Designing bedrooms for sophisticated kids

High school freshman Steven knew what he wanted High school freshman Steven knew what he wanted in a bedroom: minimalist and red. Lee Najman of Lee Najman Designs transformed the room, bringing in the red with a beet-colored shag carpet and one dominant, crushed velvet-like wall. Other walls were finished with a washable vinyl covering. Photo Credit: Handout

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September brings about changes for all students, but especially for those moving from one school to the next. Whether entering elementary, middle school or high school, the new school year means more than just a new building: It marks the beginning of yet another stage on the path to adulthood.

Redoing a child's room as he or she moves up is one way to mark the event.

But decorating such a space is not simple. Many kids' tastes are quite sophisticated. The three bedrooms here -- created for kids entering elementary, middle and high schools -- show an appealing modern style. Call it the Apple effect; the computer company has put high design in the forefront of even the most basic products.

Most important, you want to make sure a child's room is as much about sleeping as it is hanging out with friends or studying. Include a chest or space for their stuff as well as a proper desk or work space with a comfortable chair for doing homework.

And, although each of these bedrooms is the work of a professional interior designer, you don't need to use an expert to turn a kid's room into a showpiece. Of course, nothing says you can't use their ideas.

If you're unable to completely redecorate your child's room, there still are plenty of ways to update it. Lori Miller of Lori Girl Creations in East Rockaway says you can make a "tremendous difference for a reasonable amount of money" with fresh paint, a new quilt or duvet, and new bedding and pillowcases.

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Then, move the furniture around and you have a new look for the next stage.

ENTERING ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

When designer Lori Miller was brought in to make over a room for 6-year-old Madeleine and her 3-year-old sister, Penelope, she was faced with many challenges at the Manhasset home, especially finding enough space to fit the furniture needed for the girls, including the desk Penelope wanted for doing schoolwork.

"If we did a desk, we couldn't fit a dresser, and if we did bookcases, we couldn't fit other pieces," explains Miller. The solution: Take full advantage of the room's two closets. In place of dressers, the closets were fitted with built-in drawers and enough hanging space to fit the needs of two growing girls.

Eventually, Miller settled on a durable off-white desk with hutch, which is home to the girls' Mac computer, and a bookcase. "You want stuff that is durable and that can take a licking," says Miller. "Kids bang around a lot. They put their glasses down on furniture. You want something that is user-friendly, not something that they feel like they can't touch."

The room's small dimensions also dictated the style and placement of the beds. The original plan included two platform beds on separate walls, but that idea was scrapped for traditional bed frames on one wall with a nightstand in between. They are capped with custom fabric headboards of lavender and beige with white flowers.

The sisters like the arrangement. They are "really close, and they get along great, so it worked out," Miller says.

The design was inspired by Penelope's desire for a purple room, so two of the walls were covered in lavender and cotton-white wallpaper. The other walls were painted a subdued mauve with cotton-white baseboards and window trim. Both the wallpaper and the paint can be easily washed, which is important when doing any child's room, as kids sometimes like to let their artistic talents loose on unsuspecting walls. Finishing the space are a pale, sage-green and white carpet and classy beige-trimmed lavender Roman shades. The room colors were chosen to last "at least into their teens," says Miller.

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MOVING INTO MIDDLE SCHOOL

When Sylvia, 10, was getting ready for the next academic challenge in her life, she was also ready to be rid of the stuffed-animal-adorned, lavender and yellow room of her earlier years at her Sands Point home. In fact, when interior designer Gail Tarasoff-Sutton of Tarasoff Interiors in Port Washington was called, Sylvia already had a good idea about what she wanted her new room to be like.

"She definitely has her opinions," says Tarasoff-Sutton. "I presented everything to her and she'd 'yes' or 'no' it."

And the transformation, while still kid-friendly, was suited for a modern girl.

Out came the carpet and in went dark hardwood flooring and a white shag throw rug. "Shag is very popular now," says Tarasoff-Sutton. Lavender walls became stark white.

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Leather became the fabric of choice, in black and white, covering the headboard, ottomans and chair.

Chrome and Lucite replaced wood for shelves and furniture. Roman shades, another popular trend, hang where frilly curtains and valances once did.

A modern desk in white lacquer with plenty of space to fit Sylvia's laptop computer and schoolbooks was placed against one wall, as was a matching lacquer dresser, which sits below a flat-screen TV.

To soften the space, Tarasoff-Sutton employed pops of pink on the pillows; crystals on the window shades and light fixture add some girlishness to suit Sylvia.

Color was also brought into the room in the form of a bright orange vertical bookshelf next to one window. A large silver "S," for Sylvia, sits next to the bed and serves as one of many solid focal points.

HEADED TO HIGH SCHOOL

Like any high school freshmen, Steven, 14, wanted a bedroom to suit his age. He was tired of his nautical-themed space and was ready for a change.

And he knew what decor he liked -- minimalist and red.

With the aid of interior design veteran Lee Najman of Lee Najman Designs in Port Washington, Steven got what he wanted.

Much of the red came in the form of a beet-colored shag carpet and one dominant, crushed velvet-like wall. Other walls were finished with a washable vinyl covering.

A platform bed with a headboard made of Longhi -- a popular, semi-hardwood originating in Africa -- abuts one wall. Behind it stands a large, floor-to-ceiling mirror flanked by more of the rich-looking and expensive Longhi. (Using a veneer of Longhi over less expensive wood was about 60 percent less expensive than using solid Longhi.)

In keeping with the minimalist aesthetic, the bedside tables are in sleek metal, though they have cubbies for storage. "In all of the rooms, there needs to be places for clothes, places for their belongings," says Najman.

Across the room sits a silver computer workstation and ergonomic chair. "No child's room should be without some kind of a study area," says Najman. "Not only that, it often winds up solving other issues because kids need countertops. Desks can hold everything from school papers to messy clothing."

Artwork takes the form of a picture created from Steven's actual DNA. There's also a dramatic, eye-catching shelving unit that seems to float on the red wall. The 6-foot circle, bisected by twin, 8-foot-long parallel white shelves, serves as the ideal display for school trophies and personal keepsakes.

Bright white bedding with red accent pillows and a brown chair complete the room, providing a space to hang out and study during the four years of high school to come.

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