Have fun, but don’t get too wild. That’s good advice for a child attending a birthday party — or for parents designing a bathroom just for their kids.
“It’s easy to go overboard when you’re decorating a child’s bathroom, choosing a theme and then you’re like, ‘I have to have that!’ when you see anything in that theme,” says Sue Pelley, national spokesperson for Interiors by Decorating Den, based in Easton, Md. “Anything done to excess in decor, even decor for kids, won’t work.”
Other parents get carried away with remodeling when they should just be decorating, says Deborah Burnett, a registered interior designer and licensed building contractor based in Nashville, Tenn. “If you plan to live in your home for more than five years and you’re planning several pregnancies, by all means re-do a bathroom with fixtures and cabinets and sinks for a shorter arm reach. Install your toilet in a space that’s 42 inches across, instead of the typical 30 inches between wall and cabinet — it’s a whole lot easier for an adult to assist and to get those little tushies up on the pot with more space around it.”
If you won’t be living in your house that long, though, or are planning for an only child, skip the remodeling. “Those kid-friendly features will adversely affect your home’s resale value,” says Burnett, who is also the residential design spokesperson for the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). “Instead, see what you can do with some good decorating choices.”
The first step, says Burnett, is getting familiar with what’s out there. “Scour the doctor’s office and the hairstylist’s for women’s and parenting magazines, and look through them and the catalogs to get an idea of what you like and what price level you’re comfortable with,” she says. When it’s time to commit to kid bathroom decor, consider the following:
Stick With Your Decor Theme
“If the bathroom adjoins the bedroom, continue the same color scheme or theme on through,” says Pelley of Interiors by Decorating Den.
Choose Theme Elements Sparingly
When the wallpaper, shower curtain and border all have bright and compelling theme characters, the bathroom can look too busy. Instead, try a character-driven shower curtain next to a solid painted wall in a complementary color and maybe a theme border, or do the “over the top” wallpaper with a more subtle shower curtain. Theme toothbrushes, shampoo bottles, towels and fixtures can all add to the unified look, but make sure they come in matching or complementary colors, not just from the same mass merchandiser.
Have Fun With Paint
“A mural on the wall with your favorite characters is great if the bath is big enough,” says Pelley, “or you can paint multi-stripes on the wall, horizontally or vertically.”
Encourage Kids to Contribute
“Let your child paint a couple of tiles with non-washable paint, then make them into a backsplash behind the sink,” says Pelley. “It’s great whenever you can incorporate children’s own artwork into a space they’re going to use a lot.”
Take Two on Shower Curtains
“Hang two shower curtains on the same rod, using 26 rings,” says ASID’s Burnett. “That way, when they’re closed, there’s a nice gentle fold just like the far more expensive designer curtains — and they completely hide that big bunch of toys in the tub.” Lots of retailers offer shower curtains with kids in mind, including The Land of Nod, which sells a whimsical, primary colored “Raining Cats and Dogs” version and Shower-Curtains.com, which has no fewer than three duck-pattern shower curtains, two with frogs, two with turtles and one covered in fairy tale characters.
A kid’s bathroom absolutely needs some safety products and happily most of them come in great kid designs. Tub mats, for example, keep small children from slipping in the bath, as do adhesive pads that stick to the bottom of the tub. Vita Futura sells both in patterns ranging from little sea life figurines to bright green adhesive penguins.
Drain and faucet covers are also imperative to keep your child from banging against metal edges during a bath or accidentally turning on the hot water. They can look fairly utilitarian, or, if your theme allows, you can pick up something like the spouting hippo or elephant covers available from the Child Safety Store.
Last, a cover clamp for your toilet, also available at the Child Safety Store but only in plain white, snaps the lid of the toilet shut so curious kids won’t lift the lid and encounter a potential drowning hazard — or just make a big watery mess. And unlike those “child-proof” medicine caps, adults can readily operate the toilet clamp.
Decorate for the Moment
Decorating a kid’s bathroom is not a forever kind of thing, so concentrate on decor you can change easily, like paint and towels and curtains. “Enjoy it while you can and when the kids get tired of it, start over,” says Pelley.
She laughs to think that just a few years ago she was worried about decorating her boys’ rooms in kid colors and themes. “Now they’re teenagers and they wanted to paint their bedroom in all black, but I talked them down to just one wall,” she says. “Don’t think your children won’t change, because they will!”