Once upon a time, inside a happy yellow house on a tree-lined street, there lived a storybook room. The neglected, attic-like space sat at the far end of the second floor, where almost no one went.
From the moment I crossed the threshold of this room while house shopping 18 months ago, the wheels in my mind started turning, which sounds kind of like a hand-crank pencil sharpener that needs oil.
I wanted to make this hideaway into a magical place for the littlest members of the family. (Question: If it’s my new husband’s kids who are having kids, does that make me a grandma?) I pictured the little munchkins -- so far, two boys and two girls ages nine months to nine years -- going to G’Pa’s and Glamma’s (as we’ve come to be called) to play, stay, and – here’s where I grow mushy – to make happy, beautiful, lifetime childhood memories. Is that too much to expect?
Because magic doesn’t just happen, I set out to design a room I would want to stay in if I were a grandchild. I share my vision with DC, who has no inkling how much heartfelt romanticized thought I’ve put into this.
“We’ll put two adorable twin beds on either side of the window, and a toy chest beneath,” I tell him. “We’ll put a soft area rug between the beds for little bare feet to land on. We’ll get fabulous bedding that wraps them in a soft, warm hug.”
“Aren’t you getting a little carried away?” DC asks. “They’re just kids. They won’t notice.”
“Honey, this will be the room our grandkids remember us by. Do you want to shortchange their experience, or create a gracious nurturing nest?”
“Just saying, I’m pretty sure they won’t care if the sheets are 300-thread count.”
“Someday they will,” I say. “I don’t want them to look back and remember when they had to sleep in those beds with the scratchy polyester sheets as suffocating as plastic wrap.”
“Heaven forbid,” he says. “Not everyone in this family is the Princess and the Pea, you know.”
“Don’t you want them to love coming to our house, and to beg to come back?”
“I hope they come for us not their bedroom.”
“What if it’s both?”
Finally, this month, more than a year after DC and I moved into the Happier Yellow House, my quest for a storybook room that lived up to my dreams got its fairytale ending.
And the room and all those who dwelled in it lived happily ever after.
For anyone who wants to create a storybook room for the special little ones in their lives, here’s my formula, along with a few thoughts from my design friends, who, naturally, were on my side:
Choose a gender-neutral palette: I chose a navy, white and apple green color scheme to suit both girls and boys. “Blues and green are the go-to gender-neutral colors in design not just for kids, but also for husbands and wives,” said Beverly Hills designer Christopher Grubb.
Create timeless appeal. The room’s main furniture -- natural wood headboards adorned with carved birds -- was neither too young nor too old. “By investing in timeless, classic, high quality pieces and linens, you’ve created a room for kids of all ages, that these kids can grow up in and that has longevity,” said Florida designer Elaine Griffin.
Dress windows lightly. Though I avoid long drapery in rooms designed for kids, I still like to treat the windows. Besides having wood blinds for privacy and light control, I put a non-fussy box-pleat valance over the room’s only window. The treatment lifts the eye, and its fabric incorporates the room’s colors and relates to the area rug.
Add fabulous bedding. To make the two twin beds, I turned to Boll & Branch, makers of a luxury line of bedding that I’m addicted to, and found white cotton heirloom-quality quilts with a basket-weave stitch pattern, navy cable knit throws to drape at the foot of each bed, and Percale Simple Stripe Sheets in white and thin-striped navy. I propped against the headboard a feather-down sleeping pillow, then a quilted sham, and last a white sham with navy banding. The macramé-fringed cotton bed skirts from Ballard Design added a textural touch. After seeing a photo of the finished room, Grubb applauded the fact that the beds weren’t overdone. “When rooms are over bedded, they can’t breathe,” he said. “And you didn’t upstage the room’s main feature, those headboards.”
Personalize it. Because who wouldn’t love to be a guest in a room that had their name on the pillow, I took the navy banded shams to a local monogram shop and had each of the four grandkids’ names stitched in the center in apple green block letters.
Don’t skimp on the kids. “Kids are never too young to appreciate style, design and quality,” says Griffin, preaching to the choir. “Teach them from the get-go.” They may not understand right away, but eventually they will, and, as I told DC, if I’m remembered as the Glamma who established in them a love of style, design and décor, that wouldn’t be so bad.
Tasteful, tailored, timeless. The decor in this kids’ guest room is gender neutral in color, and not too old or too young, allowing them to grow in it. The ample but not overdone bedding doesn’t upstage the headboards, which are the room’s focal point. Photo courtesy of Marni Jameson.