Decorating a teenager’s bedroom is an exercise in negotiation. Gone are the days when you could choose animal art or ballerina bedding without a blink from your little ones. Now those little ones are big, and they want teal walls and expensive, over-the-top furniture.
When redecorating, Mike Johnson, a designer at Lori Graham Design + Home in Washington, first recommends trying to hear what your kids are really looking for. Then, strike a balance. Choose a neutral for the walls, for example, and incorporate that teal with accents that are easy to change, such as pillows, rugs and frames.
“Kids get the process,” Johnson says. “They understand that it’s their room, but that they have to compromise a little bit, that they’re getting what they want, just in a different way.”
And though it’s tempting to pick cheap furniture, knowing your kids leave the nest in a few years, Johnson recommends quality. Those same pieces can go with them to their first apartment or be the building blocks for a future guest room.
Instead of a battle of wills, the redesigning process can be a joy for all, says Nancy Guettier of PBteen. Because when the process is done right, you get parents who know more about their teens’ developing personalities and teens who want to be at home.
“A teen room is one of the most exciting rooms in the house,” she says. “They want to be creative and whimsical. They get out of their kid’s room and get a place that lets them explore who they are.”
Expert picks for teen bedroom decor:
▪ “If you don’t need a ceiling fan, try to do some fun decorative light in the space,” says Johnson. “Don’t be afraid to get something that hangs down a bit, especially if it’s over a bed. Johnson’s pick is PBteen’s Faceted Capiz Pendant ($99-$164, www.pbteen.com). “These have a great look and come in different sizes for different ceiling heights,” he says.
▪ “An absolute must for kids’ rooms are Flor carpet tiles,” Johnson says. “They come in a huge variety of patterns and sizes, and the best thing about them is when you get a stain, you can just peel up the tile and replace.” The Rake Me Over 2 Cut Design in graphite complements a variety of styles ($141-$987, www.flor.com). Bonus: “They’re fantastic for a dorm,” Johnson says.
▪ Bedding is one of the easiest ways to let teens express their style — and the easiest thing to change when their style inevitably evolves. Better yet, find a reversible comforter, such as the Reagan Reversible Comforter Set in Pale Banana, to let them change up their look whenever they want ($50-$60, www.bedbathandbeyond.com).
▪ Kids can jam with their friends with the vintage-looking Bongo Wireless Bluetooth Speaker, made from bamboo and hemp, in four color combos ($140, www.nordstrom.com). “The look that kids are going for is a very hip kind of retro-y, late ’60s to mid-’70s,” Johnson says. “It’s wild colors, lots of Lucite, lots of acrylic, bold colors.”
▪ The Tobias Chair is an Ikea favorite for many designers, including Johnson, for its comfort and the way that its transparent nature makes a small room feel bigger ($79, www.ikea.com). “For the money, this is the best kid’s desk chair around,” Johnson says. “It’s about one-third of the price of any other similar chairs that are out there right now.”
▪ With the drop of the new Ikea catalog comes this modern spin on an old furniture style: the secretary. Teens will like the cable outlets and that the leaf can tuck away homework when friends come over. The Ikea PS 2014 Secretary comes in orange or white ($189, www.ikea.com).
▪ “Every kid that I have done a room for has wanted a beanbag chair,” Johnson says. Dupire likes the Fatboy for “chilling” teenagers ($199, www.shop.fatboy usa.com). “You can change the color of the bag if you want to,” she says. “It’s durable, it’s a parent’s friend.”
▪ Cecilia Dupire, principal of New York design firm Cezign, suggests making the walls a blank canvas for creativity, by adhering corkboard wallpaper, painting a chalkboard, or giving kids rolls of Japanese washi tape – a removable, colored masking tape. MT Masking Tape has just released its MT Casa line for doing dots or stripes on a wall ($6.50-$44, mt-tape.us). “Teens love to deck the walls,” Guettier says.
▪ For a fun mirror, or a set of mirrors, with clean lines, there’s West Elm’s Golden Geometric Mirror in three sizes, with gold edges ($39-$189, www.westelm.com). Mirrors offer teens another surface to draw art on (with washable markers, of course).
▪ When kids graduate from blocks to soccer balls, their storage style should graduate too. CB2’s Galvanized Rolling Tote moves to wherever the storage is needed and is tough enough to handle dirty laundry or muddy sports gear ($59.95, www.cb2.com).
▪ When their teenagers go off to college or their first apartment, parents might want to keep the furniture for a guest room. “The rooms need to have something that the parent likes and something that the child likes, and if you can allow freedom for both, that’s design at its very best,” Dupire says. The espresso-colored Atlantic Bookcase, with three rotating compartments, is quirky enough for a dorm, classy enough for your home ($74, www.allmodern.com).
▪ “I have done quite a few kids’ rooms using swing-arm lighting by the bed instead of bedside lamps,” Johnson says. “It frees up the nightstands, and it also allows for more lighting options in the room.” He likes the Havana Wall Swinger by Jonathan Adler ($252, www.shopcandelabra.com).
▪ Guettier travels the world for new trends and styles for teens. One of her favorite sources of inspiration though, is partnering with other creatives. Recently, PBteen worked with Emily Current and Meritt Elliott, designers and stylists out of Los Angeles, to design a collection that mixes “feminine and tomboyish” looks, Guettier says. A highlight is the Victorian-inspired Emily & Meritt Floor Mirror, made for girls who like experimenting with fashion ($399, www.pbteen.com).
▪ For of-the-moment accessories, Johnson and Dupire recommend Ikea, West Elm, the Container Store, PBteen and Urban Outfitters, which sells this Faceted Pastel Table Lamp in green, white and pink ($89, www.urbanoutfitters.com).
▪ It seems much harder to find options for a boy’s room than a girl’s. CB2’s Shop Blue Chest has masculinity in its DNA, being inspired by tool cabinets ($399, www.cb2.com). Dupire also suggests an over-the-door basketball hoop or a tennis table to convey a sporty theme (and to give boys something to do).
▪ Johnson recommends not “finishing” the room’s design, so that the teen can put his or her stamp on it. Leave plenty of wall space to decorate, bedding to choose, accessories to find. Pillows with removable covers — such as H&M’s glitzy Cushion Cover With Sequins in silver, black, copper or pink — can be changed out to match the mood or season ($18, www.hm.com).