Decorate a Kid's Room on a Budget

kidsfriendlyroomsMany parents dream of creating a space for their child that looks as though it leapt from the pages of a storybook — but sometimes we’re left feeling as though we have to settle for second-best. Is it possible to decorate a kid’s room on a budget?

Perhaps you’re simply left with what you think is too small a budget for such a seemingly large project. Maybe you just don’t have the time to devote to a total renovation or maybe, amidst all the dirty socks and wayward Hot Wheels on your child’s floor, you just don’t know where to start making a change.Can you really create a magical kid’s room all without the help of a big budget, loads of time or years of know how? Experts reply with a big, fat “Yes!”

Terry Buchanan, an accomplished Bay Area interior designer, has been whipping up whimsical designs for thirty years now and has had her work featured in Southern Living and Better Homes and Gardens. When determining a budget, she says that the key to staying out of the red is in “grow-with-me elements.” Keep in mind that you can always add things later that compliment the theme you’ve chosen — not everything has to be done at once. Don’t feel pressured to budge from your original plan unless money allows – no matter how cute the embellished princess lamp or how adorable the frog-themed dresser, it will be there in a few months.

“In designing a child’s room, it’s important to allow for flexibility as the child grows, matures and needs change,” says Buchanan. Built-in-flexibility, as she would call it, begins with practical furniture. “For young children, especially preschoolers, expensive furniture is not a good idea. If parents make this substantial investment, they will find that the child all too quickly outgrows it.”

Then there’s paint, which is perhaps the most important element in any child’s room simply because it is a quick, inexpensive change that packs a lot of punch. While you may shell out a few extra dollars in the beginning for name brand paint, in the end you will find that it holds up much more heroically to crayon.

The strategic use of fabric is another great, inexpensive way to bring in a touch of whimsy. Anywhere that needs a splash of color can benefit from a bold, bright fabric that catches both the eye and the imagination. Terry suggests adding fabric panels to walls for oomph—take a piece of plywood, wrap it in quilting batting and then colorful fabric. It’s an easy, cheap way to add art to a room.

The Chesapeake Children’s Museum has become a family favorite in the Bay area. Housing the idea of “preserving childhood, not items”, the Museum offers hands-on fun from NASA stations to live animals and art. CMM’s Deborah Wood spoke about what it takes to harbor imagination in a child’s space.

“Open-ended materials are the key elements in helping a child’s imagination grow and develop.” Deborah suggest avoiding “activities who already have the answer, like computer games or games where a there is only one route to success and/or activities that already have the answer.”

A favorite exhibit at the Museum has long been the dress-up room. Lucky for us, it is also one of the easiest exhibits to mimic at home. “It’s as easy as getting your cast off nightgowns, ties, shoes or anything you simply don’t use anymore. You would be surprised at what you can do with a bathroom towel – it can become a cape for a quick superhero identity change, an apron for a budding chef, a bride’s veil, or even a baby blanket,” says Wood.

Of course, a child’s voice is ultimately the most important element of any design. No child is paint by number. Their personality, what brings them joy, is far more important than the rules of either learning or design. “It’s a good idea to involve the child in the choices,” says Buchanan.
The basics of design and imagination are easier than one would imagine and more educational than one might ever dream. Make a change in your child’s room this week – you might just discover their inner voice in the process.

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