Our oldest son has had to share his room with his little sister ever since she arrived on the scene almost five years and two houses ago. We have had a few different furniture arrangements between cribs, twin beds, and now a bunkbed as their needs and room sizes have changed. We have also switched their room decor from vintage-inspired to something more modern, but have always managed to make it a fun space that reflects each of their personalities whilst feeling as cohesive as possible.
It’s a little tricky making one space work for both a boy and a girl, but I love a good design challenge. Below I’ve shared a few things I’ve learned along the way.
I’ve already shared how I won my battle with the dark built-ins in a tutorial here. I wanted to use this space as a way to display their stuff without it turning into an eyesore. One of the ways I was able to keep it both interesting and gender neutral was by using pattern and color instead of relying on a theme.
I repeated the same geometric-style theme and colors elsewhere in the room in strong amounts but left the rest in smaller doses. You’ll notice a lot of black, white, and yellow tones. However, Ruby’s handmade quilt also has plenty of pink, red, aqua, and green in it. I also chose to display items that belonged to each of them that fit within the black, white, and yellowish color scheme. Sebastian’s black Darth Vader clock is displayed alongside Ruby’s yellow stuffed elephant. Decorating with belongings within your chosen color palette allows the room to be both personal and cohesive.
The loud and proud pink princess accessories are contained in the coordinating yellow bins in the bookshelf, and Sebastian’s primary color lego pieces are neatly stashed in clear plastic tubs hidden under the bottom bunk. Stuffed animals live in a large coiled basket and larger toys are stashed in their shared closet. Their possessions each have a home where they can be easily accessed and that look lovely when their room is picked up. I can make no promises for an aesthetically pleasing space halfway through a play date though.
Ruby spends a lot more time in their shared room because Sebastian’s in school, so it’s usually just her stuff spread all over the floor at the end of the day. I knew Sebastian needed a place to put his lego creations once he was done building them with the peace of mind that his little sister wouldn’t break them apart during a feisty round of pet shop.
I moved all of the out-of-season linens and board games out of the built-ins in their closet and stored them elsewhere so that Sebastian would have a place to display his many creations. It’s a little dark in there, so I also added a battery powered LED light from Ikea so he can see even with the door closed. He said it feels like a secret fort and loves knowing they won’t be smashed. Ruby and I love that we aren’t stepping on legos all day.
Put your stuff to work! Not only is the furniture in the kids’ room appropriate for their age, it’ll still be useful a few years down the road barring it’s still in good condition. The shared dresser used to belong in our bedroom but is now split between the two kids. The Ikea shelving unit holds toys and books but might also one day hold Sebastian’s budding record collection. The bean bag is an easy spot to lay a squirmy baby but also useful for when the kids have friends over. The coiled basket full of stuffed animals will someday hold all of their dirty laundry. The bunk bed will be used in one of their own rooms purely for sleepovers when they no longer share a space.
The point is, that having multifunctional items will help save you money when you transition spaces. Think about what your kids’ needs are at the moment and what they will be in the next two years. They grow so quickly that sometimes it’s more practical to save a little on the items that won’t stick around long and splurge on those that will.
I like to give my kids controlled choices. I really wanted them to feel like they had a part in decorating their shared room without handing over the reigns completely. Part of this was to keep it from becoming a battle over how much Captain America was too much Captain America and whether or not it was fair to have a pink floral rug in an eight-year-old boy’s room.
For example, I asked them to create some art for the art wall but limited their color choices to black, yellow, or shades of blue so that whatever they created would be cohesive with the rest of the room’s design. Ruby made a fun abstract painting and Sebastian drew a battle scene of some Star Wars legos. I mixed those in with a photo of all three kids, enlarged a photobooth picture from a few years ago of the older two, and made a fun felt pennant utilizing one of Ruby’s favorite sayings. They love to show off their work to any company that come over, and I love that this was a joint(ish) effort.
We’re actually moving soon to a house where Sebastian will get his own room and Ruby and Smith will eventually share once he’s moved out of our room, so I’ll be referring back to my own tips in a few weeks! What have you learned about decorating a shared room? –Rachel