Chic sleep: The latest kids' bedroom trends explored
PUBLISHED: 11:41 08 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:13 09 July 2019
Richard Burton looked at the very latest in children's bedroom fashions - and spoke to some of the people responsible for bringing these designs to life.
For a few families in those massive houses further up the hill behind me, the school holidays can mean long-haul trips to South America and a few weeks in various European capitals shopping and seeing the in-laws.
For the rest of us, alas, it's a week or two away and three times as many at home enjoying the garden, play dates and the odd day out to break the monotony.
And, those mini-mansions aside, there's not always space for a dedicated playroom which means junior's bedroom has to, ideally, work on more than one level.
All of which is why room designers have been working hard to create spaces that adapt for use over time and are capable of functioning as both a den during the day and a calming haven in the evenings, aided often by everything from furniture that fires the imagination to colour schemes that still the mind.
Some have gone as far as suspending beds from the ceiling, adding novelties such as slides and swings, or redefining them as everything from aircraft to space rockets and camper vans to fire the imagination, especially as the children grow.
But most agree, however basic or lavish the design, it all begins with getting the ambience right.
Darren Clarke, owner of the St Albans mattress specialist Bedknobs summed it up: "As adults, we tend to collapse into bed at night, oblivious to little more than the looming threat of the alarm clock. For children, bedtime is different. It can be a magical time, or a time to hold whispered conversations with siblings, or simply a time spent lying awake in excitement about the new day ahead."
Elinor Pitt, founder of the bespoke curtain maker Stitched.co.uk, tells me that, no matter what your big idea - or even if there is no big idea - you have to get the colour right.
"Different tones, textures and shades all have their own power," she said. "They can spark wonderful emotional responses, inspire valued memories and create unique sensations that affect the way we feel, see and act.
"For a child's bedroom, bright colours can spark joy and happiness and different colours in particular can enhance different characteristics. A few colourful examples: pink is highly stimulating, purple sparks up the imagination and aqua encourages creativity."
The effect colour has on a child's behaviour was something that inspired former banking marketer Joanna Dunn to investigate in depth when trying to create a space for her two-year-old daughter - and one that led to the launch of her fledgling Hertfordshire children's interiors business, Minimello.com.
"It was important to provide a space she could own and relate to but it didn't need to be over-stimulating, especially at that important time before she closes her eyes," she said.
"We were going through a difficult stage in her bedtime routine at the time; she was taking longer to calm down after a busy day at nursery, and the transition to her moving from a grow-bag to duvet got me thinking about how her bedroom could help her get to sleep more easily.
"I had originally painted her walls in a neutral pale green, mainly because I liked the colour, but when I was at the point of buying her new bedding, all the options seemed to clash, nothing matched unless they were grey or white."
This limited her options. She wasn't keen on the plethora of "pink fairies" or "Paw Patrol prints" or any of the vivid colours available on the high street so decided to experiment herself, sitting down at her PC and using Adobe Illustrator to sketch things her daughter liked, such as hot air balloons, robots and dinosaurs.
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The result was a range of gender-neutral and organic cotton bedding, from pillow cases to table lamps that form the core of the online business she is currently launching from her home in Southdown, Harpenden.
"I spoke to a sleep consultant who supported the message that the environment for sleep should be calming, and that colour is an important part of this, and a colour scientist who supported the theories from a scientific perspective that colour can indeed affect behaviour.
"For my own daughter, I was pretty sure that green was still a good choice. It's easier for the eyes and brain to process; it's a colour that's all around us in nature," she said.
Children's rooms are also attracting the attention big names such as the US celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe who has teamed up with Pottery Barn Kids on a line of interior accessories set to launch in September.
Pottery Barn was founded in 1999 by two mums who were designing their own children's bedrooms and struggling to find the sort of "comfortable well-made pieces" they were looking for.
Zoe's collections, which will cover everything from furniture and lighting to bedding and accessories, will draw on her own concept of a dream childhood.
She agrees that it's best not to over-complicate: "When decorating for children, I like to keep the investment pieces neutral and then decorate around those items with luxe textures and metallic accents. I like things to be interesting and unique, but to maintain a feeling of timelessness."
It's important that the room changes as the child grows. The calming sleep-inducing touches that work for a toddler need to give way to something more suited to their growing levels of activity.
Christie Burnett, the early childhood teacher and editor of Childhood 101, speaks of taking the vellum pieces of the rainbow mobiles above the nappy change mat and repurposing them into a 3D garland.
And Joanna Dunn, who recently dedicated her blog to giving advice on how to update a baby's nursery for a growing toddler, recalls swapping the heavy changing table with a toy storage box from the Great Little Trading Company which doubles as a seat and is "so handy for snuggling up with a book, as there's enough room for two, and it keeps the room super tidy".
Sarah Davies, owner of the Cheltenham-based design agency, Floella, told me that decorating a child's bedroom can be, in her words, "tricky - especially as they get a little older and they are starting to voice their opinions".
She asks the question: "Are you the person that lets them join in and be a part of the process or do you keep them well away from any decision-making for fear of a fuchsia pink fairytale explosion or a Peppa Pig-themed room?"
She admits her instincts were initially closer to the latter, but since having a third child, she has been "taking a little more direction from the kids", citing her two year old son who loves "anything with wheels that makes a noise".
She added: "It was time for him to get out of his cot and into a 'big boy bed'. At the same time a friend was moving house and getting rid of her son's bed - a bright red sports car. Years ago that would have filled me with dread but the grown-up me thought no! Let's give my little boy the bed of his dreams."
Karoline Mileham of Harpenden's Candy Queen Designs said: "Children's personalities are being taken into account and their spaces are being decorated to help them express themselves in a space that is not just for sleeping but for playing, socialising and working.
"Decorating-wise it's not just a world of Disney Princesses and Spider Man any more. Thanks to Instagram, interiors people are getting bolder and bolder with their ideas and experimenting more than ever before.
"It used to be a coloured wall and a new bed cover, now it seems no expense, time, money or ideas are spared as children themselves scroll through ideas for their own dream space."