"I'd like a loft bed," my 11-year-old son stated when we discussed upgrading his room from his current young boy version to prepare him for high school next year.
Lofty chance, was my initial thought.
I decorate rooms like I decorate cakes. Impatiently. Hideously. Well, that's probably an unfair self-assessment. The kids' bedrooms are habitable and calm on the eye; they're just not very inspired. I've threatened to unfriend Pinterest; that time-suck gives me false hope in my ability to have bedrooms like something out of a magazine. Beautiful images of spacious bedrooms where children play, very neatly, with one toy train on the floor, lure me in and then crush me down. The reality of toys and clothes strewn over the floor and a botched paint job don't feature in glossy magazines.
There's also the financial side. Those perfect rooms look stunning but how much do I have to borrow against the mortgage to replicate the image?
Rather than relying on Pinterest and spending too much money on all the wrong things, this time I called in an expert for direction.
Emma Blomfield from Nest Designs is a Sydney-based interior stylist. As someone with "an incredible knack for taking a client's vague idea, quickly sourcing the perfect furniture and homewares and helping them create what they didn't even know they wanted" she sounded like just the person to sort out my ambiguous notions of a stylish teen room.
Given she is also "passionate about making stylish interiors affordable and accessible to everyone, no matter their budget or where they are in Australia" I felt like we were already on the same wavelength even if we weren't in the same state.
As I'm based in Melbourne and Emma is in Sydney, we had the slight logistical hurdle of being an entire state apart. Thankfully Emma offers e-decorating mood boards from $297. An online service involving a questionnaire and photos, which miraculously converts to a bedroom design based on your child's interests, preferences, needs and of course, the family's budget. A mood board (pictured below) showcases the pieces, then Emma details each item, the price and where to buy it (listed below).
My son's mood board:
- Brimnes Double Bed – Ikea - $589
- Replica Anna Castelli Bedside Table – Matt Blatt - $99
- Navy Crosses Rug – The Home – 150 x 225cm - $199
- Duo Quilt Cover Neon Yellow – Aura Home – from $149
- Brixton Table Lamp – The Block Shop - $130
- Aqua Lattice Cushion – Aura Home – 45 x 45cm - $49.95
- Omami Grey Cushion – Country Road – 45 x 45cm - $59.95
- Wake Me When I'm Famous Cushion – Pony Rider – 35 x 55cm - $109
- Bone China High Tops – Have You Met Miss Jones - $99
- Winter Nights Stretched Canvas – Urban Road – 75 x 100cm - $265
Taking a bedroom from young child to tween and beyond seems simple. Get rid of the toys and set it up for study. That's all they do in their teen years, right? Study, study, study like brilliant little bookworms. And maybe put a lock on the door for times they might be doing something private, like wrapping your mother's day gift.
Emma was able to clarify my misguided view of teens. A desk, yes. Perhaps no lock.
It's wise to consider immediate needs as well as longer term requirements to ease the budget when it comes to refreshing and updating a room. "Being smart with your furniture and decor choices will serve you well in the long run. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to spend more but it does mean investing in the right pieces. For example, big ticket items like the bed, desk and desk chair are where you should be putting the majority of your budget."
My son's room could be described as a dog's breakfast of sporting paraphernalia, including ripped posters and blue-tacked photos. The intent was super-cool (skateboard decals and goal posts painted on the wall) but poorly executed – it looks more end-of-grand-final-party than suave sports arena. Trophies adorn shelves, fighting for space with the library of books he owns. Storage is an issue with freestanding cupboards - a temporary arrangement that have not yet been replaced by built-in robes.
Emma suggested upgrading from a single bed to the Ikea Brimnes double bed with inbuilt storage: solves the problem of all that excess "stuff", hiding it away in under bed drawers that can be easily accessed when needed. If you have plenty of storage then consider a trundle bed for when friends sleepover.
In terms of colours "sticking to a neutral palette will give more flexibility in the future should you choose different linen, cushions, curtains or rugs down the track." By the way, feature walls went out in 1990 apparently.
Trends and themes are another gimmick we get sucked into. Emma says, "kids grow out of trends so fast that it's difficult to decorate their rooms around one theme." She suggests people looking to update a room can "interchange pieces to suit whatever trend your child is obsessing over at that time" but keep the base colour neutral.
Emma suggests adding "smaller hints of themes in the more moveable pieces in the room which allows greater flexibility down the track." Cushions, rugs, artwork for the walls – simple and relatively budget friendly ways to change the look of a room without having to be a Hancock heir.
Despite her extensive experience and impressive portfolio (including styling Guy & Jules Sebastian's Beach House), Emma isn't above Ikea: "it is the perfect place for those on a budget. Plus if you're up for a challenge there are plenty of "Ikea Hacks" online showing you how you can update an Ikea piece with a lick of paint, some new handles or some wallpaper!" I know my limitations, and I'm confident I'd give new meaning to the word "hack" so I vow not to take on Ikea.
For most parents who are cash-strapped and time-poor, a room update seems like an overwhelming chore. With some expert guidance in the right direction, implementing a refreshing new look is not such a herculean task!
Emma can be found at www.nestdesigns.com.au. She kindly donated her services for this article.