Creating a Child’s World
By Fischer Painting, Inc.
One of the most looked forward to “make overs” in a house is the creation of a nursery or room for children. Nothing is more exciting than bringing forward an energetic and fun concept from colors, fabric, carpet, lighting and paint to create a world for a child.
We start, as in all real estate matters, with “location, location, location.” What makes a particular room “good” for a child? If not adding a completely new room to a house, you must determine how easily an existing space (such as a den, office, storage room or workspace) could be converted from its past function into both a safe and pleasant room for a child. How will that room “grow” with the child as they grow, and as their own needs and tastes develop and change?
The first phase of a makeover is to assess and take care of the practical aspects of what is needed. Safety, health and comfort. The structure of the room, including walls, windows, as well as heating and air conditioning must be made sound.
Walls: Check the insulation of the walls, especially those that are exterior walls. Is the insulation sufficient to keep temperatures sustainably moderate in the room? Small children are highly susceptible to temperature extremes and variability. You do not want a room that is too hot in summer, nor too cold in winter.
Windows: Have the windows been properly installed? What type of glass has been used? Check for drafts. Measure both the size and the placement location of the windows in the walls. Windows must be large enough to function as escape routes in an emergency. (Check your local code for the required size for windows in bedrooms.) Can the windows be opened to allow for air circulation, while still not posing a safety hazard to small children who may be playing on the floor (e.g., double sash windows can be opened from the top)?
Paint: Check the type of existing paints and surfaces on the walls. Ensure that neither lead paint nor asbestos have been used. Remove any unsafe materials that have been used. Consult experts, if necessary.
Heating and air-conditioning: What means exist for moderating the room’s temperature? Are existing heaters is good condition? Do they pose a safety hazard for children who may be playing on the floor? Do you need additional means, such as a ceiling fan or additional windows or ventilating skylights, to help with the air circulation in the room?
Once you have ensured that the basic structural aspects of the room are satisfactory, then the fun part can begin. Start with planning a concept for the room, whether or not you decide to hire a designer.
In your planning be sure to think about storage, color, fabrics, flooring, lighting and do so in terms of their visual appeal alongside their maintenance and ultimate convertibility as time passes.
Purpose of the Room: Decide on the purpose of the room. Do you want a bright, happy, playful and whimsical playroom? Do you want a nursery specifically catered to caring for a baby? Do you want the room to grow with the child so you don’t have to redecorate completely in two years?
Storage: No matter what else you do in a room for children, address storage needs first. Where are you going to store the toys that children have? (Training children to put their toys away is entirely different article.) Is the storage space in the room easy for the child to access? Is it sufficient for both toys and clothing?
Atmosphere: Decide on the room’s atmosphere. Do you prefer something “calm and soothing” or “bold and energetic?” Calm and soothing can be achieved with neutrals or pastels, and large expanses of solid colors and subtle changes in textures or patterns. Bold and energetic can be created with multi-colors, the full blast of primary colors, bold patterns and stripes or mixtures of all. Some persons like to have a “theme” for a room. Do you wish to have ducks, bunnies, farm animals, super heroes or a fairy princess motif? Large retailers offer alternate out-of-the-box approaches, such as Pottery Barn Kids. Do you want something gender specific or something that would work for either a boy or a girl?
Customization: Do you want to do something that is not typical or expected or available in the marketplace? Custom murals, or fabric creations could be something you yourself could do, or perhaps you could hire others to do. Assess your own capabilities in this regard. Ask a friend with design flair for their ideas or a fresh perspective. If you have hired a designer, your thoughts, if well articulated, are invaluable.
Execution of the concept:
Having made the room structurally sound, and having decided on the purpose and design concept for the room, you are ready to execute.
Fabric: Start with fabric selection. This becomes the departure point for everything else in the room.
Think first about the maintenance aspects of fabrics, before gravitating to colors and prints. Do you want elegant fabrics or machine washable fabrics? Consider the age of the child during the “life-span” of the fabrics.
Once type of fabric is chosen, choose the color, pattern and texture of your foundational fabric. This is the predominant fabric in the room. This should reflect your design concept of either “calm and soothing” or “bold and energetic.” All your “accent” colors will be chosen after you have selected this foundational fabric. If you have chosen a print as your main fabric, accent colors can be drawn from some of the colors in the print. With solid colors, accent colors can be shades of the same color for “calm and soothing” or can be opposite colors on the color wheel for something more energetic.
Paint: Your wall paint color can be selected to complement the foundational fabric color chosen. Again, similar colors create “calm and soothing.” Opposite colors become more “energetic.” Both can be “complementary,” but should be driven by what you chose as the room’s “atmosphere.”
Be creative. If you have chosen a patterned fun design as your foundational fabric, creating a mural on an accent wall with the same fabric design can make a big impact. Snap a digital photo of the fabric, project it on the chosen wall, and if you are confident in your own skills, outline with pencil and then using small paint samples in the appropriate colors, paint in the design. Or, spring for the cost of a decorative painter for one day - a small investment for a unique feature that can easily be changed. (Unlike wallpaper, if in 5 years you want to change the design, you can easily prime and paint over a mural. )
A few caveats: Paint chips in a store will not necessarily be the same color on your walls! First, be sure that the paint chips themselves have not faded in the store’s rack from which you are choosing them. Next, remember that the shade of wall and ceiling color is also affected by the direction that the windows in the room face. An east light will add more cool tones into a color, a south or west light will add warm tones, and north light will remain closest to the color chip shade you have chosen. (The expanse of the area on which the paint is placed will still have an effect on its intensity.)
Colors can be unexpectedly intensified by any number of factors. A color chip always seems less intense than it is when it is put on a larger area. If a ceiling is painted the same color as the walls, the color intensifies even more so.
Get a small sample of the paint you think you love, and paint a small section of the wall or ceiling in question. View it when it dries, and over several periods during the day, under differing lighting conditions.
Ceiling color is critical and depends upon your chosen wall color, the room’s size, and the ceiling height. Ceiling color can seem to change the size of a room, or the wall colors. Paint a sample spot to test its effect.
You may wish to paint a mural on the ceiling (e.g., clouds, stars, galaxies, spaceships, etc). Remember, never lose sight of how the addition of more designs and elements into the room will affect your chosen atmosphere. Colors in any mural should tie to other colors already in the room. The detail in the mural should also not become overly complex if the room is already highly patterned. (Unless, of course, that is your intention.)
Lighting: Paint is not only affected by differing window direction and conditions of daylight, it is also affected by indoor lighting. As we transition from incandescent lighting to energy efficient, sustainable lighting (e.g., LED, halogen, fluorescent) it would also be wise to check your paint choices and fabrics with whatever lighting you have chosen.
Remember safety comes first in a child’s room. Some halogen lighting can reach extremely high temperatures. Location of any lighting source should take into consideration the child’s age, access to the source and their curiosity.
Lighting also needs to be adjustable. Some children are completely comfortable in the dark. Some need night lights. You and the child need adequate lighting for reading and performing other activities that will occur in the room.
You may require soft lighting to navigate safely in a semi-dark room to care for a child who may be frightened from a bad dream, or one who may be ill.
An energy efficient solution to lighting and ventilation needs, is to install a skylight. This, of course, is dependent on the room being on the top floor. Some skylights are now electric with rain sensors, allowing for both light and ventilation that are adjustable. Beyond being practical, if the room is on the second floor, trees and a night sky seen through such a skylight can turn a child’s room into a tree house bedroom.
Flooring: Children are closer to the floor than adults. A floor to a child is one of the most important elements in a room. This is their play surface. What surface can be provided that will be more easy on the child and easy on you for maintenance? If carpeted, will it be wall-to-wall or area rugs? If hard flooring, what can be done to soften an area for playing? What will protect the surface of the floor itself?
The flooring, if carpeting, is typically installed in the room when all painting is complete. This does not preclude taking carpet samples home to view how they are affected by lighting, paint and fabric choices. Carpeting is a significant expense. You want to view your selections not just in a store setting, but in the actual location in which it will be installed, alongside your other choices.
A child’s world will grow and evolve from being the initial one that you created with your tastes, to one that becomes reflective of their personality over time. As a child grows, they will begin to have more say about choices, expressing their personal preferences, and sometimes stubbornly so. More than other rooms in a house, a child’s room must be flexible to accommodate not only their myriad activities, but their growth.
As the room’s requirements change over time, you will want to approach new designs in the same way. Start with the basic structure of the room, then design concept (atmosphere, themes, and customization), followed by execution: starting with fabric selection, paint, lighting and then flooring.