The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) . Nov 10 2007 . by Kelly Roesler

Helping kids to design their bedrooms; Families discover art of compromise

It takes compromise to help children plan their private spaces, according to leading designers with young clients. From an adult point of view, the room has to be functional, while the young client may want wild colours and fantasy. Negotiate, advises interior designer Ernst Hupel, who worked with his nine-year-old daughter Klara to create a French-themed room. Hupel, the professional, treated his daughter much as he would his clients. “Her room became a project for her,” he says.

When working on a residential project that involves children, Hupel suggests parents bring them in for a consultation. “We sit them down in our meeting room, give them a glass of water and say, ‘What do you want your room to look like?’ “We’ll have half a dozen paint colours and fabric samples out, so it’ll really give them the ability to feel like they’re making these decisions on their own.” Hupel tries to interpret the child’s wishes, colours and themes in an understated way. “We’ll always make sure that we can direct them in an area that they want, but may not understand.

“If you give a child a paint wand, they would probably go to the very bright primary colours. They don’t understand that you don’t need to have that bright colour on the wall to create that colour in their room.” Parents should be creative and re-use pieces to co-ordinate with the new theme, just as he retrofitted Klara’s simple platform bed into a sophisticated Parisian canopy bed. “I made a structure on the ceiling and she now has these beautiful, soft-pink drapery panels coming down on two corners of her bed. “A princess room does mean a canopy bed; it means a very young, romantic theme, lots of pale colours, lots of layers. And, functionally, every child’s room needs to have some kind of display/storage area because kids are pack rats.” Parents need to relax control over this space and let it be a refuge for their children, one space they can truly call their own, says Hupel. “These days, when everyone’s spending so much time designing and decorating the rest of the home, I think we’re reducing the amount of space in our homes for children.”

“It’s important to create a space that’s light and bright and creative,” adds Janice Wilson, a Mississauga designer who has decorated all of Monarch’s model homes, including a young girl’s fantasy room.

Wilson used pastel colours, especially light pink and green, in the fantasy get-away. She advises parents to avoid extreme colours on the walls. This means no super bright pink, chocolate or navy blue. “From a functional point of view, it’s extremely hard to paint over. And if you have a beautiful colour theme going from room to room and you come to the kids’ room and it’s lime green, it’s jarring.” Compromise is key, says Wilson. Say yes to a great bed, but no to electric orange on the walls. Instead, suggest they use strong colours in a duvet. “Bargain with them, without giving into every demand,” she says. And since bargaining means talking, get their opinions. “Ask for their favourite colours,” Wilson says. “If it’s outrageous, offer to do it in accents. Proceed quietly. Look at themes. Sense where your child is at and what they’re drawn to. “Do a space plan, make sure all furniture fits the room, so the child has room to run around, put toys on the floor and have some freedom. You want the room to be as functional as possible.”

Ultimately, when the child is involved in creating the room of their dreams, life is easier for parent and child, says Hupel. “When you let the children be part of the decisions, they treat their rooms better because they take more ownership,” he says. “My nine-year-old takes great pride in making her bed mostly every morning, organizing her stuff that she wants on her bed, and she also takes great pride in showing off her room when we have visitors over.”