Bo’s Fairy Glade Bedroom
How to create a perfect space for your child to grow and go wild in.
By Nicki Bamford-Bowes @andthentheywentwild
My daughter Bo may be only seven, but when it comes to interior design – and everything else – she has very firm ideas about what she wants. She’s full of ideas and bubbling with opinions. I don’t know where she gets that from!
So, when, aged just six, she announced that she wanted a ‘fairy secret garden bedroom’, I tried not to look too horrified. I’m no fan of themed bedrooms, but I could see the excitement in her eyes, and I knew I had to find a way to make this work. And I knew that my little client would want to be involved in every design decision.
Many parents may baulk at letting their child lead the way, especially if they have a particular vision of their own for their home. But I firmly believe that working on a room project together is an incredible way to find out more about your child’s thoughts and feelings, strengthen your bond, develop their creativity and confidence, empower them to make decisions, and create a beautiful space you both love and feel proud of.
Here’s how I worked with Bo to create this magical bedroom, plus you’ll find my tips on how to create a successful collaboration with your child.
GETTING A BRIEF
As an interior designer, the first thing I do with any client is develop a detailed brief. I need to understand what they use the room for, the practical elements they need and the style and colours they love. And it’s no different when your client is your own child.
Many kids, including my own, have strong ideas about their rooms. But it’s important to remember that they may not be good at knowing how to turn those ideas into reality.
Some parents panic at the idea of letting children have a say in case they demand a space that doesn’t fit with the vibe of the rest of the house, or that they will grow out of it almost as soon as it’s finished. Don’t worry. That’s where these tips come in.
Tap into their emotions
Ask your child how they want their room to feel rather than how should it look.
They might say they want their room to be, say, cool, cosy or magical. When I asked Bo to close her eyes and envisage what she wanted, she said ‘pretty’ ‘dreamy’ ’secret’ ‘magical’ ‘calm’ and ‘fun’. This is the result you are after, rather than just a sea of Peppa Pig wallpaper.
Don’t get hung up on literal interpretations of their brief
When Bo asked for a ‘fairy garden’ I knew that her bedroom didn’t have to be bright pink, glittery and covered in fairy decals to create the feel she wanted. In fact, her room doesn’t have a fairy in sight! Instead, we used tiny pinhead fairy lights tacked to the wallpaper amongst the flowers to allude to hundreds of magical fairies living in her ‘fairy garden’ room at night. She adores this.
To give her the feeling of being somewhere ‘secret’, I designed a bed with curtains that turn it into a private hideaway. But I didn’t go with the magenta curtain covered in hairbows that she requested in tribute to her YouTube icon at the time, Jo Jo Siwa. I like to think she will thank me.
The magic of 'fairy lights' alluding to a sprinkling of fairies at bedtime in her magical world.
Bo had long had her eye on the cane swing seat that was originally in my master bedroom. So I made Bo’s year by offering to her it as part of the redesign. By indulging your child’s heart’s desires, you can get away with maybe not including other things that you might not be so happy about. Sometimes we can get so carried away by our adult notion of good taste that we forget how important certain items are to children. Let them have that garish cartoon character cushion. It can always be swapped out when they get older. But maybe don’t invest in four walls of Thomas wallpaper they will have outgrown in a year.
Create a moodboard
Once you have your child’s emotion words and key themes, it’s time to get visual. For Bo’s room, we chose pictures together and I picked out ideas that we could translate into an interior setting. We were drawn to images of romantic gardens, swings, arches and flowers. A picture of a chequered path led us to the rug that she has on her floor. Images of magical glades inspired the mushroom light. A picture of flowers tumbling over an archway was recreated using wallpaper.
Limit their choice
We all get overwhelmed by too many choices, but nothing builds a child’s self-esteem like being treated as if their opinion is important. Once we’d agreed on a floral wallpaper, I limited the choice to three options – all of which I liked – and she chose the final one. This is particularly helpful if you too have strong ideas about what you like! I then offered her a choice of paint in three shades picked out from the colours in the wallpaper. She felt in control, but I felt confident the final design would work. For older children, building a Pinterest board can help them find their style.
Don’t forget storage
From tots to teens, kids accumulate a lot of stuff. Much of it will be incredibly emotionally important to them, but as a parent you will probably want to see the floor from time to time. That’s why my designs always include multiple storage options, which I factor in right from the start. Space under beds is invaluable – it’s why I love designing specialist sleep solutions with a carpenter. In addition, flush wardrobes, hidden bookcases and freestanding baskets can all play a role. Remember, children will want to access their possessions so keep as much as you can at an accessible height. Allow them to feel at home and empowered in their environment.
Do they love to dress up? Read? Play with trains? Do they need to do homework? When planning the room, create zones for their needs. But keep them flexible. Children’s needs change as they grow. A craft table and dressing up rail can become a desk and place to plan outfits as they head towards their teens. Toy storage can become a place for sports equipment or clothes. I gave Bo a double bed that will give her space in her teen years, yet ensured it still felt cosy and fun for a child. Trying to envisage a room which will suit a child through every stage of their life can be overwhelming, but making changes is often easier than you think. Today, even many wallpapers are removable. I’m sure Bo’s room will evolve as she grows up, but I think she will love it for years to come.
My mini client coming to inspect the progress
THE DESIGN DETAILS
"When your daughter gives you the brief ‘Magical Secret Garden’ you know the pressure is on to deliver!"
I had promised my girl wallpaper in her bedroom for a very long time. So, when it was time to upgrade her toddler bed to something a bit more grown-up I took the opportunity to find the perfect wallpaper for her room too. With her brief of something ‘pretty’ I showed Bo several floral wallpapers. This included the @Sianzeng incredible Clematis wallpaper. We both instantly knew it was the one. The wallpaper is simply stunning. Hand-painted flowers spilling over the top of a wall gives the magical feeling of being in a fairy tale. Perfect. I was really proud to have hung the wallpaper myself during lockdown. My first ever attempt at wallpapering, and not half as tricky as I thought. We couldn’t be more delighted with the results.
THE BED A key part of the room upgrade was about creating more storage. No room would be complete in my house without the amazing skills of @thetvcarpenter who brought her dream bed design to life. Within the bed design I incorporated lots of accessible yet hidden storage, including this ‘secret bookcase’ with love heart corner shelves. It has been a game-changer. It helps keep the room tidy as well as giving Bo a super cool bed she can snuggle up in.
I love the contrast piped edge. It’s all in the details!
Needless to say that my mini client is beyond thrilled with her new room, which is all that matters… but she/we hope you love it too.
Nicki & Bo x @Sianzeng is kindly offering a discount on her wallpaper to all my followers.
Please use the code Wild10 at the checkout. Photography by @still_loljohnsonphotography