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Even the baby's room may require a gentle touch


Over the years I've come to realize that many of my readers and clients regard interior designers basically as creators of pretty spaces.

While making a room look beautiful is one of our key aims, most professional designers are just as concerned with function as they are with form. They know that a space will not be properly designed -- and may even be dangerous to its users -- unless close attention is paid to the way a setting actually works.

By contrast, a person unfamiliar with functional norms will usually arrange a room to suit his or her own needs. And that's just fine in the many cases where all the users of a space are of average size and dexterity.

Designing a setting solely in reference to the average individual is not appropriate, however, when a household includes one or more people with special needs. Older and disabled people, for example, often have needs that should be accommodated in a room's design.

Children deserve the same consideration. Just imagine how difficult it must be to grapple with furnishings that have been designed for people twice as tall as you are.

A child's nursery requires specialized treatment, just as does the bedroom of a disabled adult. Most parents make sure that an infant or toddler has plenty of visual stimulation, but fewer devote the necessary attention to functional factors.

How can the safety and comfort of a nursery be assessed? Here are a few criteria, from the floor up.

Whatever surfacing is chosen, it should be easy to clean and maintain. Rugs, if introduced for color or for softness on a crawler's hands and knees, ought to be wall-to-wall in their dimensions, since it's easy to trip on a scatter rug.

Shelving intended to hold toiletries and medicines must be installed beyond a child's reach. Remember that sharp corners can produce a lot of pain for someone who's not entirely sure-footed. Round tables and blunt edges are thus to be preferred. Furniture without bars or rungs is also a safer option.

Cribs that do include these features should be carefully chosen since a little limb can easily get caught in an opening.

Decorative elements, too, ought to be considered from the child's perspective. In the room shown in the photograph, the brightly colored wallpaper borders from Sunworthy Wallcoverings were situated in accordance with a small person's sight-lines.

And if we also look at the rest of the room from a baby's perspective, it will quickly become apparent that a plain white ceiling is a big bore. So go ahead and paste up some cut-out stars, clouds or whatever else might entertain someone who spends a lot of time looking up from a crib or changing table.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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