Let me begin with an apology… a little while ago somebody emailed me to ask my thoughts on creating a cosy room for her children, and I thought my thoughts and planned on committing them to paper and then promptly deleted the said email and did the Mommy concerned a rude injustice… and so here in apology, they are…
Because we are prone to the odd estranged spat, Mark and I have an ongoing feud about what constitutes a heavenly child’s bedroom. I say that in the circumstances the only opinion he is entitled to is the proper way to wring his own neck and he says clearly I am determined to keep my little boy a cissy baby for the rest of his days and why on earth shouldn’t Finn enjoy the nightmare that is the odd stenciled Power Ranger or three instead of floral pillowcases and vintage teddy bears?
(Come bite me Matey because over my dead body will Finley’s room be anything other than an extension of the rest of our house, a homely, cosy place to rest his head at night and a warm, snuggly room layered in his own history…)
Now at the risk of sounding like one mighty stroppy Mama, I think you will probably guess that here’s a thing I feel strongly about. When I worked as a decorator I would wander around houses suffused in style then find myself in a room covered in footballs, or Barbie Princess or Star Wars or Shrek that clearly had nothing to do with the rest of the house. Rooms upon which the door would always be kept firmly shut so the rest of the visiting world wouldn’t have their eyes singed by sheer commercial ugliness. I won’t have it, I tell you! I won’t have it! It’s not that I want to stifle precocious little dreams, but more that as a sensible person I feel the urge to point out that Ben 10 does not a sleepy paradise amake…
And so I would present the poor misguided parents with my five point plan for cosy kid’s rooms and avoid the menacing gaze of five year old monsters determined to sell their childish little souls for a luminous dolphin
1. First and foremost remember that all rooms are part of a greater whole and shouldn’t give you the aesthetic heebiejeebies when you enter them. Stick with your own decorating rules and refuse to be charmed by a sloppy kiss. No in the world of having a cosy bedroom means No. So stick to your guns and tell whiny teenyboppers they will be free to stick Bratz posters on their walls when they too are mortgaged up to their eyeballs…
2. If a room is going to grow with a child and not require the constant hassle of re-decoration, one must insist upon offering the little munchkins a blank canvas devoid of commercial horror or passing whims. Give in at your peril you crazy Mommy.
3. Treat children with respect and you teach them a valuable lesson. It is tempting to fill kids rooms with childish plastic
4. Two things. Offer them something precious. Something they know you value. Your childhood jewelery box, the chair they like to snuggle up on from your bedroom, a vintage quilt. Give it to them and offer your trust. Try in this gift to instill in them respect for the history inherent in objects. Then give them something that respects their privacy: a tin for secrets for little ones, a vintage cupboard with a key for older children, a bolt on the inside of their doors for teenagers. An offer of trust is rarely underestimated by good kids and we should break it only in cases of moral life or death….
5. Trash. They are kids and whether or not we find it abhorrent, trashy stuff appeals to them. Some of the most charming rooms combine cosy vintage schemes with occasional child instilled flashes of trashy brilliance… Temporary flashes of brilliance that is, not objects of permanence like wallpaper or car shaped rugs. And not so temporary they leave marks on our walls if you please, so stick a poster to the wall or a sticker to the window on pain of death…
Once the ground rules are in place, we can then begin to create a room that nurtures their little souls. To me the ideal reference point for kids rooms is the old fashioned image of an Edwardian nursery. I only have to think of the nursery Mary Poppins charges were blessed with to smile a happy little decorating Mommy smile…
It’s not that I’m asking our children to live in yesteryear. Certainly their collections of Doctor Who Monsters and Polly Pocket nonsense aren’t to our eyes, as appealing as Victorian blocks and furry little dogs on wheels we would choose for them but most of us wouldn’t deny them their current fads, we just don’t want them to become permanent fixtures in our homes. We want our children to have rooms that become places of refuge. That aren’t re-invented every other year in time with the latest Disney Blockbuster (Ratatouille Rats on your walls kids??) but layer upon the purity of their newborn nurseries all the things they have done, created, found and been given since they were in nappies. Rooms that teach them to treasure the things that matter to them and eschew all the values of an otherwise throwaway society that tells them objects, furniture, art etc, etc have no real value in a world where the whole lot could probably be replaced for a hundred quid…
And so in essence what I am trying to say is that in my eyes, decorating and looking after our kids bedrooms offer us an opportunity to teach them all manner of things I haven’t got the time to explain here… lessons about respect and personal history, gratitude, care and sustainability. We have the opportunity to offer our children our trust, to show them the meaning of ritual and to help them understand, on a very personal level, our obsession with creating homes that nurture family life…
Smell is perhaps the most important of of our senses and the soothing scent of lavender is probably the best choice for babba’s rooms. Create natural surface and carpet cleaners scented with lavender and store them in a closet in their rooms. Buy bulb rings (the safest option for kids rooms) and put the lights on half an hour before bedtime to let a gentle fragrance fill the room and soothe them to sleep.
Warm their beds with a microwaveable wheat based lavender cushion, or a hot water bottled tightly wrapped in one of their old favorite jumpers sprinkled with a tiny bit of lavender oil…
Make their beds as scrumptiously cosy as you can with good old fashioned sheets and blankets. Seek out vintage English feather filled eiderdown’s on Ebay because they are often the perfect size for kids beds and offer incomparable warmth.
On cold nights layer the mattress with two or three blankets and cover them with a flannel sheet for scrumptiously cosy beddy-byes. Show them where to find extra cosy crocheted blankets in their own rooms if they need them on cold nights…
Have a fabric covered pin board in their rooms from when they are very tiny and create an ever changing collage of their little lives.
Make their rooms a major part of their bedtime routine. Bundle towel wrapped babbas into dimly lit bedrooms after bath time and dress them in radiator warm jim jams there.
Keep an ever changing basket of bedtime stories by their bed. Have photographs of far away loved ones on their bedsides to say night night to…
Take them to antique malls occasionally and let them choose something for their rooms.
Have cushions on the floor cos kids like to lounge. Start a demented search for 70’s zoo prints and 50’s cowboy and indian scenes…
Give them their own photo albums. Buy something similar on a yearly basis so our kids end up with a shelf full of personal memories.
Seek out elaborate vintage gesso frames and create a gallery of their own art hung with all the consideration usually only offered to Picasso’s…
User whicker picnic hampers, vintage suitcases or lloyd loom laundry baskets to give ugly Power Rangers a home all of their own…
Don’t banish all toys they have grown out of to the attic. Choose one item per year to mark the passage of time and keep it in the bedroom somewhere. Stitch fussy wuzzy too tight jumpers into cushions. Stretch printed t-shirts over canvas and create a wall of art that brings back instant memories…
Help them create a comfort drawer all of their very own. (But ban anything edible!). Give them memory boxes and a very very special tin for a five year
Wrap babbas in an oh so special beddy byes
Throw their windows open as soon as they get up. And teach kids not to make their beds in the morning but to pull all the covers back from their mattress. I don’t care how it looks, it’s healthier…
Seek out vintage children’s wallpaper and line all their drawers with it. Don’t forget to sprinkle baby
Use Christmas and birthdays as the opportunity to buy heirloom quality gifts they will come to treasure. Let Santa and his elves provide all the rest of the plastic junk…
Don’t rigidly conform to sexual stereotypes in little kids bedrooms. Instead go for over all ambiance. Finley was recently thrilled to find his bed made up with a floral pillowcase usually to be found gracing my bed. (I just thought it looked kinda cool with his rabbit
And once in a while make a big occasion of a candlelit bedtime story, snuggled up to high heaven in these scrumptious little sheets…
I would really love to see the follow up on this post when your son is 15 and 17. While I agree with everything you have said and try to keep a home much like your own, somehow my two boys have developed their own identity and personal style. I can honestly say that if I placed floral pillowcases on their beds there would definitely be a fire in their waste baskets. 🙂 keri
You are absolutely right Keri, lol! I'm making the most of the time in Finn's life when I can get away with it and if by luck his memories are forever filled with an army of Spiderman walking across a lavender scented flowery pillowcase I will be happy…x
I couldn't agree more!
My children's room are certainly tailored to their own tastes, but only within the style of our entire home.
They've never known anything else, and refer to most of their friends' rooms as "tacky."
I live and die for this kind of list … it is 100% perfect for my little two year old daughter now and as she grows older. I am working on embroidering pretty pillowcases for her bed with bluebirds and roses … and a secret snuggly message from Mommy sewn on the inside where only she can peek!
Oh, I feel all misty eyed. My 11 year old daughter is only now mooting the idea of re-decorating her bedroom – she has resisted our offers up until now to re-do it, as she still has the deepest love for her SUBTLE vintage Winnie-The-Pooh bedroom that Mummy and Daddy made the first room we decorated when we moved into our home 9 (nearly 10!) years ago! We wanted her to feel 'at home' in this strange new building instantly. I guess it is a testament to my obviously excellent wallpapering skills that it still looks spotless after all this time! And it is in keeping with the rest of our house (hue wise at least – we don't have a habit of decorating using children's literary characters!). I agree with this to a point – it was a flat 'NO' when my daughter suggested gothic BLACK, but now she is an 11 year old individual, and we want to respect her individualiity, we need to incorporate her own tastes and ideas – after all, she is not a 'mini me' – as I have encouraged her not to be!
I do feel there is a balance to be struck here. I have instilled the importance of 'home' as a whole, and good taste (I hope)!! Of memories and momentoes, of photo's and treasures, of cosiness and magic, of subtle lamp-light and lavender linen scents even, but one man's haven can be another man's prison and I have to smile through gritted teeth when she proudly shows off her bedroom re-shuffle (I would never have put that there….) because a haven is something we carve out for ourselves, the nest we make to feel most comfortable in, to truly feel ourselves. So if she wants to change the colour and style, I'll go with it if it is not completely gross, because I know she will will still want to keep her special wooden trunk that holds her baby treasures, locks of hair, first toys etc, and her treasured photo's of family members loved and lost, the cross stitch I sewed for her while expecting her and with a personal message sewn in, and her huge book collection that we rifle through by lamplight, remembering old favourites or choosing new ones. Because this will, after all, be her first stab at being a home-maker won't it????!!
I have two boys in their original baby nursery, they are now 8 and 4 years old. I have recently taken down their Laura Ashley rabbit curtains (the design that was a bit like little grey rabbit on yellow and white stripes.) I have slowly introduced more blue accesories and bed linen to balance the yellow walls and am going to replace the curtains with some thrifted galleon, compass and treasure map fabric that I MUST finish now! Each boy has a vintage cupboard for clothes and toys (the eldest has one with a lockable mirror- backed & lit cocktail compartment where he keeps his prize lego models!) He also recently invested his own pocket money in a super comfy reclining rocker armchair that we found at a flea market! He loves to curl up in it and relax in his room.
My 7 yr old daughter has a very pink room, but it is vintage roses and pinstripes accented with more bold painted furniture…but definitely NOT Barbie pink! I have been collecting vintage dolls dressed in national costumes for her. She has them on a shelf that runs above the picture rail all around her room. They have to squeeze up to make room for all my old childhood books too. What I will NOT have is anything with an electronic screen in the rooms…tv watching happens in the sitting room with everyone else. Thats my 2cents worth. Gill.
Crikey – don''t I go on??!
PS: Hallelulah about not making the beds straight away! It gives me the heeby-jeeby's thinking about pulling the covers back over a warm sweaty bed – yuck! It may look unsightly temporarily, but at least when I slide back into my lovely crisp bed at night I know it has had a thorough airing with windows wide open, rain or shine, and feels somehow fresher. See, it is NOT slovenly!
Hellooooo – I love reading your blog – I am fascinated where you get your illustrations from – I have searched all over the internet but cant ever come up with anything vaguely like them – whats your secret??
I got done reading this and thought "I'm Jealous – I Want This For MY Bedroom!" – and I'm 52….*excellent* post!
First I have to say, yes- wringing his neck is indeed Mark's territory; Decorating Fin's room is NOT. =) I love your ideas here and agree wholeheartedly. So I guess that settles it, you're right and Mark is wrong =) Blessings.. Polly
Hmmm… I have mixed views on this subject! being Mummy to an 18 yr old and an 8 yr old,I have to say there comes a point where you have to let them create a space that speaks to their soul, not ours!A year ago I stood by and watched the lovely toile de jouy wallpaper from Laura Ashley be defaced with posters of the Foo fighters et al…two weeks ago they all were taken down and her majesty is steering towards a more subtle decorating scheme! whilst 8 yr old Bratz fanatic and I have reached a compromise, ointment pink walls, no baby type pics, and posters on the inside of the wardrobe doors only!
Wow! Reading how you would warm up the bed makes me want to ask if you'd like to adopt a 50-year old daughter!
The proper way to wring his own neck…I'm mentally storing that one for my own later use.
Oh- we love to hear input on this topic-and some lovely points indeed! We just did a few posts touching on kid's rooms, and have them on the brain (of course, the muddy footprints, and handprints on the glass remind us daily as well!) Glad Counting Your Blessings sent us over here! Will have to drop back by!
kari & kijsa
I had a good chuckle at this post. I know exactly what you mean about modern children's rooms, especially boys' rooms, they can be quite hideous. Thanks for all the good advice.
Thank you so much for posting this. It was exactly what I was looking for. I am off to buy some lavender oil!
I agree wholeheartedly…I dont want a room in my home that looks like a themepark!
Great advice but SO hard when you have kids or grandkids that INSIST on making themselves & their rooms totally different from YOU (especially the teens!):)
I think the best you can do is try to instill some appreciation of your taste in decorating, but surrender graciously when they want to express their own likes on the subject.
And if you don't like it, well…thats what doors were invented for. Closing! 😉
Ah, well I can pull this off with my adorable, still moldable 7 year old but my almost 16 year old would rebel in a big way. All I can say is that I refuse to do characters of any kind and thank goodness my teenagers bedroom is clean.
I would like to see your home when darling finlay is about 15 or so!
OH! I so agree! My two daughters share a bedroom and were talking about Disney princesses, etc. and I just wouldn't have it! We talked about what else they like and fairies is one thing they could both agree on. So I started with "my" colors/look and bought two lovely ivory faux-down comforters and splurged on the Rachel Ashwell valance and pillow shams. Then I found a really wonderful vintage fairy embroidery pattern and have made several really lovely (if I do say so myself!) pieces that coordinate with the color scheme of the room (and the rest of my house) but are very magical at the same time and seem to please the girls! Just some ideas! You are so fun to read, by the way. Love your blog!
p.s. here's a link to photos of the things I made for their room so you can see what I mean! Girlies are happy AND Mama is happy! 😉 http://www.flickr.com/photos/roseyposeyconfection…