In new book Little Big Rooms, designers share their insider tips for creating stylish children’s spaces. Be inspired by our exclusive extract from design duo Melissa Antonius and Lena Schimmelbusch
Have you ever stepped on a Lego brick? Then you know: first, it hurts something awful, and second, nothing changes life in a household as much as when it is suddenly populated by children. Even if their arrival does not mean moving to a larger apartment or house, existing layouts are usually reconsidered – particularly in cities, where living space is becoming ever scarcer. Work rooms, dressing rooms, or other areas used for luxurious purposes then become children’s rooms, which new parents set up with immense creative drive.
At no other point in history have children received as much attention as today. Contemporary parents devote a lion’s share of their time to thinking about what is best for their children. This has long since included questions of style as well. On the Internet, innumerable blogs deal with childhood and its various manifestations in the form of interiors, playthings and rituals. It is possible to state very clearly: childhood has become “stylish”. Discerning parents curate it visually.
And yet, our experience as an interior design duo, as designers of numerous children’s rooms, and as mothers of a total of three children, has taught us one thing above all: regardless of how much pedagogical care and aesthetic ambition we employ in setting up rooms for our children -the most beautiful moments occur when the uninhibited creativity of the little ones manifests in places at home that originally had a very different function. When trains drive through tunnels made from chair legs, when stacks of books become shops, when music is made on pots, and kitchen drawers serve as cosy dollhouses. Or when, in the early hours of the morning, painting is not done on paper, but instead directly on top of the desk itself, giving rise to a felt-tip fantasy world so detailed and beautiful that a mother refrains from reproaching the child out of astonishment and pride. At such moments, the boundaries between the children’s room and what is allowed have long since blurred. The planned and the regulated, which we as parents so frequently try to establish, gives way to the spontaneous; to the chaos that arises from the euphoria of the moment.
As designers, we naturally do not want, for instance, to spread the message that you should let chaos take its course. We ourselves instead try every day to channel the chaos that our children cause. Thus, what interests us when setting up a room is creating spatial situations that give children a feeling of security and also stimulate their imaginations; having children learn a sense of order, but not limiting their creativity; getting them used to the ritual of sharing with siblings or friends; and, yes, teaching them something like pride of ownership as well.
Understanding a child’s personality is also always important. And so we try to coax the optimal stimulation – for the specific young individual who lives in it – out of a children’s room. When a four-year-old boy still always has an irrepressible urge to move after long days at daycare, wall bars with a soft gym mat where he is able to let off steam can perhaps help. If a child is dreamy, often leaves his or her possessions lying around, and still has trouble getting organised, then the child needs, all the more, a room with a clear and simply manageable organisation system. When two siblings share a room and constantly fight about everything, a strict (we recommend colourful) division of all work, play, and storage areas into “mine” and “yours” helps. When a child, on the other hand, develops a great passion for reading, an inviting and comfortable reading corner, with light playing a central role, can encourage this passion.
When one has a desire to design, this question naturally arises: For whom are we parents now setting up the room – for the child or for ourselves? In response, we encourage egoism. When a comfortable adult armchair, with space for one and a half people, is situated in the children’s room, you will surely prefer to read books together there, rather than sitting on the floor or hunching over the bed.
The most beautiful thing about living with children is that we are allowed to become children again ourselves.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Functional furniture, decorating accessories and textiles are the fruits of a collaboration between the French magazine Milk and Habitat. Natural oak is combined with a subdued palette of cornflower blue and mustard.
Into the Wild
Go ‘wild’ with your décor – and your imagination – to compliment the simplicity of this black-and-white jungle mural. It’s printed on non-woven wallpaper by the Paris textile design studio and shop Bien Fait, which celebrates the manual genius of French artisans. The Wild was inspired by artist Henri Rousseau’s landscape work.
Behind the Scenes
This little boy’s room is sophisticated and fun. It pairs minimal, modern living space with vintage Scandinavian wooden furniture. Ceiling-mounted gymnastics rings by the Finnish brand Lillagunga bring the outdoor playground inside.
Pirates at Play
From soothing linens to exciting essentials, Ferm Living’s kids’ accessories bespeak whimsy near and far. The collections include an energising terrazzo-print lunchbox, pencil case and gym bag to exotic Fruiticana wallpaper, knitted cushions, rattles and music mobiles in organic cotton and metallic finishes.
This masterfully abstracted version of a bright fairytale forest is made entirely of IKEA products. Trees, moss and ferns become cushions, bedding and painted wooden crates in various shades of green. The bed transforms into a shed or lean-to. And the room – which is filled with neutral, clear surfaces and natural materials like wood, fabric and paper – is also a Scandinavian-inflected environment that any grown-up can love.
Text by Interior Designer Antonius Schimmelbusch, Little Big Rooms, Gestalten 2018
Purchase the book at the webshop here