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How to Design Children's Rooms

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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