Edmonton Journal .  Sept 01 2007 . Kelly Roesler

Negotiation crucial for kids’ room decor; Don’t give in to every demand, designer advises

It takes compromise to help plan children’s private spaces, designers say. Adults want the room to be functional, but their kids may be thinking 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 treated his daughter much as he would a client. “Her room became a project for her,” he says.

When working on a home 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 reuse furniture to co-ordinate with the new theme, just as Hupel turned 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. “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, Hupel says. “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 designer Janice Wilson, who recently decorated a young girl’s fantasy room.

Wilson used pastel colours, especially light pink and green, and advises parents to avoid extreme colours on walls.

“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.” The key is compromise, Wilson says. Say yes to a great bed, but no to electric orange on the walls. Instead, suggest strong colours in a duvet. “Bargain with them, without giving in to 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. “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 kids are involved, 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.”