalkboard at a school-supply store. You can turn all or part of a wall into a chalkboard with Benjamin Moore's Crayola Chalkboard paint.

The best way to think like a kid is to involve your son or daughter in the process -- within reason, that is. While a child should have a voice in the final selection, protect your veto power by shopping on your own.

Bring home samples of three or four colors, fabrics and furniture choices you find appealing and affordable. Tack them up. Then let your child choose. When shopping for furniture, bring a camera and let your child pick from photos.

Tip #3: Get tough

Look for finish materials and surfaces that can take the punishment kids dish out. Semi- or high-gloss paint is easier to wipe down than flat paint, for instance. Avoid any wall covering that isn't vinyl, unless it's commercial-grade.

Every kid knows floors aren't just for walking on -- think crawling babies, kids at play and sprawled-out teenagers -- so plan accordingly. Durable choices include wood, which can be refinished; laminate, which doesn't stain or scratch as easily; and vinyl, which is inexpensive, easy to clean and can be replaced easily if damaged.

Your child's age and interests are the keys to choosing flooring. For example, choose wipe-clean, nonabsorbent vinyl or laminate for a budding artist. And go with sound-absorbing, stain-resistant carpet for young gymnasts or teens who play their music loud. This Old House: On the carpet

Tip #4: Make storage flexible

Choose adjustable storage that can hold finger paints and puzzles today and books and clothes tomorrow. Include open and closed shelves, and locate storage at several heights; low drawers and shelves are convenient when kids are 6 but not when they're 16.

Include wire shelving, stackable bins, hanging pocket storage and other closet organizers that hold odds and ends neatly .Stretch storage space with furniture that serves two functions.

Trundle beds provide an oversize storage space or, when outfitted with a mattress, an extra bed for sleepovers. Also consider a flip-top toy box that doubles as a window seat. This Old House: Building wall cubbies

Tip #5: Keep it safe

Furniture with rounded edges is safest for all kids. Bins and boxes should include hinges that gravity can't shut on small fingers. Also keep toys and games on low shelves so kids don't have to climb to reach them. And bolt tall bookshelves to the wall. This Old House: Childproofing your home

Bunk beds are a popular way to save space when two kids share a room. Besides choosing a model that can be separated later, be sure the bed has slats that screw in and a ladder securely attached at a comfortable climbing angle.

Check that each child can sit on the bottom bunk without bumping his or her head. Use guard rails on any open side of the upper bunk, and keep it off limits for kids under 6. They might not have the coordination to climb up or the ability to stop themselves from falling out.

Safe lighting can prevent accidents. For example, avoid floor lamps, which topple easily, and table lamps for the same reason until kids are older. For ambient lighting, use ceiling-mounted can lights installed on a dimmer; this way, you can turn the lights on partially when checking on the kids at night and not wake them.

Movable track lights that slide, swivel and rotate are also ideal because they provide adaptable lighting. Then as children mature, suspend a pendant fixture from the track to create a hanging lamp over a desk or night table.

Task lighting, such as a flexible clamp lamp set up next to the bed, desk or recreational area, is another essential as children grow up. To contain the jumble of wires from a computer, TV and sound system, a baseboard wire-management system like the Wiremold Access 5000 raceway ($5 to $8 per linear foot depending on finish) tucks all those wires safely out of the way. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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