How to Design Children's Rooms


How to Design Children's Rooms
Decorating & Design

What's more important than a memorable room? For a child, it's a comfortable, workable space that grows smoothly along with him or her. Keeping the "fun" in "functional" can be a challenge, as every age group has its own needs. Luckily, most kids go through fairly predictable stages, and you can provide for these developments and create personally expressive, attractive spaces at the same time.

Best of all, you don't need to invest in all new elements to give your child's room a fresh look that will provide delight and comfort for years to come. This article will help. You'll find:

Children's Bedroom Design Basics­
Learn about some of the basic design elements to keep in mind when planning out your child's new decor on this page.

Using Fabric in Children's Rooms
Find out how fabric can take centerstage in your child's room, in the form of pillows, wallhangings, and much more.

Changing Attics and Basements into Children's Rooms
Learn how to turn that unused attic or basement space into a cool playroom or hangout in this section.

Picking Furniture for Children's Rooms
On this page, you'll find creative options for choosing furniture for kids' rooms.

Transforming Furniture for Children's Rooms
Check out this section for ways to transform old hand-me-downs and other treasures into unique furniture for kids' rooms.

Refinishing Furniture for Children's Rooms
On this page, you'll learn how to refinish classic furniture pieces to inject personality into kids' rooms.

Selecting Materials for Children's Rooms
Find out how to use materials, such as wood, metal, and wicker, in children's rooms to really create a unique space.

Choosing Color Schemes for Children's Rooms
Take a look at this page for color scheme ideas that put pink-for-girls, blue-for-boys to shame.

We'll start our design primer with a look at the basics needed for kids' rooms on the next page.

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Children's Bedroom Design Basics

Space may be the last real luxury, but in many parts of the world, even parents don't have the luxury of a private bedroom. In most individual-oriented Western cultures, however, private spaces are considered important even for youngsters.

In the United States, open-plan homes that blend family rooms with kitchens exist side by side with master bedroom suites and dedicated children's wings. The pull between togetherness and privacy is constant -- and perfectly natural. While a bedroom of one's own may be the American ideal, many children find a shared room less lonely, and they contentedly share bedrooms as long as their own turf within the room is clearly marked. Ingenious furniture designs, such as the clever loft bed with drawers and desk space below or the trundle bed with a pull-out bed for guests, can make just about any size space workable.

If generous square footage isn't essential in a child's room, what is? Natural light from at least one fair-size window, for one thing. Sunlight aids the absorption of vitamin D and can alleviate the winter-borne depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). It also makes any room look and feel larger and airier. You can multiply the effect of windows with strategically placed mirrors, but make sure they are unbreakable or wait until children are old enough not to whack mirrors during play.

For shared rooms, try to provide equal access to the window (but be certain to outfit it with safety bars to make sure no one can fall or climb out; screens don't count). Avoid heavy, elaborate window treatments that attract dust and can tempt youngsters into potentially dangerous hanging stunts. Instead, you may want to choose simple, washable curtains or shades (be sure to keep cords on halyards or cleats high out of reach). Room-darkening shades, the kind found in hotel rooms, may be helpful for reluctant nappers.

Obviously, another essential is the door and safe access to it. Kids need to be able to easily find and reach the bedroom door, even half-asleep, in case of an emergency or just for midnight trips to the bathroom. Make sure furniture does not obstruct the doorway, and be militant about having kids keep a clutter-free path from the bed to the door. (Even if they're nimble enough to keep from falling, you may not be!) A night-light is important for safety as well as for psychological comfort, and many are available with tiny shades depicting everything from a protective angel to the latest cartoon character.

If your child's room is located near stairs, especially a dramatic open staircase, be sure that railings are high enough to protect the big kids from falling over and that vertical rails are close enough to prevent small ones from slipping through. Safety isn't at the top of the mind with most children, so it needs to be with you.

Closet doors that swing open waste space in a small bedroom. Sliding closet doors on tracks don't take up as much floor space, but they can be heavy and hard for youngsters to move. In either case, you may want to replace these types of doors with pocket doors if the budget allows. Or simpler yet, use a pair of drapery-length curtains on a tension rod instead of traditional closet doors. You can make washable cotton-polyester blend curtains easily and affordably from twin-size sheets, with the added bonus of coordinating the curtains with your child's bed linens. A closet that kids can easily use is one that they are more likely to use -- instead of the floor.

Clutter may be a matter of opinion, but general cleanliness is important to children's health because their immune systems are not as robust or well-developed as most adults'. Plan on easy-to-clean hard surfaces and fully washable -- not just spot-cleanable -- soft surfaces throughout the room.

If your child has allergies, his or her pediatrician or an allergist can advise you on specific ways to reduce allergens in your child's room and elsewhere in your home. In general, avoid lots of knickknacks, aptly dubbed "dust catchers," unless the items are truly dear to your child. As children grow up, they often accumulate more and more items they find meaningful, so make friends with a little empty space, simplify cleanup, and be sure to leave plenty of room for tomorrow's treasures.

In the next section, you'll learn about the many ways fabric can play a major part in the design of a child's room.

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Using Fabric in Children's Rooms

From a traditional look with lace curtains and coordinating drapes and bedding to the color extravaganza featured in contemporary Skä style, nothing pulls a look together like fabric. Colors, patterns, and textures are virtually limitless, and because fabric can be used in a variety of ways, it's one of the easiest design elements for do-it-yourselfers to incorporate into a decor. Yet many parents cringe at the thought of using fabric throughout their child's room -- especially if it's expensive.

The bad news? Whatever you cover, drape, or wrap with fabric is bound to get worn or stained. The good news, however, is that many of today's fabrics are pretreated or can be treated with a stain-resistant coating. For high-traffic spots like bedding and side chairs, choose fabrics that can be washed or easily cleaned. The following chart is a helpful guide for choosing kid-friendly fabrics.

FabricDurabilityWeightCareBest Use
CorduroyAdds fabulous texture to a room without sacrificing durability. Holds up to repeated use; after several washings, however, it can appear comfortably worn. Medium and heavyWash for a soft finish; dry-clean to prevent crushed pile.

Cushions, headboards, ottomans, upholstery for chairs and couches

CottonVersatile and decorative, cotton comes in an unlimited selection of colors and patterns. Light

Wash fabric before sewing to prevent future shrinkage.Curtains and drapes, cushions, dust ruffles, duvets and bedspreads, headboards, pillows and shams, Roman blinds, slipcovers, upholstery for chairs and couches
Cotton Chintz/Polished CottonPopular and affordable, its shiny finish actually repels dust, but this same sheen can also fade after several cleanings. LightWash before sewing to prevent future shrinkage. Dry-clean to retain shiny finish.

Curtains and drapes, cushions, dust ruffles, duvets and bedspreads, headboards, pillows and shams, Roman blinds, slipcovers
DenimTough and practically maintenance free, denim has long-lasting durability. Medium and heavy

Treat stains as you would for denim clothing, and machine wash.

Cushions, dust ruffles, duvets and coverlets, headboards, ottomans, pillows and shams, upholstery for chairs and couches
LaceFine laces should be used sparingly as they are susceptible to wear and tear. Laces with polyester content are more durable. LightMachine wash on gentle cycle or hand wash; hang to dry.

Curtains, cushions, dust ruffles, pillows

VelvetLends a plush, luxurious feel to any decor, and with its tight weave, it can be quite durable. Choose a quality fabric for high-traffic upholstery and soft furnishings. HeavyBetter velvets must be dry-cleaned. Iron on low heat to prevent scorching fabric.

Drapes, headboards, ottomans, pillows and shams, tablecloths

VinylBecause of its long-lasting durability, vinyl is one of the easiest -- and most affordable -- fabrics to use in a child's room. HeavyClean by wiping with damp cloth; cannot be machine washed. NEVER IRON.Headboards, large floor cushions, ottomans, stool and bench covers, tablecloths

Fun with Fabric

With the limitless selection of fabrics available on the market today, it's easy to understand why so many designers turn to this medium when they need an inexpensive way to dress up a room. Fabric is especially suitable in children's rooms because it can be cleaned (make sure it's machine washable before purchasing to save money on dry cleaning). Here are some clever ways to freshen a child's room with fabric.

No-Sew Slipcovers

Instead of investing in custom-sewn covers, make your own by draping a large piece of fabric over a chair and tucking it underneath cushions and around sides. For a finishing touch, hot-glue decorative braid or fringe around the unfinished edge of the fabric. This also works well for a headboard. A bonus? These slipcovers can be easily removed for washing.

Pillow Talk

It's amazing how something as simple as a pillow can completely change the look of a room. For a splash of color, make a variety of throw pillows and floor cushions in your child's favorite solid colors and interesting patterns. Embellish them with juvenile trims and buttons. If you can't sew, simply lay a pillow form in the center of a large fabric square, then knot the diagonal fabric corners together across the pillow.

Scrappy Idea

A plain strip of fabric works wonders when wrapped around curtain rods, lamp bases, or chandelier cords. It's also a novel way to use up scraps of fabric and an inexpensive solution for hiding lamp bases and curtain rods in dated colors and styles. For best results, cut the fabric on the bias, at least 11/2 feet wide and as long as desired. Use glue to secure end of fabric to item you are wrapping, then wrap fabric around item, overlapping the edges. Ribbons will produce the same effect.

Cushion Comfort

Add personality to plain bar stools and ordinary chairs with delightful cushion covers. There's no need to spend a lot of money to have them recovered when it's so simple to make your own. For round cushions, cut a circle from fabric, about 6 inches larger in diameter than the cushion. Stitch elastic or fuse a casing around edges, then fit cover around cushion. For a square cushion, cut a fabric square 8 inches larger than cushion. Lay fabric on cushion top, then tie corners together over the bottom of the cushion.

Clever Coverups

Create additional storage space with fabric skirts. Glue one side of a Velcro hook and loop fastener around the edge of a table and the other side around the top edge of a piece of fabric. When you put the two together, you have a clever skirt that hides whatever you store underneath. You can do the same with an old box. By skirting the sides and painting the top to match the fabric, you can make an attractive end table or nightstand in no time.

Fabric Art

Instead of purchasing expensive art, stretch an interesting piece of fabric over a wood frame and hang it on a wall. Make it as big or as small as you like.

Wonders for Walls

Fabric isn't just for furniture anymore. You can also cover walls with wonderful fabric textures and patterns. Apply fabric in the same manner as wallpaper, or staple it to tops of walls and then cover staples with a strip of wood molding or cording. Or, simply turn fabric edges under and tack them to wall with decorative upholstery tacks. Another quick wall cover is to sheer a length of fabric onto curtain rods, then hang rods at top and bottom of walls.

Screen Scene

Add extra storage to an empty corner or separate a room into distinct areas with decorative fabric screens. All you have to do is buy the frames and then insert whatever fabric you want. It's a decorating element that never goes out of style, simply because you can change the fabric to suit current decorating trends.

Super Shades

Roller blinds have a clean, crisp look that provides both light and privacy, and the do-it-yourself kits are quite inexpensive. Buy a kit that will fit your window's measurements, then, using the fabrics in your room as a guide, purchase a lightweight fabric like cotton and cut it to fit the size of the shade. Apply fusible webbing to wrong side of fabric, fuse fabric to front of shade, and voilà! You have a custom-designed roller blind that complements the look of your room.

Easy-to-Clean Laminates

Sticky fingers and dirty paws can often ruin fabrics. Instead of chancing it, cover cushion fabrics and table linens with easy-to-clean laminates. Local fabric stores carry iron-on laminates that can be applied to small pieces of fabric, while upholstery shops and decorator fabric stores can send the fabric away to be professionally laminated.

Learn how to make use of basement and attic space for a child's room in the next section.

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Changing Attics and Basements into Children's Rooms

While you'll want a conventional room for a young child's sleeping room, you can get more creative when it comes to carving out a play space. A basement, an attic, or even a spacious stair landing (with appropriate gates in front of the stairs) can yield space for a kid-friendly playroom. Teens looking for a private space away from younger siblings may want to claim a part of the basement or the attic as their bedroom, and as long as they can get out quickly in an emergency, this solution can ease a space crunch.

In general, attics tend to be the hottest parts of the house, so you may want to paint walls in cool, pale blues and greens. If the room has awkward alcoves and low walls in some areas, you can employ a designer's trick and camouflage them with a small all-over print wallcovering. Coordinating bookcases in several sizes can give an integrated look to storage on walls of different heights. To keep bookcases from visually overwhelming the space, consider painting them a pale tint to match the walls. The attic is a perfect place for small-scale furniture, from bona fide children's tables and chairs to easygoing beanbag seating. If your kids are younger, gate the stairwell, and whatever their ages, make sure you have plenty of strategically placed light fixtures, especially near the stairs.

Unless they have a walkout feature like a sliding glass door, basements tend to be dark and gloomy. To lighten them up, consider painting basement walls a light, warm color like creamy white, soft yellow, or peach. If your basement has old wood paneling from the rec room era, you can paint it if it's real wood. For a visually light effect that retains the interesting wood grain, consider pickling or whitewashing the wood. If your basement walls are plastic faux wood, it will be hard to paint them successfully, so you'll be better off taking down the paneling and painting the walls. (If the walls underneath the panels are in poor shape, fix any major problems and camouflage the minor ones with stylish stucco-type textured paint.) If you've got even one unflawed, smooth wall, consider painting it with special blackboard paint, and buy a box of colored chalk. Even big kids will enjoy it!

Basements and attics are great for messy, noisy hobbies you don't want to have take over the family room or other parts of your domain. Laminate surfaces and vinyl tile floors make paint-and-glue projects easy to clean up, and sound-insulating ceiling panels keep your garage band indoors and your neighborly relations intact. Kids can camp out, playact, and generally be kids!

Learn about choosing the right furniture pieces for children's rooms in the next section.

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Picking Furniture for Children's Rooms

You want your child's new room to look fresh and current, even if the furniture you're using isn't all brand-new. Luckily, what really distinguishes an okay room from a wonderful room is consistency, functionality, and personality. These qualities don't require a huge budget, but they do call for some planning.

Consistency just means you come up with a color scheme and a visual theme and maintain them throughout the room. For example, if you start out with blue, peach, plaids, and seashells, don't throw in (or neglect to remove) items that feature pink, black, florals, and zebras. The smaller the room, the more important consistency will be in preventing a cluttered look. You're not trying to be rigid here; you're trying to create a bit of underlying visual order that will stand up to the multitude of everyday kid items that will soon be scattered around.

How to Design Children's Rooms
A color scheme of red, purple, and blue makes a strong
yet harmonious statement in this mostly white room.
Designer: Maria Myers. Manufacturer: Chic Shack.

Unless you're starting from scratch, the first and often toughest part of a decorating job may be editing -- that is, removing pieces from the room that don't support the new vision. Of course, there are a couple of important exceptions.

If an accessory is meaningful to your child, do your best to find a place for it in the new room scheme. Sometimes just grouping a treasured white elephant with other accessories will keep it visible but not annoyingly prominent. Kids' toys are so varied in style and color, just about anything can work in the mix.

Functionality is a simple concept: Does every piece in the room serve an essential need? A comfortable place to sleep, a convenient place to play, an accessible place to store toys and clothing, and a workable place to study or indulge in hobbies are the basics. Once you've found them, it's time to inject the magic ingredient of personality.

Suppose you've inherited a piece of furniture that is safely designed, well-made, and basic to a bedroom, but cosmetically, it doesn't appeal to you or your youngster. Obviously, you could start shopping around for something new, but you could also consider refinishing the piece to work better with your new room scheme. Custom finishing can not only enhance the visual consistency you're seeking, but it is also one of the best ways to add the pizzazz of personality to a particular furniture piece.

You can unite a whole houseful of unmatched hand-me-downs in a charming way by painting or finishing them the same. (If you want a few pieces to be different, keep in mind that, in general, a smaller, more delicately scaled piece, such as a rocking chair, looks less oppressive in a dark wood finish than a chest of drawers or another massive piece does. A big piece takes up less space visually if it's finished in a light, cool color.)

If you are missing some key pieces or would like to start fresh with pieces you can customize, consider ready-to-finish (often called "unfinished") furniture. Many ready-to-finish furniture specialty stores offer solid hardwood furniture you can finish (or have the store finish) for a custom look. Most also offer specialty pieces for children.

If you have your heart set on heirlooms but didn't inherit any, antique shops can yield wonderful beds as well as dressers, armoires, rocking chairs, and toy chests. Porcelain doll dishes, wood rocking horses, and other quality toys are also available. Resale shops and flea markets also can be worthwhile sources, but you'll have to sift through finds more carefully to discover the good stuff.

If you're starting out with family hand-me-downs, resale shop finds, or unfinished pieces, edit until you're left with only those that offer good function and durable construction. If your budget is more flexible, head for one of the better conventional (factory-finished) furniture stores. These stores offer a full range of juvenile furniture pieces that conform to the latest safety regulations as well as offer furnishings your child won't outgrow.

Whether you are shopping in a furniture store or in Grandma's attic, be sure to check for quality construction. If you want to invest in pieces your child can enjoy now and hand down as family heirlooms later, hardwood pieces with doweled (not just stapled and glued) construction are a solid bet. Look inside drawers to see if the fronts are held on with dovetails. Lean or pull gently on a piece to see if it's sturdy and stable, not shaky. (If you're shopping online you can't do this last test, but you can check for furniture descriptions that mention "doweled" or "dovetail" construction. Don't settle for less.)

Heirloom-quality furniture may be crafted of solid hardwood or made of hardwood that is veneered with another, usually costlier, hardwood. Don't be afraid of veneers in general; just be sure they are securely applied to hardwood underneath. Used since early times, veneering makes using luxurious woods more affordable. Both solid wood and wood veneers on hardwood offer the kind of quality that lasts.

Your retailer can explain quality construction methods that also further the useful life of furniture. Be sure to ask about extra safety measures in the case of bunk beds (ladders, safety rails, etc.), cribs (distance between bars), and toy chests (safety hinges).

Wherever you shop, be very careful to check each piece thoroughly to make sure it's safe for your child. In general, plan to retrofit any vintage cribs with additional bars; check metal pieces for sharp edges; stay away from old stuffed animals, mattresses, and other fabric items that cannot be thoroughly washed; and steer clear of items with small detachable pieces that pose a choking hazard for kids under age five.

To protect against the hazards of old flaking lead paint (illegal since 1978), be sure to wear a safety mask and gloves, and follow safety recommendations for removing paint. (Basically, remove it with appropriate solvent; don't try to sand it off, and don't even be around the project if you're pregnant.) If it's a valuable antique and you like the look of the original finish, find out whether you can have a clear urethane sealant applied without lowering the value. If not, keep the real antiques for adult rooms, and explore quality reproductions for kids.

Furniture never grows old. It just takes on a whole new purpose. Learn to put existing furniture back to work in your child's room in the next section.

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Transforming Furniture for Children's Rooms

A threadbare ottoman gathering dust in your attic. A beat-up trunk full of old clothes in the corner of your garage. A little-used china cabinet in your dining room. Indeed, some of the best furniture and accessory finds for children's rooms are already right in your own home! By thinking creatively, many traditional furnishings you have on hand or those found in a garage sale or secondhand store can be transformed into spectacular pieces for kids. Read this clever list of possibilities for inspiration, and you'll soon be embarking on an all-out treasure hunt!

Mirror, Mirror

Old window sashes and iron grates can become interesting mirrors for children's rooms. To refurbish, keep any glass intact. Clean frames, and paint as desired (don't worry about painting over glass). When dry, take frame to a glass shop to have glass panes removed and mirrors installed. Also ask to have a hanger attached to the back, especially if the frame is metal. If the frame is wood, you can install your own hanger by attaching eye screws securely and evenly on each side on the back of the frame. Thread picture wire through the screws, and secure to form a hanger.

Light up Your Life

An inexpensive lamp converter kit from a home supply store can turn anything from wood newel posts to plastic piggy banks into unique bedside lamps. For the lamp base, choose items 12 inches high or taller to ensure proper lighting. (Items with a hollow center are easy to work with.) Follow manufacturer's instructions to install the lamp. Then top the lamp with a store-bought shade, or customize your own by purchasing a plain shade and decorating it with coordinating trims (buttons, pom-poms, rickrack, fringe, etc.).

Treasure Trove

Turn an army trunk or a steamer trunk into an oversize toy box. For an adventurous look, leave the trunk's shabby chic appearance intact, especially if the paint or paper has worn to a muted patina or if old travel stickers and name tags are visible. If the outside is papered, remove any loose paper, and apply a heavy coat of white glue to prevent future peeling. For wood exteriors, simply sand smooth, paint the chest as desired, then add your own designs to the outside.

An old army trunk makes a great toy box.
An old army trunk makes a practical and unique toy box.

For safety, be sure to reinforce or replace hinges and remove the hinge on the front lock that fastens the trunk shut. Clean out the inside of the trunk, removing any fabric lining, and paint it a dark color to disguise crayon marks and scuffs. To keep little fingers from being smashed by the lid, you might want to make a wood wedge for each side. Cut 2 small pieces of wood trim, each about 1 inch long and the same width as the top edge of the trunk. Glue 1 side of a Velcro hook and loop fastener to the bottom of each wood piece and the other side of the fastener to the top edge of the trunk on both sides, about 3 inches from the trunk's back edge.

Cheery Chairs

Wood chairs have a variety of uses in a child's room. Tiny chairs can be hung on walls and used as display shelves. Or, stash a slatback dining room chair in a walk-in closet or a bathroom for a childsize valet. A large chair with a decorative back can sit beside a bed, doing double duty as a bookshelf or catchall.

The best chairs for such uses are sturdy, with pop-out seats. If the chair creaks or wiggles at the joints, reinforce with wood glue. Strip and sand old paint, then coat with at least 2 layers of paint. Finish as desired. To recover pop-out seats, remove old fabric, then replace batting and staple it to the underside of the chair seat to secure. Cover with vinyl, canvas, or another fabric by wrapping sides and corners to underside of chair seat; staple in place.

Outrageous Ottomans

An oversize ottoman is just the right size for a child. If you're lucky enough to have 2 matching ottomans, use them side by side at the foot of a bed or on either side as bedside tables. Ottomans can also be used as valets or stools for small vanities and tables.

Most ottomans are upholstered, and if yours has extensive tufting and trim, you may want to hire a professional to reupholster it. If the decoration is minimal, you can reupholster it yourself by carefully removing old fabric and using the pieces as a pattern for new fabric. Sew as needed to create the cover, then tack, sew, or glue your new fabric in place. Finish with contrasting, fun trims. If your ottoman has wooden legs, refinish and paint them first before reupholstering.

Creative Cupboards

Dark, oversize armoires and china cabinets can be transformed into functional storage space for a child's room. The first thing to do is completely strip or sand the piece of furniture, remove all hardware, and repair any loose hinges or other damaged areas. Reinforce inside shelving, and reglue the drawer joints if needed to strengthen. Paint the inside and outside of the cabinet in bright, cheerful colors. Or, use a contrasting color scheme to match the room's decor, and add interesting elements such as wallpaper cutouts, painted checkerboard borders, full-length stripes, and other decorative finishes to make the piece lively and fun.

If the piece has glass doors, you can remove the glass and stretch chicken wire across the opening on the inside, nailing small wood trim over the wire's sharp ends. Another option is to mount gathered curtains made from fabric used elsewhere in the room on tension rods on the inside of the doors. Remove shelves as needed to create functional storage space for computer monitors, baskets of toys, or books.

How to Design Children's Rooms
If you don’t want a glass-door cabinet in a young child’s room, replace
the glass with gathered fabric or chicken wire for a charming country look.
Designer: Maria Myers. Manufacturer: Chic Shack.

Hob Knobs

Antique doorknobs can be turned into darling bed finials, tie backs for drapery, or even hooks for hanging towels. Even better, the knobs don't have to match. Clean all knobs before use. If they are rusty or chipped, you can paint them with oilbase paint. Let dry, then adhere small paper cutouts to centers of knobs with clear-drying craft glue. Finish with a clear protective varnish.

For hooks, evenly space knobs along the center of a painted piece of pine shelving cut to desired length and width. Fasten the board to a bathroom or bedroom wall. Use the same technique for creating drapery tiebacks, but use a small square piece of wood and only one knob for each tieback. For bed finials, simply attach a knob to the top of each finial, drilling a hole if needed and securing with wood glue.

In addition to transforming furniture, you can return old pieces to their original use by restoring their appearance. Learn all about refinishing furniture on the next page.

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Refinishing Furniture for Children's Rooms

Refinishing furniture is one of the most exciting aspects of decorating. A tired, worn chest can be spruced up to look completely new; a unique finish can totally transform a blasé armoire into a stunning period piece. The best part is that refinishing furniture can save you lots of money -- especially if you purchase pieces from a secondhand store or refinish pieces you already have on hand. Refinishing furniture can require a lot of time -- if you want to do it correctly -- but the process itself is quite simple.

Safety First

Like other rooms in your home, a child's room has special concerns, specifically those related to safety and durability. Most paint and special finishes you choose for furniture are suitable for children, provided they are sealed with a protective coating to prevent chipping and peeling. Additionally, today's paints do not have the harmful chemicals found in their older counterparts.

Still, if you like the weathered look of an antique piece of furniture, it is important to make sure that its painted finish does not contain lead. Lead, both its dust and chips, can contaminate your home and cause serious health problems for you and your family. Obviously, any furniture with lead paint should be stripped or discarded. To confirm lead content, purchase an easy-to-use swab from a home supply store. When applied to a painted surface containing lead, the end will turn pink. If you decide to strip the piece, wear a respirator and work outdoors.

Please note: Whether you are refinishing wood, metal, or plastic, begin with a clean surface so the finish will adhere properly and evenly. Make any necessary repairs, and remove all hardware. Wear rubber gloves, protective goggles, and work outdoors if possible.

Refinishing Wood Surfaces

What You'll Need
  • Mineral spirits, wax remover, or commercial wood cleaner
  • Gel or liquid paint stripper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Flat scraper
  • Steel wool
  • Wood filler
  • Sandpaper
  • Clean, damp cloth
  • Stain-blocking primer
  • Waterbase paint or spray paint

  1. For painted wood, use mineral spirits, wax remover, or
    commercial wood cleaner to thoroughly clean surface. Let dry.

  2. Apply liquid or gel stripper according to manufacturer's instructions. When old finish
    begins to bubble, scrape off old paint, following wood grain and taking care not to gouge or scratch surface. Repeat until all paint has been removed. Use steel wool on any stubborn areas.

  3. Fill any holes or blemishes with wood filler, let dry, then lightly
    sand following wood grain. Wipe away dust with a clean, slightly damp cloth.

  4. If you plan to paint the piece, prime it according to manufacturer's instructions. Use wide paintbrush, and make long, even strokes. Let dry completely.

  5. Apply 2 coats of paint to furniture, letting it dry between coats. If knots or blemishes still show through, apply a third coat.

Refinishing Metal Surfaces

What You'll Need
  • Wire brush or steel wool
  • Iron oxide primer
  • Paintbrushes
  • Spray paint or wide paintbrush and paint for meta

 

  1. Most of the old layers of paint and rust on metal furniture can be removed by scrubbing with a firm wire brush or steel wool. Rub until surface is smooth, then wash with water. Let dry.

  2. Apply iron oxide primer, which inhibits rust, to surface. Let dry.

  3. For quick finishes and for furniture with filigree or other small decorative features, spray paint provides complete coverage and is easy to apply. Hold can about 12 inches away from surface, lightly spray, and let dry. Repeat until all metal is covered. For large metal surfaces or if you have a custom paint color in mind, use a brush to apply paint in thin coats. Let dry between each coat.

Refinishing Plastic Surfaces

What You'll Need
  • Sponge or plastic scrub pad
  • Liquid household detergent
  • Bleach (optional)
  • Spray paint

 

  1. Using a sponge or plastic scrub pad, clean plastic furniture with a mixture of warm water and detergent. To remove mildew,
    add a capful of bleach to water mixture.

  2. Spray paint adheres well to plastic and is the easiest type of paint to apply. Hold can about 12 inches away from surface, lightly spray, and let dry. Repeat until entire surface has even coverage.

While wood is always a natural choice for furniture in any room, there are other materials available that look great in kids' rooms. Learn about them in the next section.

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Choosing Color Schemes for Children's Rooms

Not too long ago, a little girl's room was predictably pink and preferably ruffled; her brother's was blue or some combination of suitably masculine colors, such as blue and red. For patterns, girls had florals, boys had geometrics, and never the twain could meet.

How to Design Children's Rooms
Pink, orange, yellow, and purple make a hot combo that appeals
to girls of all ages. For a boy, bright red could replace the pink,
and the good vibrations stay the same. Manufacturer: PJ Kids.

Today, it's another story. Girls are as likely as boys to enjoy blue plaids, and while American boys are still more socially constrained in their choices, a jungle-theme room for boys could include exotic blooms as well as carnivores. Led by innovative European designers and inspired both by nature and the many cultures around the world, children's products, from toys to school supplies to furnishings, are available in a great range of brilliant colors. You can expect to find exotic orange, purple, yellow, and green as prominent as traditional red and blue. In such a fun-loving rainbow of hues, even the occasional tropical pink or light purple can make a unisex appearance -- very useful when you're creating shared rooms.

Of course, many boys and girls do prefer traditional color schemes and visual themes, and it's easier than ever to indulge them with today's great products. The important thing is that your child's room reflect his or her own personal preferences -- not some stereotypical "correct" look. You may have a budding Michelangelo or Marie Curie on your hands, and you'll want his or her room to nurture that authentic spirit as much as possible. There will be time enough to deal with the standardization that comes from peer pressure in the preteen and teen years.

If you're not sure where your young child's interests will lie or you want to ensure that a decorating scheme will appeal to girls and boys of all ages, you can't go wrong with a nature-inspired scheme. From preschoolers to preteens and even beyond, kids feel an affinity with the natural world and enjoy anything related to it. Dogs, horses, and jungle creatures are especially popular with both sexes. Farms and forests also yield flexible motifs that can grow along with your child.

Designing a child's room does take some careful planning, but if you take the time to make the right selections, you're sure to create a space both you and your children will love.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Mary Wynn Ryan is the author of numerous interior design books, including The Ultimate Kitchen, The Ultimate Bath, Cottage Style, Fresh Country Style, and Garden Style. She has written about home furnishings and interior design for various magazines and served as Midwest editor of Design Times magazine.

Heidi Tyline King is an accomplished writer and editor. She has written extensively about America's arts, culture, history, nature-based attractions, and decorating projects, including All About Paint and Wallpaper, Beautiful Wedding Crafts, Pelican Guide to the Florida Panhandle, The Unofficial Guide to the Southeast with Kids, and others.

Choosing Color Schemes for Children's Rooms

Not too long ago, a little girl's room was predictably pink and preferably ruffled; her brother's was blue or some combination of suitably masculine colors, such as blue and red. For patterns, girls had florals, boys had geometrics, and never the twain could meet.

How to Design Children's Rooms
Pink, orange, yellow, and purple make a hot combo that appeals
to girls of all ages. For a boy, bright red could replace the pink,
and the good vibrations stay the same. Manufacturer: PJ Kids.

Today, it's another story. Girls are as likely as boys to enjoy blue plaids, and while American boys are still more socially constrained in their choices, a jungle-theme room for boys could include exotic blooms as well as carnivores. Led by innovative European designers and inspired both by nature and the many cultures around the world, children's products, from toys to school supplies to furnishings, are available in a great range of brilliant colors. You can expect to find exotic orange, purple, yellow, and green as prominent as traditional red and blue. In such a fun-loving rainbow of hues, even the occasional tropical pink or light purple can make a unisex appearance -- very useful when you're creating shared rooms.

Of course, many boys and girls do prefer traditional color schemes and visual themes, and it's easier than ever to indulge them with today's great products. The important thing is that your child's room reflect his or her own personal preferences -- not some stereotypical "correct" look. You may have a budding Michelangelo or Marie Curie on your hands, and you'll want his or her room to nurture that authentic spirit as much as possible. There will be time enough to deal with the standardization that comes from peer pressure in the preteen and teen years.

If you're not sure where your young child's interests will lie or you want to ensure that a decorating scheme will appeal to girls and boys of all ages, you can't go wrong with a nature-inspired scheme. From preschoolers to preteens and even beyond, kids feel an affinity with the natural world and enjoy anything related to it. Dogs, horses, and jungle creatures are especially popular with both sexes. Farms and forests also yield flexible motifs that can grow along with your child.

Designing a child's room does take some careful planning, but if you take the time to make the right selections, you're sure to create a space both you and your children will love.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Mary Wynn Ryan is the author of numerous interior design books, including The Ultimate Kitchen, The Ultimate Bath, Cottage Style, Fresh Country Style, and Garden Style. She has written about home furnishings and interior design for various magazines and served as Midwest editor of Design Times magazine.

Heidi Tyline King is an accomplished writer and editor. She has written extensively about America's arts, culture, history, nature-based attractions, and decorating projects, including All About Paint and Wallpaper, Beautiful Wedding Crafts, Pelican Guide to the Florida Panhandle, The Unofficial Guide to the Southeast with Kids, and others.