Designing for Junior

While it may seem pretty straightforward, designing a children’s room can be quite a difficult yet rewarding procedure.

As a place to spark imagination, children’s bedrooms are always uniformly colourful. They always feature elements which are designed to set off creativity. Children’s bedrooms are spaces where parents and children share dreams, excitement and comfort – a room for building bonds.

Although it may seem like one of the easier rooms to decorate in the home, there are a multitude of factors that can affect the development of the child inhabitant and need to be taken into account when designing for junior. When designing rooms for youngsters one always needs to consider the nurturing affect a room can have on a child. Younger children are always more curious as they are at the age where they are learning about the world, and during this developmental period their external surroundings can affect their future character. A personal room is a child’s private world and it should be designed as such. It sounds obvious, but while a child should be confronted in the design of their own room, not all the decisions should be made by the child. A child will grow with their room, so as soon as children start developing tastes and preferences, one should respect and support these.

Furniture

When it comes to furnishing a children’s room one of the first factors one should always take into consideration is safety. Young children are always more inquisitive and curious, and thus are prone to pick at small items and likely to bite or eat small objects. One should try and keep plugs and electric sockets covered and out of view, and choose furnishings that do not have sharp edges or break-off parts. Take safety and precautionary measures into account when thinking about the size of the item, the paint used on it (were toxins used when it was painted, etc) and the design of it (are there sharp or soft corners and are there any removable parts). Many furnishings on the market have even been designed with safety precautions in mind and one should not have to look far to find items that are compliant with some kind regulations – but it is still always good to check yourself.

The baby crib is the first and most important piece of furniture and there is a whole market for it alone. In fact, as an item of household furniture, the crib has one of the shortest life spans in the home. There are many varieties of cribs available on the market and these include eco-friendly cribs, designer cribs and traditional cribs. Most cribs will do, but just make sure they are safe and spacious. Also, take into account that the baby will grow, so you might want to consider getting an adjustable crib that will grow with your baby. It is always best to get crib first-hand, since second-hand cribs might suffer from wear and tear, and thus might be dangerous for a baby. The mattress should fit snugly – you should not be able to slip more than two fingers between the mattress and the side of the crib. For safety reasons, one should avoid drop-side cribs, which many manufacturers have actually stopped manufacturing. If you do want to use a drop-side crib make sure that the drop-side mechanism works properly and make sure to have someone keeping an eye on the baby at all times. If the crib is made of wood the wood should be smooth with no splinters. If the crib is painted, make sure the paint isn’t peeling and it is always good to check the source of the paint.

The next important piece of baby furniture for a newly furnished baby’s room is a good storage item. This storage space could be a chest of drawers or a sideboard, but regardless of what it is, it should be big enough to accommodate all items such as diapers, clothes, medicine, grooming items, and more. Some other popular extras that might be useful in a baby’s room include bassinets, cradles, toys, toy chests, tables and chairs.

Accessories

When it comes to ornamentation, one should build a room that is a reflection of the child. The room should not only be a tribute to the child’s tastes, but also the child’s aspirations and achievements. For example, paintings and awards can be hung around the room to add personal touches. If it is a younger child one should decorate the room with things that will inspire and set off the imagination. For example, one could hang garlands from the ceiling or even use themed wall paintings and decorations around the room. To make the room more fun, one could add attention-grabbing furnishings such as bean bags, hammocks, and bunk beds. These will create an appealing atmosphere for the child. Nevertheless, when picking out ornaments and furnishings, one should again always take safety into account.

A children’s room is for playing and making a mess is part and parcel of a child’s learning process. A scattered mess may not be a mess in the child’s mind and a muddle of untidy toys can spark a child’s creativity. Therefore, while a permanent state of untidiness may not be unsightly, one should provide ample storage space to enable messes to be cleaned away quickly and easily. Big wooden trunks and cabinets are the stuff of fairy tales, and while one need not search out an unused pirate’s treasure chest, one should at least provide interesting storage for children. While it may be difficult to get a child to clean up their room, making this process fun will make cleaning more appealing.

To promote health and wellbeing, a child’s room should be brightly lit, with plenty of natural light. Lamps and table lights should be avoided because these can be broken easily. There is a wide variety of children-themed lampshades on the market and these can create a nice ambience and stimulate the child’s mind at the same time.

An adequate room layout for a child should consist of a sleeping area, a working area, and most importantly; a play area. These do not have to be rigidly enforced, but defining different activities in different distinguished areas can bring in a sense of control and obedience. When furnishing, one should use a lot of interesting and unusual fittings. Peculiar fixtures will enhance creativity and play on children’s curious minds. However, a child’s room should never be overly furnished and a lot of unadorned space should be left around the room. Space will give the child room to grow, room to play, and of course more room to make mess in.

Wall and Floor Decorations

When thinking about the colour of a child’s room it is wrong to assume that vivid colours are all that is needed. One needs to find a balance of colours and find the possible colour preference of the child. Pink is usually a forbidden colour with boys, but one should check on the preference of the child (and the preference of the child’s mind, too). Depending on the age and personality, a lively coloured room might be appropriate, but some children might just prefer their favourite single colour. If using less than a 2-3 colours, one should take the psychology of colours into account. For example, blues are tranquil and calming, whilst green is invigorating and refreshing; so one needs to take this into account. Generally speaking, younger children prefer brighter colours, whilst older ones prefer darker colours.

Another important fact to consider when thinking about colour and decoration for the walls and floor is the life span of the chosen themes. One needs to consider if a growing baby will be happy there when they are older as well as when they are younger. If you do not mind performing a redecoration in a few years, then do not worry, but if you want to save costs choose neutral colours which will grow with the baby. To this neutral backdrop one can add pieces of furniture, area rugs and small accessories which will make the room comfortable for both the baby and the mother to be. Wall stickers are a simple way to add life and colour into a room, and these days these can be removed just as easily as they are installed, with some even being reusable as well. Another feature to consider is disposable wallpaper, which might be necessary if your budding child artist likes to draw on things.

Originally published in Today’s Living magazine, Feb 2011

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