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  • Writer's pictureMarni Jameson

Designing a Dreamy Guest Room for Kids

Teepees and tents, lofts and ladders, playhouses and pirate ships. My inner child is in overdrive as I imagine what I would want in a bedroom if I were a kid again.

And my kid-hood just took a giant step backward, sinking further into my past as abruptly and without any time to mentally prepare, I became an instagramma -- times four.

See, just three years ago, I was a divorced mom with two unmarried daughters in college, living alone. I didn’t even have a pet fish. Today I’m married with two dogs, and three step kids, who’ve made four more kids.

I didn’t actually believe it until a couple weeks ago when they were all here at once, living, incontrovertible proof that whoosh! I had fast forwarded into the next stage of life.

Mother may I take one giant step backward?

No, you may not.

“Boy, that was fast,” I told DC.

“And they’re not done,” my husband said, referring to the fact that three of our combined brood of five grown children hadn’t started families yet.

Before I let myself get too overcome by the fact that my life was zipping along like a driverless car, I did what I always do in moments of personal crisis and panic. I began decorating.

“I have only one thing do say to that!” I told DC. “These little ones are going to need their own guest room!”

And we had just the room. Ever since last summer, when I first saw the upstairs 10 x 14-foot room, before DC and I bought the happier yellow house, I loved this room’s storybook qualities: the finished-attic feel, a pitched ceiling, and a south-facing window that overlooked an open field like a promise.

I could easily see turning this room into the stuff of kids’ dreams, but how?

I’ve designed kids’ rooms for individual children, and I’ve designed guest rooms for adults, but a guest room for an assortment of kiddos called for something else.

For a single child, you can appeal to the kid’s interests, but, as my designer friend Ken Olsen, of Winter Park, Fla., put it, “It’s hard to bridge fairy princesses and Kung Fu Panda.”

And I want a room that appeals universally to boys and girls, to toddlers, tweens and teens, for now and for years to come.

“We’re seeing a lot more of exactly the scenario you describe,” said Atlanta-based interior designer Suzanne Kasler. “Our clients have children coming back home with their children, and they want to create a room for all the young ones.”

So I asked Kasler what to consider when creating a dreamy kids’ getaway:

  • The baby stage. Because all grandkids start as babies, Kasler likes to temporarily convert a walk-in closet or a little pocket in the parents’ guest room into a crib room. “Keep it until the baby outgrows it, or for when the next one comes along,” she said.

  • A place to crash. When kids are ready for a room of their own, it’s all about the beds. This is the place for bunks, trundles and twins. “Everyone loves a bunk room except the mom who has to make the bunk,” said Kasler. “Even college kids love bunks when they come home and bring friends.” If you don’t have the ceiling height for bunk beds, do twin beds with a trundle.

  • A place to land. Bunks, twins and trundles allow for more floor space. And for kids, the floor is the place to be. Whether the kids’ room has wall-to-wall carpet or wood floors with a rug, the floor should offer a soft place to land, play and sprawl.

  • A gender-neutral palette. If kids of both genders will visit, choose gender-neutral colors, and avoid pink and purple. “A room done in tans, blues and white can bridge genders.” Red, white and blue is also a fun color scheme.

  • A personal touch. To make each child feel special, personalize his or her bed with a favorite toy or stuffed animal, and a pillow monogrammed with his or her name. In shared quarters, kids like to have their own spot, a drawer or shelf or locker for stuff that’s just theirs, said Olsen.

  • A place to chill. A kid-level television, and some age appropriate books can provide kids a chance for quiet time when they’re tired, but not sleepy, said Kasler.

  • A place to hide. Kids love an adult-free zone. If the architecture allows, work in a magical space like a loft, hammock, clubhouse, fort, teepee, tent, pirate ship, or a curtained bed. In one client’s home, Kasler shortened the door to a walk-in closet turning it into a playhouse. As kids grow, the teepee or the fort can transition into desk space.

  • Minimal furniture. Unlike a guest room for adults, kids’ guest rooms need little furniture. “Kids usually bring duffels full of stuff, and these fill up a room very fast,” she said. For seating, toss in a couple beanbag chairs; they’re youthful and indestructible.

  • Easy-care fabrics. Save the silk and custom bedding for another room. “I like readymade bedding that is easy to launder and change out,” said Kasler. Go for sheets that you can bleach, rugs you can clean, and not-fancy fabrics that are easy to maintain.

  • High lights. To maximize floor space and minimize accidents, forego floor and table lamps and light the room with wall sconces and ceiling fixtures, said Olsen.

  • Room to grow. Even after they’re in college, kids like coming back to the same bed from their childhood, said Kasler. If you’ve created a classic neutral backdrop that has timeless appeal, you can refresh the paint color and change accessories for an easy evolution as kids grow.

I think I want to come back as my grandkid.

CAPTION: Bunker Down -- Who doesn’t love a bunk bed? asks Atlanta interior designer Suzanne Kasler, who designed this kid friendly guest room. “Add a bunk, and the room immediately becomes more fun.” Photo courtesy of Miguel Flores-Vianna.

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