Marcia Levenson realized when her ubh
on Taye was about 5 years old that he was due to “get out of the baby room and into the big boy room,” as she puts it. So when the Pleasant Ridge mom started planning the redesign, she let Taye be the inspiration for it all.
There was his love of all things science and also airplanes – and he was especially fond of the color dark blue. Levenson adopted Taye from Ethiopia, so she knew she wanted to incorporate something geographical, so he could see Africa and different parts of the world.
“I went online and I looked for world maps,” she says. She found one from Pottery Barn that took up the entire wall – like wallpaper. “That was the impetus for the entire room.” Next came the ceiling fan of the Earth, which she found at Home Depot.
“Then, we just started decorating with other things he’s interested in,” she recalls. Bugs in resin, model airplanes on shelves, a lamp that resembles a tree, dark blue walls – even pet fish. For Taye, now 7, every corner embodies his interests. Even today, “He loves it,” mom says. “He loves being in there.”
There’s something so special about a kid’s bedroom. It’s probably the only spot in the house that’s definitively their territory – a domain decked out just for them. The joy Taye feels about his bedroom, the pride he can take in knowing it’s a space that’s inherently his, is an experience all kids should have – and may not ever forget.
“You’re making them feel an attachment and a support at home in their room – a place where they find safety and comfort, and a place where they can think and recharge and get a good night’s sleep,” says Susanna Salk, design expert, author of Room for Children: Stylish Spaces for Sleep and Play and mom of two.
And while moms may cringe at the idea of their kid tacking posters on the doors or picking a vibrant, hard-to-paint-over color for the walls, there are several benefits to letting loose and allowing kids have a say in how their space looks – including learning to compromise.
Says Salk, “(It) couldn’t be more important for their room be a reflection of who they are, who they want to be.”
In our homes, we surround ourselves with items we enjoy and find comfort in our space. Who doesn’t pine to go home after a long, stressful day?
For children, their bedroom isn’t much different. “It’s a microcosm of their world,” Salk says. And by allowing them a say in how that space looks and feels, “you’re showing them how important it is to create a sense of comfort for themselves – a sense of safety.”
Jennifer Asmar, interior designer and founder of Asmar Interiors in Troy, says even when she’s working for adult clients, if they have kids, the kids get involved.
“I definitely interview all of my clients for the project – including kids,” she says. “I sit down and actually have a meeting with these 5-year-olds.” She asks the kids: What’s important to you? What do you want to make sure you have? How do you spend your time in the room?
“I think it’s very important because it’s the one space that’s their personal space,” she explains.
Salk, whose boys are now 15 and 20, has been through the process of redecoration in her own kids’ bedrooms and points out that there are perks that come along with allowing kids creative liberties in their area of the family abode.
A major one? Kids will likely take better care of their stuff (a dream, right?). The process of picking out items to customize their spot will help establish that attachment and connection of the room, thus a willingness to stay tidy.
“If they feel like it’s their little kingdom, then they will surely be more responsible about what is in it and how it looks,” Salk says.
Although she notes mom and dad should set good examples of cleanliness and organization around the rest of the house, too.
“Teaching them the importance of being organized and editing and displaying only what they love in their room is a great life lesson, as their rooms ultimately become apartments and then home some day,” she says.
Plus, when kids love their room, they naturally want to spend more time there. “The home is your haven, right?” Levenson says. “Especially at that age when they tend to, at night, want to stay up with mom and they don’t really want to go to bed, you kind of want to give them a space that they feel proud of and that they’re visually stimulated by.”
Levenson also points out that the bedroom becomes a positive space, rather than a negative space associated solely with timeouts.
Livable for all
Even though it’s the kid’s space, mom and dad might have a tough time relinquishing all control there. But one of the biggest lessons to be learned through the decoration process is compromise.
In Levenson’s home, there’s a gold, cream and white color palate running throughout. Yet Taye loves that dark blue. “That’s his favorite color. So I went online and really searched for the best blue and how to visually make dark blue feel like part of the house,” she explains.
This is the type of compromise with which Salk is also familiar.
“My kids have wanted to change their rooms many, many times over – often in ways that I wasn’t thrilled about and I had to bite my tongue,” she says.
Her youngest son, she recalls, wanted to hang his collection of hockey shirts on the walls. “What is that saying if I nix that? That he can’t surround himself with the things that he loves and cares about? So of course, I had to say ‘yes.’ And I let him hang them all up.”
There are ways to compromise that can be meaningful for both you and the kids. When Asmar designs spaces for clients, she takes into account what the kids say they want and makes sure parents are “on board” with choices. For instance, a trend she’s seen in kids’ bedrooms lately is a “more sophisticated” look; this style is in Salk’s book as well. That might be a better fit for your family.
Keep in mind, Salk notes, that compromise works both ways. If you feel it’s important to have a vintage Oriental rug in the bedroom that will transition through the years instead of a specific kid-themed rug, then in turn, you should compromise when your child wants to hang posters you may not love.
“You should definitely allow kids to have those posters,” she says. But, instead of taping them to the walls, really have them commit to what they like. “Frame them and put them up nicely.” Or buy magnetic boards and chalkboards, which can transition with themes and colors over time but are also customizable pieces.
Throughout the entire bedroom decorating process, though, parents must try to remember: “You should hear them out and let them have their space their way,” Salk says. You as a parent can tell what’s truly important to your child.
“If they are 15 and they really want to paint their bedroom black and they feel super strongly about it, and you can tell they really care about their space and that’s a reflection of who they are,” she emphasizes – “it’s paint. Maybe let them do it.”
And if you absolutely hate it, there’s some solace. “Every stage of (your) child is going to pass,” Salk says. Over time, your child will grow and their tastes will change, and that’s OK.
In planning Taye’s science-, Earth- and airplane-themed room, Levenson took what she knew Taye cared about and did her research for products that fit. He’s transitioned from 5 to 7 in the room, and over that time, Taye and mom have already tweaked the space here and there.
“We’re always adding new things to it,” she says. “I think that’s why he likes it. I do feel like he feels ownership of the room.”
Even now that her sons are young adults, Salk says she can imagine they’re not finished changing the look of their bedrooms. “You really have to go with the flow.”
Photo by Lauren Jeziorski