Edmonton Journal .  Sept 01 2007 . Kelly Roesler

Make room for a princess; Canopy bed and big helping of fantasy create a hideaway fit for the youngest royal

When Ernst Hupel moved his family into a traditional Sandy Hill home last fall, he wanted to design the perfect sanctuary for his nine-year-old daughter Klara — a bedroom fit for a Parisian princess. Like all good and thoughtful princesses, Klara urged her father, who just happens to be one of Ottawa’s top designers, to step aside and hand over creative control.

He did with an impish smile and a couple of provisos. The designer in him decreed the final room had to be a place to lounge, sleep, play and dream. Then he let go. “I gave her free rein,” says the co-owner of 2H Interior Design. “I think a princess room is whatever the child thinks will make them comfortable.”

Inspired by a photo from a design magazine, Klara chose a Parisian theme that is distinctly feminine with a sophisticated edge. Then Hupel and his helpers went to work. “She has a canopy bed, with pale pink ruffled silk drapery panels on all four corners,” says the designer dad. “Her room is painted a pale French blue, and she has an Eiffel Tower sculpture that goes from floor to ceiling on one of the walls.” Accessories are pale mint green, with the nightstand draped in mint green velvet, with a matching velvet chair and a mint green valance over the window. Fluffy off-white sheepskin rugs flank each side of the bed, which is covered in a pink and pale blue striped duvet, piled with tossed pillows in pinks and greens with pale blue.

“When I’m in my room, I feel like a princess,” says Klara. “I’ve always dreamed of going to Paris. I love the colours and especially the queen-size bed.” The focal point is the canopy bed — a must-have item for any princess, says Hupel. “A princess room does mean a canopy bed. It also means a very young, romantic theme, lots of pale colours and lots of layers.” What makes this room so special, he says, is that it is Klara’s design. “It is definitely more of a princess room because she was able to make these decisions on her own, with, of course, some guidance and advice from us.” Hupel’s younger daughter Milena is only two and hers is a princess room-in-waiting, he says. “We’re waiting for her to give her own personality to the room.”

Incorporating a child’s interests and personality is essential to create the perfect little girl’s room, he says. “When it comes to children, you just throw in the towel and say every rule was made to be broken.” Comfort should be the first element parents think of when planning a princess room, he says. “We want a perfect decor these days, and in striving for that perfection, we are forgetting about life.” The bedroom is also the perfect venue to indulge children’s fantasies and allow them to savour their fleeting childhood, he adds. “Kids are growing up a lot faster these days, so let them have their fantasy rooms.”

A girl should be able to grow up within her room without a complete decorating overhaul, and the way to do this is to choose the fundamental pieces wisely, he says. “Rooms can easily be transformed,” Hupel says. “The foundation of every room — primarily the stuff that also costs a lot of money — should be kept in mind so that they are more transitional.” Klara’s bed is a modern, maple, queen-size platform that suited Hupel’s former modern home. He bought fabric, hired a seamstress and, magically, it turned into a canopy bed fit for a young princess.

“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. The bed is also perfect for her as a teenager, and she’s probably going to take that bed with her when she goes to university,” he says.

Tamara O’Leary, owner of M.Y. Home — an Ottawa furniture and accessories store — and a mother of two daughters, says the quintessential princess bedroom takes a simple and elegant form — white furniture with minimal pink accents. “About 75 per cent of our sales are white,” O’Leary says.”It’s a classic colour that serves as the foundation for the princess room.”

The store’s bestseller for little girls is the Mary-Kate and Ashley (Olsen) collection, including a simple white sleigh bed, dresser, wardrobe and night table in a basic, clean and feminine style.

“They have some really neat pieces that do really well for us,” says O’Leary. “It’s important to create a space that’s light and bright and creative,” says Janice Wilson, a Mississauga, Ont., designer who decorates model homes for builders. She recently created a young girl’s fantasy room in one Ottawa showhome. Wilson used pastel colours, mainly light pink and green, in the fantasy get-away. She suggests parents 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.”