Children's Rooms

by Jeani Ziering

Designing rooms for children is both a challenge and a joy. The challenges are many. The room has to look good, work well, and play well. Function and aesthetics are equally important. We want these rooms to be more than visually appealing. They must serve a variety of important needs. A child's room is not just a place for sleeping. It must be a multi purpose space in which the child will sleep, dress, play, visit with friends, do schoolwork, and much, much more. In addition, this room must last for a number of years and be flexible enough to keep pace with the growing child and adapt to his or her changing interests.

The joy part of the project is easy to fathom. Children are ajoy and whatever we do for them provides inherent pleasure. As a designer, I love to do children's rooms. Children's spaces are fun. When doing these spaces, I feel like creativity and fantasy have no bounds. I can be more whimsical and daring in my selections than in rooms designed for adults. This makes me feel like it's time to play. I have recently been working on the renovation and design of a large apartment in the NYC neighborhood of Chelsea. My clients combined 2 apartments and are fortunate enough to be able to plan for 3 bedrooms — a master bedroom and 2 future children's rooms. Just a few months into the project they found out that they were pregnant and one of the ”future” baby rooms would be an actual baby room. What fun. We embarked on a baby shopping expedition around NYC.

My client brought me to a wonderful children's store on the upper East Side called Sprout San Francisco. What a delight! Sprout is a natural and organic children’s boutique. This is a total children's emporium. They seem to sell everything that is needed for a happy and healthy child. There is even an adorable play space in the store. The cozy and comfortable environment features all variety of chil- dren's products from clothing to toys to bedding and furniture and more. The focus at Sprout is on healthy and organic. The Sprout staff meticulously evaluates all products to ensure that they meet the criteria for chemical free, organic, and natural ingredients. Sprout San Francisco has stores in Manhattan and Brooklyn, New York, San Francisco and Mill Valley, California, as well as Chicago, Illinois.

While we were at Sprout, my client and I fell in love with the children's furniture made by Newport Cottage. This is a beautiful hardwood furniture collection made in Southern California. The company started as a small project in the family garage when the owners were unable to find a crib they liked for their son. They have since grown to a thriving business with national distribution. The furniture is made in the USA with an emphasis on healthy living. Everything is made of hardwood and custom colored with non—toxic paint. A large range of furniture — including cribs — are custom crafted in a variety of colors and combinations. All finishes are non-toxic and low VOC. While at Sprout, my client and I selected a white crib and a dresser with grey drawer fronts and a white frame.

The furniture basics for a child's room are bed (or crib), bedside table and a dresser. Baby rooms need a changing table. This can be accomplished by putting a removable padded changing mat on the dresser. Some people use an actual changing table. That's fine if you have the space for it. But I feel that it is more practical to select a dresser that will grow with the child and top it off with the removable changing apparatus. Baby rooms also need a rocker or glider for mom. Older children will need a desk. Other furniture basics are a play area and shelves. A small play table and chairs are a wonderful addition if the room has the space for this.

When selecting furniture, we have to select from a wide variety of available styles and woods and finishes and colors. Furniture can be modern or traditional. Woods can be painted in a variety of colors or stained in various wood finishes. The selections will determine the theme and style of the room. White finishes are classic and gender neutral. Wood finishes tend to have a more boyish look. A new and very popular furniture option is the color gray. Cool gray seems to be the hottest new color in the children's spectrum. The color gray works for boys and girls and has become a very popular choice for paint, bedding, furniture, and a wide range of decorative products. Gray is a sophisticated color choice which can work with modem or traditional furnishings. This neutral color works for boys rooms and can be mixed with a variety of combos like blue and white or black and white. For a girls’ bedroom, gray is a beautiful accent for the varying feminine tones of lavendar and purple and either hot or cool pink. With gray as the background color, anything goes.

Sprout has a wonderful selection of children's and baby products. Among these we found an exciting collection of high contrast blankets and other goodies from a new company called Rouxroo, The product selection includes bibs, soft toys, swaddle blankets, graphic art work, and a group of yummy and cuddly blankets. Rouxroo has a very interesting philosophy. All of their products are made of bold and graphic designed cotton fabrics which are organic and environmentally conscious. The Rouxroo concept is based on the premise that babies and young children are stimulated by graphic designs. Rouxroo patterns make a striking graphic presen- tation. They are dynamic and colorful with bold prints and bright colors. Research has shown that children respond to vibrant visual stimulation. The Rouxroo concept is to give baby an exciting environment which stimulates cognitive development. The blankets are great looking and provide a graphic pop for any décor.

The first step in creating a perfect room is to work on a floor plan. We had to make sure that everything we selected would actually fit into the space. Placement is very important. For a child's room you want to leave an open floor space that can function as a play area. dAfter the furniture selections were made, we then went to work on the paint and accessory selections. We decided to paint the room in a rich lavendar color. We selected a contrast stripe motif for the bed wall. The bed wall will feature wide horizontal stripes of lavendar and white. The other three walls will be solid lavendar. The ceiling and all of the woodwork will be white. We selected bedding in a combo of polka dots and narrow stripes in white and a lighter tone of lavendar than the walls. In order to add shelving and storage to the room, we decided to use the wasted space around the window and the heating unit. The heating unit will be covered with a cabinet. The space on each side of the HVAC cabinet will have open shelves for baby's books and toys. A 15'’ sliver of space on each side of the window will have floor to ceiling built in shelves. To cover the window we will use 2" wood blinds painted white. I found beautiful gauzy fabric from which I will make a draped window valance. The perfect finishing touch for our little princess.

Now I'm waiting to see if this lovely couple has a little boy next time. That would be so much fun. They still have an empty bedroom for me to play with. I have visions of a playful space for a future super hero. But for now I will put my interior designer's magic wand away in the closet and wait to see what happens.