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Designing Children’s Bedrooms – Part 2 How to design for the different stages of Childhood

Posted by Phoebe Oldrey in Interior Design Advice

When I first came home from the hospital cuddling my bundle of joy, wondering if I would ever experience sleep again, I could never really envision the journey I and my child would set out on. I really couldn’t get my head around how it would affect my life, let alone my home. But the passing years have made me wise, my friend! I have seen my boys change so much it’s hard now to even think of them as that same bundle in my arms. Children change and develop, and each stage throws up different needs and challenges. Now, I’m not here to talk about the thorny questions of parenting, I am here to answer the delightful questions of interior design and designing the best children’s bedroom to meet their needs!

I find that a child’s bedroom will be revamped about 3 times in their childhood. Having looked at the recognised stages of a child’s development, I now slice the room revamps in line with their stage of their growing up.

This beautiful calm nursery was designed by Katy at Apartment Apothecary for her new baby.

THEIR FIRST ROOM/ NURSERY – A ROOM TO GROW WITH THEM FROM BIRTH TILL 5/6

You will most likely be putting this room together before your little bundle of joy arrives as it is part of the rite of passage of becoming a parent. It will be filled with all of your hopes and dreams for your new family addition. However, this room will need the most flexibility of all of the children’s rooms you design as it will go through 3 different stages of childhood as they change so much in those first 5 years.

Let’s start by looking at the three definitions of the Childhood Milestones of the children who will be using this bedroom.

Infancy – Even this has a split which is Newborn that lasts from day one to 28 days. That first crazy month then turns into Infant which lasts till 12 months. Though those sleepless nights can make this year seem like the longest one ever, infancy is the shortest of all childhood development periods. However, it is also full of the most change as your baby goes from being unable to hold its head up to starting to walk.

A few details from the nursery designed by Katy at Apartment Apothecary with Expanding Sebra cot bed in white. 

At this stage of their lives their activities aren’t contained to their bedrooms but all over the house. This is mainly to do with the convenience of the parent who is doing the primary caring. You can’t be two steps away from baby, but you can’t spend every moment in one room in your house either. You will never shower, eat or pee.

I found that this room really only got used for baby sleeping and dressing, as most playing happens in living rooms and family kitchens. So, making it restful and calming is the key. The Moses basket quickly turns into the cot. Like all bedrooms the bed aka the cot is the focus of the space. There are lots of cots that can give you the flexibility of starting with the mattress quite high and then lowering the mattress level as baby starts standing. Some even have the sense to turn into junior beds which are a great step between the cot and the full-sized bed. For clothes storage and nappy changing I recommend staying away from purpose-built baby furniture. After all, a chest of drawers is a chest of drawers.

The Chest of drawers come nappy changing unit in the nursery designed by Katy at Apartment Apothecary.

For nappy changing, it is all about height. Most dedicated changing stations come at 75 cm high – the same height as a dining room table or desk. However, I personally found this height really hard on my back as you end up changing your baby while bent and then lifting them up. They might start out light, but they get a lot heavier as the months go by! I eventually hunted out a changing table that was 90cm high – the same height as a kitchen work top which was a better “working height” for my posture. You can use a normal chest of drawers, add a changing mat to the top and store your changing needs in the top drawer or on a wall-mounted shelf. If you are wanting a wardrobe, I yet again recommend stepping away from baby furniture – after all who’s hanging things up – THEM? By going with regular furniture, it lasts you throughout their childhood and you can add additional rails at child height on the inside. A mobile child with no common sense is a dangerous thing! With all large storage units you do need to bracket them to the wall. It is easy for a curious child to start climbing or pulling something and have it end in tragedy.

The final thing you need is a chair for you to sit in for feeding, story time and just enjoying baby cuddles. Your comfort is key to this purchase. After all, this is where you will be spending that 3am feeding shift time.

A really funky child’s bedroom put together by Sarah Akwisombe for her daughter. This space expresses Marley’s personality but also meets all her needs! 

Toddler or Early Childhood – 1-3 years – These are the crazy years. Followed by Pre-Schooler or Play Age – 3-5 years – They are becoming people and a sense of independence starts kicking in.

With the toddler and pre-schooler come the crazy years of keeping up with these speedy little people. Now their bedroom needs to adapt to also house their toys and play. Their stuff will be all over your house as well at this time in their life but making their room about most of it is the key. Also you can never have enough toy storage! These are the years when you are entertaining them at home a lot of the time so toys, jigsaws (my God did I do a lot of these!) and books all need to find homes. Sleep is still the key focus and clutter can interfere with that. To help I am a big fan of the K.I.S.S. storage solution – Keep It Simple Sunshine! IKEA’s TROFAST is just the best, as your kid can bring out that basket of toys and you can easily work with them to clear them up. Open bookshelves work best for keeping their library in order and big baskets can try and keep “Teddy Mountain” under control. If you add too many obstacles in the way of them being able to access or put away things you will find you have made a MASSIVE rod for your own back.

The little details in the design also work for storing all Sarah Akwisombe’s daughter’s treasures.

During this time the cot will make way for a bed and I really do recommend a junior bed for this stage as they can easily get in and out and the room isn’t overwhelmed with bed. Keeping floor space clear so that all those fun games can happen is what playing in your bedroom is all about.

It is often the little things that add personality to a child’s bedroom. With this room designed by Smartstyle Interiors we changed the handles on the wardrobes for our Sevenoaks clients’ daughters. 

A Fun Boys Bedroom designed by Seasons in Colour

THEIR SECOND BEDROOM – ROOM TO PLAY

Welcome to your School Age Child who is 6-11 years. In the UK this is Primary School age. With the school years you now have a child who is out of the house 5 days a week till 3.30pm during term time. They are learning and can independently play. You will also find that the toys they enjoy are smaller – playmobil, lego, dolls, action figures and let’s not pretend that technology hasn’t started to enter the picture so DS’s and iPads will be part of their lives; less play kitchen and dolls houses. Now their bedroom can house all their stuff, instead of the toy basket in the lounge. Though we all keep the art material far away from the bedroom! Bookcase and toy storage needs to be plentiful.

Jenny from Seasons in Colour has added fun elements to her son’s room to really make it feel like a child’s room but it has remained really sophisticated at the same time.

As we love to let our homes show people who we are, our children need the same from their personal space. Also, places for them to display their treasures is vital. From shelves to pinboards, they can go wild! I recommend staying with single beds so that the floor is clear for playing, and possibly a single bed with under bed storage to house all the extra stuff. They can also start handling their own stuff so chests of drawers and wardrobes with rails that they can reach means they can reach all their own clothes as they are dressing themselves. There is also the hope that they can start putting their own stuff away – though if you could tell me what the magic words are to actually get them to do it, please tell me what they are!

Bedroom designs by Smartstyle Interiors for our Sevenoaks clients’ daughters. 

I have toyed with desks at this stage and have found that they have predominantly become dumping grounds, with homework actually happening in the family kitchen. I suggest that you keep them out for the time being.

Finally, I still see a chair as vital for story time and now they will also be using it to chill out and read themselves or while away some time on the iPad.

A grown up room with space to still be a child. A teenager’s bedroom in this Tunbridge Wells family home designed by Smartstyle Interiors

THE THIRD BEDROOM – ROOM TO BE A SANCTUARY

Well hello the teenage years, let’s hold onto our hats!!! So, you have a Tweenager or Adolescent aged 12- 18 years. Yes, this could be thought of as the door slamming years and maybe I should recommend making sure you have heavy duty hinges! But this is also the time your child turns into the adult they are going to be and significant milestones in their own life will be marked in this room. They really need this space to be theirs, to be a place they can have as a sanctuary from the world and some privacy. We’ve all been teenagers so for a moment remember what it was like to be this age and think what you held dear.

The toys will be getting less and less so this type of storage will be demising, though bookshelves are still very necessary, not only do they have their own library of books but the books they need for their school work are getting plentiful. This has become their space to learn in. Now is the time to introduce their own desk. They will want the quiet and personal time to do homework and revise for GCSEs and A Levels.

With a double bed and a desk for homework, this room gives the teenage resident a feeling of independence. A teenager’s bedroom in this Tunbridge Wells family home designed by Smartstyle Interiors

The size of bed you go for will be dictated by the size of room you have but I would recommend that moving your growing mini adult into a bed that fits them is the right thing to do, in other words if you can fit a double bed in then go for it. Also, the bed is a place to sprawl in, read in, chat to friends in. Often an arm chair in here will get over-looked in favour of hanging out on the bed!!

The other things still count – wardrobes, chests of drawers, but do be aware that the best of storage will still not stop the floordrobe happening. It’s an attitude not a wrong storage choice!

Technology is a personal battle for each family, but my recommendation is to keep as much of it out of the bedroom as possible. If the TV is downstairs then you can still lure them out to hang out with the family. It has been found that keeping mobile phones in bedrooms overnight is detrimental to sleep, especially as checking social media and messages can keep poking at them till the early hours. Keep these charging downstairs when it comes to bedtime.

AND THEN THEY ARE GONE!

So now your baby is ready to fly the nest!! But the years spent in the bedrooms you have built with thought and love for your child will leave an indelible mark on their memories for a lifetime. The way they create their own space will be influenced by the room they grew up in and no other room will be full of as much change and security ever again!

Special Thank you!!

I wanted to say a really big Thank you to Katy at Apartment Apothecary, Jenny from Seasons in Colour and Sarah from Sarah Akwisombe for so kindly sharing their images of their children’s rooms for this blog piece! Thank you so much!

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