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Well-designed bedroom can be child's play

Dora the Explorer can undergo all themakeovers she wants--that Dora comforteris still getting chucked faster than last year'sgym shoes when Hannah Montana comescalling.

And therein lies the quandary for parentstrying to decorate their kids' rooms in a waythat's both whimsical and practical: Do yougive in to the relentless onslaught of characters,themes and eye-catching colors yourchild covets? (It is her room, after all.) Or doyou insist on decor with a little more longevityand panache? (Child's translation: booooring.)Surely Spider-Man and style can peacefullyco-exist. Here we turn to three expertsin search of some middle ground.

■ Themes are for birthday parties. "Ifyour kid is into trains, a lot of parents willbuy the train wallpaper border, train bedding,train models to put on a shelf and soon," says Serena Dugan, co-founder andcreative director for Serena & Lily children'sbedding line ( "Butchances are your child is going to be on tosomething new soon, so you no longer lovethe room, and the child's over it too. A littlegoes a long way."

Alittle, in this case, can take the form of asingle pillowcase, desk accessories, stickerson a bulletin board, even a throw pillow.Anything that you won't mind parting within short order because it didn't cost muchand replacing it doesn't require an overhaulof the room.

"My son was so into Batman when he waslittle," says Michelle Williams, founder ofMichelle Williams Interiors ( "I got him one big pillow forthe top of his bed. He thought it was terrific,and I didn't feel bad when he was done withit."

■ Teach art appreciation. A fun way tosneak childlike accents into a room isthrough framed "artwork." For toddlers, thismight mean framing flashcards, colorfulgreeting cards or their own masterpieces.For slightly older kids, this is a great spot fortheir favorite characters to find a home."If they're into Sleeping Beauty or Cinderella,buy a poster and frame it," suggestsWilliams. "Now it's elevated from a cheap-ofad to 'Wow, look at this! It's art!' And whenthey get older, take the poster out and replaceit with something else."

Williams framed some classic Barbieprints from Z Gallerie for her daughter'sroom. "Young at heart, but sophisticated atthe same time," she says.She also suggests hanging art lower on thewalls. "By hanging a piece of art low over abeanbag chair, you are creating an 'area,' "she says.

■ Choose sophisticated pieces. "I don'tbelieve in pandering to children," says Williams."My son has a leather sofa in his roomthat came out of a different room in ourhouse," she says. "His friends have beenknown to sleep on that sofa, and it's ageless.He could be 25 and still using it--not that Iwant him in my house when he's 25 …"For accent lighting, she suggests a chandelieror crystal lamp (with a young, fun lampshade).And her piece de resistance? The deskchair.

"I love a Philippe Starck Louis Ghost Chairor an Eames tulip chair with a simple IKEAor Room and Board desk," she says. "Thelook is young and fun, but it can work at 6 or12 or 18."

■ Find furniture with legs. "Adaptability,quality and neutral color palette," Duganemphasizes. She's a fan of white furnishings,which go with anything and work as well in anursery as a preteen room. "Invest in qualitypieces that will grow with your child," Dugansays. "An armoire that can convert to achild's wardrobe when [her] needs change,for example."

Sam Scarborough, stylist and author of"Cool Spaces for Kids" (Hamlyn Books,$19.99), says bunk beds grow up with yourchildren. "It's great fun for a 6-year-old--theylove climbing up and down the ladder--and agood sleepover option for older kids," Scarboroughsays. "It's also a space saver; thebottom bed can be removed to make space fora homework area."

■ Paint is your friend. It's relatively cheapand easily changed. "Choose a neutral colorscheme on the walls, with a feature wall in adifferent color that can be changed as thechild grows," suggests Scarborough.And paint doesn't have to be limited to thewalls. "You can always paint canvas wallpanels with just one color," says Dugan. "Ifpink is what she's into, pick four quarts offuchsia paint in a range and paint each panela different shade. Hang them in a grid, andyou've satisfied her need with minimuminvestment and maximum impact."

Williams warns against painting elaboratemurals on the walls, however. "Eventuallythey won't like it, it will date the room, andyou'll feel bad painting over it because youremember what you paid for it," she says.And what color bedding and curtains gowith an ever-changing palette of wall colors?"Denim goes with everything, is hardy andwashes extremely well--the more it'swashed the better it looks--and also hidesspills well," says Scarborough. "Denimworks in both boys' and girls' rooms; just addsplashes of pink, or blues and red checks forthe boys."

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