Get ready for some inspiration! Decorating a child’s room can be loads of fun, and we’ve packed this feature full of ways to spark your creativity. You don’t have to be an artist or professional designer to make a fantasy room come true for your child – all it takes is some ingenuity and enthusiasm.
We’ve categorized the tips by design elements, so you can easily pick and choose the ideas that work for you. Whether you’re looking for a good theme suggestion or a way to bring more color and interest into an already decorated room, read on for over 40 fun ways to brighten up a little one’s space.
A garden bridge, tropical sunset or snowcapped mountain: These great landscapes or other dramatic images (close-up of a flower, for instance) offer an awesome effect when blown-up to cover an entire wall or closet doors. Your local print shop can help you enlarge the selected item big enough to cover the area. Much like wallpaper, you can piece the image together like a puzzle and simply affix with double-sided wall tape.
Add texture and drama to a room for a few dollars by draping fabric on the walls or ceiling. A room designed in a Southwestern look, for example, can have blue and purple fabric pulled across the ceiling for the appearance of a desert skyscape. The textures and folds add visual interest and depth beyond a standard paint color.
For an interesting look that’s simple to create, try painting thick stripes on a wall in coordinating colors. Horizontal or vertical, stripes can add a funky edge to a girly room or a bold effect in primary colors in a guy’s space. They can also give the illusion of more space – vertical stripes “raise” the ceiling, making a “short” room look much taller.
You’ve probably seen elegant faux finishes in living and dining rooms. But how about a faux finish that replicates reptile skin? That’s exactly what Lori Sawaya of Columbus, Ohio, created on the walls of her son’s room. “Seven layers of color on the walls are what it took to mimic Iguana skin,” she says. “He wanted a reptile-themed room. Kids’ rooms are a great place to let go, I guess. I found a mural border with frogs, snakes and iguanas. I was able to pick up some earthy tans, greens and teals from the border he picked. His bedroom is extremely relaxing and calming. Yet with pops of orange and red snakes and other accent colors, it is visually stimulating, interesting and appropriate for a 10-year-old guy.” Other finishes to try: a leather-look for a cowboy theme or a ribbon effect of swirling colors for a castle or ballet theme.
Add another dimension to walls by applying 3-D images. Cut from cardboard or particleboard, these shapes can be either painted or covered with batting and fabric. Some examples include flowers, cars or other theme-related elements. “I used foam core to make large animal wall hangings that were identical to the animals on the room’s fabric,” says Maureen Zappala of Hinckley, Ohio. “Huge, like two to three feet tall! I drew them freehand on the board, cut them out and then painted them with poster paints. I hung them on the wall with double-sided tape.”
Zappala went one step further to create a big decorative palm tree for the room. “I cut big 24-inch palm leaf shapes from one-inch thick foam rubber, and covered them with different colors of plain cotton fabric,” she says. “I sewed a channel straight up the center of each leaf, and inserted a straightened wire hanger into the channel. I stuck [the end of the hangers] inside a big cardboard tube that came from one of my fabric rolls. I covered the tube in black fabric, and stuck the whole contraption in an extra Christmas tree stand. Voila! A huge colorful palm tree to fill the corner at a fraction of the $400 cost of the one I saw in a baby store.”
Sometimes you don’t need to hire an artist for a wall mural. Simple scenes like a farm or ocean can be done freehand. Prefab murals can also be bought. Certain pictures, like cartoon characters, can be traced using an online, printable coloring page. These pages work because of their simple bold lines that are easy to trace. Use carbon paper underneath to transfer the image to the wall. Color in as desired with acrylic paint – even the kids can help. You can customize these images to include a child’s name, favorite color or other personal touches.
Blackboard Wall Art
If you haven’t heard of it before, you’ll probably say, “What a great idea!” Rainbow Chalk makes a paint that actually transforms a wall into a chalkboard. Now you won’t have to say, “No coloring on the walls!” Simply brush on several coats of this non-toxic, water-based paint, let dry and supply plenty of chalk.
Following you’ll learn everything from bedding to furniture and accessories. Stay tuned for more fantastic ideas to create the bedroom of your child’s dreams.
Fantastic and Functional Furniture
Build a Better Bed
“I think one of the ways to decorate a bedroom is to keep bedding simple,” says Pat Donahue, owner of Promises Fulfilled, a Blue Bell, Pa.-based children’s décor boutique, specializing in hand-painted items. “Change the accessories in a room but stay consistent with a good quality bedding and furniture in solid colors, which will match with many different styles.”
Above the bed is also a great place to focus your attempts to add whimsy to the room. “Canopies are one of the most fun and whimsical accessories for little girls,” says Jane Parr, AKA the Décor Doc, who actually does online decorating consultations. “What little girl would not like feeling like a princess in a canopy bed,” she says. “This does not have to be a full four-poster bed canopy. You can rig one inexpensively by using yards of tulle or sheer fabric and some well placed rings in the ceiling. Drape the fabric around the bed and use ribbon tiebacks to pull it all back in the daytime. Fabric paint and glitter personalizes the canopy.” HomeVisions.com, these beds come in castle, fire station, cottage and military designs. Although the beds run about $500, the theme accessories remove to show a solid hardwood traditional bunk that can last for years to come.
The Home Office
“If your child has a desk, make it colorful with new paint,” says Parr. Design an adult-style home office corner. Combine a small desk, bulletin board and stationary cart to create a workstation. Make sure to provide good task lighting and a bookshelf for reference materials.
“We hand-paint every type of room accessory, from tables and chairs, rocking chairs, rocking horses, mirror frames and lamps,” says Donahue. “Plus we can do it in any style or theme the child would like.” Little touches like making a lamp or coat rack custom painted go a long way to fully expressing a theme.
What could be better for kids? Grape juice wipes clean away, it’s strong and gives a sleek modern look to a room. A good office chair, cool side table and desk can all be found in plastic. Plus you’ll find these items cheaper than wood or other materials.
Swing a Little
Kids love unexpected features in a room. A hammock is the perfect “extra” because it is not only cool, but functional. For young children, it’s the perfect place to relax with Mom or Dad and a bedtime story. As they get older, they’ll love kicking back in it with friends. For a small space, choose a Mayan- or Brazilian-style hammock, which have no spreader bars and contour more to the body.
Floor pillows are a trendy idea that can work wonders in a child’s room. “Floor cushions are a must!” says Parr. Use a large piece of thick foam, cut in a curved shape, and upholster with an extra-soft coordinating fabric. You can add buttons or a zipper to make it removable and of course washable. Include a few extra-fluffy pillows and a luxurious chenille throw to complete the look. Want more drama? Add a canopy-style draping over the top. For girls, try sequined sari-type fabrics, and for boys, a classic and cheap muslin tent look.
You don’t have to have a built-in window seat to create a mini-retreat space. Instead try a corner or out-of-the-way spot against a wall. Combine a bench or storage chest for seating with small bookcases against each side. Add pillows, a cushion and even a trompe l’oeil mural on the wall, imitating a window looking out over an imaginary world.
Super Size It
Make a bold statement with an oversized piece of furniture that will add a touch of whimsy to any room. Think Alice in Wonderland. “Bean bags are still a favorite,” says Parr.
To save space and make a room multifunctional, consider investing in a good built-in shelving unit. House books, collectibles, media units and storage drawers all on one wall. You can have the wooden pieces stained or painted to complement the room. Plus the extra shelves provide a great place to add dramatic decorative vignettes.
Go a Little Wild
There are so many over-the-top designs available, and it’s fun for a kid’s room to indulge in one. “For girls, the high heel shoe chairs are really cool looking!” says Parr. There’s even a three-piece “puzzle ottoman” on the market today. These bold jigsaw pieces can be divided into a table and seating for two.
Following you’ll be inspired by even more furniture and accessories ideas. Stay tuned for more fantastic ways to create the bedroom of your child’s dreams.
When you’re faced with a decorating project that starts and ends with a child’s room, there’s nothing like a theme to bring the space together. “Marine life is a favorite for both sexes, while boys are more likely to prefer boats, cars, trucks, construction equipment or favorite superheroes,” says Jane Par, professional home decorator in Palm City, Fla. “Girls go for princess themes, the latest cartoon hero character, wild colors, flowers or cuddly stuffed animals.”
While it might sound a bit kitschy to you, Par says, “Go with it! Even a 3-year-old can tell you what works for them! Anything ‘Dora’ works for my own 3-year-old granddaughter, so her decor takes off from the character, then the colors and then the ‘explorer’ aspect of Dora.” Here are a few more themes to consider.
Take a standard floral theme, add a little magic and you’ve got a whimsical fairy garden. String tiny fairy dolls from the ceiling, add layers of organza curtains with faux blossoms hot-glued onto them and, of course, plenty of non-toxic, flowering houseplants. Place fluffy pastel-colored pillows in a corner with a mushroom mural painting, and you’ve got a woodland reading nook. Use wicker baskets for storage, hot glue polished creek pebbles to furniture frames and paint the walls in shades of warm honey yellow, moss green and light violet.
Maybe it’s all the classic fairy tales, but a medieval castle just seems to capture a child’s imagination. Use cardboard cut in a castle shape to create a noble headboard, which can be covered in fabric or painted. Apply crown molding and velvet fabric in deep jewel tones. For a faire princess, add a gold-framed mirror and maybe even a majestic vanity table with a chair covered in royal purple fabric and tied with a gold tassel.
Give a retro chic look with a ’60s-inspired mod room. Go with sleek white furniture and add bursts of rich color on accessories like throw rugs, lamps and art. Colors like lime green, fuchsia and black add a good contrast to the shiny modern look. Don’t forget to include plenty of “pop” art on the walls.
Rope in a vintage cowboy look with denim and off-white cotton fabrics, black-and-white framed cowboy pictures and ’50s-style Western vintage prints. Decorate with authentic-looking cowboy gear, like a rope affixed to the wall, a flea market saddle or a country guitar. Add a fluffy, cream shag throw rug for softness and some touches of ultra-suede or leather to complete the look.
Luxurious and Lavish
If your tween daughter is too old for a “themed” room, remember that luxury doesn’t have to be costly. Try these suggestions:
- Buy an overstuffed synthetic comforter (cheaper and less allergic than natural down), and make a simple duvet out of a sumptuous-feeling fabric.
- Raise the bed to heighten the drama, and add tons of pillows.
- Use sophisticated, subtle lighting, and add a few oriental throw rugs to cover the standard wall-to-wall carpeting.
- Squeeze in a sitting area, with a small love seat or club chairs and coffee table/ottoman with an elegant gold serving tray. These pieces can be purchased at a second-hand store or furniture clearance center.
- Paint large diamond shapes on the walls in coordinating colors like light blue and purple.
Get the bohemian look by including lots of tassels and textures. Drape sheer colorful fabrics over curtain rods. Combine elements like a beaded curtain, lantern lights, satin beaded pillows in rich colors and tapestry hangings to be used as wall hangings, room dividers, sofa covers and more.
“I wanted a gender-neutral décor, not pastels or primary colors,” says Maureen Zappala of Hinckley, Ohio. “I went with secondary jewel tones in a tropical jungle theme. I found some great fabric with green background and bright animals and tropical plants in fuchsia, teal, golden yellow, royal purple. There were monkeys, elephants, toucans, butterflies, flamingos, lions and palm trees. I made the crib bedding and a simple valance from the fabric, and covered a lampshade with it as well. Then, to finish the room, I painted and stamped a vine with leaves along the wall near the ceiling like a border.” Zappala also used hand-me-down cherry wood furniture, to give the room a classic touch. This theme also works great if a brother and sister share a room.
Provide a tranquil retreat for your child with an Asian-inspired room. Keep furniture sparse, and use simple designs, like a platform bed and tatami (pillows with low coffee table) seating area. Include a shoji screen and paper lanterns, maybe even a meditative rock and sand garden on a shelf or an aquarium with koi. A sea grass mat provides the perfect area rug.
Shirley Kempke, of Sanford, Fla., came up with a unique theme, thinking back to her childhood days for inspiration. “I have a granddaughter and grandson, and wanted their room to be designed for both,” she says. “I decorated the entire room in an old schoolhouse look. First, I used a plaid neutral spread and window treatments. I framed a large map on the wall, bought an old-fashioned chalkboard online and added framed photos from the 1950s of classroom photos from my husband and me. We even framed our old report cards and Scout stuff. The room is adorable. I also have a vintage schoolroom desk in there. For nightstands, I bought metal trunks that look a lot like lockers. It’s a fun room.”
All About Accessories
Once your child’s room is painted and furnished, you enter the final phase of creating kid’s room perfection: accessories. Finding the right combination of chutzpah isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. This list can help you out.
For less than $10, add a colorful touch of subtle lighting to the room with these dangling lights. Available in a host of designs from elegant to zany, there is bound to be a style that suits your theme. The Oriental Trading Company offers cactus, disco and palm tree styles, to name a few.
Interior Decorator Jane Parr suggests using lighting to fit the needs of the child. “A very simple addition can be tiny Christmas lights around the top of the walls for a child who is still unhappy in the dark at night,” she says. “I like to suggest hanging lamps for small kids, as some of the lamps do look like toys, and it is better to have these above the child’s head!”
Colorful Extra Storage
“Storage cubes that serve double duty as seating are fun, especially covered in faux fur or a fun fabric,” says Parr. Even the neatest kids need a place to toss all their stuff for a quick clean up. Pop-up hampers offer a fun way to hide the mess. Available in fun characters, like a frog, elephant and flower, these storage units also offer a decorative solution for storing irregularly shaped items.
To give efficiency and order to a child’s closet, choose storage boxes in bold colors to create a color-coded organization system. For example, all blue containers can hold craft items, yellow holds doll accessories and red is for puzzles and card games. This makes organization particularly easy for little ones who can’t read labels.
Create a poetic vignette that will dramatically illustrate the theme of the room using a large shadowbox. This can be placed on a shelf or hung on the wall. In it, place items that express the feel of the room, for instance a princess room’s display could be a sequined wand, tiara and lace handkerchief, while an aquatic-style room could have a shell, starfish and pile of sand inside. This is one project that is only limited by your brainstorming abilities.
There are many varieties of mobiles to choose from on the market today. The favorite has to be the solar system mobile, which works great for a space room. You can make your own to fit any theme by using fishing wire strung through a key chain hoop affixed to the ceiling. Use foam sheets found at arts and crafts stores to cut out colorful shapes that coordinate with the room.
Create cute sayings or one-word statements using large wooden letters (available at most craft stores) painted to match the room. “Dream,” “Play” and “Baby” are some basic examples. You can “write” a name vertically to personalize the room or just place assorted letters on a shelf for a decorative effect. Sprayed with silver or gold paint, these letters really make a classy statement.
Hang decorative shelving in each of the four corners of the room. These can be useful for storing a child’s favorite collection, since many are available in themed designs, like a baseball design for displaying trophies and baseball cards.
Have a kid who loves to collect but can’t figure out where to display all the model cars, cat figurines or snow globes? Try affixing a small shelving unit high atop each wall to create an all-around unit. This works best for collections that aren’t handled much, since kids will need their parents’ help getting items on and off the shelf.
Use a thick piece of cardboard or a piece of particleboard to create a personalized headboard. Use a piece of painted picket fencing for a garden theme or netting secured to a backing for a soccer-style room. For an over-the-top girl’s room, upholster the board with pink, velvet fabric and a feather boa border. For a masculine look, try canvas, jersey or even a rubber look.
Include a physical element to the room. By including such items as a ballet barre, yoga mat or other fun equipment, you are encouraging your child to use his or her space for more than sleeping. Ikea.com offers a wide range of physical furniture, from a standing rocker, which can also be a seat, tunnel or screen, to a ceiling swing and wall bars that double as clothes hangers.
Monogramming can be one way to add a personal touch to a room. Think how regal a headboard can look with an elaborately painted monogram on its center. Or add a hand-painted door hanger with the child’s name. Functional items like wall-mounted coat hangers or hatboxes can be decoupaged with inexpensive black and white photocopies of childhood photos.
A simple, inexpensive way to decorate bare walls is to find the largest canvas you can. A good look is three or four canvases, about 19 inches by 25 inches or bigger, lined up across a wall. For a modern look, paint blocks of color or do simple landscape paintings. Keep them unframed to save on cash and get a gallery look.
“The Internet is a great place to thoroughly search for accessories such as pillows, lamps, containers for odds and ends, curtains … all something different and fun,” says Parr. “Type in whatever you have decided upon, and enjoy the hunt! The endless possibilities make it fun. A trip to a museum or the zoo can spark an intense interest in something. Go through some magazines or comic books with your child and find a scene you really like. Then look for elements of that theme that you can reproduce on the walls, in the bedding, etc.”
Decorating your child’s room should be an enjoyable experience. Keep the formality low and the fun high, and you’re bound to love the results.