Getting the little ones involved in designing their own bathrooms makes sense. But there are limits to how much control they should wield.
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Children's bathrooms are the perfect place to go a little wild with colors and themes. These rooms are typically small, out-of-the-way and used exclusively by the little ones, making them the ideal showcase for a child's personal preferences and interests. And by getting the children involved in the design process, you can instill in them a sense of pride and ownership.
Of course, if we left every design decision up to the kids, we'd likely end up with a bathroom that nobody wanted to use. "The key to successful children's bathroom design is to create a space that is fun and functional but, more important, works for the kids as they grow older," says Debra Antolino, American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), of Debra Antolino Interiors in Beachwood, Ohio. Renovating a bathroom is a big investment, she explains, and by looking ahead, a homeowner can avoid having to make that investment again in a few short years.
Get the Kids Involved — to a Point
"It's so important to get the children's opinions and to get them involved in the process," Antolino says. "They're more likely to take care of a space that they feel they have some ownership in." That doesn't mean the kids should run the show. To keep the process from becoming overwhelming for everybody involved, Antolino recommends listening to all ideas and then narrowing down the options to a few that everybody can live with.
"If you're redoing the tile, for instance, you wouldn't want to set your kids free in a tile store," she warns. Instead, bring three or four samples home that you've preselected and let the children pick the one they like best. The same goes for choosing cabinet hardware and accessories.
Color Me Purple?
Nobody knows better than Michelle Pollak that when it comes to color, kids hold some pretty strong opinions. As an ASID member and president of The Lollipop Tree in Charleston, S.C., Pollak specializes in interior design for children's spaces. The key, she says, is to identify a child's favorite colors and guide him or her toward a livable shade of that color.
"Kids might say their favorite color is purple. Well, a purple bathroom is going to look like Barney exploded all over the walls," Pollak jokes. Children aren't familiar with the entire color palette, she explains, so when your son or daughter says that he or she likes purple, Pollak suggests gently steering them toward a more sophisticated shade, like periwinkle. If a child is stubbornly adamant about a particularly bold shade, Pollak recommends finding a creative way to use it sparingly, as an accent.
Pollak also advises designers and parents to consider the overall design of the home when selecting a children's bathroom color. "You don't want it to be a glaring departure from the overall feel of the home," she says.
Pollak loves the idea of incorporating a child's hobbies and interests into the bathroom's design. "It's really important to not ignore what the child likes," she says. "As a designer, it's my job to take what they like and make it aesthetically pleasing for both children and adults."
As with selecting a color palette, the goal is to bring that hobby to life in a way that looks sophisticated rather than juvenile. Is your daughter an equestrian? Pollak suggests sidestepping that cartoon pony wall hanging in favor of an elegant black-and-white photograph of a horse. Does your child like to paint or take photographs? Have him or her pick out a few favorites to be framed and hung. "Everything looks like a work of art when professionally matted and framed," notes Pollak.
Keep the Whimsy to a Minimum
If one thing is certain, it's that a child's tastes will change — and fast. To deal with that fact of life, Lynn Monson, the owner of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen in St. Louis Park, Minn., suggests limiting the trendier decorations to elements that are easily changed. "You can go a little wilder on things like cabinet hardware, shower curtains and towels," he says. "This allows you to give the child a sense of choice, but as his or her tastes change, it won't be expensive to replace them with something new."
Funky new kid-friendly accessories are hitting the market all the time. Companies like Pottery Barn's PBteen sell items created specifically for teenagers, like polka-dot bath mats, floral printed towels and shabby-chic shower rod finials.