Children’s bedrooms: how to make them look amazing
10 September 2015 • 8:00am
M any parents dream of an uncluttered child’s bedroom, where toys are arranged rather then strewn, clothes are neatly sorted, rather than discarded where they were shed, and everything resides in its well ordered place. The reality is somewhat different, at least in my house. With two small boys, navigating a way through the obstacle course of plastic cars, Lego blocks and assorted garish clutter is a daily challenge.
Yet help is at hand from Ashlyn Gibson, a mother and stylist who can turn toy mountains into exquisitely designed children’s bedrooms, and who promises a solution for all ages and budgets.
THINK IN THE LONG TERM
The secret, she says, is to think in the long-term, so what appealed in the nursery can work right up to the teenage years and beyond. “A wired up mirrorball, for example, is more magical than any mobile I have ever seen,” she says. “It’s then great for kids parties, teenagers will think it’s cool, and they wouldn’t be without it by the time they have their first flat.”
Teepees make for magical children s dens and moveable trugs encourage tidying Credit: Ben Robertson
Similarly, wallpaper can be the backdrop to an entire childhood. “Find one which captures their imagination from the outset, such as a graphic black and white print, as babies see everthing in monochrome to begin with. It’s a good blank canvas for the room design. Then add more colour as they get older,” says Gibson. “Also introduce plants into their spaces, which will literally grow with them and can be a great part of story-telling.”
TAKE INSPIRATION FROM OTHER HOMES
Gibson spent six months visiting inspirational and imaginative homes across Europe, from the Netherlands and Denmark to Leigh-on-Sea, which successfully marry the endless paraphernalia of family life with a smart design aesthetic.
“The most fascinating home I saw was in Poland,” she says. “Three generations lived in one house there, all with a passion for making things. There were family-made heirlooms on display, including one magical wigwam tent – a teepee used as a play den, with a cape draped over it, made from vintage crochet coasters knitted by granny. I have never seen anything like that.” Kaleidoscopic rugs sewn together from old T-shirts and wooden vintage toys were entirely handmade: “skills that we have probably lost today.”
UPCYCLE, REFASHION, RE-PURPOSE
For those of us who can’t whittle our own skittles, there are other ways to be creative by refashioning and upcycling furniture we might otherwise throw away.
“Drawers from an old broken desk in a junk shop are perfect for a wall display,” says Gibson. “You could put a mirror in one, cover another with blackboard paint for messages, and line the last with wine corks for an instant pin board.” Grouping them in three is a classic stylist’s trick to create a pleasing visual effect.
Designing a bedroom that leaves room for the child’s imagination, works wonders for the space and its inhabitant. “Why have a bed with four legs, when you can have one with two wheels and two legs the kids can take a journey on?” says Gibson. “A plain white design acts like a base camp for all kinds of games, as well as being a dreamy place to sleep. And it’s easy to pick up and move around the room by an adult if needs be.”
Rafa sell a two wheeler and a modular ‘F’ and ‘R’ design: a single bed with play space underneath, leaving room for another to be slotted below.
Hang clipboards to the wall to display everything from homework to party invitations Credit: Ben Robertson
To stop tripping over the inevitable toy or clothes fortress, you can never have enough storage, but is has to be the right kind. “Boxes stacked on top of each other do not work, because you will never find anything,” says Gibson. Instead she recommends heavier duty containers, plastered with specific labels for ‘artwork’, ‘toys’, ‘music’, that double up as stools. Fruit crates or plastic boxes with wheels can be trundled from room to room “and make putting things away part of the creative fun.”
Not everything has to be hidden away in drawers or boxes. The more children can show off what they have, the more they will value their possessions. Classic designs, such as the Vitra Uten Silo wall organiser has pockets for everything. Clipboards, hung from hooks on the wall, are also a useful display for older children for homework projects, letters or sheet music. Old-fashioned wooden printing trays can keep together all manner of knick-knacks younger children love to carry around with them.
Even the hooks themselves can be decorative: examples in Gibson’s latest book include chess pieces, ceramic hands and small offcuts of birch branches.
Drawers on the wall can display all manner of knicknacks Credit: Ben Robertson
HOW TO DISPLAY ART
One of the more original ways highlighted, to make a feature of children’s art, is through judicious use of ‘tab grabbers’; metallic strips normally found in the restaurant kitchen to hold orders. “A friend has three or four rows in her kitchen, and the kids can clip their ever expanding works of art there, as well as family photos,” says Gibson. Alternatively, a clothes line with colouful pegs, a collage in a gilt frame, a grouping of acrylic snap-open frames, or the classic cork board plastered with drawings creates a decorative focal point.
For her own daughter Olive, 12, Gibson invested in particular toys whch stood the test of time and also happen to look good in her home. One such favourite, a vintage trike, takes pride of place in Olive’s room. “It’s a toy, a piece of furniture she sits on to watch films and something she can take outside and have adventures on,” says Gibson. “We’re lucky enough to live in an old converted factory, so she could bomb around inside on it.
“It’s about filling a child’s space with items that become central to play – that makes it all the more magical.”
Acrylic storage and magnetic frames: muji.eu