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How to Redecorate a Child’s Room
on Shoestring Budget
By Marcia Passos Duffy
If your son is embarrassed to have friends play in his room because the painted sailboats on
the walls are too babyish, or your daughter has long outgrown her pink tutu phase and loves
horses now, you know its time to redecorate your child’s bedroom.
But before you spend more money on yet another themed room –- with expensive furniture
upgrades, wall covering, comforters and other accessories –- take a step back and think about
whether you will have to go through another major remake when your child hits the teen
“Stay away from ‘theme’ decorating and choose furnishings that can grow with your child,”
says interior decorator Kimberly Merritt whose design work has been featured on HGTV; she
also runs Beautiful Living Academy of Design and Decorating, an interior redesign training
program based in Peterborough, NH.
Some furniture basics –- such as a bed, chest of drawers and a bookcase -- should be able stay
with the child from school age years to teen years, such as plain white or natural wood
furnishings for girls, and natural or stained wood for boys. If you have the furniture basics it
will be easier –- and less expensive -- to re-decorate as a child gets older.
Merritt suggests that once a child has outgrown the room you have decorated for him or her as
a baby and toddler, involve the now-older child in the process.
“It’s a win-win. Parents can plan the budget and make the practical decisions, while the child
can have fun combining colors and adding personal touches to the space,” she said.
Here are some tips on some fun ways to redecorate that will create a bedroom that you child
will love, but won’t break the bank:
Involve Your Child in the Decorating Process
Make sure you set clear parameters about what you are willing to spend at the onset of the
process. Make it clear to your children about what items they really need and what things are
Make a plan with your child. Talk about where the child will sleep, work, play and study.
Then map it out in the space as you and your child walk around the room. Let them draw
their idea of a “fantasy” room and talk about how you can bring some of the ideas to reality.
Paint the Walls
Involve the child in this process of paint selection. Color is a quick and relatively inexpensive
fix that can be changed as kids grows to reflect their changing sense of style.
“I tell parents to stand firm about furnishings and flooring, but the rest of the room can be
changed again and again with simple, and often inexpensive, updates,” says Merritt. “Have
fun … orange, purple and green walls? You bet!”
But if you prefer to have a little control over the color -- i.e., you don’t want to end up painting
a room pitch black or neon pink -- select five to 10 shades you can live with, get some
swatches, then let the child make the selection. Make sure that the paint is washable.
You can also add extra touches to certain walls, such as adding paint that simulates a
If you want the walls and linens to match, get the linens first since it’s easier to alter a paint
color to match (fabrics) as opposed to first selecting a paint color then finding linens and
Create Themes Around Interests
Instead of a store-bought theme room –- which means expensive accessories –- encourage
your child to decorate around his or her interests and collections – and remember these
interests can change as your child matures.
For example, if your child loves horses, perhaps you can buy a horse-print throw for the bed,
or horse print pillows. Your child into model airplanes? Use the airplane creations to hang
from the ceilings, or display on (the child’s) eye-level shelves.
Buy Inexpensive Accessories
If the child is set on a commercial theme, like Hannah Montana or Batman, and wants
matching comforters, wall coverings, etc., reach a compromise: Go for inexpensive prints or
posters instead. You can also add stickers to mirrors, buy inexpensive pencil holders, lamp
shades, or theme-decorated throw pillows at discount stores. Stay away from stenciling and
murals, unless you want to create more work and expense for yourself.
Also avoid creating a “museum” feel to the room where things are too precious to be
touched. Do make it attractive, but don’t make it so that the room can’t be lived and played in.
Some other inexpensive decorative touches your child will appreciate include a full-length
mirror, a bean bag chair, and bulletin board. You can create your own “designer” sheets and
pillows by stamping designs on plain sheets and pillowcases. Update second-hand furniture
with new hardware and even wallpaper (that can be applied with decoupage).
Create an art gallery with the child’s drawing. Dedicate one wall to their masterpieces, and
use inexpensive frames to hang on the wall. Change artwork in the frames to update.
Keep Clutter Under Control
Remember that closets are not only for hanging: The floor surface is perfect for a storage
Shelves on the wall of the closet are good for when children are older and can reach. Baskets
or colorful plastic totes are also handy for closet and under-the-bed storage.
Hanging shoe racks can be used for t-shirts and hats. Closet organizers and using floors
instead of walls (to store items) allow the room to function better.
(This story originally appeared in Parent Express.)