Dora the Explorer can undergo all the makeovers she wants--that Dora comforter is still getting chucked faster than last year's gym shoes when Hannah Montana comes calling.
And therein lies the quandary for parents
trying to decorate their kids' rooms in a way
that's both whimsical and practical: Do you
give in to the relentless onslaught of characters,
themes and eye-catching colors your
child covets? (It is her room, after all.) Or do
you insist on decor with a little more longevity
and panache? (Child's translation: booooring.)
Surely Spider-Man and style can peacefully
co-exist. Here we turn to three experts
in search of some middle ground.
■ Themes are for birthday parties. "If
your kid is into trains, a lot of parents will
buy the train wallpaper border, train bedding,
train models to put on a shelf and so
on," says Serena Dugan, co-founder and
creative director for Serena & Lily children's
bedding line (serenaandlily.com). "But
chances are your child is going to be on to
something new soon, so you no longer love
the room, and the child's over it too. A little
goes a long way."
Alittle, in this case, can take the form of a
single pillowcase, desk accessories, stickers
on a bulletin board, even a throw pillow.
Anything that you won't mind parting with
in short order because it didn't cost much
and replacing it doesn't require an overhaul
of the room.
"My son was so into Batman when he was
little," says Michelle Williams, founder of
Michelle Williams Interiors (mwilliams
interiors.com). "I got him one big pillow for
the top of his bed. He thought it was terrific,
and I didn't feel bad when he was done with
■ Teach art appreciation. A fun way to
sneak childlike accents into a room is
through framed "artwork." For toddlers, this
might mean framing flashcards, colorful
greeting cards or their own masterpieces.
For slightly older kids, this is a great spot for
their favorite characters to find a home.
"If they're into Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella,
buy a poster and frame it," suggests
Williams. "Now it's elevated from a cheap-o
fad to 'Wow, look at this! It's art!' And when
they get older, take the poster out and replace
it with something else."
Williams framed some classic Barbie
prints from Z Gallerie for her daughter's
room. "Young at heart, but sophisticated at
the same time," she says.
She also suggests hanging art lower on the
walls. "By hanging a piece of art low over a
beanbag chair, you are creating an 'area,' "
■ Choose sophisticated pieces. "I don't
believe in pandering to children," says Williams.
"My son has a leather sofa in his room
that came out of a different room in our
house," she says. "His friends have been
known to sleep on that sofa, and it's ageless.
He could be 25 and still using it--not that I
want him in my house when he's 25
For accent lighting, she suggests a chandelier
or crystal lamp (with a young, fun lampshade).
And her piece de resistance? The desk
"I love a Philippe Starck Louis Ghost Chair
or an Eames tulip chair with a simple IKEA
or Room and Board desk," she says. "The
look is young and fun, but it can work at 6 or
12 or 18."
■ Find furniture with legs. "Adaptability,
quality and neutral color palette," Dugan
emphasizes. She's a fan of white furnishings,
which go with anything and work as well in a
nursery as a preteen room. "Invest in quality
pieces that will grow with your child," Dugan
says. "An armoire that can convert to a
child's wardrobe when [her] needs change,
Sam Scarborough, stylist and author of
"Cool Spaces for Kids" (Hamlyn Books,
$19.99), says bunk beds grow up with your
children. "It's great fun for a 6-year-old--they
love climbing up and down the ladder--and a
good sleepover option for older kids," Scarborough
says. "It's also a space saver; the
bottom bed can be removed to make space for
a homework area."
■ Paint is your friend. It's relatively cheap
and easily changed. "Choose a neutral color
scheme on the walls, with a feature wall in a
different color that can be changed as the
child grows," suggests Scarborough.
And paint doesn't have to be limited to the
walls. "You can always paint canvas wall
panels with just one color," says Dugan. "If
pink is what she's into, pick four quarts of
fuchsia paint in a range and paint each panel
a different shade. Hang them in a grid, and
you've satisfied her need with minimum
investment and maximum impact."
Williams warns against painting elaborate
murals on the walls, however. "Eventually
they won't like it, it will date the room, and
you'll feel bad painting over it because you
remember what you paid for it," she says.
And what color bedding and curtains go
with an ever-changing palette of wall colors?
"Denim goes with everything, is hardy and
washes extremely well--the more it's
washed the better it looks--and also hides
spills well," says Scarborough. "Denim
works in both boys' and girls' rooms; just add
splashes of pink, or blues and red checks for