The palest pinks and yellows, the softest blues and greens, white fluffy clouds and eyelet fabrics, all in which to swaddle precious bundles of joy, beckon the calmness and peace parents desire for their babes into their rooms. But in the blink of an eye, these chambers of sweetness become hideouts, lairs with parental entry forbidden as those sweet babes grow into surly teens. Then a parent is faced with one of two choices: just keep the door shut and pretend that the utter chaos behind it doesn’t exist, or work with the teen to create an environment in which he or she can happily function and hide. And perhaps both parties can graciously accept a compromise and even leave the door open when the room is unoccupied.
Katherine Anderson, owner of Katherine J. Anderson Design/Interiors and mother of three grown sons, has “walked the walk” and is full of sage suggestions for teen bedroom creations. “I believe they should have lots of input as to what they want,” Katherine says. “However, think of the plan as temporary and easily transitional, because their likes and dislikes change so much during the teen years.” Katherine believes that teen input should be limited when it comes to wall cover or color and what goes on the floor. “Go with a neutral or basic color, or you will find yourself painting again within a few short years. And don’t paint black!” she advises. “Black can be used with pillows or bedspreads or painted furniture, just not on the walls.”
“The color of the room is a great place to start,” says Linda Burnside of LGB Interiors. “It is fun to get the teen involved. I toss out some color palettes and find out what their interests are, because it helps lead to better, more practical choices from what they sometimes initially thought they wanted. And take them shopping with you. For instance, one client’s daughter wanted a pretty little French sofa for her room. Yet, when she sat on one and experienced how uncomfortable it was, she changed her mind. We were able to find something that she not only liked just as much but was also a more comfortable choice.”
Marnie Clayton and Anna Kemper of MACK Home are also finding that more parents are bringing their teens in for a bedroom consultation. “We are seeing an interest towards a more sophisticated, sometimes even spa-like trend with the girls,” Marnie says. “The boys still want their trophies and stuffed fish, just mixed in with some sophistication. Full length mirrors are a must … especially in girls’ rooms.”
Katherine Anderson agrees on the importance of mirrors, because, “No matter what they say, they all like to look at themselves.”
Marnie and Anna recommend investing in select impact pieces that are timeless and will be a focal point in the room. They remind teens that with basic pieces, they can periodically change bedding and pillows and give the room a whole new look.
Linda says, “I choose things that will stand the test of time as they grow and change into young women and men.”
All of these decorators agree on a few key elements for consideration when decorating bedrooms for teens. Other than mirrors, good lighting and a comfortable place to study top the list. They all agree that teens rarely sit at a desk to study, and there is a plethora of fun lighting to use instead of a plain old desk lamp.
They also recommend fabrics that are washable, especially the bedding. In fact, all seemed in agreement that money should not be sunk into the actual bedding, but maybe into the decorative pillows, throws and lighting instead. Bulletin boards are another popular recommendation, since a place where teens can post “their stuff” is a must.
Closets and storage space are other hot issues. “Make sure you have closets with a lot of shelving as opposed to just a rod. Do double rods where needed, and clean out clothes regularly,” advises Katherine. “Make it easy to hang up clothes and put away shoes by having loads of hooks, cubbies and a designated space for the dirty clothes basket.”
Mandy Summers of M Gallery Interiors in Lexington agrees and goes one step farther. “Use temporary closet organizers that can be switched around and changed as a child’s wardrobe and storage needs change.” Mandy says she gets her temporary closet organizer pieces from Bed, Bath and Beyond.
Linda says that for her own teenagers, Robert and Brooks, she and her husband actually knocked through walls in both their rooms that opened into unused attic space and built extra space for storage. “We built bookshelves down one of the walls for Robert and the rest of the space, he used for his ‘gaming space’ since he could make it so dark.”
If totally new space is being built, Katherine suggests double insulating bedroom walls to create better soundproofing, an especially good idea for teens who love to crank up their music.
Mandy and Samantha, her daughter, found the inspiration for the 17-year-old’s bedroom from a trip to New York City. “She absolutely loved New York. So, we went to Wallpaper Additions,” Mandy explains, “and found a border that had a black and white backdrop of the New York skyline. There are women with shopping bags standing in front of cabs, and the only colors in the border are the yellow of the cabs and the shopping bags are pink and lime green.”
Sam loves collections, so Mandy’s challenge was helping her display her favorite items in an attractive way. Combining artwork and organizers together creates a fun and practical result.
“Samantha’s walls were already pale pink. I brought down the border about one and a half feet from the ceiling. We painted lime green above the border and left the rest of the walls the pale pink. Then on the main bedroom wall, we hung the companion wallpaper which is totally black and white and features the main tourist attractions in the city like the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.” Mandy included pink and green push pins for the all-important bulletin board, and the bedding and window treatments are black and white. “Samantha’s friends think her room is so cool,” laughs Mandy, “and Samantha just responds, ‘Well, my mom is a decorator!’”
Bulletin boards allow Sam to express her individuality, as well as display mementos and keepsakes from special times.
Marnie and Anna enjoy going with a funky look for girls and a more industrial look with boys that includes using metal pieces and leather where possible. “We love to work with kids who will take risks and we aren’t afraid of color,” Marnie says. “For instance, we just finished up an orange and pink girl’s room for a client that included contemporary Indian bedding. For the boy’s room, we used a metal wrapped leather desk chair and a contemporary light fixture. He is a Virginia Tech fan so we made subtle nods to his team with industrial metal letters on the wall and incorporated the teams colors where we could.”
Mandy lessens any anxiety one may have about allowing a teenager input into decorating a bedroom when she declares, “Anything goes! Let their room reflect them. The bedroom does not have to ‘go’ with the rest of the house.” And Linda concludes, “It is more important for girls to come up with something they can grow into. For boys … think durability, practicality, storage and somewhere to get away from everyone.”