Designer Minnie Kemp explains the style secrets to creating perfect kids' room decor

Let your imagination run wild and Minnie Kemp suggests the best colors and designs to use in a kid's bedroom

kids room with desk and artwork of butterflies
(Image credit: Future)

A space that conjures feelings of magic and adventure is one we would all like to create for our children.  Growing up, my two sisters and I shared a room in the attic.  I had an antique pine single sleigh bed that made hilarious/unfortunate - let's call them ‘raspberry’ - sounds every time you moved. For a long time my single goal in life was to turn the bed into an actual sleigh, drawn by twelve majestic huskies. No terrain would be too rough and everyone would recognise me for my oversized black leather jacket with the words “Mush Mush” emblazoned on the back in rhinestones.

The curtains in the room had a soft pencil pleat pelmet made up in ivory linen with a contrast denim blue border and mesmerizingly shiny tortoiseshell buttons that ran down the vertical leading edge. Once, I picked off a few from the bottom and tried to pass them off as pound coins to buy a white chocolate crepe. Nobody was fooled but I did get the grips on an important lesson that day - one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  

We learnt quickly that, despite this being a kid's room, the Delft flower wallpaper in the bedroom was not to be tampered with. Posters were NOT allowed and blue tack is the devil.  In order to express ourselves we would erect diaphanous tent structures using a wooden pole and some sheets. My big sister Willow would cut holes into the sheet and the posters would be stuck to the fabric and viewed from the inside like portholes to freedom. 

What we must do is create a safe space for that imagination to blossom

Minnie Kemp

kids room with covered bed and harlequin wallpaper

(Image credit: Future)

Be fanciful

kids playroom hidden behind closet doors

(Image credit: Future)

The times have certainly moved on (although I do think soft pencil pleated pelmets are making a comeback) but a child’s innate sense of playfulness and wonder will never change.  What we must do is create a safe space for that imagination to blossom.

In a recent residential project I was designing a small room which comes off a large playroom was going to be a practical kitchenette for the nanny but then I thought: why not try and create a space inspired by Vardos for the boys' sleepovers?  Traditional horse-drawn wagons are highly decorated and intricately carved, adorned with bright paint. There are still good people like Yorkie Greenwood who build and paint wagons today which I find hugely inspiring. 

Choose vibrant colors

kids room with red carpet and awning above the bed

(Image credit: Future)

Why keep anything in pale shades? Paint built-in storage a burnt orange, mossy green, sky blue or bumblebee yellow. Or all of the above. Choose bright red carpets, multi-colored fabric for curtains and awnings, a riot of clashing shades.

And add a mural. Lions, tigers, zebras and even dodos create an enchanting wild scene. For that special finishing touch, hand embroidered applique cushions made in collaboration with London-based fashion designer Clio Peppiatt and a Porta Romana plaster white pumpkin table lamp. 

Avoid plain walls

kids room with circus curtains in red and white stripes

(Image credit: Future)

My point is that the rules of good taste need not apply in a kid’s room. Plain walls, decor that grows with the child and practical solutions can be foregone for pieces that instead create enchantment.  Listen carefully and you can almost hear the roar of the leopard whilst tucked up and cosy from the top bunk.

Minnie Kemp is an interior designer, part of the team of design experts at the Firmdale Hotel Group. She has worked on the interiors of international hotels such as The Whitby Hotel and the Crosby Street Hotel in New York, and Ham Yard and Charlotte Street Hotel in London. She has also been involved in designing various residential projects in both the Unite States of America and the United Kingdom. She is the interiors columnist for Livingetc, reporting on trends and offering advice on home design and decor, and she was a judge on the first Livingetc Style Awards in 2021.