Picture that mischief-making Max who crowns himself “king of the wild things!” Or my personal favorite, Harold and the Purple Crayon… The spaces our kids want to take command of exist somewhere between real and imaginary places. So when it comes to designing children’s rooms, I like to build toward that most elusive measure of good design… a genuine sense of discovery.
You can’t buy a wardrobe and tell a child it’s magic. But you can carve out niches and hideaways that feel on the verge of calm and quiet and a curious something else. Achieve that mix and the room invites their powers of transformation. As a parent, I learned that encouraging my kids creatively meant giving up on preconceived notions of how I wanted them to grow up. As a designer, it means creating an environment that’s simultaneously protective and a model of daring.
I love maps and vintage photos for the way they offer windows onto other times and places, and I’ve played with the scale of both adapting each to oversize art or as floor-to-ceiling wallpaper. I’ve hung mobiles of universes as adults would a chandelier, strings of pompoms, a medley of colorful paper lanterns…anything to dangle tactile lures just out of reach. If creativity’s the goal, these items can alternate with art of their own making, hung with dignity in frames or encouraged with a ready roll of craft paper bolted straight onto the coffee table.
Playful gestures are paramount, but so is order. Here breaking the rules isn’t as critical as imparting the power to set them. Organization is key. Storage has to be on their level, and with a variety of fun bins, baskets, and ledges to encourage their own evolving sense of order. Growing up is chaos enough, let’s take away the everyday distractions. Focus on their essential needs to rest, rule and reinvent (the rrrrrs! of any well-designed kids room) and the paint can easily change from lavender to way cooler pink, then back again next year.
Think soft, soothing places to hunker down, a few colors, patterns or textures to claim the space as uniquely their own and, ultimately, a sense of shared importance. Much of the furniture I use for kids is sophisticated enough to move to any room in the house. One reason is practical: Parents want timeless pieces. But the larger motivation is my tiniest clients themselves. They want what we do: a nurturing sense of place and belonging inside the mysterious world at large.
Who can resist a playdate?The best summer gatherings in our house ask friends to either get their game on, or have some fun cheering on those that do. Tennis is our favorite but I’d do the same for a game of hoops. Two grecian stone goddesses decked out in vintage beads and acquired party bling handle the difficult line calls. Brunch or early supper, I like to set it all out before as a come-and-go thing, nothing plated and nothing complicated. The unstructured nature of it all is modern-day but pull out a gorgeous silver serving piece, a pop of bubbly and my favorite charcoal-gray striped paper straws for the iced coffees and our mind’s clock ticks back to an era when we made time for ritual pleasures.
Sporty stripes and sturdy leather straps transform this folding cushion into a deliriously cozy, oh-so relaxed alternative to the usual convertible sofa. Simply unzip the seat from its rolled-arm pillow frame for more surface area to sprawl. Shaped like a life raft when open, it’s a cool save for overnight guests or for long lazy days when you just want to stretch out.
We’ve noticed a few holes in your designs lately. What about pop art graphics has you feeling punchy?
Picture Alice falling down the rabbit hole. . . these designs are part fun and part mystery. I think this wall decal by artist Dan Golden for Los Angeles graphics company Blik really nails it. One big spot that says, “Hole to Another Universe, Come on In!”
Punch that hole in a crisp rectangle or square and it’s proof that opposites attract. Doubly so in the room above, where we paired a pop-art style bookcase inside venerable, historic architecture. Our new wooden nesting tables also use holes, but this time in order to unfold like a puzzle piece for varied use.
I love that kind of style wild card. I also love how the simple sculptural gesture of carving a hole creates a truly alluring interplay between surface and shadow. My Flora Vase for Arteriors did this in marble, and now I’m looking at the light shifts created by bold recesses in all kinds of lustrous materials. Now that’s niche appeal!
We loved this glossy white lacquer center table so much, we had to put a ring on it! Two, in fact. The rim of its flat, concentric base is repeated as a detail halfway up its base, and again as a thin, metal underline to its disc top. Combining clean, modernist form with pure industry, it’s perfect alone or stacked with books and treasures.
Ultimately my favorite kids rooms play to all Like the clerestory-lit room, above, which clears space for boundless energy yet also calibrates down to a quiet, restorative getaway. Every hammock seat suspends time of our own making, whether reading to the little ones or flying solo with a good novel. Because what kid among us (or, rather, inside us) can resist a swing? Minds can soar, while a few shaggy tuffets below beckon back to earth. Just ask Max in the middle of all that rumpus. Even when you’re king of the wild things, there’s still no match for the comfort and love of home. What better gift can we give then room to explore both, from fantasy to sureties then back all over again!