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
Don't you love those last few weeks before your first-born arrives when you have time for little projects around the house? I realize my free time is fleeting, so I've been making the most of it by adding some finishing touches to the nursery. We didn't actually paint the room, since it was freshened up a year ago, so that left more time for the details. Read on for some easy DIY ideas while feathering your nest.
We finally found an affordable, simple white crib, which allowed us to splurge on a healthy organic mattress. And my sister passed her equally simple white change table on to us for $0.
These are old Ikea baskets I've had forever and they happened to fit perfectly in our hand-me-down change table. But I thought basket liners would make them more clothes-friendly. I didn't want a fabric that was too baby-ish, so I went with a simple aqua and white stripe. This way, these baskets could look right at home in a laundry room or basement, without having to sew new liners for them.
I have a very talented mother. No, I didn't sew these myself, but I did measure and cut the fabric for her. She spent the better part of a Sunday sewing these together. They're lined on all four sides inside, and then we attached aqua ribbon to hold the liners in place. Again, not too baby-ish or gender-specific.
I dragged my hubby to nearly every furniture store in the city looking for the perfect nursing chair. Gliders, recliners, rocking chairs... there are a multitude of options out there, but I didn't love any of them, and most were around $1,000. We thought maybe we could invest in an armchair that could be used in the living room post-babies, but again, we weren't sold on any one style. And I didn't think the modern shapes of most of them would suit the traditional style of the nursery.
Then we found this solid wood glider at a yard sale for $50. It was already painted white, but had two awful denim cushions that had seen better days. I gave it a fresh coat of white paint — although it didn't really need it — and picked up some inexpensive batting at my local fabric store to make some new cushions. (I didn't know just how old those denim ones were, so I thought it best to toss them.) My mom covered the batting in the same striped fabric.
There are several vintage gold lamps and frames in the nursery, so I wanted to tie in a bit of the gold with pillows, too. My mom had sewn these years ago for a bed, so I pulled them out of storage for the glider.
I hand-sewed the same ribbon on the back of the chair cushions to hold them in place. I love the traditional lines of this glider!
I come up with funny little projects from time to time, excitedly explain them to my husband, and receive a look of confusion in response. But once the bee is in my bonnet, there's no turning back. I was convinced this gallery wall idea would be great.
I still have lots of children's books from when I was young, but I couldn't imagine cutting them up, so my first step was to track down some old children's books. I headed to my favourite antiques market, Mizener's, and rounded up these gems. They're not so old that they're worth anything (most were around $1), but they're old enough to have illustrations that evoke that sense of nostalgia. You don't want to cut up books that are actually ancient, since their value increases, but most of these are from the 1960s.
I also picked up some old gold and aqua frames at Mizener's. (Okay, a couple might be from HomeSense, but I loved the colours.) I also had a few gold frames kicking around from our wedding last year, waiting in Rubbermaid bins to be repurposed. I played around with the arrangement until it seemed right.
Then I tore out book illustrations that reminded me of my own favourite childhood stories — this was the best part of the project! Narrowing it down to 10 was difficult, though.
I wiped off the dusty frames and inserted the illustrations. Most of these frames didn't have wall-hanging hardware on the backs, so I had to attach myself (tedious). I started hanging them from the middle of the arrangement and worked my way out to the edges (usually the easiest with a scattered gallery wall like this). I didn't want the grouping to look too tidy, so I played around with it a bit, but it's still a good idea to leave the same amount of space between each frame. The change table is at the bottom left (see the first photo above), so I had to build it up a bit higher on the left to make sure flailing arms wouldn't knock any frames down. Safety first! But I actually like how it swooshes from bottom right to top left. Now that the gallery wall is all put together, my husband has caught up with my vision.
And now my nursery projects are complete. What to do now?
I'm due in less than a week, so I suppose I should wrap up at work. Until next year, everyone...
The birth of Prince George Alexander Louis is big news, and decor addicts are wondering what finishing touches are likely to surround the littlest royal. Here are some suggestions that tip their hats to British tradition.
How can you say no to a pram that's named after Great Granny's beloved Scottish estate? The Silver Cross Balmoral is the Rolls Royce of strollers.
A humble wooden rocking horse suited Prince William fine, but if desired he can seriously upgrade his son's ride.
The Golden Jubilee rocking horse's expression is mildly terrifying, but the extraordinary craftsmanship includes a royal emblem embroidered on the saddle pad to commemorate the Queen's 50th year on the throne in 2002.
This British racing green roadster has the vintage look of European race cars, and will look sharp parked in a corner of Prince George's nursery until he's ready to take it for a spin.
Who understands more about royal needs than a royal himself? Viscount David Linley's handcrafted sterling silver rattle is made by one of the U.K.'s oldest silversmiths, and would look spiffy on the change table.
Block-print wallpaper by venerable English firm Farrow & Ball would look smart in a boy's room.
Restoration Hardware's Kensington chesterfield is fun and appropriately child-sized, if a tad irreverent.
When a full-blown Anglomania sofa may prove too much, this Union Jack Decorative Pillow, also from Restoration Hardware, still injects a hit of the Jack in a hip nursery.
For more nursery decorating ideas, visit Katie Hayden's blog.
1. Posh Baby blog
3. Stevenson Brothers
4. Le Mans Pedal Car, Restoration Hardware
5. Silver Rattle, David Linley
6. Block Print Stripe (BP 753), Farrow & Ball
7-8. Restoration Hardware
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
Something about a bedroom outfitted with twin beds delights me. Perhaps it's that, as a child, a room with two or more twins spoke to me of sleepovers or vacations at airy seaside cottages or cosy ski chalets. Or it might be the fact that two twin beds at an inn or home we were visiting meant I didn't have to share a bed with my sister — something we were never good at.
Today, my children have chosen to share a bedroom at home — revelling in the camaraderie of it all, at least for now. They share a bunk bed, a piece of furniture that seems to be having a heyday at the moment (or is it just that I mostly live amongst (a) city dwellers and (b) people with children in elementary school). Let's leave bunk beds, and their many manifestations, for another day and delve into how to best use twin beds in shared kids' rooms.
And don't forget to keep in mind that, while aesthetics are important, practically, kids' rooms should incorporate the "big three":
1. A place to sleep
2. Places to store toys and clothes
3. A place to play (unless you have a dedicated playroom close by)
Of all the rooms I've clapped eyes on in my 15-plus years at House & Home, this kids' room in the Cape Breton, N.S., cottage of Alexandra and Eliot Angle, of Alexandra Angle Interior Design, has made one of the strongest impressions. You can practically hear the giggles and whispers that must echo through this dormitory-like space, calling to mind the two straight lines the little girls sleep in in Ludwig Bemelman's Madeline. When you've got the square footage and a handful of kids to house, this is certainly an airy, open alternative to tiers of bunk beds. The price is right, too: these are just inexpensive Ikea beds outfitted with extra-large casters so they can be pushed together or to the edges of the room when needed. Topped with cheery Indian quilts, they're the epitome of summer living.
Here's another dorm-like space, one that feels quite lived-in and loved by its occupants, the four young children of Phil and Philippa Heath. The family furnished the room — located in their 200-year-old stone cottage in Derbyshire, England — quite simply, with white-painted metal-framed beds (they look like the Minnen bed from Ikea), plus, for each child, a trash bin for toys and a chair as a spot to deposit clothes and toys. Grey-striped and solid red bedding keeps the look easy and gender-neutral, but there's also space for artwork, decorative pillows and stuffies, and extras like an electric guitar to accumulate as needed. It's fun and functional.
This crisp, cottagey bedroom feels like a cross between a Wes Anderson movie set and an old Adirondack or Berkshire lodge. Chipped whitewashed spool beds, a white-painted floor and white linens set a breezy tone, while accents and art in fire-engine red and jute brown warm up the space. The look is crisp and clean, but also welcoming enough for kids. (You'll find spool beds/Jenny Lind beds/spindle beds at your local flea market, antique shop or online, or if you can't find a vintage version, check out Land of Nod's remake.)
The Los Angeles bedroom of Will Buckingham (son of Fleetwood Mac rocker Lindsey Buckingham and his interior designer wife Kristen Messner) has a similar vintage look, though the pieces themselves are more traditional and the overall look more formal and layered. The beds are plump and inviting, there's room to play on the rug-covered floor, and there's storage space for toys in the wicker trunks at the foot of the beds — fulfilling the kid's room "big three." Visually, the colours are warm, and the fabrics and artwork (pages from a vintage children's book) hit all the right notes.
Beyond the shape of the vintage Jenny Lind toddler beds being similar in this shared room, the space is about as "unfitted" or mismatched as it can get. (For more on unfitted kids' rooms, check out this blog post.) The bright, cheery space is home to Oh Happy Day blogger Jordan Ferney's two young sons in their small San Francisco house. Mix-and-match yellow bedding (including a polka-dot duvet in a fabric by Heather Ross and a lemon-patterned pillow by Jonathan Adler) boosts the sunny vibe, while a Persian rug is an artsy, grown-up addition — but also one that's hard-wearing and impervious to stains.
The carpet plays a key role in this delightful pink-infused girls' room, too; it's the bold centerpiece of the decor, while the beds, bedding, curtains and wall treatments take a back seat stylistically. I love that a good-sized bookshelf is tucked right between the beds for ease of access at story time.
The Houston, Texas bedroom of designer Ashley Putnam's two young boys is a classic through and through. Pale blue walls are a clean backdrop for blue-striped duvets and red-and-white-striped drapes, while a sisal rug and bamboo blinds and side table inject a softer, more natural note. It's a pitch-perfect "decorated" children's bedroom.
This bedroom by Texas designer Holly Mathis has a similar if slightly less "decorated" look, with monogrammed pillows defining whose bed is whose.
A low ceiling and layers of luxurious but youthful bedding give this attic bedroom at a holiday house in Cantabria, Spain, a cosy, welcoming feeling. Similar to placing a sofa at the foot of a larger bed, stools act as spots for the kids to drop clothes and books or sit to put on their shoes.
At Aerin Lauder's Aspen chalet, the bedroom of her kids, Jack and Will, echoes the rest of the home's sleek, modern architecture. A wall of tawny oak panelling, downy duvets, fur pillows on the beds, and plush carpeting underfoot add cosiness.
Ceiling-hung curtains are a great way to add privacy and ownership in shared rooms — and installing them can be a simple weekend DIY project. In this space by L.A. firm Bestor Architecture, the modern, wood-panelled room gets a hit of vibrant colour from curtains in Marimekko's iconic Unikko floral and colour-blocked bedding. A large flokati rug is a fantastic crash pad.
In large and medium-sized kids rooms, try pushing twin beds against opposite walls. While the look isn't quite as elegant, it does open up the space for play. I love these two enchanting kids' bedrooms in a family home in East Sussex, England; the palettes and accessories are simple but effective for creating a quietly rustic look.
In her daughters Elle and Gwen's wee, sweet bedroom, blogger Amy McGee of McGee Life created a Christmas look for winter, outfitting the beds with Santa-themed bedding and bright red buffalo-check spreads. The effect is warm and graphic.
When a kids' room is long and narrow, tuck beds along one wall head-to-toe to leave the other portion of the room open for play. These antique sleigh beds, in a family apartment in Mantua, Italy couldn't look more charming. And while the bedding is playful and child-like — well suited to the two youngsters who live here — the newspapered wall panels, crystal-drop chandelier and handsomely framed portraits and art photos put an elegant twist on the look.
This room in Swedish stylist Emma Persson Lagerberg's home has a much more modern look. The simple white beds almost feel like a single, built-in unit. With no headboards and footboards, the beds become one long daybed/play space for the little ones. Polka-dot bedding and intriguing posters and art add colour and personality.
The long, skinny dimensions of Ned's bedroom, designed by Melbourne, Australia firm Made by Cohen, demanded running the beds down one side to give him suitable play space down the other. Shelves mounted above the beds and cupboards along the opposite wall keep books, toys and clothes stashed away — a necessity when trying to maintain a sleek, minimalist look like this.
When a room is particularly small, using two toddler beds foot-to-foot, as in this room by Ikea, may make the most sense, at least for the first few years. Here, the sides are defined for these two girls by unique but coloured-coordinated wallpaper — another fun DIY idea for shared rooms.
When a room's shape won't allow you to run the beds head-to-toe along one wall, tucking the beds into a corner may be the most practical solution to provide open floor space. To make the most of it, add a large rug (this one is the graphic black and white Stockholm rug from Ikea) for comfy floor play. In this space, in the home of Finnish blogger Pisarapilvi, a huge armoire helps keep toys and clothes corralled and organized.
While matching beds create a more cohesive look, mismatched beds like these also have huge appeal. Here, a modern grey toddler bed looks right at home with a simple twin tucked into the corner beside it. (Certainly, the room's occupants seem to love the space!) Art and decoration have a similarly devil-may-care attitude: an insect poster and a pretty dress on a hanger are tacked up irreverently alongside framed pieces.
Read more about decorating kids' rooms in my blog.
1. House & Home June 2009 issue, photography by Janet Kimber
2. Period Living, photography by Brent Darby
3. Better Homes and Gardens
4. Elle Decor, photography by Simon Upton
5. A Cup of Jo blog, photography by Heather Zweig
6. Etsy, photography by Dominique Vorillon
7. Lonny, photography by Patrick Cline
8. Holly Mathis Interiors
9. El Mueble
10. Vogue, photography by François Halard
11. Red Glasses blog, designed by Bestor Architecture, photography by Dominique Vorillon
12. Light Locations
13. McGee Life blog, photography by Amy McGee
14. Milk magazine, photography by Gianni Basso
15. Elle Interiör Sweden, photography by Petra Bindel
16. Emma's Designblogg, designed by Made by Cohen
17. Apartment Therapy
18. Nie Tylko Dzieciaki
19. Elle Mania blog, photography by James Lund
For decades, cardboard boxes have been inspiring creativity in youngsters.
I recall a summer day in maybe 1978 when, after playing house in a huge cast-off refrigerator packing box in my backyard for hours, my friend Adrienne and I sallied forth — inside the box, with small viewing holes cut in the side — to take on the neighbourhood. We got a good number of stares and laughs as we circled our block, and got a bit of a rush when we bumped into another friend, who didn't recognize us, and chased her down the street for a bit before collapsing in a fit of giggles (sorry, Ellen!).
Today, along with the proliferation of DIY ideas for cardboard boxes in the blogosphere, the Internet marketplace offers hundreds of premade creations for kids. Perhaps it's our 21st-century consciousness about reducing, reusing and recycling, or just the ready availability of cardboard boxes (find them when you're bulk-buying at Costco, in the bins at the front of a No Frills supermarket, the local liquor store or recycle the jumbo boxes your diapers and Internet deliveries come in).
For the simplest of DIYs, add a playful modern spin to the standard cardboard-box house with neon washi or masking tape. The first ones above were built for a children's birthday party by Eunice and Sabrina Moyle of HelloLucky. The second houses, from the Adventures in Pinksugarland blog, couldn't be easier to make and have been road-tested for all ages!
Years ago, when our children were just turning one, my friend Elaine wowed me when she built her son Anderson a play kitchen out of two cardboard boxes and a few other basic household supplies like aluminum pie plates, paper towel rolls, etc. Indeed, toddlers young and old seem to love play kitchens, and this is surely an easy way to give them one without reaching for your credit card. Here's a fun example from Parents magazine.
Once you've mastered the play kitchen, expand your borders with other "dramatic play" options, like a homemade mailbox or boat. (Get full details on the mailbox and accoutrements on the Ikat Bag blog.)
The lowly cardboard box has long been co-opted as an instant child-sized car. Idaho mom and photographer Andi Marshall took that idea one step further by hosting a Drive-in-movie-themed birthday party with personalized cars for each of the guests, complete with sidecars to hold snacks.
Some of the best cardboard creations I've seen come from Cardboard Dad, a.k.a. Moscow-based architect and father Evgeny Kudryavtsev. He crafts brilliant toys and structures for his daughter, Irina, and shares them on his site Play and Grow. For example, he transformed a diaper box into this princess chair and built a slide of cardboard and electrical tape.
I love the idea, at least with younger kids, of creating a birthday tree like this one from The Imagination Tree. Start with a simple cardboard tree shape, add a perpendicular support piece, then let the kids have at it decorating with scraps of wrapping paper, coloured paper or fabrics. Bring it out for family birthdays during the year — and redecorate when the fancy strikes!
For young architects-in-training, turn a few sturdy boxes into simple, reusable cardboard building boards like these ones from the Tutus & Tea Parties blog. Or crack open bigger boxes and let kids create towns with roads, houses, shops and farms, as Australian mom Kate did on her Picklebums blog.
Or just give kids a box and let them dream up their own designs. My daughter Tessa, who's seven, came across a large shipping box the other day at our house, and left to her own devices, crafted the "Rainbow Puppet Theatre" complete with sock puppets.
If your craft skills are rusty or you're pressed for time, look to U.S. company Lille Huset for charming cardboard dollhouses in a range of styles. Creator Alyson Beaton seeks inspiration for her models all over North America and Europe, from Brooklyn to Chicago to London.
Kol Kid in Toronto has the clever Find and Make dollhouse kit by Makedo, which includes the tools and fasteners for making a variety of dollhouses, but leaves the child to find/recycle cardboard from home. Modular design at its best!
Ikea has a darling market stand (for the wallet-friendly price of $13).
For kids (or parents) who lean toward modern architecture with designer cred, check out Villa Julia, the cardboard playhouse designed for Italian furniture maker Magis by Javier Mariscal. Fans of picturesque architecture, on the other hand, will gravitate to more whimsical designs, like My Very Own Cottage, which is available through Mastermind Toys or Amazon. Preprinted with details like roofing, doors and trees, this sort of cardboard design will appeal to some kids and parents — but may ultimately feel like a damper on freewheeling creativity to others.
And last, but definitely not least, check out this incredible pop-up cardboard play area for kids designed by Israeli product designer Liya Mairson. Fold open the small-space-friendly piece to encourage open-ended playhouse activities — and simply fold it down and tuck it in a closet or corner when playtime's done.
Play areas feeling cluttered? Learn tips on Organizing Kids' Work & Play Spaces in our photo gallery.
1. Modern Kids Co. for HelloLucky, via 100 Layer Cake-Let blog
2. Adventures in Pinksugarland blog
3. Parents magazine, photography by Alexandra Grablewski
4a. Ikat Bag blog
5. Small Fry blog, photography by Cindy Worwood
6. Play and Grow blog
7. The Imagination Tree
8a. Tutus & Tea Parties blog
8b. Picklebums blog
9. Katie Hayden
10. Lille Huset
11. Kol Kid
13. Skylta market stand, Ikea
14c. My Very Own Cottage, Amazon
15a. Rocket, PaperPod
15b. Igloo, PaperPod
16. Liya Mairson
My husband and I are expecting our first baby this August, so we're on the hunt for a simple white crib. Infants are usually in their bassinets for the first couple of months anyway, but first-time parents often feel the need to perfect the nursery long before baby even arrives, and we're no exception. We've been busying ourselves with preparations since the first trimester.
Our spare room is already quite traditional — plenty of antiques and old furniture that have been in my family for decades. Since this will become the nursery, we'd like to decorate it in the same style. There are already two old dressers in that room that we'll use for the baby, and my sister is giving us her vintage change table (also white), but we're struggling to find a crib and accents that aren't too modern. Here are some of the cribs we've rounded up so far:
The Dylan crib from Duc Duc has that simple look we're going for, but I would prefer an open base and spindles on all four sides.
The Savannah crib, also from Duc Duc, is more my style, but I'm not sure about the wood panelling below the mattress. You can customize it with one of seven different colours, but I'm not crazy about any of them.
Bloom's Alma Max crib is a top-seller, but I think it's a tad modern for our existing furniture.
Oeuf's Sparrow crib is clean and contemporary — a timeless choice that could work in any style of nursery.
This Liberty crib from Franklin & Ben is a fresh take on the antique spindle crib, and I love the detailing on the legs and spindles. Also, priced at around $400, it's much more affordable than the ones above.
The Barcelona classic crib from Natart Juvenile is just as beautiful, but is made here in Canada. Also reasonably priced at $430.
And then there's the Gulliver crib from Ikea. I always go back to this one. It's simple and fuss-free.
What do you think? Will any of these more modern shapes work with our vintage white dressers?
Check out Katie Hayden's blog for more great ideas for kids' rooms.