When Isabella Blanchard designed her bedroom, she carefully considered the look she wanted to create before finalizing the drapery, bedding and paint colors.
She was 7.
“I let her pick out everything -- the wall color, the bedspread,” said her mom, Kris Blanchard of St. Louis. The finished project features purple walls, pink glittery curtains and a gauzy princess canopy hanging from the ceiling.
“I didn’t have so much say at that age,” Blanchard said. But like many other modern parents, Blanchard has embraced the idea that a child’s room is his or her space, and should express the kid’s individual style.
When today’s parents were kids, the design liberties they were allowed were often limited to picking the posters they wanted to hang on their bedroom walls. And even those had to meet certain criteria of tastefulness, in some homes. But this generation is growing up curating and exploring their aesthetic in a digital world saturated with images.
The most popular social media sites for young people -- Instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat -- trade in visuals. Tweens can create Pinterest boards that hone what appeals to them visually. Businesses way beyond Pottery Barn Kids have recognized this market. There are designers who cater to guiding younger clients, empowered by their parents’ pocketbooks.
Walmart offers a $15 “Design Your Dream Room” kit that allows kids to “decorate the room of your dreams” with an interior design portfolio. Different activity sections let the child experiment with patterns, colors and layout.
There’s even a new party-concept store in a St. Louis-area mall, called My Room Rocks, that gives customers a box to decorate as a room -- sort of a design diorama.
Isabella, now 8, recently celebrated her birthday there with a group of girls, creating elaborate models of rooms complete with miniature furniture, wallpaper, valances and bedding. She decided to go with a modern black and white theme in this room, including a “Star Wars” bedspread and accents of purple, her favorite color.
Mary Sittler, creator and owner of the store, says she remembered how her own now-grown daughters would customize and build rooms for their dolls. She sees the store as another form of creative expression for children. There is an entire wall with more than 50 different fabric options for bedding, pillows and window treatments to customize each cardboard box “room.” The store hosts lots of birthday parties, but boys and girls also drop in to create individual projects.
Not everyone is sold on the idea that young children should have complete artistic control over their bedrooms before they’ve mastered making their beds. The Wall Street Journal ran a pro and con piece on the question of whether parents should allow kids to design their own rooms.
Proponents argue that it gives children a sense of ownership and imparts a sense of security. It’s best if parents provide a few pre-approved choices from which a child can choose. On the other side, designers cautioned parents that children can be “capricious, which can lead to overspending and truly bad decor.”
In the case of the Blanchards, everyone was pleased with the final product. Isabella’s mother ordered the furniture, while Isabella chose the colors and accessories. Isabella originally wanted a princess-themed room, but her mother wanted something that could last longer than a passing interest in fairy-tale royalty. And if she does tire of the purple walls, luckily paint is a fairly inexpensive change for do-it-yourselfers.
Now, Isabella has her eye on an unfinished attic in the house she would like to convert into a craft or play room one day.
“I’ve been thinking about stuff,” she said. “Pink and purple and a big glass chandelier.”
Before she takes on her next design project, however, she needs to graduate second grade.