Color For Kids – BIG DESIGN for little people

The Pantone color of the year in a sweet Swedish bedroom

Young people are so frequently the minority in design – there are doctors, psychologists, decorators and a whole persuasion of society who “don’t do kids”. What’s that about?

Maybe for designers, its the fact that the aggregate of kids rooms involve requests for cliche bumper sticker gender statements, with all the respect and finesse of a maternity T-shirt reading “baby on board”. PLEASE – all design deserves respect! There is a whole world of color, and design with arms wide open to embrace the small individuals who are after all, the surviving legacy of our own unique DNA.

Let’s back all the way down the driveway and review – kids are small people. What are the real differences between us / them?

We like design – we love nature, sparkle, and bright pops of exuberant color – so do they.

If we add something impressive to  common living zones that speaks to a great aesthetic, they never fail to notice, and are the first to express genuine enthusiasm. I guess the fundamental difference between us/them is a jaded weariness that only that well-worn mantle of responsibility imbues. And they have more personal stuff – toys which beg for storage solutions. Their activities are also conducted less frequently at rest – (prior to adolescence) so some interactive solutions combined with (or in addition to) storage come in very handy.

So let’s get started – here are some ways to think about the unique but familiar design must-haves for those stylish movers and shakers in training….

Think scale – image from Oh,baby Pinterest board

1) SCALE – Think BIG! Scale is not wasted on babies and toddlers – they spend a great deal of time looking up, and everything looks pretty large in contrast to them. This fabulous mural and sunburst rug express the time honored impressions of our ancestors preserved with reverence at caves such as Lascaux in France – they were all trying to figure it out, too. Tip – If you use a “primitive” wall theme, countermand it with a sophisticated floor rug.

map wall image from

2) Another great way to express scale in a kids room and infuse color are map wall murals. This one, I think is from Brewster but just use “map wall murals” in Google Shopping and you will find tons of selection at very good prices. I love map murals because they foundation a design that can grow with the child, who will get older with or without permission! Tip – never paper over bumpy or dented walls in need of repair! You will forever regret it.

Who says you can’t draw on walls – image via Abbie Carter Smith’s Just For Kids Pinterest Board

2) A painted Chalk Board wall involves a bold design move blending a creative activity, a bold color choice, and again, scale. Chalk board paint is not just for kids – The Novagratz, a Manhattan-based design tour de force couple of HGTV commissioned Brooklyn artist James Seward to create this fantastic blackboard paint ceiling art.

An adult bedroom by the decorators who don’t shy away from kid-friendly on al levels – image via

Tips: Clean your wall before painting with diluted Tide detergent or Dawn dish washing liquid. USE THE PROPER ROLLER – your paint store will have one specific to blackboard paint, which will not necessarily be in the same place as the paint….ALSO, use the paint on the same wall as your windows – this will function to keep the room light despite a black wall.

image via

3. Interactive Spaces – OK, don’t try this yourself unless you are a contractor – but it’s fabulous! This co-mingling of play and storage is over the top, involving round shape construction, custom shelving and structural integrity – hmmmmm…

reading nook image via These Moments of Mine

How about creating a reading nook instead? Kids love secret spaces where they can daydream and recluse from the world – hey, don’t we enjoy that, too? Tips: Some fun Curtains hung on a removable shower bar require no tools or skill – and no worries about supporting structural walls!

kids room image skonahem3

3. White painted floors are single-handedly fueling the resurrection of patterned wall paper as a hot trend for 2013.  Tips: Wall paper is perfect for a kids space, and here how you pick: choose a color palette that you and your child really respond to – if it has purple and pink, make sure these are minor colors in the percentage of the paper’s color palette, then add bigger pops of those princess accents colors in the form of accents that can be replaced as she grows (like the bedspread below). Or (as above) choose a graphic patterned 1 – color paper. Any multitude of designs can be created around one mainstream color.


4) Decorate with light. OK, I think everyone deserves a pony – and the fabulous thing about this room, is that if the stars glowed in the dark, the pink was changed out and the flowers removed it would be equally fun for a boy! Kids love things that light up, glow in the dark, or give the comfort of light at night. Tips: Know your child. If your child is on the ADHD side, try a light up blanket instead. Power sources are difficult to conceal completely.

image via skonahem blog

5) Infuse a fun Blend of adult and child – The space above incorporates design that any grown-up can live with in a casual and comfortable blend with kid-friendly accents and kids sized furnishings – it doesn’t have to be difficult! Tips: Begin with their favorite color for the rug. Use a greyed version of its color compliment (the color on the opposite side of the color wheel) as a guide to choosing a wallpaper pattern that you love to grow with him/her. Add a unique lighting fixture for fun!

Stylish Kids Room from Alexandra & Eliot’s 1890’s Farmhouse House Tour – Apartment Therapy

6) Artsy rooms never go out of style as proved by the Bohemian kids’ abode (above). A collected look is at home in any room! Tips: Include collections that include memories shared by you and your child, and honor their artworks by giving them center stage.

image via cluckclucksew blog

7) Paint a gray accent wall – I know – gray is the last color you might imagine in a kids zone. But gray is completely gender and color neutral – its the only color group with a completely equal distribution of RGB color and as such, mixes beautifully with any color scheme! Tip: Silver Gray and charcoal gray NEVER disappoint.

kids library image via Just for kids Pinterest Board

8) Dedicate a wall to intelligence – You are never too young for reading. Reading is a great bonding and teaching tool for parents and kids, and a library wall is a smart design choice that blends aesthetic with storage and intellect. TIP: A patterned ceiling seals the design deal. When you are being held or in a crib, you spend allot of time looking at the ceiling!

Color engages babies – Just for Kids

9) Consider display height – wainscoting works in nurseries! Decals applied above wainscoting are the perfect height for baby, encouraging him/her to stand to have a better look. And when baby hits the floor, exploration is easy to clean off of wainscoting! Tip: Paint your wainscoting with Benjamin Moore’s Aura paints. They cost more, but baby’s health is important and easily influenced by VOC’s – and the limited height of wainscoting demands less paint for coverage that grows with his / her design.

10) Incorporate music into baby’s room. My daughter loved Peter Gabriel’s Red Rain CD as a baby – hardly what one would think of as kid-friendly, but she would surrender to sleep 3 bars in, and it worked for me! Yo Yo Ma never goes amiss….and when I was little, my mom had a pretty rare record album –  which I made her play allot for a song almost completely unknown and forgotten by Judy Garland called “One More Lamb”. If you can get passed the rather cloying kids’ chorus, the words are such a perfect expression of embracing all that is so fundamental to welcoming childhood into your home. I sang this to all my children over the years….


Dream BIG!