Decorating Kids’ Rooms: An Interview with Interior Designer Beth Barden

By: Susan Cokas Featured
Photo by Laura Sumrak

Kids’ rooms necessitate change more frequently than other rooms in the home. As your kids age, their needs and tastes will change, and what they’re into can vary even daily. So how do you create a beautiful environment for your children that’s made to last? Interior designer and blogger Beth Barden of designPOST Interiors offers some great insight on how to have fun and get inspired when decorating or re-decorating a child’s bedroom.

Where to find inspiration for decorating kids’ room

“Inspiration should first come from the kid themselves,” says Beth. “They definitely have opinions and specific interests, and even the youngest kids can rattle off their favorite color or character they want included in the design.”

“Kids rooms are among my favorite rooms to decorate,” Beth adds. “Everyone’s usually more relaxed about doing a child’s bedroom and are more comfortable going outside the box.”

A child’s room can reflect their hobbies and interests to a point, but keep in mind those things change over time, and often change quickly. “You don’t want to invest too much into something that might change in a month or two, so don’t commit to any kind of theme—let’s say Mindcraft, which my sons played for a few months and then lost interest,” she added. For those fleeting interests, you can make little accomodations. “You can pull an emoji pillow into the room and then swap it out with a Carolina Panthers pillows a few months later when their interests change.”

For example, Beth once had a client whose daughter who wanted a Star Wars–themed room. “I found a framed Star Wars water color scene, and to her it was Star Wars, but for the parents it wasn’t an eyesore,” says Beth. “That larger framed focal piece was good enough for her to think she had a Star Wars–themed room without going over the top just to have her change her mind later.”

Photo by Laura Sumrak

Blue Beth designed this kids' bedroom in shades of aqua blue and white, catering to the brother and sister who would be sharing the room

Photo by Laura Sumrak

Storage Beth recommends providing plenty of storage in creative places

Photo by Laura Sumrak

Light The redesign included a spunky, four-headed light fixture

Photo by Laura Sumrak

Toys Turn kids' toys into charming decorations

Photo by Laura Sumrak

Double duty Beth created dual desk spaces so each child would have a working space of their own

Photo by Laura Sumrak

Storage Every corner of the room is put to work, like this one that displays the children's library

Photo by Laura Sumrak

Storage Little boxes and shallow shelves are great for storage and displaying favorites

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Select items that grow with your child

Avoiding higher-end items when it comes to decorating children’s rooms. “Pick transitional pieces so you don’t waste money replacing it a few years later,” she says. “A child’s room is more temporary. It’s not like doing a living room, so buying super high-end stuff isn’t always the way to go.”

Look for convertible pieces that can be reconfigured and adjusted as needs change, like a crib that can be turned into a toddler bed and then into a full-size bed. “Picking furniture that can grow with your child is best,” she says. “It’s much cheaper and easier to change up accessories, like a cute throw pillow you can easily add or switch out, instead of changing major pieces of furniture.”

Five years is a good benchmark for making big changes to a kid’s room to account for wear and tear of items and to make it age-appropriate. But as your kids’ tastes change in between the five-year mark, make smaller adjustments so they can make their bedroom their own.

Photo by Laura Sumrak

Use paint for maximum impact

Paint makes a big impact. But parents don’t have to settle for neons and loud colors, instead guiding kids toward a compromise that will have longer appeal. “One little girl wanted turquoise and leopard in her room, which could have been a strange looking combination,” Beth says. “To better match that color, we steered her toward a snow leopard, which is more white and gray and goes better with a bold turquoise color. Most kids start over the top, so you can gently steer them towards a more toned down or muted version of what they want.”

For the most part, Beth recommends starting with a very neutral color for any room of the house. “I stick to some kind of neutral color including several whites, grays, and beiges, and sometimes navy if they want a bolder color,” she says. “You can do an accent wall in a different color if you like.”

When you start with a neutral foundation, you can then let the accessories serve as the color and focal point of the room. “You can spruce up a neutral color with pillows and bedding and prints on the wall. Curtains are another place to have a bolder pattern and curtains take up a lot of room visually so you can have fun with them.”

“If money’s no object, then I would definitely wallpaper,” Beth added. “There are so many fun patterns that would work only in a kid’s room, and you can have so much fun with it.”

If wallpaper is outside your kids’ room budget, try stenciling for a similar effect. Beth hand-stenciled her daughter’s bedroom wall, which saved the cost of wallpapering. “I ordered a stencil online for $20 and used vintage gold craft paint and it looks like cool wallpaper,” she said. “My daughter won’t outgrow the pattern for a while—if ever.”
You can also paint your furniture or knobs to add interest. “Paint can change anything,” says Barden. “I bought an inexpensive, unfinished dresser for one child’s room and painted the drawers all different colors. You don’t have to buy the most expensive dresser, and if it’s a cheaper piece, you won’t feel as scared to put your own touch on it.” Swap out dated cabinet pulls and knobs to update the look with the paint.

Lighting

Don’t forget to update the lighting as well. But the good thing is that a high-quality fixture won’t need a replacement every five years.

The cheap, generic light fixture that came with the house does nobody any favors—choose something that gives your child’s room personality. “I encourage people to put up a fun light fixture as it makes the room look so much more custom looking,”

Provide plenty of storage

Beth is a big advocate of plenty of storage for kids’ rooms. “Don’t skimp on shelves! Kids have a lot of stuff and need a place to display their little treasures, whether they’re trophies or figures or their books,” she says. “You can also use baskets or bins to help to keep stuff out of sight so it’s not too cluttered.”  

Bins, baskets, or any double-duty furniture pieces are great for organization. “I like those ottoman stools or a little couch with a lid and hidden space inside where you can stash stuff away and keep the room less cluttered,” Beth says. “I put a trunk in my boys’ room to serve not only as a table but also as a place to put extra bedding.”

Beth notes that her sons’ room is one of her favorite in her home. “I used a lot of white. The white walls feel clean, bright and pretty and the twin beds, dresser and rug are all white as well,” Beth says. “I added a navy blue loveseat for them to lounge in, which adds color to the space, as well as two old-school pennants over each bed.”

Photo by Laura Sumrak

How much should decorating a kid’s room cost?

“On average, re-doing a child’s room could cost around $1,500 to $2,000, if you’re purchasing all new furniture, but it really varies depending on where you shop,” Beth says. “You might be drawn to getting furniture from Pottery Barn Kids, but just know that comes with a higher price tag.”  

There’s a lot you can do on a budget as well. “One client had only a $500 budget, but I was up for the challenge. For a kid’s room, you can get something from Ikea or Target and not break the bank.”

The $500 budget redo came with another unique challenge: the parents were moving their son and daughter into the same room. “I was able to find fun, inexpensive light fixtures and created a working area with desks decorated for each child placed side by side,” she said. “Their son wanted a lion theme and the daughter wanted ballerinas, so I found cute art prints for each of them and framed them to put over each of their desks.” Beth also outfitted the bunk beds with playful bedding and painted the dresser with different colors, creating a perfectly playful room.

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