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Classics in Children's Rooms
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Adding classics to children's rooms

Heirlooms in children's rooms creates a sense of timelessness, according to Margaret Chambers, A.S.I.D.

"I think of it not just a child's room," says Chambers. "Why not pick out pieces that they can use forever. If you buy good stuff, classical stuff the first time around, there's no reason to get rid of it."

Prospective parents, while pondering cribs and bassinets, should consider an armoire or antique bureau, advises Chambers who chose an old green chest for changing her daughter's diapers. Today, that chest holds seven year old Alex's clothes, and it sits in a country French bedroom along side an antique armoire with removable shelves displaying dolls and toys and a French bulletin board jam packed with notes and photos. Alex sleeps in a daybed with a Verde curve-o-linear, iron headboard. Slightly higher than most, the frame allows for ample storage space--all behind a long dust-ruffle. Alex's crib, now stored away, was an inexpensive Jenny Ling, chosen for its old-fashioned style. Her room also includes a large doll house, a wooden table and chairs for tea parties, two fabric-backed chairs--one child-sized and one full-sized, an old dresser, a hand painted wall bracket surrounded by stuffed animals, and coordinated windows, bedspread, and carpet--all at a cost more than $10,000.

Less costly was Chamber's own childhood bedroom, a room shared with one of seven siblings until she was seventeen, when she designed it herself. Because her mother wouldn't allow the blue damask wallpaper taken down, Chambers chose fabric with blue/white checks and yellow/white checks. She bought an old iron bed from her grandmother's flee market and commissioned her mother to make a painting to hang over a dresser, a gift from her grandmother. She whitened two natural wicker chairs, while her grandmother hand-stitched pillows, and finally, she refinished, with her grandfather's help, an old rickety table. Viola! A showcase!

The Little Extras

"If you want a timeless look, you have to do a little study" says Chambers. Determine what lines are timeless (better lines are often more classic) and when a style should dominate in a house or a room.

Purchase with a discriminating eye. If the room is large enough, buy the baby's future bed, especially if the child is up a lot at night or the parent wants to sleep in the room when the child is sick.

When choosing fabric, buy extra. The bedspread is the centerpiece of the room; yet, it's the first thing to get dirty. So, buy fabric for two or three bedspreads or extra bedspreads and fabric for a second coverlet.

Select sophisticated prints for bedspreads and window treatments. And paint the walls with lively jewel tones or paper with small flowers or plaids. Just right color depends on the level of natural light in the room. Yet, bright yellow is always lively and friendly, and dark colors should not interfere with a child's ability to read.

"When I think of versatile colors, I always think of black, white, cream, and green--some people think of gray," says Chambers. "These are considered neutral. Some people don't think of green as neutral. But it is because almost any fabric, especially anything with plants or flowers, will have green in it."

Like fabric, buy extra paper and paint. Stored high up in an indoor closet, paint will remain in good condition. But outdoors, in the garage, or in the attic, subject to extreme temperatures, paint will deteriorate in one year.

A Child's Room is Like a Puzzle.

Treat children's rooms as other rooms in the house, says Chambers, because key to a classic look is a unified style dominating, i.e. 2/3's contemporary and 1/3 traditional or 2/3's French and 1/3 English.

"Know your tastes," says Chambers. Are you a print person or tone on tone? If you keep a notebook of rooms you love, you'll soon see common denominators in colors and styles to help you make choices. For like a puzzle, some choices seal off others.

Plan replacements (such as a large ottoman for Alex's tea table, a table for the doll house, perhaps using Ralph Lauren designs, or adding an aquarium) that adjust to the growing child's needs and wishes.

And by all means, include the children in shopping and making choices, advises Chambers.

"If kids have a nice room, they want to keep it nice."

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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