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Guide to Decorating Kids' Rooms

Decorative Finishes for Kids' Rooms

A child's room is the perfect place to let one's personality shine through. An effective way to do this is with decorative finishes. Once you've settled on a design, use the following finishes on ordinary furniture -- even walls and doors -- to add oomph to any decor.

Brush Pattern

With a dry paintbrush, dab texture paint onto the wall. Use a quick, short, patting motion, varying the direction of the brush to create ridges and patterns.


To colorwash, apply a thin, transparent coat of waterbase paint to surface. Use broad, arcing strokes to spread paint. When dry, add additional layers until color achieves an intense depth with subtle variations in tone.


When achieved with traditional wood stain colors, crackling gives furniture an aged effect. Use pastels or bright primary paint colors, however, and the effect is totally contemporary.

Most paint stores sell kits with everything you need for a crackle finish. If you want to work with colors you have at home, basecoat surface with paint, and let dry. Using a fitch or small paintbrush, apply a coat of oilbase crackling varnish over entire surface. When varnish is almost dry but still tacky to the touch, apply another coat of the varnish. The crackling effect will appear as the varnish dries. If desired, use a hair dryer to speed up the process. When all coats of varnish are dry, rub a tinted glaze or coat of paint onto surface with a soft, clean rag. The glaze or paint will lodge into the cracks and accentuate the crackling effect.


Like stenciling, decoupage is an easy way to add interesting motifs to ordinary furniture. Anything from wallpaper to photographs to magazines can be used for decoupaging, and you can apply one specific image or overlap images to cover the entire surface of the furniture.

Basecoat piece of furniture or other surface; let dry. For specific designs, cut out images to be used. For an overall finish, trim papers as desired. Apply decoupage medium or a mixture of 1 part white glue and 1 part water to back of image. Press onto furniture. Brush mixture over top of image to seal. Continue adding desired images or papers, overlapping as needed. Always brush medium over top of image to seal. Let dry. When design is complete, apply a coat of nonyellowing waterbase varnish to entire surface.


When used with some paint colors, such as pink or green, dragging can simulate wood grain. To drag a surface, basecoat it, and let dry. Pour a small amount of paint into tray. Dip a dry, wide, stiff brush into paint. Dab onto paper to remove excess, then brush in 1 continuous stroke over surface. Continue adding strokes to entire surface, using even pressure and replenishing paint as necessary for even finish.


Ragging also creates color contrast and texture, but the result is less consistent than sponging. To achieve the look, apply a basecoat (usually the lighter paint color) to surface; let dry. Dip a lint-free rag, scrunched-up paper sack, or plastic bag into a contrasting emulsion paint. Dab to remove excess, then press randomly over surface. Use light, even pressure, and replenish paint as necessary for even finish. For different effects, vary the amount of paint on the rag, the amount of pressure applied, and the direction in which you hold your hand. Change rag as it becomes saturated with paint.


Quick and easy to apply, sponging is one of the most popular types of finishes. Expect an even finish, or if you choose 2 or 3 contrasting colors, you'll get a speckled pattern. To sponge a surface, basecoat wall or furniture with lightest paint color; let dry. Dip a damp natural sponge into paint, dab on paper to remove excess, and lightly press over surface. Use even pressure and replenish paint as necessary for an even finish. Change sponge as it becomes saturated with paint.


Stippling is a simple way to add texture to a flat surface. To stipple, apply a basecoat to wall or furniture. Let dry. Pour a small amount of paint into paint tray. Use a 11/4-inch-nap roller cover or a texture roller cover. Roll it through paint in smooth strokes similar to those used to lay off paint. To produce an even, overall pattern like that of a sprayed textured ceiling, work slowly to avoid overlapping, and apply consistent pressure from 1 side to the other. Vary the pressure and direction of your strokes to make a random pattern.

Swirl Pattern

Use a whisk broom or wallpaper brush to sweep semicircular loops across the surface. Overlap the loops as you go.

Trowel Pattern

Apply textured paint to surface, and let it become almost dry. Then trowel over the paint to knock off the peaks and partially smooth out the texture.

Wallpaper is great way to add color and interest to your child's room. Find helpful wallpapering tips on the next page.

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