Design with children in mind

An interior designer shares ten tips to creating a stylish child-friendly space, by Annie Deakin
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The Independent Online

Mary Boston, founder of Firefly Interiors, designed the interiors for Cupcake, the member’s club and spa for mothers, fathers and mothers-to-be. ‘Gloriously single’ (her words, not mine) and without children, Boston described the job as a ‘baptism of fire’. This is what she learnt about planning rooms with little ones in mind:

1. Don’t be a snob, make friends with Ikea – The Swedish designers are second to none, especially for children’s storage. Teach children to tidy up with Ikea’s Troffast range, plastic units with multi-coloured drawers in different sizes. The Ikea Mammut range of plastic children’s furniture with bulbous elephantine legs is cheap as chips and stylish.

2. Choose designs that last into adulthood – Cissy Cook creates 3D retro name boxes using vintage images of spitfires, sailing boats, butterflies or flowers. Each image and letter is meticulously cut out making it a unique artwork. Susie Watson’s shabby chic fabrics, that take you back to a pre-war style, work for children and won’t date.

3. Think colour psychology - Sleeping in a brightly coloured room is not restful. Avoid red and bright yellow as they don’t aid sleep. Use soft colours in a child’s bedroom.

4. The fridge is only so big – Showcase children’s drawings using metallic paint (such as Marabu Magnetico) to make your wall magnetic. Hang a stainless steel sheet from Ikea’s kitchen department (ensure there are no sharp edges) or paint blackboard paint below hip height.

5. Buy a Magic Eraser - Wet this slightly brittle sponge to remove marks on walls. Wipe over with a slightly damp cloth if necessary after use to remove residue. It’s genius, a must for any parent. Buy them from Poundland, Robert Dyas or Amazon.

6. Sew a textured quilt – Go mad with texture, colour and noise and make a quilt using plastic foil, wool and pom poms from Hobby Craft. Perhaps a nesting job for the few weeks before giving birth?

7. Balance texture, colour and function - The under-fives are learning very manually and need constant stimulation. Think in those terms when designing. Use plenty of texture like cushions with mirrors in, contrasting colours and interesting rugs. I like the educational and design-led Hand Made wallpaper from Paper Boy wallpaper; it’s a collection of shadow hand puppets.

8. Make a mural interactive – Budget depending, commission a muralist (like Anna Smith of to paint a wall. To keep it interesting, choose a theme like an aquarium or jungle that can be changed with repositionable wall stickers from Becky and Lolo.

9. Dig the lava lamp vibe – Placed high out of reach, a lava lamp makes a hypnotic alternative to a nightlight. They're mesmerising and provide a warm, gentle glow.

10. Treat your home as an evolution - Don’t be too precious about your furniture. If children damage or scribble on it, think of it as part of their (the furniture, not the offspring) charm.

Annie Deakin is interiors writer for sofa and interior design website