3 local designers share tips on creating stylish rooms for your kids

From welcoming the littlest family members to making older kids feel right at home, here’s how designers embraced kid-inspired rooms throughout local homes.

A mix of embroidered and printed pillows in a red, white and blue palette adds color and warms up slipcovered Pottery Barn seating. The old-school Williams Sonoma popcorn maker is on hand, echoing the vibe of the vintage vehicle photographs framed as art. Furniture includes family pieces, like this side table, lending a collected vibe. Meanwhile, throws, including a red one from Crate & Barrel, are perfect for cooler nights. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Great Guest Rooms

Sometimes surfing the internet pays off. For this once-Manhattan-based couple, what was to become their forever home simply popped up online—a four-bedroom 4,400-square-foot home on Little Hunting Creek in Mount Vernon.

“It got our attention right away—the house, the riverfront location, its potential for hosting family and friends,” says one of the homeowners, who has roots in the area, having gone to William & Mary and lived in DC. “We have lots of family who come visit, between us we have seven nieces and nephews of different ages. We wanted the overall design to be fun and suitable for kids, as well as for adults.”

The couple hired Alexandria interior decorator and home stager Alexandria Davenport of Décor Decorum to help with furnishing the interiors.

“They wanted larger spaces for entertaining, both indoors and outdoors, but they also wanted fun and cozy rooms for their younger guests,” adds Davenport.

One of the three guest bedrooms was set aside for little kids. Here, Davenport embraced an all-American feel with respect to its patriotic palette, while integrating the tan and cream neutrals from the overall decor.

A Union Jack pillow dresses up one twin bed, with an American flag pillow on the other. Davenport effortlessly blends stripes, stars, checks and chevron patterns for a fun feel. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

“We varied the furniture materials, like the wrought-iron twin beds and the painted wood night table, because we wanted everything to look collected, not like it was bought all at once. The intent was to give the air of a multigenerational family home,” Davenport says.

Younger visitors nestle up to read books in the beds, which are adorned with patchwork quilts and flag pillows. During the day, there is also a selection of American vintage toys from the homeowners’ collection on tap.

For the couple relaxing alone, as well as for their youthful guests, there is also a cozy media room tucked beneath the eaves. Easy-to-launder slip-covered armchairs and a sofa provide plenty of comfortable seating for playing games or watching TV. There is also a popcorn maker on hand for movie nights.

“The home’s design was primarily to allow our families to visit and stay with us comfortably,” says the homeowner, adding, “We have them all come for holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas, and also for fireworks off our dock on the Fourth of July.”

The vintage wall art inspired the room’s palette. To the left, a hanging curtain covers unsightly storage.
A vivid Aztec-patterned rug from the Land of Nod grounds Max and Vaughn’s room. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Whimsical Wonderlands

Arlington-based interior designer Danielle Sigwalt and her husband, Seb, put down roots in Clarendon when they purchased their family home more than a decade ago. At that time, they only had a son (Charlie, now 18) but soon enough along came Max (7) and their only daughter Vaughn (5).

“My No. 1 goal in our home—and in the rooms that I’ve created over the years for our kids—is always to combine comfort, with great flow and a dash of fun,” she says of her approach to design.

Max and Vaughn have been sharing a room, though that will likely change when Charlie heads off to college. The little kids’ room was designed knowing that they would be playing in their room a lot. Sigwalt created a ‘secret’ hideaway for them in the dormer; it features patterned wallpaper, a colorful rug and an orange block-printed curtain that drops down to let them really hide out.

“Charlie was older and he had a say in his room,” says Sigwalt, who gave that space a headboard feature wall in a scalloped blue wallpaper. “He uses his space to do homework, and also as an oasis to get away from the noisy younger kids.”

Sigwalt repurposed a damaged antique kilim as a one-of-a-kind headboard. The sham covers are from Jill Sorenson, while the striped woven rug is from IKEA. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Sigwalt, who has a knack with color, as well as with layering in vintage pieces, painted an old desk in coral-red for Charlie’s room. She also finished an antique wicker peacock chair in emerald-green and a chest of drawers in turquoise-blue for the little kids’ room.

“Downstairs I also designed a playroom,” she says of another cozy space, which is furnished with a cotton-print chaise, as well as with a vintage Oriental rug. “The aim was to create a place for the kids to do artwork, sit down to read or simply play on the floor.”

The children love to use their creatively fashioned hideaway for playing or curling up with a good picture book. The paper is by Serena & Lily and the rug is a Kate Spade design. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

In keeping with her whimsical approach to spaces, Sigwalt crowned the playroom ceiling with a canary-yellow chandelier and applied ‘flying bird’ cutout motifs to one wall.
“Like most of my designs, I always add playful touches,” she says, adding, “Must be the child in me.”

Hinkley lights sandwich the double daybed built-in, with twin mattresses for napping and drawered storage beneath. Floating tables can hold drinks during the day and be nightstands at night. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Best Bedroom

When the Benjack family decided to turn their weekend farmhouse in Franklin, Virginia, into their full-time home, they enlisted the help of Burke-based interior designer Alison Giese to help them smooth the way.

“We have three grown boys aged 19, 21 and 23,” says Claire Benjack. “Though only one of them is still living at home, we needed a space that all three boys could share whenever we had a full house over the holidays. It also functions as another guest room.”

Giese set to work right away. In terms of color palette and decorative style, the converted attic room tucked beneath the eaves had to fit the full redesign of the elegant farmhouse, a larger project her firm had been involved with since late 2017.

“We were working with a muted palette, mostly of water colors—blues and grays—and our design approach was to create a ‘breathable’ home, where the family and their friends felt free to relax and be themselves,” she says, adding, “The boys’ bedroom had to fit that overall scope.”

The boldest decision was to wallpaper the entire room—both straight and sloped walls—in a higher-contrast striped wallpaper.

“The angled ceiling was the perfect place for a tented-effect wallpaper, setting the stage for a grown-up camper vibe,” says Giese.

A pair of matched full-size beds in a matte black finish are set on either side of the dormer window; beneath the latter is a built-in chest of drawers. Brass wall-mounted reading sconces also keep things clutter-free.

“Our clients wanted the boys’ room to feel like a place where they could hang out too, so we always envisioned a part-lounge/part-bedroom space,” says Giese.

The Brewster Home Fashions wallpaper adds a high-contrast stripe on white in charcoal-black, with softer striations on either side. Bedding in quilted washed-grays and crisp white sheets is welcoming. (Photo by Robert Radifera)

Directly across from the beds, there is now a built-in, wall-length daybed, with double bench cushions in a twin-bed size, as well as deep drawers beneath.

“The room has plenty of storage, as well as style. The daybed also serves as extra beds!” says Benjack, adding, “The boys offered no input but they love the outcome.”

This post originally appeared in our August 2019 print issue. For more Home & Design content, subscribe to our weekly newsletter.