Susana Simonpietri, the creative director of Chango & Co., an interior design firm in Brooklyn, often electrifies social media by posting photos of children’s rooms. With their eye-catching colors, unexpected patterns and playful elements, it’s hard not to love the spaces she creates.
“I enjoy designing them so much, because I feel like every time we do a kids’ room is an opportunity for me to be a child again,” said Ms. Simonpietri, 44. “We spend just as much time on kids’ rooms as we do any other room in a house.”
But children come with a lot of stuff — and they aren’t always inclined to pick up after themselves. That means having a good storage plan is even more important than hanging beautiful wallpaper.
Her advice? “You have to embrace what they have, but give them tools to manage it.”
Here’s how she did that for her 4-year-old daughter, Lola.
Use Open and Closed Storage
You probably don’t want to be confronted with all of your child’s toys, books and art supplies when you walk into the room. But here’s a secret: If you limit the number of things you can see, the toys or books on display can serve the same function as decorative elements.
That’s why Ms. Simonpietri uses both open and closed storage.
When her firm is designing a storage wall, she said, “usually we put a changing table or a dresser in the middle, and add shelving on either side.”
In Lola’s room, the dresser — which is from Oeuf, and used to have a changing station on top — provides the closed storage. White metal wall-mounted bookshelves from CB2 on either side of the dresser create space to store things in the open.
Add Baskets on Lower Shelves
For speedy cleanup at the end of the day, Ms. Simonpietri likes to use baskets. Toys and art supplies can be easily tossed inside them and concealed.
“Baskets are perfect for gathering all those shapeless and crazy things,” she said.
But they should be used only on lower shelves, so children can see inside them and take things out without the risk of spilling everything on the floor.
“We keep them low, specifically so that the child can use those baskets to put things away after they’re done playing,” Ms. Simonpietri said.
Larger baskets with lids can provide additional storage space on the floor, if necessary. In Lola’s room, she uses one as a laundry hamper.
Sort Books by Size
The covers and spines of children’s books are fun to look at, but to give them a sense of order, Ms. Simonpietri likes to arrange them by height, in descending order. A book end is helpful to keep them from tipping over during boisterous play.
Just as with baskets, she said, books should be stored only on lower shelves where they’re readily available to children. As children get older, books that are no longer age-appropriate should be cycled out to make room for more big-kid titles without losing storage space.
Subdivide Dresser Drawers
Drawers are great for hiding things out of sight. But subdividing them allows you to store more items — and keep them organized.
Ms. Simonpietri uses small-scale bins for this purpose, reconfiguring them every few years to address changing needs.
“In the beginning, those were used for sheets, diapers, et cetera,” she said of Lola’s drawers. “But now she uses them for pajamas, socks and accessories that she wants to put on, like headbands and sunglasses.”
The top of the dresser is a great place to add more specific organization tools: a jewelry box or stand, maybe, or a display case for collectibles. In Lola’s room, Ms. Simonpietri added a headband stand with ends shaped like unicorns, her daughter’s favorite creature.
Plan for Future Keepsakes
As children go through life, they tend to amass more things. That includes mementos that mark important moments: trophies, photos, certificates. These items won’t be handled on a daily basis, so they should be put on higher shelves.
In Lola’s room, Ms. Simonpietri has a small silver box where her daughter can collect her baby teeth when they eventually fall out. It sits near a ceramic figure of a ballerina that was a topper for a birthday cake.
By allocating spaces for keepsakes in advance, she said, you help prevent them from becoming clutter on counters, tabletops and the floor later.
Use Toys as Decorative Accessories
Some toys are admired more than they’re played with — assembled Lego sets, for example, or giant stuffed animals — which makes them great decorative accessories.
“Display areas are for items that are very pretty and we want to look at, but that don’t get played with as often,” Ms. Simonpietri said.
In Lola’s room, she placed a large cardboard unicorn mask and big stuffed animals on higher shelves. She also displayed a stuffed unicorn and crescent moon in a hanging bubble chair.
But she didn’t do it alone — every element was planned with Lola’s consent.
“You can make it play,” she said of the organizing process, by asking your child how they want to store their things. “Then they’ll work really hard to maintain it.”
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