I grew up in a family of seven kids, in a modest middle-class house. There was a triple-bunk bed in my room, a bureau to share and a dressing table with a vanity mirror. And with three girls sharing that room, making space for a dressing table/vanity mirror was much more important than fitting in a second bureau. Who actually put their clothes away back then anyway? Trying to cram nine people into a four bedroom house didn’t leave much room for all the bells and whistles that you see in many children’s bedrooms today. In fact, the most exciting bedroom in the house was the makeshift boiler room/bedroom because there was only room for one mattress. So whoever didn’t mind sleeping in the same room as the boiler, at least got a single out of it. The most creatively inspirational room in our house was the downstairs family room because there was a fireplace with a raised hearth and a spotlight above, which we used as a stage. But those were the days that kids spent most of the time outdoors anyway – parents usually had the rule that you couldn’t come inside until dinner. It was of a by-gone era that you could send your kids outside to roam the neighborhood and never had to think twice about their safety. So, it was the outdoors that inspired most of our creativity growing up.
These days kids spend most of their time indoors. In fact, we usually have to encourage them to even spend an hour outside just to get some “fresh air”. So, now it’s more important than ever to put thought into designing rooms that will inspire their creativity. There have been many studies out that claim different colors enhance different moods. For instance one study, by the University of British Columbia, found that blue environmental cues prompted twice as many creative outputs as when under a red color condition. They concluded that through the association of the color blue with the sky and water, that it made people feel open and peaceful, and therefore safer about being more creative and exploratory. The New York Times ran an article about a cocktail party study, in which a group of interior designers, architects and corporate color scientists built makeshift bars in red, blue or yellow. They found that more people chose the yellow and red rooms over the blue, but blue partygoers stayed longer. Red and yellow guests were more social and active. The color pink, normally reserved for baby girl nurseries, is one of the most calming and comforting colors there is. It’s even been used in some prisons to promote calmness and lessen aggression. And calmness and comfort opens you up to being more daring with your creativity. So, in the desire to raise more creative kids, maybe you need to rethink that ever-popular eggshell white.
Now it’s important to know that you don’t have to go it alone. When I went to go pick out colors at our local Sherwin-Williams paint store, I discovered that they had an in-house color designer that would come to your house FOR FREE and help you pick out just the right colors. She came over with a whole book of paint chips. I would tell her what I had in mind and then she would go to that color family and help me see what colors worked together. It was particularly helpful in the kids’ rooms because I wanted more than one color in each room. I knew by the look on her face, when I would choose two colors that I thought blended well, that she felt I needed to learn a thing or two about the color wheel.
For my boys room, I wanted bright, bold colors. In trying to choose complimentary colors, with so many different shades of each, it was helpful to have an expert pick out the shades that didn’t clash. It is truly an art form. I was lucky enough to find whimsical furniture at a store that was closing out, so the pieces I have in their room are very unique. The colors actually have worked well over time as I have changed the theme as they’ve grown. It started out as a Cat-in-the-Hat room, then it became a Toy Story room, and eventually a Lego room.
For my daughter’s room, we went with different tones of pink. I wanted it to inspire her love of art and design. I found two black and white fashion paintings at a Home Goods Store, which added a nice sophistication to the pink walls. I kept the furniture a neutral white in order to calm the pink down a little.
For their playroom, I went with two complimentary colors. Again, I like to pick some whimsical furniture pieces to set the tone, in this room they were the chairs. The highlight of the playroom is the dance floor, lava lamps, and disco lights. The kids like to throw dance parties. The last one they put on, they gave me a ticket, told me what time it was going to be held, and then informed me that I needed to dress up. So, I went in my closest and found a vintage party dress, threw on a pair of heels and made my way upstairs for a night of dancing which I was thrilled with since going out dancing certainly doesn’t happen as often as I would like. When I arrived at the double doors that lead to the playroom, my six-year old son was standing there ready to collect my ticket. He was so surprised and happy to see how dressed up I was, he just looked at me with a big smile on his face and said, “Nice, ” as he nodded his head in approval.
My kids spend hours in their room putting on plays, reenacting scenes from movies with their toys, building towns with legos. When they walk into their rooms it’s a time of wonder for them. It inspires them to be playful and gives them a backdrop for which to build their imagination upon. In a world where technology has gone 3-D, in order to compete with the computer screen, you need to give your children an environment that draws them away from the joy stick and makes them want to just jump in and participate. Just with splashes of color and an interesting piece of furniture here and there, you can create a play space that will inspire your children to want to dream up what’s next.