Space for each child to have a room of his or her own has become the American ideal, but shared rooms are still very prevalent. Even when kids have their own rooms, they'll often play with siblings in whichever room seems handiest. A younger one may even prefer to sleep in the same room with a sibling and use his or her own room as a shared playroom. Whatever makes your children feel safe and comfortable is what's right.
Keep in mind that, while younger children have a hard time sharing things, older ones mind sharing space. If sharing a room is necessary and one or both are "big kids," be sure to create clear divisions, at least visually. If two kids of widely different ages share a room, the older one will be more bothered by the situation. To compensate, try to give the older one an extra drawer in the bathroom or an extra piece of storage furniture.
When dividing a typical bedroom, avoid decorative screens, unsecured wall units, or other pieces that may topple during the usual horseplay. Sturdy back-to-back bookcases or armoires are a smart way to create a sense of private space for each occupant, but wait until kids are old enough not to climb them. A movable curtain made of a sheet and hung on a ceiling-mounted rod can work, too. If there's only one window or the door is placed so that both sides of the room don't have easy access, you'll want to keep the room's sight lines open. In this case, you can define each child's space with a different area rug, a higher headboard, and other subtle cues. Most useful and easy are color schemes that set off each space.
Defining Shared Space with Color
When you ask Jamie and Jenna what colors they like and you hear "pink and purple" from one and "blue and orange" from the other, don't despair. It's true that two entirely different color schemes are usually too jarring to live with in one room and will make it look small and cluttered. But there's no reason why you can't take one color from each and add a third tone that's compatible with both for a fun look that pleases everyone. For example, pink and orange can be cooled with green for a cheery garden feeling; blue and purple can be warmed with yellow for a fresh seaside look. Jamie's side of the room could be predominantly purple and yellow with hints of blue; Jenna's could use lots of blue and yellow with accents in purple.
Whatever the scheme, keep big furniture pieces in a soothing, space-expanding white or classic wood tones, and choose pale tints of color for the room's walls and trim. (Most paint color swatch cards show a range of lighter versions of each color. Use a tint of one favorite hue on the walls and another on the doors and trim to make everyone happy.) Lavish the favored colors full strength on everything else, from small chairs to bed ensembles. Whose is whose should be no problem!
The same color scheme can work in a children's suite, whether that's a single bedroom with adjoining bath, two rooms that share a connected bath, or, most luxurious, one or two bedrooms with a bath and adjoining playroom. As an alternative, you may want to use cool, restful colors (blue, purple, and most greens) in the bedrooms and warm, lively colors (pink, orange, red, and yellow) in the playroom, with a mix of cool and warm tones in the bath set off by lots of white. Whichever approach -- one scheme throughout a suite or a different scheme for each room -- be sure to include a favorite color of each child.
Once you've chosen a pleasing color scheme everyone can live with, let common sense, comfort, and safety govern your purchasing decisions. When it comes to hobbies, computer games have an undeniable lure, but you can encourage more healthy mental and physical activity by providing a fuss-free space where kids can be kids. If your child loves to make music, a well-insulated space will make it easy to encourage this talent. If she paints or he makes model dinosaurs, provide wipe-clean laminate surfaces and good lighting. If horseplay is an everyday thing around your house and you have space for a real playroom, opt for recessed can lighting, thick wall-to-wall carpeting in a soil-hiding color, and comfortable chairs in a pattern that will camouflage spills and wear.
In our final section, we'll discuss decor for kids' baths and study areas.