Wallpaper, Murals and More
From whimsical willow trees to modern stripes, get tips for enhancing your kids' room design.
Your child's room is an expression of your creative style, and its walls and ceiling are your canvas. Paint, wallpaper, decals and architectural elements are all versatile, easy-to-use tools for creating the haven of your child’s dreams.
Often touted as the fastest, easiest and least-expensive way to transform a space, paint is indeed your first stop when considering the walls and ceilings in your baby's or child's room. As you shop for paint, look for a "zero-VOC" formulation, not just low- or no-VOC formulas, advises Healthy Building and Indoor Environment Consultant Mary Cordaro.
Choose a scrubbable finish: satin or eggshell for the walls and semigloss for the trim. For ceilings, flat is fine. Consider specialty finishes as well. Most paint manufacturers offer magnetic, chalkboard and wipeable finishes.
Then let your imagination take flight. "You don't have to paint every wall the same color," says Cortney Novogratz, designer and host of HGTV's Home by Novogratz. "This is a really good idea in a room that will be shared by siblings — you can visually divide the space by painting opposite or adjacent walls in contrasting shades."
Even if the room has one little resident, painting a single wall in a bold shade can make a big impact without committing to a strong hue for the entire space. "Let your child choose the color of the accent wall," advises designer Barbara Tabak, CID, WFCP. "If you don’t love the color, it’s easy enough to repaint in a couple of years."
Hand-painted murals add a custom touch and can be a great way to bring a theme to life. Hiring a decorative painter for a custom mural can be expensive. You probably won’t want to repeat the process when your 8-year-old is embarrassed by the fire truck motif hand-painted on his walls.
Fresh, fun designs have helped wallpaper stage a comeback in recent years. This designer darling is great for a child's room, since it allows you to add color, pattern or texture. Wallpaper is also ideal for themed rooms and for when you don’t want to spring for custom painting. Today’s pre-pasted wallpaper is easy to hang. You'll even find peel-and-stick options that won't damage your walls, a smart choice for a kid’s room, since you may want to change the theme as he or she grows.
As you browse through wallpaper books at your local home or design center, keep Mary Cordaro’s advice in mind: Never use vinyl wallpaper, which can off-gas toxic chemicals even after the initial odor has dissipated. Also, look for non-toxic adhesive that is free from formaldehyde, fungicides, preservatives and synthetic resins.
Once you've chosen your paper, think beyond the walls. Cortney Novogratz suggests wallpapering the inner panel of a door. "The ceiling is a dramatic place to use wallpaper," says Pam Ginocchio, co-founder of Project Nursery. "We’re seeing nursery ceilings get the royal treatment these days."
Peel-and-stick decals are one of the easiest ways to create a custom look. You can use decals to apply a personalized border at chair-rail height or along the top of the wall, fake the look of hand-painting or even cover an entire wall.
Many manufacturers will allow you to customize their decals with your child’s name or a special saying, or by uploading your own photographic image or artwork to be made into a wall mural. "Stick-on wall decor is great," says Atlanta designer Terry Ervin. "You don’t have to spend a fortune having someone faux-paint the room and you can even add accessories like wipe boards and chalkboards."