Decorating For Kids and Babies: Solid Gold Advice From Four Experts

Decorating For Kids and Babies: Solid Gold Advice From Four Experts

By Alexandra Whiting   |  

They're stylists, they're shoppers, they're mums. They know.

There are three golden rules for styling and shopping for kids rooms: function, longevity, and fun. The latter, I suspect, is the reason so many previously uninterested home decorators become interiors obsessed when a baby comes into the picture. The colourful art, the whimsical objets and the cute characters that make a little one's room are entirely more exciting than shopping for a lounge. It's a chance to get creative, but that doesn't mean you have to spend a heap or do alot. You can make a child's room fit the decor in the rest of your house, you can make it functional and fantastic, you can style it with pieces you'll use long after they start to walk, run, and even move out! To help you find your decorating groove, and figure out how to execute it, we spoke to four stylists and buyers, who are also mums, and know how to do it.

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Steph Robertson, creator of @kids.scape

Melbourne local Steph Robertson’s minimalist but colourful aethstetic flows throughout her home, including through the rooms of her two children, Harry, 3 and Grace, 1. Steph’s philosophy is buy once, buy well. Something she inspires other parents to do via Kids.Scapes. “I feel we are accumulating way too much as a species. It’s hard to imagine your baby not being a baby, but a nursery is so short lived, so look for pieces with longevity, even if that’s with someone else’s baby. Having a baby can be an expensive time in your life too, you don’t want to spend a heap only to have to do it again six months later,” she says. This is why she invests in artwork for her kids. The kind of stuff they'll want to take whith them when they move out.

Steph has also separated her kids sleep and play space — and she has two good sleepers so we're taking note. "If you can avoid it, don’t have toys stored in a bedroom. I have prioritised creating a good sleeping environment for my kids, with no distractions except of course books. My kid’s room furniture is very minimal at the moment to ensure a feeling of calmness and to encourage sleep. It makes me anxious when I see nurseries with overstimulating wallpaper all over the walls; babies and kids need calmness just like adults within their bedroom space."

When it comes to finding the right pieces, Steph recommends patience over compromise. “I’ve learnt it’s much better to wait and get the right thing when I can afford it, than compromise. In saying that though, the best thing isn’t necessarily the most expensive. It’s more about finding the thing that will work in your space, and have longevity. I often choose pieces for the kids, like reading chairs, art and lights, that can work elsewhere in the house too, so things can be moved around.”

Alexis Teasdale, founder of The Festive Co.

Former editor of Cosmo Bride, craft queen and mum to Teddy, 7, Gabe, 5 and Andie, 2, Alexis Teasdale loves colour, but she knows how to use it. "Our Adelaide home was built in the 1920s, so the decor is pretty traditional - light, open, comfy - but my daughter Andie’s room has a serious pastel ‘80s vibe. My mum kept a lot of my old childhood toys and I’ve collected some fun vintage things on Facebook Marketplace, so it’s cute and eclectic, and the walls are pink (because it's my favourite colour) and covered with tiny decals.

"The most important thing by far, is that the kids love it!" says Alexis. "If they don’t feel comfortable and safe in their space than what's the point!. If you can infuse as much of your child’s personality into the room, while still keeping it practical and fun, then you’re on the perfect path." She recommends getting creative with the wall art. "My kids have a mix of prints, paintings, wall hangings, banners and their own art up in their rooms."

There's only one thing Alexis prioritises as much as fun in her decor, and that's safety. "If it’s a big print I avoid glass in the frame for example and I always make sure I have a professional secure drawers and wardrobes to the walls. Making sure everything is done safely means then the kids can really live in their rooms without any worry of things breaking or falling." She also urges you to think about things practically. "Think about the placement of the cot with surrounding windows and doors. I wanted to have my first son’s cot under a window because it looked cute, but it was so breezy, we had to move it right away! Do some practice moving around the room before the baby comes, moving between a change table, set of drawers and a cot so you can get a feel for the flow of the room. When it’s the middle of the night, you want easy pathways to get around the nursery!"

Charlotta Backlund, stylist and director of Stream Creative

Sydney-based Swede Charlotta Backlund has been making homes look great on the fly since having her kids, Hunter, 4, and Astrid, 3. “I wish I could say we have this beautiful curated home, but it’s honestly a bit of a mishmash of our past 6 years. We used to own an art deco apartment, then we went into a terrace with a midcentury vibe, before we took on a “renovators delight”. We’re currently living in a beachside home where linens and neutrals have been injected. The kid’s rooms are typically Scandi: raw woods and weave baskets with pastels in my daughter’s room and some black to give some edge to my son’s room. Ample storage is key to a great kids room. They accumulate so much stuff (I’m looking at you, grandparents) and having storage they can access means that they can play more independently, and also pack up without you.”

“When I buy something for my kids, it has to last them for a while. When my son grew out of his cot that had been converted into a toddler bed and went straight to a king single we already had. Another example is for my change table, I simply used a regular chest of drawers with a change mat on top, rather than buying one of those (often hideous) change tables. My nursery staples were a comfy chair where you can put your feet up while you feed, a nightlight and a mobile over the changing mat to keep them distracted while you deal with the number in their nappy.”

“Pre COVID we travelled quite frequently and I love to buy some sort of trinket, furniture or piece to remember that specific holiday. Rugs from the Suks in Marrakesh, pillows and textiles from Stockholm and vases from Istanbul. It very much looks like a home and not a magazine cover, but it makes me smile from all the amazing memories staring back at me. The same goes for the kids’ rooms. My favourite things are these sketched posters made to scale with their name, weight, date and time of birth written on them.”

Kate Casey, CEO, co-founder and buyer of The Memo

Our very own Kate Casey has picked every item stocked at the memo since day dot, so she knows what babies and toddlers need (and what they don’t) inside and out. For nurseries, functionality is her number one priority. “Think about how you are going to use the room, where will you do your night feeds, do you have a table next to it for your water? A night light? Where is your changing table and supplies? Where is the cot positioned? Ideally not too close to the heater or a window that brings in air.” But when your kids get a little older, you can have more fun. “It's so much easier when you don't need to worry about a crawling baby finding things they shouldn't touch. You want your toddler to love their room so that they feel really comfortable in there by themselves.”

Kate’s Victorian Melbourne home is minimalistic with a splash of colour and fun, but it contains a fairy princess wonderland. “Originally my daughter Matilda’s room was all whites, creams and peaches, but now that she’s four, her personal selections have inserted themselves into the space. My son Jack’s room is quite basic, but he's three now, and I’m about to give it a refresh with some wall art. I’m thinking the Fiona Walker Elephant head, along with the Love Mae Car and Truck wall stickers. I'm ready to give it a refresh with some bold new prints from V.Happy Co.”

Other than some decals (and princess paraphernalia), Kate’s purchases of items that would grow with her kids have paid off. “The Liewood nightlight that used to be for feeding is now used so the kids can see if they get up in the night. The chest of drawers I used as a change station now stores their clothes. The prints are still up - make sure you buy good frames, the backings on the cheap ones often break.”

“Toy storage is essential. I have a couple of crates and Trixie toy bags and we always make it a game at the end of the day to tidy up and put things away. The game: the kids have to pack up by the time I count to 30, otherwise the tickle monster comes.”

Advice for living with toys

“If you need to create a toy nook in your living area, embrace it and make it look as good as you can. Perhaps a tent, cushions and a basket of books or a craft desk with hidden storage.” - Steph.

“I found two massive cane chests that I kept in the living room when we lived in an apartment, and every evening I would just pile all the toys back in them and shut the lids! I could even throw a couple of cushions on top and pretend like it was a grown up space again for a minute. Good storage is always the answer.” - Alexis.

“Grab some plastic tubs from Officeworks or Ikea, pack up a couple of them and store them in the cupboard or garage and start rotating your toys. It means less mess and the kids actually get more excited when it's time to change it over.” - Kate.

“Utilise your local toy library. There is nothing better than returning toys! Donate, gift or swap with friends. I swear, having fewer toys in a child’s environment makes them play with each toy more and allows them to focus and play more creatively. The toys you do have, sort into individual boxes or baskets. This allows kids to learn to play with one at a time. If they are all in together inevitably you will have toys all over the place.” - Steph.

“I’ve realised life is too short, and to simply let kids run (within reason) wild and free until dinner time, when everything gets packed away. What’s the point in having fab toys unless you can use your imagination and play with them?” - Charlotta.

Tips for baby-proofing your adult decor

“Washable couch covers have been our lifesaver! And soft-edge furniture like coffee tables and hall tables. I had a marble coffee table that caused a lot of bruises early on. It had to go.” - Steph.

“Pre-kids I loved trinkets. I had coffee tables with books, candles, pieces of coral and dishes filled with momentos. Needless to say, none of that has been seen in about seven years. But they’ll be back! I invested in a big cabinet with glass doors at the top so I can still safely display some things where the kids can’t reach.” - Alexis.

“When our firstborn started crawling and walking, I put away anything that he could possibly reach. Then my nan came over from Sweden and told me not to worry about it. She told me if kids see the same things all the time, they lose interest and move on to something else. I’m not saying to put your crystal glasses within reach of your toddler, but you can have an adult home even when living with tiny people. Also, don’t sweat the small stuff, most things can be replaced.” - Charlotta.

“If you have a rug or even carpet, still invest in a foam play mat, it protects your (expensive to replace) carpets. These mats can easily be rolled up and secured with the velcro straps so at the end of the day you can enjoy your nice floors again.” - Kate.

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