Updated: Oct 22, 2020
A true dip into the creative bucket, designing children's spaces are an opportunity to be playful, colorful, and inspiring. Here's what I've learned to keep kids thriving in rooms dedicated to them.
Natural Light & Fresh Air
While kids can use their imaginations anywhere, I find that they want to stay longer in spaces with ample natural light. It provides a sense of wellness, and a normal, safe net for fantastic creations to thrive. Windows allow their little minds to easily travel beyond the confines of their playroom. What's more, it is well documented that fresh air increases cognitive performance and rejuvenation in adult office buildings. We should encourage the same for our children, especially in a place as lovely as Breckenridge, CO!
Color, color, color
While many "grownup" spaces are bathed in safe, functional neutral colors, popping bright colors in kid spaces gives them permission to think big and out of the box. When designing these spaces, I often interview the children who will occupy them and ask what their favorite colors are. Though I often add one or more colors to their short list of favorites, I ensure their choices are included. Typically, I work hard to learn the personalities of each child, so I know whether they prefer hard, primary colors or softer tones. No matter the direction, I make sure the tones are happy and lively.
A word on durability
Though we all want to teach our kids to take care of our belongings and clean up their messes, I try to plan exceedingly durable finishes in play spaces. While these lessons are important, they can stifle creativity. Carpet tile that can be easily replaced (one piece at a time) at www.flor.com, polyester fabrics or those with a Crypton or other soil resistant finish are a plus, and wood, plastic or metal seating is easy to clean. Kids have oops-es too, and my hope is that there is less opportunity for these issues to create a negative reinforcement of the space.
Organizing toys and supplies should be easy and enhance the creative process. No one thrives in a cluttered space. For children, I like to aim for the right combination of open and closed storage. Things that need to be accessed quickly and easily, like art supplies, can be hung in buckets along hooks on a wall, and paper or stickers can be in paper slots in a bookshelf. Closed cabinets and trunks are a must for bulkier items that can be put away (like stuffed animals and games), and open shelves with easy-to-access baskets for storing small things in way that's both functional and easy on the eyes are good choices. If the little ones are creative, it is imperative that we design a prominent place (or five) for kids to display their masterpieces. Wires and clips can hang art, magnetic boards can hold papers, and tack strips allow the designer to control the visual clutter so that displayed art is impactful, but makes sense visually in the space.
I always offer to furnish children's spaces with books, chosen based on age and personality. Words and pictures open minds and encourage creativity and growth. Fun collections, like those offered at www.juniperbooks.com, create fun displays with images on the spines. They are fun, playful and clean looking.
Spaces that grow
Kids change their preferences rapidly as they grow. Nurturing their creative and imaginative growth at one stage may look very different two years later. For this reason, I try to keep the basics like wood flooring and window trim neutral and consistent with the rest of the house. Carpet tiles, rugs, pillows and various furniture pieces can be changed as tastes change. For this reason, it is often not necessary to break the bank for furniture in children's spaces. In the space shown above, the theme and feel could be radically changed by using different vinyl wall decals, different carpet tiles and different pillows; all things that don't add up to too big a price tag.
The value of knowing
Houses are often designed for parents and adult things. Spaces dedicated to young people, especially those that are well thought out, give kids places to play that they don't want to leave and instills a sense of importance to them. Parents understand the value of knowing where their kids are, and appreciate when that space nurtures the skills of self-entertainment and creativity. Let us dream with your kids and facilitate spaces that nurture and inspire them. The investment is bigger than the price tag!