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Come school age and decorating a child's bedroom becomes a lot more tricky. Not only does the average child bring with it fifty times its own bodyweight in toys, clothes, books, school equipment and general stuff, but their room goes from being a place to sleep to everything from a social club, study area, play room, craft workshop and hideaway. Plus, s/he will almost certainly have strong design ideas of their own – not all that chime with your personal aesthetic. Nevertheless, as long as you follow a few basic rules, you should be able to come up with a comfortable, practical room that you both love.
By Kerry Young
Aspace Kahlinka bedroom range
5 Golden Rules For Children's Rooms
Plan at least three years in advance – hard to imagine now, but in a couple of years their great long legs will be dangling over the end of that cute little toddler bed.
Storage, Storage, Storage
You cannot have too much storage – unless you have catastrophically birthed Ann Maurice, there will only ever be more stuff.
Ikea Pax Malm wardrobe
Don't Theme It
Don't go all out on a dominant theme – it may look fabulous, but you cannot throw away every present they are given that doesn't match.
Make Them Think It's What They Want
Listen to what they want but interpret it loosely – kids change their minds in a heartbeat.
Keep it flexible – they want to share, they don't want to share, it's your son's room, it's your daughter's room, it's the spare room – remember modern living is all about flux before you commit to that fitted daisy carpet.
Planning Your Child's Bedroom
Give Them Space
You may be paying the mortgage, but a bedroom is so much more to a child that just a place to sleep, so consider giving them the largest bedroom. It'll be worth it if they manage to keep most of their toys in there and not everywhere else in the house. Lucky enough to have a playroom? You might just get away with keeping the larger bedroom…
Ikea Mammut range
Make It Kid-Proof
At this age, children are basically monkeys – chairs are for leaping off, beds are for bouncing on or camping under and anything high is ripe for swinging on. Watch your children playing to get inspiration for making their room fun. Think bed with drapes to make a den, fit a plain wall with foot and hand holds to make rock face, sling a hammock across a corner to transform the room into a pirate ship.
Aspace Key West Cabin Bed
Choose Furniture To Last
Chosen carefully, furniture bought now could last until you send them off to college. For major bits of furniture, like beds and wardrobes, steer clear of teeny versions they will outgrow in a couple of years. Go for a classic style, and buy sturdy, quality items that have some hope of withstanding the frankly improper use your children will subject them to.
High Sleeper by Aspace
Put In Bunks
Even if the room is for one child, think about putting in bunks anyway. They will be really useful for friends to sleep over or if you want to stick a sibling in their room when Granny comes to stay, but they also make excellent dens and adventure playgrounds for young kids.
Aspace Sherbourne bed
Invest In Hidden Storage
If you go for a single bed, think about a practical cabin type (with space underneath for a desk) or invest in an under-bed truckle for sleepovers.
Keep Them Asleep
Children of this age group are still prone to the 'get up at dawn' routine, so get a serious blackout solution at the window if you value your sleep. A blackout roller blind in a neutral shade will see them through to adulthood, and you can add different drapes to pretty it up as the décor changes.
Get Them In The Mood For Bed
A dimmer switch is a good idea for getting the mood right for the bedtime routine and providing a soft nightlight if they need it.
Beulah bedroom by Aspace
Fit Practical Flooring
Flooring is key in a kid's pad. You want something hardwearing and stain proof, and when they've got their mates round and they're all hyped up on Jelly Tots, you'll also appreciate some sound absorption. Rubber Flooring is great for softness, toughness and insulation (try www.rubberflooringcompany.co.uk or Dalsouple), or go for wooden flooring with a jolly (washable) rug (www.arugisforlife.com; Letterbox).
Don't forget – safety first. Fit window locks, remove locks on doors, avoid large lockable trunks, put covers on electrical sockets, avoid trailing electrical leads, and screw heavy furniture to the wall.
Make It Play-Friendly
Once little people reach school age, they are really getting into independent play and their bedroom will come into its own as a place to hang out. Design the room with plenty of floor space for spreading out jigsaws/ponies/cars and provide an element of adventure for kids with limitless energy.
Decorating Your Child's Bedroom
Children express a colour preference from a fairly early age, and you'll probably want to take this into account - however, use these tips to make the most of the bedroom's proportions and natural daylight.
New England Bunk by Aspace
Keep The Scheme Neutral
Your child will doubtless have a strong preference when it comes to a colour scheme and no-one would be surprised if it doesn't come down to pink for girls and blue for boys. Not only will bubblegum pink and bright blue clash with your tasteful décor, but you will have to redecorate if there's any change in room allocations and it will not be long before they themselves pronounce it 'lame' or similar.
The easiest way to avoid this is to opt for a neutral backdrop and allow the Day-Glo toys and a few choice soft furnishings do the talking, colour wise. You can get fantastic bed linen for kids in cool designs and colours that won't cost much to replace a year or three down the line (try Habitat or Ikea), chuck in a few cushions and a rug and voila! Bright, breezy and instantly removable.
Another route is to find an acceptable-to-grown-ups version of their colour choice – think smoky deep blues or sophisticated grey, and accents of red or plum instead of pink.
Consider using low-VOC eco-friendly paint - it's better for the environment and it will cut down on the potentially harmful chemicals in your child's room. Try www.ecospaints.com or www.thelittlegreene.com.
Astor range by Aspace
Theming It? Be Clever
Unless you are prepared to redo it every year, character-type themes are usually a bad idea. You don't want wall-to-wall Spongebob Squarepants, and neither will they in about, oh, a week. Stickers are an excellent way to bring in some interest – try www.stickyups.com or DIY stores – and when you're sick of them, they peel right off. Another useful DIY shed staple is blackboard paint – slap it on a cupboard door or section of wall and you have an easel for budding artists, a place to work out sums or somewhere for you to leave pointed comments on the state of their room (which, obviously, they'll ignore).
Whatever their age, there can never be too much storage. Kids these days have a lot of possessions and just one (or even half a) room to keep it all in. Get the storage right and you might have a slight hope of seeing their floor again.
Ikea storage shelves
Go Wild For Storage
Buy Versatile Storage
Make shelving adjustable to grow with them – cute little bookcases soon look woefully inadequate when piled up with textbooks. Allow different heights for DVDs, books, big books, files, knick-knacks, photos, etc.
Make It Accessible
If they can't reach it, they won't use it – make sure all storage is accessible to the child.
Use Wasted Space
Underbed storage is a brilliant use of otherwise dead space (and stops it becoming a toy and food graveyard). Get low boxes on wheels that will adapt from toy storage to clothes to magazines – try Lakeland.
The back of door is good for much more than a moth-eaten dressing gown. Go to Ikea or Store (www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk) for organisers that hang over the door.
Morrum loft bed frame, Ikea
Buy Multipurpose Pieces
Where space is tight, go multi-purpose. Think bench or window seat with lift-up seats and storage inside, or a high bed with drawers in the base.
Use The Walls
Use the wall space. A row of hooks can act as an overflow for the wardrobe, or hang colourful laundry bags for tidying away toys or accessories.
If you have a lot of boxes to stash their stuff, don't expect them to remember what is where. Label every box carefully so they don't empty out every one every time they need something.
Lines Not Piles
Stacked boxes are a pain when what you want is at the bottom, so avoid piles. Line up boxes on shelves or modular units instead.