Dress up your kids’ bedrooms for the new school year

by Blake Herzog

We could all use a little pick-me-up right now. One relatively easy way to do that for your child is to give them a bedroom makeover, especially if they’ve gotten bored with theirs during school shutdowns and family quarantines.

Affordable décor and furniture changes can be pulled off with revitalized hand-me-downs or bargain-basement finds worth more than their weight in gold when you see your son or daughter’s face light up at the results. Better yet, help your kids transform their space to their own specs and dreams!

E-commerce sites, blogs and good old Instagram can inspire themes, patterns, rugs, storage alternatives, or ways to incorporate their hobbies or aspirations, getting your project up and running in no time.

If your kid has outgrown his or her bed, or is just ready for something different, looking into your storage or asking friends and family what they might have hiding in their garage can dig up some gems, though they could need some polishing to bring the pizazz you’re aiming for. Don’t overlook chandeliers and other light fixtures, which can give a bedroom that unexpected zing your child won’t ever forget.

Same goes with a dresser, nightstand or desk, except these have more surface area for drawing, painting, stenciling, stickers or whatever medium your child prefers to work in. Their art will exponentially expand the sentimental value of their furnishings.

Walls, of course, can be even bigger canvases, perfect for something like a mural depicting your child’s favorite place, real or imaginary. A project of this scale could call for a little help from mom and dad, siblings or the neighborhood street artist. Or you can paint a chalkboard stripe across the wall to keep up with kids’ ever-growing tastes and talents.

Less ambitious projects are perfect as well — easier to change and no tradeoff in creativity. Family-favorite art prints or the occupant’s own framed drawings can dot the room with color and whimsy, and shelving can store and display beloved toys and books the way they deserve to be.

And nearly anything else can be hung on a wall: wallpaper, surfboards, message and memory boards, bikes, netting with shelves, giant maps, metallic artwork, tapestries, Lego boards … even a TV screen, depending on your preferences and your child’s maturity level.

If the bedroom is a little cramped, consider bunk or loft beds to clear off some floor space, or take the doors off of (neatly organized) closets to enlarge the area. Installing a floating desk, especially one that folds down from the wall, can create a private study space that doesn’t get in the way of the other things about being a kid. A small indoor tent can be pulled out when needed to create a “world within a world” for storytime or dreamtime.

Giving young students a dedicated workspace free from distractions that offers a little bit of privacy is a good idea, even though it may require some negotiations over the phone or other screen use.

Try to find a desk at your child’s level, though it’s understandable if you don’t want to have to replace it every year. Shelves that attach to the wall can be nudged upward to make room for growing legs and growing minds. Put some storage cubes underneath and a cork or magnetic board above for notes and photos, and your child will be ready to roll through that homework.

There’s nothing quite like sharing a room with your siblings when you’re growing up, between the companionship and the combat. Design choices can help give your kids the privacy they need, along with the space to commiserate and create together.

Bunk beds are the classic space saver for doubling or tripling up kids in a small space and can work if the question of who gets which bed has been settled equitably. But they do present safety concerns if not installed correctly. Using a trundle bed is a safer option if space is at a premium, or you could consider a shared bed, depending on your kids’ ages and compatibility.

Larger rooms can handle the even more classic side-by-side twin beds arrangement, which is often the best option. T-shaped configurations can create a different kind of flow, while L-shaped arrangements maximize floor space. Pushing one bed against each wall can maximize both space and privacy.

Partitions and pocket doors can add clearer boundaries and definition while only partially chopping a room up, though at times they can make access to shared amenities a challenge. Desks, dressers, bookshelves, curtains and more can be deployed in the same way.

Decorating for a sister-brother combo, or siblings farther apart in age or tastes can be especially challenging but can result in a room that embraces each child’s individuality and needs. Draping different types of fabric can create contrasting canopies or tents over beds, and putting the older kid’s belongings on higher shelves can minimize turf battles between toddlers and tweens.

And do let the kids choose their own sheets, comforters and color scheme when possible, even if they clash wildly. It may not do much for creating a cohesive design, but does let each child feel heard and loved.