For Perth mother-of-two Celeste Jones, co-rooming her kids seemed like a fun and bonding exercise.
"My boys are close in age and I thought they would really enjoy sharing a bedroom," she says. But after just a couple of days, Jones' youngest son was so upset he couldn't sleep. It turns out he wanted his own room and bed. "He considered their shared room and bunk bed his older brother's, not his; it just didn't feel like his bedroom," she explains.
Assuming your child will enjoy sharing a room is a common parental misconception, agrees designer Clare Mengler of Wandoo Design and Construction. "Putting two kids in the same room with no option of privacy will cause tension," she says. "It is important to consider the individual, and give each child control of their environment and how they want to live in that room."
Designing their space
"In design, we talk about private and shared spaces," says Mengler. "When planning the layout, draw a diagram of the bedroom and fill it with circles that indicate your kids' living and sleeping areas. You will notice that some circles overlap and some don't. The overlapping circles represent shared spaces and the separate circles are your children's personal areas. Use the diagram to play with the spaces and think about how much privacy each child needs."
Consider their sex, ages, interests and most importantly, their personalities. "For a sensitive child who doesn't respond well to clutter and noise, a shared room is their ultimate nightmare. Consider using some form of barrier and a bigger circle with no overlapping space to give them the privacy they crave." Create this area using furniture, like a bookcase or tall wardrobe, or try positioning their beds in a way that affords them absolute privacy. A partition or drop of fabric (check out these cool tie-back curtain options at IKEA) is also effective for creating private nooks.
Photo: The Bumper Crop
Meshing personal styles
Given a child's taste is often influenced by their age and interests, incorporating two different styles in one room can be a challenge. Paint the walls a neutral colour that can easily adapt to both their tastes. Avoid making up their beds in identical linen, which feels impersonal. Give each a distinct look, but for colour consistency, choose fabrics with at least two common colours, (try Rachel Castle for a great range of vibrant prints and patterns).
While it may be your dream for their room to look a certain way, it is more important to read your child's character and respond to that with your choice of fit-out. "The Lego kid and the electronic guy should be able to express their interests in their bedrooms, but it should be limited to their personal space only," says Mengler. "Their shared area should remain neutral." Delineate the shared zone visibly, so both roommates are clear that this isn't an area for their personal belongings. "A floor rug is an ideal way to clearly mark the neutral zone," she says. Opt for a rug in a neutral, natural material that calms the space and is personally comfortable. "Avoid a synthetic rug," says Mengler. "Real materials are more soothing because they are natural and this tempers the two diverse styles on either side of the room. A cheaper synthetic rug will add more to the room than harmonise it." For a good range of stylish, natural floor rugs try Armadillo Co. for their hardwearing, soft hand-braided and coiled sustainable Bangladeshi hemp that really lasts.
Photo: Heatherly Designs
Respecting their 'stuff'
"Whilst parents might consider kid's 'stuff' clutter, to them it is precious," says Mengler. "When sharing a room, it isn't practical to have all their possessions on display, so help your child to discern which pieces they want on show and what can be put away." Provide them with a special shelf for their most precious objects. "Don't store their things away in a trunk or in a cupboard out of sight; whilst you don't want everything lying around, it needs visual permeability so your kids know they are surrounded by their favourite things." Open wall shelving, a cupboard with a mesh or glass insert means their possessions are always in sight. We love NAKNAK perforated storage boxes for floor storage and the tall lidded versions from IKEA.
Photo: Carlas Cafe
"When I moved the two boys in together, I threw all their books into one shared bookcase," says Jones. "What a mistake. My older son didn't want baby books next to his things, so he stowed them under his bed." Mengler says this respect of space, should extend to all areas of their shared room. "When you are tidying up their room, don't be tempted to dump both kids' things on one of their desks, or the end of a bed. You have to let them know that you understand this is their special space." A big box or basket specifically allocated for gathering their random things makes for a good neutral dumping ground. "Make it clear to both of them that we don't put all our things in someone else's space. We put them in this basket, to be sorted and put away. This shows them that you respect their personal space and privacy, which ultimately will make room sharing the memorable childhood experience it should be."