Sophistication, flexibility, quality. You might associate those words with high-end home design and furniture, but they also describe what today's parents want for their children's rooms. Plastic furniture in primary colors is no more, as parents shift to an "older clientele," says Brian Green, a partner at Great Beginnings, the largest children's furniture store in the nation.
They want "gender-neutral design and furniture that will grow with the child, so they're buying better-quality items to start."
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Gerri Panebianco, a co-owner of California children's design firm Little Crown Interiors, agrees that "theme rooms are on the decline."
Even when parents do cater the decorations to a specific gender, she says, there's still "a great sense of freedom with colors -- it's not always pink for a girl or blue for a boy." This strategy can save money in the long run, as artwork, rugs and paint can be easily changed out to match phases of a child's life.
But the best part of this trend might be that a space flexible in design allows for a lot of fun with whimsical, colorful accessories that please little tots and teenagers -- and their parents, too. Here are some of our favorite finds.
Simple, flexible furniture
For furniture that grows with your family, there's of course the crib-to-twin-bed approach, but there's also the novel Brookline Bunk Bed from Argington. Buy one twin bed for your first child, then buy the second later with a bunk bed conversion kit, or do it the other way around -- buy the bunk bed and disassemble it as rooms in the house open up. You can also buy a trundle bed for sleepover guests ($949 for the bunk bed, www.argington.com).
Michelle Freedberg, a blogger for Project Nursery and the owner of the New York location of the children's store Bellini, is seeing a lot of "crisp, clean furniture" accented by bolder accessory colors. Two-tone furniture is also popular, she says, especially when used as an accent piece. If all the other furniture in the room is white or espresso-colored, two-tones can help break up the room visually. Oeuf's Mini Library in Walnut could help organize toys or create a reading corner ($678, www.modernnursery.com).
Themed kids rooms are generally a ghost of trends past, but that doesn't mean parents can't still keep their kids' rooms childlike. One way to do this is with animals on prints, as with Naked Decor's cartoonish Big Eyes Cat Pillow, which is gray on one side, white on the other ($50, www.nakeddecor.com).
"On lamps, on the wall or even as hooks, animal heads are a big trend in kids decor," Freedberg says. A giraffe-head hook will hold lanyards or little girls' necklaces ($20, www.anthropologie.com).
When it comes to lamps, one can find almost any member of the animal kingdom. But White Rabbit England adds something special with its delicate bone china owl ($95, www.whiterabbitengland.com). Or for more color, try the safari-inspired Lion Bank by Jonathan Adler ($78, clickdesignthatfits.com).
And animal-loving (and book-loving) parents can keep "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" and other appropriately seaworthy tales organized with the cast-iron Start to Fin Bookends ($55, www.modcloth.com).
Geometrics and patterns
Geometric prints and patterns are another way to add interest to a child's room. "Using bold patterns in linen and window treatments is huge this year," Freedberg says. "It's a trend we saw in adult decor that really carried on to children." Try the Notebook Stripe pouf for one school-inspired example ($180, www.littlechoux.com).
Decorating a child's room is also about creating a safe and inspiring place for little ones to learn and play. What better accessory, then, than a tent? Such Great Heights' Smokey Black Grand Hearts Wonder Tent offers room for reading adventures and daydreaming ($279, www.etsy.com). Bonus: Buy the conversion kit to turn it into a clothes rack later.
Geometric angles aren't limited to textile prints; the Geo Wood Lamp by Barry Dixon for Arteriors Home proves that it carries over to accessories as well ($449, www.furbishstudio.com).
Pattern has hopped onto the walls, as well, from paint patterns to elaborate decals such as Pop & Lolli's Iconic Cultural World Map ($191-$457, www.popandlolli.com). "More and more, we are seeing parents opting for wallpaper or murals on the walls as a way to dress up the space," Freedberg says. "Broad stripes or even stencils are being used to create interest." Even basic paint can be fun, with accent walls behind cribs and beds highlighting one area of the room.
To put your walls to a practical purpose, track your child's growth with Simple Shapes' Growth Chart Numbers ($65, www.simpleshapes.com).