Minnie Kemp explains how to design the perfect decoration for the children’s room
A space that evokes feelings of magic and adventure is one we would all like to create for our children. Growing up, my two sisters and I shared a bedroom in the attic. I had an antique pine single sleigh bed that made hilarious/unhappy sounds – let’s call them ‘raspberry’ – every time you moved around. For a long time, my only goal in life was to turn the bed into a real sled, pulled by twelve majestic huskies. No terrain would be too rough and everyone would recognize me for my oversized black leather jacket with the words “Mush Mush” rhinestone embossed on the back.
The room’s curtains had a soft, pencil-pleated pelmet made of ivory linen with a contrasting denim-blue border and shiny, eye-catching tortoiseshell buttons that ran down the vertical leading edge. Once I picked up a few from the bottom and tried to pass them off as pound coins to buy a white chocolate pancake. Nobody was fooled, but I learned an important lesson that day: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
We quickly learned that although this is a child’s room, the Delft flower wallpaper in the bedroom should not be altered. Posters were NOT allowed and blue is the devil. In order to express ourselves, we erected diaphanous tent structures using a wooden pole and some leaves. My big sister Willow punched holes in the sheet and the posters were glued to the fabric and seen from the inside like portholes to freedom.
Times have certainly changed (although I think soft pencil pleated pelmets are making a comeback), but a child’s innate sense of playfulness and wonder will never change. What we need to do is create a safe space for that imagination to flourish.
In a recent residential project, I was designing a small room that emerged from a large playroom and was to be a handy kitchenette for the nanny, but then I thought: why not try creating a Vardos-inspired space for the boys sleepovers? The traditional horse-drawn carriages are highly decorated and intricately carved, adorned with shiny paint. There are still good people like Yorkie Greenwood building and painting wagons today, which I find extremely inspiring.
Choose bright colors
Why keep anything in pale tones? Paint the built-in storage in burnt orange, moss green, sky blue or bumblebee yellow. Or all of the above. Choose bright red carpets, multi-colored fabrics for curtains and awnings, a riot of contrasting shades.
And add a fresco. Lions, tigers, zebras and even dodos create an enchanting wild scene. For that special finishing touch, hand-embroidered applique cushions made in collaboration with London fashion designer Clio Peppiatt and a Porta Romana white plaster pumpkin table lamp.
Avoid smooth walls
What I mean is that the rules of good taste should not apply in a child’s room. Plain walls, decor that grows with the child, and practical solutions can be ditched for rooms that create enchantment instead. Listen carefully and you can almost hear the leopard roar while comfortably seated from the top bunk.