Undecorated Kids’ Rooms

Embark on decorating a child’s room today, and you’ll find there are three main camps most rooms fall into. The first — the “decorated” kids’ room — has a polished, even pristine look. Every piece is carefully coordinated, every finish perfectly executed. “Modern” children’s rooms, the second style, are most often defined by the sleek lines of their furniture, the sparseness of their decoration, and perhaps a single, contemporary hit of colour that pops in the minimalist environs.

Let’s revisit the best decorated and modern children’s rooms another day in favour of the third style, the “undecorated” child’s room. These little havens have a casual, unfitted aesthetic and an appealing friction that stems from mismatched elements. But don’t mistake the devil-may-care attitude they often exude for a lack of attention. The designers and homeowners who put these rooms together often give them as much consideration as Sister Parish gave her überdecorated spaces back in her day. It’s all carefully calibrated to look fresh, unique and invitingly haphazard.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to admit I’m most partial to the undecorated look for kids’ rooms (and for all rooms, for that matter). It could have a bit to do with indecision, but I like to think of it more as a love of too many styles, and pieces, and palettes, and icons and themes.

So what makes an undecorated kid’s room really sing?

1. A mix-and-match approach to furnishings that throws together antique, vintage and modern pieces, and juxtaposes the gritty and the refined without batting an eye. It’s a little bit secondhand and a little bit make-do — but with an underlying level of flair and fashion-forwardness.

2. A playful use of colour and pattern. Which doesn’t necessarily mean including a rainbow of hues, just a reconsideration of what we’ve always thought of as acceptable palettes for little people. Pattern — be it a bold stripe or a more sedate toile — can add movement and interest, and help define the look you’re trying to create.

3. Architectural quirks. Got an unusual sloped ceiling, an off-kilter window, exposed roof beams or an old fireplace mantel? Play them up by working them into the design. When I was a teen, my friend, Tanya Bonus (who’s in fact now a Toronto interior designer; you can check out one of her projects on H&H Online TV) ripped out the closet in her small city bedroom and tucked her bed into the closet nook, creating a cosy and coveted hangout. It was a brilliant idea, and one that redefined her otherwise-unassuming space.

Enough of the theory! Let’s check out a few undecorated kids’ rooms that get the mix right — and have style to spare.

This is one of my all-time favourite kids’ rooms. It speaks to me of fun and lightness and sisterly love. The bold, honeycomb-patterned rug delivers a punch of colour that dominates the cheerful design of the room (it reminds me of the intricate, colourful designs of Kaffe Fassett). But it’s the pairing of big and small beds, each decorated with stickers (kudos to the parents who let them add their own touch!) and the grab bag of favourite storybook characters and baby clothes arranged on the wall overhead that make it particularly poignant. A motley collection of stuffies and dollies (or “guys,” as my two-year-old daughter calls hers) and the sweet rabbit nightlight complete the look. (This owl lamp from Urban Barn has a similar look and glow.)

Throwing a mattress right on the floor — without a frame or even a boxspring — is a sure way to establish an undecorated look, all the better if your floor is bare, extra-wide wood planks. Pair the bed with a string of Christmas lights or a vintage botanical poster tacked to the wall, and you’re done!

Embrace architectural elements — like this Copenhagen home’s rustic wood beams, slanting ceilings and wide-plank floors — they add one-of-a-kind character like nothing else. A pillowy bed, a hide rug repurposed from the living room, a few pops of bright colour, and the look reads breezy and fun. And adding a simple swing is sure to make older kids swoon!

In this playroom in designer Fawn Galli’s own Brooklyn, N.Y., home (featured in the late, great Domino magazine), the designer contrasts a shapely antique marble fireplace with inexpensive Expedit shelving from Ikea, a moulded-plastic table set and sophisticated — but decidedly unmatching — rug and poster. Talk about culture-clashing style!

This child’s room in Swedish stylist and blogger Hanna Wessman’s Stockholm house pairs a crisp, vintagey bed, a world-map mural and whimsical collectibles with a battered old steamer trunk and cosy Oriental-style rug — all back-dropped by chic dark-wood floors, high ceilings and huge windows. (The Scandinavians really seem to have a lock on the undecorated look. So many of their kids’ rooms have style in spades.)

Susanna and Jussi Vento went with a more-the-merrier look in this room in their Helsinki apartment, filling the bed with a menagerie of stuffies, the wall-mounted shelves with a rainbow of toys and books, and the wall space alongside it with an assortment of accessories that includes an iconic Eames Hang-It-All.

Tucking a bed under the eaves or into a gutted closet and washing the space in a striking hue creates an inviting nook for kids and teens alike. Bed linens in a different colour and playful accessories mean the look isn’t too matchy. (The little signs here loosely translate to “Eyes Tight” and “Mouths Shut.”)

While the term “nursery” may conjure up images of sedate spaces washed in pale blues and pinks, babies’ rooms are just as easy to “undecorate” as kids’ rooms. The crib in baby Wren’s nursery in Cornwall, England, is an eye-popping neon green. All-white decor in an urban baby’s room is suitably low-key to let expansive windows and herringbone wood floors take centre stage. And in Egon’s Stockholm-area bedroom, a kitchen-cabinet wardrobe and whitewashed floors are punched up with the barcode-striped Andrup rug from Ikea and hand-me-down crib painted canary yellow.

This room by Ikea features new pieces, but it really embodies the undecorated aesthetic with its mix of styles, finishes and colours and its casual execution. I have my eye on the Scandi-style Sundvik toddler bed for my youngest, who’s about to move out of her crib.

Wear and tear adds authenticity. I’d love to outfit my girls’ rooms in rusty old school lockers like these (as long as they were up-to-date on their tetanus shots!). A simple antique divan contrasts their industrial look, and a bunting, artwork and plush green rug set a lighthearted tone.

For more, see our Trendy Kids’ Bedroom Ideas photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1. Family Living
2. Divaani blog
3. Jelanié blog, photography by Ester Sorri
4. Nordic Bliss blog
5. Domino via Annette Tatum, photography by Laura Resen
6. Hanna’s Room blog
7. Design*Sponge blog
8. Woonideeën October 2012, issue 101
9. Apartment Therapy
10. Hemnet.se
11. Ikea’s Livet Hemma (Life at Home) website, photography by Patric Johansson
12. Ikea Canada
13. How Sweet To Be A Cloud blog

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