How to decorate children's rooms

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Creating a desirable den doesn't have to be a struggle, says Kate Watson-Smyth

Decorating your children's bedroom has traditionally been a tricky area – they want cartoon wallpaper and garish colours, you want something they will like for more than six months and colours that won't completely clash with the rest of the house.

Despite that, and the shaky economy, it seems that we are spending more than ever creating the perfect haven for little Johnny and his sister.

Laura Ashley has just announced an increase in its kids' range following an increase in customer spending of more than 10 per cent for the past two years.

So how do you tread the fine line between making a lovely bedroom that reflects their personality and one that they won't tire of by the end of the week?

The key lies in not overdoing it. If they like skateboards, then why not use them as shelves rather than papering a whole wall in manga images of them. In fact, steering clear of wallpaper is a good idea generally, as it's expensive to buy, expensive to hang and when they've gone off it – well, you get the idea. Instead, take a look at the enormous range of wall stickers available. They are easy to fix, can be removed without taking the paint off, and come in just about any theme you, or your offspring, can imagine.

Vertbaudet ( vertbaudet.co.uk) has a huge range of stickers, ranging from robots and butterflies to sharks, trees and even a blackboard in the shape of a crane, with prices starting at £16. Supernice.co.uk also has a large range of beautiful designs, including Super Mario and Space Invaders, with lots of whimsical ideas as well – check out the sheep to count for the insomniacs.

Let them choose their own stickers to involve them in the process, which should allow you to concentrate on the rest. Which, in children's rooms, invariably means storage. Without decent and easy-to-reach storage, you have no hope of ever restoring order in there.

Tania Urban, a mother of four and the designer of contemporary children's bedding company Ella & Otto ( ellaandotto.com), offers the following advice: "One improvement that has made a huge difference is giving each child their own hook and storage box. This stops all the smaller accessories such as hats, football gloves and homework spreading all over the house."

Toy storage is also crucial, as Tania points out: "Most people I know don't have playrooms any more, so not only do they need storage in their bedrooms but also in the so-called adult rooms too. You will always need more storage than you think.

"In a smaller room, a semi-bunk – a bed built on a cupboard – is a good idea. If they don't want to be high, then get a huge drawer built to go under a normal bed."

Once you have built the storage, make sure you have plenty of baskets, canvas bags and plastic tubs so you can tidy quickly and easily, and perhaps persuade them to as well.

Gillian Farr, the head of design at Laura Ashley, says girls are benefiting most from the increased spending. "We're seeing mothers shopping with their daughters and they are spending more on rugs, lighting and decorating accessories. In response we have built up our decorating category so there are more co-ordinating products."

Marks & Spencer's Kids at Home range goes from nursery through to teens and includes bedding, furniture, lighting and accessories. It has also spotted the potential of wall stickers, and there's a choice of around 70 different bedding sets. Its delivery people will also assemble any furniture you have ordered.

When it comes to the furniture, plain, sturdy and simple designs are best. You may both love that four-poster princess's castle bed, but she will probably hate it in a year. Get a plain bed and let her have a princess duvet cover. Vertbaudet has a great selection of designs, while Tania's are reversible, which helps ring the changes.

Desks are a good idea for all ages – little ones can sit at them to draw, before the older ones can do their homework on them.

The brave parent could consider painting all or part of a wall in blackboard paint – this will appeal to teenagers, who all seem to go through a phase of wanting a black room, and means they can draw and write on the walls with impunity. If you have the space, a couple of large floor cushions add to the bedsit feel, and while floorboards are probably the most practical solution, a few rugs will add some warmth and colour.

So if you keep the basics simple – furniture, walls and floor – you can allow them to have some autonomy in choosing the accessories, which, with luck, will keep you both happy and shouldn't break the bank when they want a change.

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