July 31, 2011 in Features

Teen choices

As children age, so do their tastes in furnishings
Leanne Italie Associated Press

That cute duckie wallpaper or nautical furniture set were great for your child’s baby years and just barely tolerable through elementary school.

But a bedroom makeover is hard to get around when a child heads for the tumultuous teens.

Consider the four C’s – classic, comfort, cool and color – when providing older kids with inviting hangout-study spaces. And keep in mind a transformation doesn’t have to mean tossing everything and buying all new.

Spending selectively now may just carry your child through the college years and beyond, to their first apartment, says design guru Nate Berkus, host of the syndicated “Nate Berkus Show.”

Jennifer Adams Meyers, an interior and home products designer in Scottsdale, Ariz., says distressed, whitewashed and some darker woods are hot trends in baby furniture, boding well for use in a teen room through simple sanding and painting.

Making a teen a partner in the redesign can be fun and fruitful, Meyers says.

“Let them have complete leeway. It gives them the motivation to keep it clean and organized,” she says.


A completely new set of furniture is probably not necessary, but a few items might be – a bigger bed, for instance. Another piece to consider investing in is a chest of drawers.

“Go for classic lines, not something too youthful,” Berkus suggests. “Going with a vintage chest of drawers is a good idea, like English mahogany or Swedish Painted.

“I’m more interested in people having something that’s an investment of a lifetime. How can I not have to replace something because I’ve bought into a theme?”

Teens have different priorities than little kids. They may not care much anymore about vast floor space to build Lego cities, for instance.

Turn over some of that real estate to a couch and an overstuffed armchair for reading, even if it means going for a laptop desk for homework over a freestanding one.

Bedside tables can be painted rather than tossed – and even double as desks, Meyers said.

A lamp can be made new with a funky new fabric shade, and many home improvement stores carry beaded chandeliers in a variety of colors. Consider keeping a rocking chair with a new seat cushion for a reading nook.

Berkus is a big fan of vintage. He also has some suggestions on how to avoid spending money unnecessarily.

“The larger-ticket items that I wouldn’t invest in would include wallpaper,” he said. “That’s exclusively for a kid room. I wouldn’t invest in a rug.

“Go with stripes, black and white, blue and white, or gray and white.”


There’s no better way to let a tween or teen take control of their space than putting them in charge of palette, but be prepared to accept whatever crazy color scheme they come up with.

In addition to walls, linens can add a blast of color and texture.

“They have a shelf life,” Berkus says. “They can only handle so many washes. Thematic is fine.”

Wall art is huge to many teens – a poster of a favorite sports star or movie.

How about a collection of colorful album covers from the ’60s, a surfer scene, or framed memorabilia such as photos of friends and family mixed with your child’s own artwork and souvenirs from vacations? Or hanging skateboards or lacrosse sticks as art?

Meyers suggests vinyl wall decals with quotes or special words (“Peace” or “Happiness”) as a way for a teen to personalize the room.

Let them dress windows in wild designs and colors. Curtains come funky and cheap these days, or buy inexpensive shades kids can paint themselves.

The idea is to cede some control, but not get thrown under the bus altogether on style, design and cost.

Chances are your little one already had some throw pillows. Those can live on with new cases that accent the scheme.

Teens read and study in strange positions, so a reading wedge or a body pillow that can be scrunched for comfort while working on a laptop would be a good addition.

Closets, shelves, containers

Big kids may be more attached than you think but too embarrassed to say that they’d like to display some of their growing-up stuff.

In the new room, that baby chair collecting dust in the corner might be more palatable with fresh paint covering the bears or ducks. The piece is saved but the nerd quotient diminished.

Reserve shelf space for a favorite doll, toy and a few old books, but not front and center. Consider spacing mementoes between stacks of books, CDs or magazines.

Offer storage in another room for anything else they might want to keep but not display.

Berkus says ownership of the new space can be fostered in many ways.

“If your teenager really wants a specific item for their room, I like the idea of making them work for half of it, or coming up with something else they can do so they really understand that pride of ownership,” he said.

Closets are a sticky issue. Older children have bigger stuff, more clothes, more shoes, more sports equipment. Renovating a closet to make it deeper or wider may be unavoidable. Adding cubbies and a second hanging rod can help if expansion isn’t possible. Don’t forget to mount a full-length mirror on the back of a closet door. It’s a cheap, easy way to more quickly extract a teen girl from a bathroom.

Extra pegs and hooks inside a closet can be added easily and used for robes, backpacks, handbags and scarves.

Looking to avoid dirty clothes as your child’s new decor? Let them pick out a full-size hamper with a lid to be stashed in a corner, rather than a closet, as a reminder it needs to get used.

And you know all those baskets and containers that caught the toys and baby books? Replace them with vertical book storage, graduating storage boxes than can be piled into a pyramid, or collapsible crates with handles that come in fun patterns and colors.

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