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Guide to Decorating Kids' Rooms


Wall Treatments for Kids' Rooms

Paint is the cheapest decorating tool available, and once you've moved or covered the furniture and prepped the walls, it's also the easiest and quickest. You can give plain walls more interest with all kinds of surface treatments, including ragging, stippling, sponge painting, stenciling, and more. Painted treatments are easy to keep looking new, provided you use eggshell, semigloss, gloss, or glaze finishes. Just as important, they are easy to change when your child's tastes evolve.

Sponging is one specialty treatment that's easy enough for a grade-schooler to help with under adult direction. Stenciling can be a bit tricky, but even a child can work with simple rubber stamps to create a stencillike effect. Whatever treatment you select, be sure to experiment with it on sample boards ahead of time to be sure you like the combination of colors and the overall effect.

Trompe l'oeil (fool the eye) mural painting can open up vistas or bring a fairy tale to life, but unlike most other faux finishes, it does require real artistic talent. This painting technique is painstaking work, so you may be tempted to keep it even after your child's appreciation has waned. If you really love the idea of trompe l'oeil, keep in mind that a generic nature setting will have a longer life than one depicting the three bears. Murals available on wallcovering rolls are easier to achieve than trompe l'oeil, but they, too, may outstay their welcome as children grow, so be sure to buy a strippable version.

Wall Treatments for Kids' Rooms
Just about any little girl would love a pink ruffled bedroom, but it’s
the trompe l’oeil garden mural that makes the space special.
Designer: Betty J. Weir, A Design Shoppe. Artist: Sandy Phelan.

Wallcoverings may be a smart solution to damaged walls you don't want to fix. Stylish themes and color schemes are available these days in easy-care versions that quiet qualms about using them in kids' rooms. You'll want "strippable" products, of course; anyone who's ever scraped vintage paper knows what a labor-intensive chore that can be. For most kids' rooms (family rooms, baths, and kitchens, too), choose washable wallcovering. For younger or very rambunctious kids, you will want wallcovering labeled "scrubbable." Wallcoverings are more work and costlier than paint, however, so be sure your youngster is pleased before you make a purchase.

If you're not sure about using wallcovering throughout your child's room, use wallpaper borders as an easy and colorful alternative. Choose your border first, however, and then find a paint that matches one of the dominant colors in the border. You'll find it infinitely easier than trying to find a border that matches a paint choice. (This advice also applies to selecting wallcoverings before you select your trim paint, broadloom carpeting, etc.)

Wall Treatments for Kids' Rooms
Whimsically buggy wallpaper gets an extra wacky touch from
a supersize mural that includes a growth chart on one side.
Manufacturer: Blonder Wallcoverings.

For real textural interest, you may want to embellish the room with beadboard paneling below the chair-rail level. Beadboard is especially appealing in a cottage- or cabin-inspired room. Wood trim millwork available at home centers can also be used to add depth and charm; lightweight, paintable resin versions are available, too.

Don't overlook the ceiling as another major surface to decorate. While too much detail or intense colors will overwhelm the typical room, children will delight in a cloud-filled blue sky overhead and find nighttime comfort in stick-on glow-in-the-dark stars.

Whatever wall treatment you are contemplating, if your house is old, be careful of leadbase paint, especially in a child's room. Painting over leadbase paint is usually considered safer than scraping it off, but be sure to consult your local public health office for specific recommendations for your situation.

Now that you know about the various wall treatments you can use in your child's room, it's time to learn about one of the most common -- paint -- on the next page.

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