Vancouver Sun .  Aug 31 2007 . Kelly Roesler

Building a bedroom fit for a Parisian princess; Giving his nine-year-old daughter free rein to redesign her room produced striking results for Ernst Hupel

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 palecolours 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.”

Milena is still in her crib, but has a trundle bed waiting. Her room is pale yellow and accented in lilac. The furniture is white with a yellow chair and lilac area carpet on wood floors. A big pine Canadian armoire completes the furnishings, which Hupel says will be the base for whatever themes she will choose over the years.

“The foundation is there. She’ll be able to add whatever flavour she wants to that foundation, whether it’s sporty, Groovy Girl or princess-y.” Incorporating a child’s interests and personality is essential to creating 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 a child’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. “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 bed that suited Hupel’s former modern home. For the 1920s house he used to own, he bought fabric, hired a seamstress and, magically, it turned into a canopy bed fit for a young princess.

“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.

It’s not just designers who are recognizing the royal lines among youngsters. Increasingly, builders are learning it’s important to capture the hearts of potential homeowners and their daughters by creating bedrooms with a royal pedigree.

Monarch Corporation, not too surprisingly, created a princess getaway on the second floor of one of its model homes.

A gleaming chandelier washes light over the white furnishings, including a sleigh bed piled with a floral quilt and a pillow that reads “Little Miss Drama.” The sheer curtains are colourful with a floral pattern mimicked by a pink flower lamp sitting on a night table. Nearby, there is a desk and chair so any aspiring princess will also be a top student.

The generous room boasts three large windows and is at the front of the house, with a walk-in closet with lots of room to store play clothes, possibly even a tiara. And there is access to a full bathroom and bubble baths.

The simple, feminine theme suits girls ages five to 12, says Karen Milroy, contract manager for Monarch Corporation and the mother of a young girl who would like to lay claim to the room, including a pale green velour lounge chair that is the perfect spot to read about the latest exploits of Harry Potter.

“Our philosophy is if you’re going to decorate, you try to make sure you get each member of the family household to enjoy their visit and make sure we’ve left a memorable piece of that house in their minds,” says Milroy. “Our floor plans are well designed, so now all we’re doing is enhancing the space by letting little girls dream that ‘This could be my room,'” says Milroy. Parents also buy into the dream because they see themselves living in the neighbourhood, she adds. “I felt the little girl’s room had a lot of bright light, good windows, and it was a sizeable room that you could put a double bed in and some larger furniture pieces and make it a fun space for a small child,” says Mississauga-based designer Janice Wilson, who has decorated all of Monarch’s model homes.

“It was vital to use light pink, spring green and fuchsia colours,” says Wilson. “I wanted this to be a special place for a princess.”

The crowning touch is the oversized green lounger. “Anyone can sit there and feel comfortable,” she says. “It encourages interaction with kids. They can sit there, read, lounge, sit with a friend. It’s great for get-togethers, a tea party, playing with dolls.” Wilson wanted to keep the room simple and accessories to a minimum, adding a few touches to make it feel like home. “There’s a (stuffed) French poodle and a purse attached to the chair, as well as a few books and desk lamp. The bed is the focal point, so you don’t want to clutter up the room.”

Comfort, beauty and functionality are key to a great princess room, she says, and it’s exemplified in this room, beginning with the bed.

“I think the bed is just a very inviting piece. Secondary is the study space and that really cool, funky lounge chair. And then just very light drapery to let light in.” Tamara O’Leary, owner of M.Y. Home — a local lifestyle furniture 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 best-seller 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.

“It’s our best-selling bedroom collection in white and they have some really neat pieces that do really well for us,” says O’Leary. “They’re really nice, elegant pieces.”

The desire to sleep in, dream of, and play in a princess world is deeply embedded in the young feminine psyche, she laughs. “We all want to be princesses, but I’m not sure how that all works out in the end.”