Before the household purges that inevitably come with spring cleaning, I'm going to daydream a little bit. If someone were to ask me for a list of 10 things I'd like for my kids' rooms — if money, time and space were no object, as well as their own predilections for all things pink, frothy and Disney- or Barbie-sanctioned — here's what I'd tell them!
1. Magical beds
I've always been enchanted by the heavily canopied beds I've spied when visiting historic castles across the pond or catching the latest well-decorated period film. While some richly tapestried number pulled straight from a chambre at Versailles would look over-the-top in one of my girls' rooms, these two beds put a fanciful, cosy spin on their more staid ancestors. Why not ... you're only young one, after all!
2. Vintagey industrial sign lighting
Old-school, signage-style lighting is at the opposite end of the spectrum, and it's a sure-fire way to introduce a gritty contrast to the frills and floral hues my girls are partial to. I love crisp, graphic shapes like arrows and stars.
3. A closet play nook
We actually have a double-depth closet in Tessa's room, that could also be opened up to the side of my closet, that I have dreams of turning into a secret fort/passageway.
4. A colourful designer carpet
Christian Lacroix's Abstract Malachite Opalin rug for Designers Guild, is playful enough for a kid's room, and has high-fashion cachet to boot. And Madeline Weinrib's colourful carpets have set the standard for cheery graphic pattern underfoot; I love how the brown balances the pink in this one.
5. Unique wooden beds
I'm partial to everything from the most ornate antique to something that looks like it's slapped together from old shipping crates. We've actually got an old four-poster bed made by my husband's great-grandfather, but we haven't yet come up with a suitable mattress for the custom-sized piece. Someday....
6. Curio shelves
I haven't gotten a read on Zoë yet, but Tessa takes after me in her quest to collect. Her dresser and desk are already covered with favourite knickknacks, and I really should figure out a better place for her to display her snowglobes, figurines, music boxes, etc.
7. A fun sculptural lamp
My girls already have a ceramic owl lamp, but these cartoon-like critters feel even more fun and quirky.
8. Eames Hang-It-All
It's a classic and it's rainbow-coloured! And I can justify the purchase as "an organization tool."
9. Whimsical bedding
The hippie in me still loves Indian-style patterned bedding, and luckily, companies like John Robshaw and Rikshaw Design produce brightly coloured versions of the sweet designs I've been coveting for years.
10. Old metal lockers
Like reclaimed industrial-style lighting, school lockers bring edginess to a room, and they're also great for forcing organization and injecting storage where closets are tiny or nonexistent (as in Zoë's room).
1. Paper Blog, Sparkles and Crumbs
2. XO-In My Room, RH Baby & Child
3. Dos Family
4. Designers Guild, Madeline Weinrib
5. Light Locations, Period Living
6. Apartment Therapy, VT Wonen
7. The Modern Shop, Ten June
8. Things to Love, Welke.nl
9. John Robshaw, Rikshaw Design
10. House to Home, Making Nice in the Midwest
As a child, I always loved Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “The Swing,” from his A Child’s Garden of Verses. It spoke to me, even at a young age, about the joys of soaring through the air and of the unique perspective a swing offered otherwise-earthbound wee ones. Several decades later, the swings are the first thing my three-year-old wants to try when she hits the park — any park, in any part of the world. And last year, “The Swing” was the poem my seven-year-old memorized and recited the first time she participated in her school’s wildly popular Poetry Night.
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all,
Over the countryside —
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown —
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
As the weather gets chillier and after-school play moves at least partially indoors, it’s a great time to reassess interior play spaces and consider making a few changes. Like adding a swing! It won’t quite afford the same views as an outdoor swing, but swinging in and of itself is just plain fun — and it helps kids work on gross and fine motor skills (swinging engages abs, arms and legs, and develops hand and finger control and strength), as well as a host of other skills like cooperation, balance and confidence. I’ve added trapeze swings to my roundup, too; they offer the same kind of fun, and can be used as sit-upon swings by all but the smallest toddlers, too.
Adding a swing inside isn’t as out there as it may seem (but keep safety top of mind, see a list of tips at the bottom of this post). Plenty of parents have gone before, and even made the apparatuses look rather winsome in the process, coordinating with — or at least not clashing with — their decor.
Here are some of my favourites.
In our house, I'd consider something simple like this. A basic swing — a small plank and a couple lengths of rope, much like the one in our front yard — mounted in a wide doorway between the living and dining rooms. When ceilings are iffy (like our decades-old plaster ones that won’t even hold a screw), doorways can be a great alternative.
This swing is made with $17 worth of supplies from Ikea. (Basic directions are posted here.)
Fun at Home with Kids blogger Asia Citro went above and beyond when creating this no-holds-barred playroom for her two young kids at their Seattle, Wash., home. A trapeze swing with rings and a boat-shaped swing (the Ships See Saw swing by Haba) are complemented by a climbing wall, art centre, and loads of toys and storage.
Among other fantastical decorating and lifestyle options (I’m thinking of Tom Hanks’ character’s place in the film Big or Ally Sheedy’s in St. Elmo’s Fire), high, roomy converted lofts afford loads of space for a swing or even two. They give kids a coveted place to play near their parents — and exposed beams make it easy to install one.
I’m not certain how one gets up onto the higher swing here... but it sure looks like fun!
For younger kids, consider a swing with a back and handlebars — like this one at journalist-stylist-designer Jennifer Jansch’s home in Stockholm — and hang it close to the ground so it’s easy to get on and off.
It might be tough to keep kids at the table during meals with a swing in the kitchen — but I give these Helsinki parents (Mom is Finnish fashion designer Tuula Pöyhönen) bonus points for style: the crafty swing is an old tire cut and styled to look like a horse.
Then again, installing a baby swing in the kitchen may be just the ticket for cooking dinner and keeping baby happy simultaneously.
A standard tire swing has an authentic 1970s playground aesthetic. In a black and white bedroom, this one looks graphic and bold.
Live in an old Victorian or farmhouse with big rooms and high ceilings? Then you’ve got space for a trapeze, as A Cup of Jo blogger Joanna Goddard’s friend Sophie Demenge (of children’s furniture and clothing company Oeuf) did in her Brooklyn, N.Y., homes. It’ll be especially popular with kids who want to keep their skills brushed up between summers at Circus Camp.
Of course little ones embracing their inner princesses (like my two) may want to put their own personal touches on a swing or trapeze — ribbons, bows or glitter, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the workings or pose any dangers to kids — to zhoozh it up a little bit!
Exposed beams are a natural spot for a simple swing bar in a nine-year-old boy’s room in Copenhagen. (I love how the beams also act as a display spot for favourite outgrown toys!) Be sure to mount swings and trapezes nice and low for younger children.
Like trapeze bars, busy preschoolers and grade-schoolers can have no end of fun with a basic set of rings — especially when paired with an ad hoc climbing wall and partially hidden built-in bunk beds. Call it a private playground!
A swinging bed at golfer Greg Norman’s house in Hobe Sound, Fla., is an over-the-top take on the indoor swing. Obviously, construction would entail an engineer and load test as opposed to just a screwdriver and a couple screws — but your child will undoubtedly have the best room in the house!
You’re the best judge of what’s safe for your children, but here are a few things to consider.
• Use sturdy rope and screws or hooks to mount swings; consult hardware-store staff for suggestions.
• Give a swing a wide berth: leave enough space on all sides so that kids won’t bump walls or furniture.
• With smaller kids, set rules about not using the swing when you’re not around. Consider a detachable swing that fastens to hooks high up on the ropes so you can detach it when you’re not in the room.
• If you’re worried about spills, add a plush carpet or gymnastics mat underneath, and don’t hang a swing near stairwells or areas where kids could have long falls to the ground.
• If you’re uncertain about where your ceiling studs/beams are or whether aging plaster or drywall can stand to have anything mounted on it (ours certainly can't!), sturdy door frames can be a great option.
2. Real Simple
3. Fun at Home with Kids
4. This is Glamorous
5. Rafa Kids
6. Photography by Lena Granefelt from Sköna Hem
7. French by Design
8. Photograph by Mikkel Adsbol from KML Design
9. The Boo and the Boy
10. Coming Kids
11. Photo by Stephanie Deleau from A Cup of Jo; Photo by K.Balas from Milk magazine
13. Architecture Art Design
14. Adore Your Place
Once you’ve planted a forest to get the woodland look in your son or daughter’s room, it’s time to populate it with forest creatures great and small. I’m frankly amazed at the number and variety of animal wall decals available today. Some are graphic and photo-realistic, while others are sweet and simplified, more Beatrix Potter or Wind in the Willows than National Geographic. Pick the one that suits your child and his or her room best.
For a baby or toddler, I like the precious pastel Woodland Scene from Australian company Love Mae.
While it hails from Paris, Mimi' Lou’s Woodland menagerie is thoroughly pastoral. It’s made up of the forest’s smaller inhabitants: a bunny, squirrel, hedgehog, mouse and a flock of birds — perfect playmates for the littlest of kids.
Minimalist and modernist parents will probably err on the side of realism, and opt for critters like these Forest Friends by Kek Amsterdam.
Nathalie Lété’s woodland animal wall stickers for Domestic have a similar aesthetic.
While it could just as easily take centre stage in a hipster’s downtown abode, artist Charmaine Olivia’s super-quirky Deer Wearing Gym Socks print looks just as fitting in a kid’s room — putting a cheeky spin on the woodland theme.
On the flip side, there’s Inke Heiland’s charming floral deer decal. Handmade from vintage and designer wallpapers, her pieces have a light hand and distinct femininity that temper the stark silhouette shapes.
Bed linens are another fun way to add animals in a bedroom. These bunnies — on a petal pink pillow from H&M Home — could not be cuter for a baby's room!
Likewise, my dear friend Genny Burgess's Rabbit Patch designs for her company Little Auggie are utterly charming. We've got the quilted sham and toddler quilt at our house, and the line also includes sheets and even a sleep sack for wee babes.
For a more grown-up look, check out By Nord's deer, bear, hedgehog, moose and wolf duvet covers — the ultimate creature comfort!
And here's perhaps the quickest way of all to adopt a menagerie: hang a mobile. Sebra's critters are quirky and cartoon-like, while the Tree mobile from Cloud Kissed Kids is a bit more quiet and whimsical. Whichever you choose, I hope you get as hung up as I am on woodland-themed rooms!
Did you miss my post on woodland-theme bedrooms? Read it here.
1. Love Mae
2. Mimi' Lou
3. Kek Amsterdam
6. Cloud Kissed Kids
7. H&M Home
8. http://www.littleauggie.com/shop/quilted-sham-rabbit-patch/)">Little Auggie
9. By Nord
11. Ferm Living
13. Cloud Kissed Kids
When Lou Reed crooned “take a walk on the wild side,” the subtext was risqué but his words ring true for adding playful edge to children’s rooms this fall. A trip into the forest can make for great inspiration — whether you’re looking for an overall theme for the room, or just a quick hit to refresh it.
Here are a few great — and widely varied — ways to get the look. And stay tuned to our Great Kids’ Rooms blog for more woodsy inspiration over the next few weeks. Happy autumn!
Ferm Living’s Dotty wallpaper has become a classic motif for avant-garde kids’ spaces in recent years. The yellow version has universal appeal, but I also love the rose and grey colourway, which is surprisingly understated and grown-up.
Black pine trees look graphic on a white ground in this wintry-white Finnish nursery.
For setting a shady, magical mood, you can’t beat the inky Black Forest mural (it’s about 12’ x 10’) by Parisian artist Nathalie Lété for Domestic. With so many creatures peeking out among the foliage, a child will never feel alone.
In this bright, modern space, a wall clad in Cole & Son’s now-iconic Woods wallpaper establishes a nature theme that’s reiterated by a mossy green rug, leafy Midsummer ceiling light by Tord Boontje and a fantastic tire swing.
Saartje Prum’s 12’-wide photo mural of a birch glade offers a sunnier, more verdant look.
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer or prefer a folksier aesthetic, follow these simple guidelines for painting tree-trunk silhouettes on your walls.
Or if you’re feeling particularly whimsical, take a page from Babyccino blogger Courtney Adamo’s book; she painted a single leggy tree trunk in daughter Ivy’s room, then dressed it with vintage wallpaper leaves from Inke Heiland.
Let's pull out all the stops for these last couple weeks of summer and splash a riot of colour around our kids' rooms. I haven't seen a better way to do that lately than with Otomi textiles. Made by the Otomi indigenous peoples of the central plateau of Mexico, the traditional brightly embroidered fabrics feature red and orange, green and pink, turquoise and navy flowers, birds and animals parading across a pristine white ground, and will inject fun and playfulness and just a dash of fairy-tale intrigue into kids' rooms.
Right now, Otomi textiles epitomize lush summer colour and tropical warmth, but in several months' time they'll also be great for helping us shake off any winter doldrums.
I love this Moorish arch-style headboard upholstered in vibrant fabric.
This classic shot from the late, great Cookie magazine (left) may have initiated the most recent craze for Otomi fabrics. If you're hesitant to commit to the expense of upholstery, mount a twin- or full-size bedspread on curtain rods behind a bed for a feature wall and giant headboard in one.
Sydney, Australia, creative director/blogger/shop owner Louise Bell complemented a rainbow-bright Otomi in her son Jasper's modern room with artfully arranged picture book spines and a vintage-style toy car.
A bright pink Otomi bedspread is mixed with like-minded fabrics in this girl's bedroom by Charleston, S.C., architect Heather Wilson.
I am always partial to a rainbow of colour and pattern in a child's room and would model a whole room after the multihued Otomi palette. But if you like a sparer look, try a single injection via a lumbar pillow from Etsy shop Casa Otomi ($200).
...or a framed Otomi-inspired print, like this one from Etsy shop ScoutandLilly ($18).
A rich embroidered Otomi bedspread (this one is from Etsy shop from YucuNinu) cheers up even the most sedate space.
I love Peter W. Gilroy's Otomi-upholstered ottoman ($790), handcrafted in Taos, N.M.
I'd toss a couple of these 24" x 24" poufs from Casa Otomi ($148) in the corner of one of my girls' rooms to cushion a cosy reading corner, or keep a pile in a playroom/TV room for flopping down on during movies or Wii games.
If you're feeling particularly crafty, try this more advanced DIY project by Brooklyn-based artist/textile designer Lena Corwin. She patterned a dresser in Otomi-inspired images, a project reviewed in her book, Printing By Hand (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2008).
And last, but definitely not least, if you're feeling superposh, stitch together a couple of these Hermès carre scarves to cover a silky throw pillow. It'll be luxe and lively!
1. Project Nursery blog
2. From Bali with love blog (left) and Undecorate blog
3. Table Tonic blog
4. Heather Wilson
5. Etsy Casa Otomi
6. Etsy ScoutandLilly
7. Etsy YucuNinu
8. Peter Gilroy
9. Etsy Case Otomi
10. Apartment Therapy
11. San Diego Red
When my eldest daughter, Tessa, entered grade two, it struck me that it was time we helped her buckle down and start taking her weekly homework seriously. (She almost never had any homework in grade one, so it was all new to us!) We figured she needed a spot where she could do her homework and keep it over the week, before submitting it to the teacher on Fridays. We were lucky enough to be able to "shop" my parents' garage and pick up a little white desk with three drawers down one side for free.
The process — and Tessa's and my subsequent styling and organizing of her new desk — got me thinking about desks for little kids.
These aren't the big, serious desks designed for teenagers who spend their evenings penning essays on Hemingway and memorizing the periodic table. These are sweet simple spots for homework, arts and crafts, playing with a Matchbox car collection, and even displaying a few favourite treasures.
Here are a few that have caught my eye lately. I also had Tessa weigh in on which ones she liked best — why not get a kid's take on it all?!
Young sisters Saga and Selma share this crisp, ample built-in desk in Dalarna, Sweden. The design is simple, but the unit is effective, with lots of working space on the main surface, plus display space on the shelf above. Mini Ant-style chairs in petal pink are a fresh modern note.
Tessa's take: "I like how it's so long. I could use it with my sister. I like the colours of the buckets and how they're woven. And it's smart to have two bins for toys: if there's a mess in your room, just put everything in the bucket."
This metal and laminate desk and chair take me right back to grade school in 1970s Toronto, which I've never thought of as the epitome of style — but I must admit this desk looks cute as a button in this kid's room! It doesn't hurt that the room is painted with chic blue-grey faux wainscotting and that it's styled with an übertrendy bunny rabbit lamp. Add quirky art and some drawings washi-taped to the wall and the look is complete.
Tessa's take: "I like how they put stickers on to make it look polka-dotted. I have an owl lamp like this bunny light, and it's a good reading light, but not too bright if you're getting ready to go to sleep. The whiteboard is also a good idea for kids. You can write on it or do math problems, and with paper, you'd have to throw it out and it hurts the world."
While it looks like it might have come from an old one-room schoolhouse on the Prairies (yes, I'm thinking of Laura Ingalls...), this rustic, whitewashed piece is brand new — for sale through German site Car Möbel. From the looks of it, two kids could work together here. Use it as the centerpiece of a breezy, cottagey child's room.
Tessa's take: "I really like white desks! White goes with mostly anything in your room. On this desk, I like that you're boosted up high and that the slot under the desktop is open so you can put your books and pencil case in there."
This grey desk unit in the bedroom of three-year-old Esther Holm in Herrljunga, Sweden, has a similar look. The room has a Scandinavian sparseness to it, but is inviting at the same time, with a fur throw making the simple wooden-plank seat more comfortable.
While my kids are fond of cooler hues, I love bright reds, oranges and pinks — so these wee vintage desks are the bee's knees for me. Pieces like these are definitely ones that kids will grow out of, so look for secondhand wooden desks at flea markets and thrift shops and repaint them in bold hues.
Smaller vintage tables and chairs are also great to repurpose as desk setups for kids: they're usually indestructible and often come in whimsical designs and colours. This green table is juxtaposed with a mod desk lamp in bright red for a pop of colour and an industrial contrast. I like the glass jars as storage for small toys and beads, too!
Tessa's take: "I like its greenish turquoise base because turquoise and blue are my favourite colours. The desktop looks like our kitchen table and the bottom is the same colour as our bench. I like that it has a little display shelf attached to the wall. I would put my music box, my tooth fairy doll and my library books on it so I wouldn't lose them."
For a more polished look, try a table and chairs with more traditional designs. I love the way this one looks tucked in under an art wall featuring the occupant's own artwork, plus framed family photos and playful graphics.
Or for stylistic tension, pair an old wooden table with a bent-wire chair.
Chipped paint adds even more rugged charm. This red desk is a bold note in the room of blogger Alex T's two small children — she found it at a local consignment shop. As with other old-school pieces, papers and supplies can be tucked inside this one, keeping the look tidy.
Though it looks like it might have fit in Sally Draper's bedroom on Mad Men, this little grey retro-style desk is also a new piece — by French company Côté Guinguette available through Des Merveilles.
String shelves like these are all over the pages of Scandinavian home magazines and blogs. This unit in the home of blogger Lina Hedhill incorporates a desktop boldly covered in Marimekko's iconic Unikko pattern. Shelves above hold necessities.
An old bent-metal desk and chair set looks almost sculptural in two-year-old Mali's bedroom — in the funky Jan Juc, Australia, beach house of Simon Taylor and Kirsty Davey. The desk is simple and a touch austere, but I have no doubt it's practical for crafts, colouring and play, and will work for the minimal homework the average grade schooler receives. The accessories are spare but suitably quirky.
I've spotted a number of simple built-in, shelf-like desks like these of late. They'd be space-savers in smaller kids' rooms — and I love the simple, workbench design.
This wall-mounted box desk adds even more function than the standard shelf desktops above, with five cubbies inside to keep toys and school supplies organized and out of sight. A couple sturdy wooden magazine holders tucked in the corner hold textbooks and papers.
Tessa's take: "I like how it's different — how it's on the wall. Not all desks close up; it would allow you to make more room to play and only your matryoshka doll collection would show on top."
The yellow wall-mounted desk built by dad for this Danish kids' room has a somewhat similar design. It doesn't fold away, but it does have the added function of a storage shelf below the main surface and a few small drawers up top. A book rack above the desk gives this corner two-in-one practicality.
Danish mom Lone Skinnerup Ross turned a sleek, very grown-up mid-century modern teak shelf into a sweet little desk corner for her daughter, Alma, a spot where she can sit and draw or do arts and crafts while mom is working in the adjacent kitchen. Pink and turquoise accents make the serious piece feel fresh and friendly, as does the funky pinboard on the perpendicular wall.
See our Organizing Kids Work & Play Spaces photo gallery for more clever ideas.
1. Made in Persbo blog, photography by Carina Olander
3. Car Möbel
4. Hus & Hem, photography by Carina Olander
5. Mommo Design blog
6. Helmen Talossa blog
8. Caroline Briel
9. Project: Haus blog
10. Des Merveilles
11. Rum & Rabalder blog, photography by Lina Hedhill
12. The Design Files blog, photography by Brooke Holm
13a. Holiday House Rules blog
13b. Apartment Therapy
14. House to Home
15. Bolig Magasinet, photography by Tia Borgsmidt
16. Ellen's Album blog, photography by Frederikke Heiberg