Home & Design July 24, 2008

From Womb to Room

A Kid’s Room is the First Sanctuary, Make it Great.

Remember when you were an expectant parent, ambling around on the floor, getting a crawler’s-eye view of things to childproof their world?

Now, as your child grows increasingly mobile, so does her need for personal space, and making it a place to grow in is the key to providing that transitional space.

So, get up off of your hands and knees and get on your backs in the middle of the floor of this soon-to-be transformed space and see how it will look to a child waking up each morning, or to the one who daydreams away a snowy day, or to one who is stuck in bed with the flu. Try to make every place they look a little scene, something that inspires peace, stimulates imagination, or simply brings out a smile.

Just as many of you are already on waiting lists for Montessori before your baby is even born, it is important to choose the room in your home that will be theirs throughout the ages. Modern parents are using the nursery not as an extension of the womb, where the room is so vastly different from the rest of the home’s décor that it is like entering a bubble. Instead, designers are responding to consumer demand that products and furniture be built for style and longevity, converting for the long term and complementing the rest of the home.

“I see conscious designers looking to help people think in the big picture,” says Laura Higdon of Lilipad Studio in Hailey. “They are helping families to make choices and purchases based on quality and longevity, rather than in the moment.”

Higdon facilitates that effort as an interior design consultant, a career which evolved from her artistic work as a graphic designer, custom mural and furniture artist. Her hand-made furniture is eco-friendly and based on a mother’s viewpoint.

Higdon the consultant says that the first thing to consider when designing for a child is longevity.

“Choose pieces that can grow with a child and the growth of the family. I think families are getting bolder with their color choices and selecting rich, sophisticated colors that older children and adults can appreciate, too,” she says. “Paint is really the easiest and most cost effective way of making a statement. It can really liven up the mood of a space.”

Higdon recalls her mural work for a local book author who wanted to convey the adventurous spirit of a daughter with paintings of her throughout the room, doing cartwheels through a garden, jumping rope, running with her dog and so on.

“This room was truly an extension of who she was. I think, most importantly, focusing on some love or interest of the child or family can give the room wonder and a sense of being personalized for them. I encourage people to find their own look rather than falling to Walt Disney’s creations or Winnie the Pooh and really bring in elements that are most unexpected, personal and imaginative.”

Remaining somewhat eclectic in style with the décor can make it much easier to grow with than a theme-based room that will have to be ditched and redone as interests change.

“Flea markets and yard sales are great for finding fun, eclectic pieces to give the room personality and individuality. You can also find lamps, books, shelves and accessories.”

Higdon encourages making sustainable choices on every level for the child’s safety as well as to launch a life of eco-friendly living.
Use low VOC paints, natural versus synthetic materials and furniture made of hard woods.

Do consider those things when buying pre-owned items that might have been hewn before health issues like lead paint got them off the market.
Fourteen-year-old Reta Flynt and her brother Travis, 9, were old enough when their home was being built in North Gimlet that they were able to choose the colors for their own rooms. Pink and green for Reta and green and blue for Travis.

Mom Susan Flynt worked with Ketchum’s Living Architecture’s Dale Bates and builder Craig Johnson to build a green home and make the healthiest choices for the décor.

“I think it is very important to me that my children think of their room as a haven for them, and when they were smaller, me,” she says. “My kids, especially my daughter now, spend hours in their rooms doing homework and just having a place to call their own.”

Flynt consulted with her children on some of the finer details. With the help of local interior space designer Heather Madden of HRM Designs, they personalized each child’s space. More shelving for Reta and her collectibles, extra beds for sleepovers, a space for a desk as they move onto bigger homework challenges. Each child painted tiles at Local Color in Ketchum to include in their bathroom and closet thresholds.

Flynt said she regularly thumbed through magazines for ideas, compiling them in a three-ring binder.

She advises parents to give the kids limited choices within your budget or they will go for the most expensive every time.

“Find creative ways to include them in the design without giving them full rein,” she advises. “It was a fulfilling process and the children and I are enjoying the benefits of their input into our home.”

“They also feel a sense of ownership in the home since they had such a large part of choosing colors, designs, lighting, etc., for their bedrooms and baths. I can tell they are proud to tell friends that they chose the colors for their rooms when they receive compliments on their space.”

Some of Flynt’s favorite additions are a door in Reta’s room that she found in a Portland, Oregon, antique store, a bathroom door that she got from Wood River Land Trust’s Thrift Store, and Mexican doors (bought locally) in Travis’ room.

“The solid wood has raised squares so we had the center squares replaced with colored glass and a speakeasy door in the center for Travis’ bedroom door. One must knock and wait for Travis to look through his secret door before entering, although we as parents reserve the right for entrance 24/7,” says mom. >>>



These sophisticated rooms leave one wondering if the kids can be kids in them. To that Flynt gives this thoughtful response.

“The rooms were designed for the kids and are the only rooms I let a separation occur regarding a common flow of our home. When you first walk through the front door there may be a pink glow radiating from Reta’s room. It’s not like anything else in our home which makes it so special. Same goes for Travis’ room.”

These rooms are designed to last until the children move out, with upgrades to bedding and accessories as need be.

Did the pride in ownership make the kids want to keep their rooms clean?

“My daughter does not keep a tidy room and that exasperates me, not because she has messed up a creation, but because it is not my nature to let my bedroom become messy. Travis keeps a much neater room, partly because he is younger and not the collector Reta is. Who knows how it will go when he turns 14.”

This writer can offer a case study in poor planning. I was cracking the spine on What to Expect When You’re Expecting in my eighth month, while in labor with twins en route to Boise to give birth.

I fully expected to have time to plan, but I was working still and even left a story unwritten on the computer with plans to return the next day. Thankfully I had sort of plotted out the warmest room in the house and decided that would be the nursery, but I didn’t think beyond that.

Bless my best friend, Teri Szombathy, who in my month-long stay in Boise took over and had my nursery painted in comical animals from the John Lennon collection—which were chosen based on my post-birth shower bedding gift. She enlisted the help of local artist Beth Rogers, who appropriately placed the animals high enough on the wall as to be above the cribs so the babies would be able to see them.

Now four, Devon and Gracie have far outgrown their digs and required a room with their own beds. It was time to move the girls from the family bed into their own, so I had an exceptional challenge to create an enticing space. Though I thought the cheery neutral yellow of the nursery would remain a favorite, that color clearly had become too baby-fied for them. I remembered the perspective Rogers had on how the room would look from the cribs as the girls and I began pulling together their new room—adjacent to the nursery. We’ve decided the nursery will never be painted over, but will become the girls’ study.

We don’t have a lot of money to spend on decorations, our towels are still the ancient ones we each brought to the marriage seven years ago, but my mother-in-law is a professional yard and thrift store shopper and as she dragged me along on her jaunts, ideas took shape, collections began and their room formed. I wanted bedding that would go the distance, so I settled on the classic.

We took the girls to Target to the Shabby Chic collection and gave them a limited number of choices and they selected their bedding. Every once in a while, OK, frequently, I find myself sleeping in one of their beds and checking out the view. Butterflies and fairies, old framed animal pictures, family heirlooms, Mexican art, they all come together for a pleasing view wherever you look.

It’s definitely now the room to grow from and theirs to design from now on.

This article appears in the Spring 2008 Issue of Sun Valley Magazine.