One of my very most favorite design blogs is Style Carrot, written by Boston-based Marni Katz. Her curatorial eye and design sense make her posts invariably interesting. I especially like her oddly specific montages: 40 painted built-in bookshelves; 54 living rooms with gray sofas; 64 rooms with black and white art. One of the latest was 27 little boys’ bedrooms. As a design enthusiast and mother of little boys, how could I be but drawn in?
As with all good design, the best kids’ bedrooms should be aesthetically appealing, functional, and comfortable. The trouble is, to put it in business degree speak, who are the stakeholders? Most of the time, one designs for oneself or for other adults. Even if an adult client can’t figure out how to make a room look good, he or she can usually appreciate a beautiful room. Little boys cannot. Little boys have no taste whatsoever. They love gaudy plastic toys, and promotional pamphlet maps of Water Country, and polyester Iron Man bedding sets. They do not love muted old-timey camp blankets, or wooden toys with a light wash of vegetable dyes, or tidiness.
It’s not that, when designing a kid’s room, one must throw out all hope of a good aesthetic result, but expectations must be adjusted. We can design the shell, the scaffold, but they will people it. We can wallpaper, but they will tack up Marvel comics posters. We can layer a worn kilim over a jute rug, but they will leave Star Wars underwear and battery powered Cars 2 merchandise all over it and never pick it up.
The 27 boys’ rooms in Style Carrot’s post run the gamut from excellent to absurdly, laughably unrealistic. Some of the most unrealistic can still be viewed as aspirational, or as simple inspiration for something with real-world applicability. Something like watching a haute couture fashion show and then hitting T.J. Maxx. We all need inspiration. But let the boys have some too. It can be tough; I am a neat freak, organization fiend, and design geek. There are rooms in my home that I am doggedly determined will remain kid free. My bedroom and the living room, for instance. Then there are rooms given wholly over to the boys. A dark corner of the basement and their jointly held bedroom, for instance. The rest of the house is a constantly shifting battlefield or DMZ, depending on the day. They make incursions with lego men, catapults, and giant green Hulk hands. I fight back with mossy terraria, stacks of field guides and jars of ferns.
I don’t like to wallow in nostalgia, but I do recognize how short this span of their boyhood is. So I give them their room, and I let them revel in it. And secretly, as I pick my way over the Power Rangers, robots and talking puzzles in the dark to turn off their spinning Superman nightlight, I revel in it too.