When you are expecting a new baby, planning the room is one of the exciting parts of getting ready. If you are planning on staying in that house for a while and your new child will grow up there and always call it home, this bedroom will play a huge part in your child’s life.
It’s easy, when you’re expecting a baby, to get a little carried away with mental visions of soft, soothing pastel colours, stimulating mobiles, cosy cocoons and lots of frills, especially if you know you’re expecting a girl. However, you have to bear in mind that babies grow up horribly quickly. Before you can hardly turn around, that tiny little human that’s all big eyes (and a bawling mouth) staring at you over the top of a blanket will turn into something rambunctious that gets a room messy just by looking at it, then into a person with hobbies and a desire for privacy. Plan ahead.
Let’s start with the basics. No matter what age your child is, warmth and storage space are always needed. Make sure that you have a good and efficient source of heat in the room. A radiant bar heater is not a good choice – it’s rather risky. Go for night stores, heat pumps, oil column heaters, fans or passive solar heating (the latter is much cheaper in the long run but needs to be included in the house design from the beginning). Shelving and cupboard/wardrobe space is also a must. Make sure that some of the shelf space is within child-reach so that children can (in theory, anyway!) put things away for themselves. Avoid old-fashioned toy boxes. They become cluttered, the lids are lethal for little finger and what you want is always right at the bottom. A set of stacking storage cubes are better, but watch out for sharp corners.
Be careful with interior decorating. While it may seem sweet to have wallpaper that has a design of fluffy lambs or teddy bears this may not be appreciated when the child is older. Who remembers Adrian Mole in the Sue Townsend novel where he tries unsuccessfully to paint over the Noddy wallpaper in his bedroom on reaching his teens? Keep to a nice neutral pattern or colour. Colours to avoid include bright primaries (too stimulating for a place where you want someone to relax and sleep), white (will show every little mark and is rather sterile and intimidating) and pink (you may be expecting a girl, but she may turn out a tomboy or a feminist and loathe pink). Sky blue, light yellow (buttercream or pale lemon) and the greens are good bets. Let the interior decorating grow with the child – borders, posters, rugs, duvets and the like can be added later on as interest develop. Don’t bother with blackboard paint on a wall. The whole attraction of drawing on a wall is because it’s naughty and forbidden. A child who wants to express him/herself artistically will be happy enough with a roll of newsprint and/or pavement chalks. This is usually cheaper, too.
Choose your wall and floor surfaces wisely. I would recommend walls that are easily cleaned and washed without running into risks of damaging the finish. The surface needs to be withstand cleaning with industrial strength cleaning products while avoiding the myths, due to the potential attempts of greatness by a young Picasso.
A great floor finish would be laminate flooring or nylon carpet, both very easy to clean. Avoid seagrass or sisal carpeting as these are the most difficult to remove stains from.
Other items that will be appreciated throughout life are thick curtains, lighting and a stereo system. Having good curtains that cut out the light from the outside is one way of making sure that children of any age get a good night’s sleep -start with neutral ones, then upgrade to reflect the child’s preferences. The ritual of opening and closing curtains is one parent routine that won’t be outgrown too quickly. A desk lamp will be good for late-night feeds and changes at first, and will be used for reading in bed later. And the stereo will play soothing music to a baby, play a story tape to amuse an unwell school-aged child, provide background music for exam swatting, and maybe provide something for an aspiring musician or dancer to practise with.
One more thing – make sure the furniture is sturdy and can take a battering. Even a petite ballerina or gymnast can wreak havoc on the furniture (“But, Mum, I was just using it to practise my vault routine/barre work. How was I to know?”), and let’s not start on what rugby players can do…