Tot to Teen: Design ideas to transform a child’s bedroom


A friend recently decided that the perfect sweet 16 gift  would be to update and redo her daughter’s bedroom while she was away on school camp. Two questions came up: Should I theme it for her current horse obsession & what bed does she need? 

Your child’s bedroom has quite possibly served as their first and will be transformed right through to their last in the family home before they fly the coop. Its evolution deserves some careful consideration. Colour palettes, storage, furniture, bed, bedding, flooring – it all needs to carefully adapt as your child grows.  This could span as long as 20 years or more so how do you go about it? We talked to Resene Colour Expert Rebecca Long over some tips and tricks to decorating a child’s bedroom to maximise your budget and minimise any toddler/teen tantrums along the way.

The nursery

Insert smiley love emojis here – expectant parents get very excited about decorating their new arrival’s nursery. The options are endless but the overwhelming theme among many designers and mums who have been there and done that is to stick to classic colours or a more neutral colour palette on the walls and floors. This will help you down the track when you want to redesign the room as your child gets older, says Rebecca. She suggests off whites, soft blues, greys, biscotti hues that give a bit of modern warmth but also offer versatility. 

Colour will come out in toys, wall pictures or decals. Rebecca suggests breaking up the neutral palette with coloured shelving or furniture. You can even split the walls by putting a mid-toned neutral colour at the bottom and a lighter shade above as a clever work-around for smudgy little fingers and marks as they begin to walk and play in their room.

The wonder years

Resene child’s bedroom

Now is the time when a child’s personality is really going to start to shine through their own bedroom. But here’s where the design mistakes can happen. Rebecca says that in her nine years of being a colour expert, she’s had parents go on a child’s immediate request to paint the entire room one colour – only to find they don’t like it a couple of weeks later. Imagine staring at wall to wall lime green and hating it! Involve your child in the process but carefully edit how their ideas are used. 

A theme in your child’s bedroom can be a good idea. Superheroes are very popular at the moment, says Rebecca. Just tread lightly. “I wouldn’t be afraid to dive into a theme – as long as you can see a future with it,” she says. She says it’s fun to play around with these themes and they can be used for years down the track. This includes pinks that might work for a princess-themed younger bedroom that can evolve into a sunset idea for a teenager. “A deep navy could also be used as a backdrop for space themed, starry night and later for band posters'” Rebecca says. Then you can also go to town on the theme with duvet and pillow covers, wall murals and accessories around the room – these can be easily be phased out as your child gets older.

Remember, a child might have an idea for colour but that could be used in something as simple as a wall poster. Rebecca said she’s even had children take home the Resene kids colour chart and put that in their room. Grab a test pot of their favourite colour and let the child use it to create some artwork for the walls, she says. Other cool ideas for this age group include things like magnetic paint walls that can be used to hang things, stick things to it & to draw on.

Resene child’s bedroom

At this stage of your child’s bedroom evolution, now is the time to start thinking about storage. That’s because from now until they leave home, they’ll need a tonne of it. Sleepyhead makes the Spacebase – a bed base cleverly designed to fit 180L underneath it – perfect for kids toys and books. It’s also the time when many parents ask us here at Sleepyhead what bed they should buy for their child. We have Sleepyhead Junior, if you want a bed specifically made for kids, then there’s the Chiropractic Trundler.

It’s a great choice for space saving with a King Single bed on top and a single mattress underneath that pops up to form a double bed. It’s a good idea for kids when they have friends join them for sleepovers or you have visitors and need to commandeer the child’s room for grandma to use over Christmas. Find out how you can win a Chiropractic Trundler here

Teen Dream

Now’s where your flexible and neutral colours for your tween/teen’s bedroom are going to help provide a base for the next and possibly last phase of your child’s bedroom evolution. If they had a Barney purple themed bedroom when they were five, it is definitely going to need updating! Involving your teen in this project is important as it can reflect their true individuality and give them some ownership over the space.

 By now their single or king single bed is probably going to need to be upsized to a double bed or even a queen size bed. We’d recommend the Sleepyhead Chiropractic range for good back care while they are still growing. The bigger the mattress, the better it is for you when your child leaves home because you can use the bedroom for guests.

Now there’s probably the need for a serious study desk so space in the bedroom will be at a premium, says Rebecca. If you don’t want the room to be too cluttered, then get creative with furniture such as fold up desks, study areas or the wardrobe could even be converted as a creative nook, she says. 

Plants are a great trend to find their way into a teenager’s bedroom – we’re talking the botanical/floral kind, not the illegal ones! Find plants that are less hassle, such as cacti, that let your teen have some responsibility over their care and maintenance. 

Many parents find their teen suddenly wants darker colours in their bedroom space. “Don’t be afraid of them,” says Rebecca. We’re not talking all black – but there are plenty of great emerald, navy and plum hues that can keep a teen’s bedroom feeling warm and cosy. 

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