There’s a somewhat age-biased saying that youth is wasted on the young, but from a design standpoint, such a statement rarely holds true. Most kids are open to possibility, willing to experiment, fond of color, playful, energetic and unique, all traits that combine to positive effect when creating spaces that reflect who we are.
Each of the four rooms on these pages is a lively expression not only of the whimsy and wonder of youth, but also the individuality of the boys and girls who occupy them. Two 13-year-old boys’ rooms, both brightly colored, well-organized and minimal enough for them to have room to grow and entertain friends; two girls’ rooms done up in striking patterns of girly pink and grown-up black that easily make the transition from young girl to young woman. Grown ups take note. The kids and their rooms have spoken. And what they have to say is worth a listen.
Several years ago, while still a pre-teen, Johnston Burkhardt was ready to update his room from a childhood to a teenage space. But that same year, Mother Nature took care of his plans for change faster than he could. After his family’s house flooded, the family embarked on a full-scale renovation and today, 13-year-old Johnston’s room gives new meaning to the term green space. “Most of our house is white, so I knew I wanted to do something different,” says Johnston, a seventh-grade student at Isidore Newman School. “We were in Lowe’s one day looking at paint samples and I saw the green and really liked it, so we got it.” Johnston’s mother, Sam, wisely recommended that he keep the space-saving, built-in bed, designed and constructed by his father, Henry.
A flat-screen TV, which swivels so it can be seen from the sofa, hangs on the wall inside the bed’s alcove, a trundle bed is stored below and a closet is incorporated on the side of the build-out. A window seat covered with faux alligator skin in a rich shade of brown, provides additional storage. Johnston furnished the room with mid-century inspired pieces from IKEA: a sofa, coffee table, end table and chair, and with objects he found or picked up at tag sales. The vintage glass lamp by the sofa was reclaimed from a trash heap by Johnston.
An avid artist, Johnston draws and paints in his room—the paintings on the walls are his own—and he collects fossils, insects and other examples of nature’s work, which are displayed on his bookshelves. Also on the shelves are a collection of skeleton keys bought at a New York flea market, art supplies and the medals and trophies that he has won swimming and playing tennis. “I like the sofa—I can have friends in here and they have a place to sit,” says Johnston, who frequently can be found in his room working on his computer, his art or his homework, or playing Xbox with friends.
At 13, seventh-grade Isidore Newman School student Andrew Stall is a sports enthusiast—a fact that’s not at all lost in his room. A cursory glance around his private domain reveals trophies, a baseball mitt and bats, a small model of Tiger Stadium, a tennis racquet and a football. But a closer look tells even more about Andrew and the kinds of things that are important to a teenage boy.
In addition to wanting a queen-size bed of his own, Andrew requested a loft space for guests, a concept that he and his mother, Susu, gleaned from perusing books and one that fit perfectly into the unused area above the already existing closet. At the suggestion of their carpenter, the Stalls had the loft built with stainless steel railings and ladder rungs purchased at a local boating store, which give it a slightly nautical feel.
Designer Susan Boyd found the Jonathan Adler pillows online and worked the rest of headboard accented with nail heads; light blue walls (Benjamin Moore “Silvery Blue” #1647); a denim blue Ultrasuede bedcover; white storage cubes from West Elm; a white Parson’s desk from West Elm and a white Arco chair from Design Within the room’s simple palette and furnishings around them. In Andrew’s room there are crisp, white roman shades trimmed with navy borders; a white, liquid leather Reach. “He’s a no frills kind of kid,” says his mother. “We wanted his room to be fresh and young without being too juvenile or too mature.” Boyd also chose materials that would hold up to the wear and tear that is synonymous with boys.
“The liquid leather headboard is indestructible,” says Boyd. And though light in color, the rubber-backed Flor tiles used underfoot can be individually pulled up and replaced with ease.
Andrew never says never when asked about changing his room. “I might change the color one day,” he says. But for now he adds, “I like it.”
“I just knew,” says Susu Stall of the moment her designer showed her the pink and black retro wallpaper that she selected several years ago for her daughter Eugenie’s room. “[Eugenie] wasn’t sure, but I was. It looked just like her. It had that sunny disposition.”
Flamboyant, dramatic and girly are words that Susu uses to describe her 11-year-old daughter—then and now. And not surprisingly, the same words describe the wallpaper, the large pattern of which suits the grand scale of the high-ceilinged, 19th-century room. With such a stand-out, statement-making paper on the walls, Susu and designer Susan Boyd of Ledbetter Fullerton Architects kept the rest of the room simple. Together they appointed it sparingly using just a few key pieces, a few solid colors—pink, black and white—and a less is more approach to details.
“The wallpaper dictated everything else,” says Susu, explaining that even the pink, iridescent tiles in the bathroom were chosen because of the paper. Susan found the mirrored headboard, which has a similar 1940s kind of glamour, on1STDIBS.com and Susu had custom linens with Eugenie’s initials made at Leontine Linens. Mother and decorator also gave several antique and vintage pieces a fresh new look by contrasting them with modern touches.
The room’s antique desk, which was Susu’s when she was growing up, is complemented by a sleek, black Philippe Starck “Ghost” chair, a 1960s slipper chair and an ottoman found in Eugenie’s grandparents’ basement that was updated with glossy, white patent leather. The white end tables were found at Perch and the black lamps at Hugh Martin Home, both located on Magazine Street.
More into clothes than interiors at the moment, Eugenie isn’t shy about confessing what she loves most about her room. “I like my bed because it looks French, and French is my favorite subject,” says the fifth-grade student who attends Trinity Episcopal School. “But my most favorite thing is my closet.”
Five-year-old Mae Manning, a pre-K student at the Academy of the Sacred Heart, like most little girls, loves pink. But her mother, Ellen, was hesitant to create a pink room that would look like every other little girl’s room and would quickly become a white elephant as her daughter grew. So she turned to designer Melissa Rufty of MMR Interiors to put a fresh, durable face on an old standard. “Melissa had the idea of doing hot pink and black,” says Manning. “She gave me some options and I trusted her. She used very bold fabrics and everybody loves it because it’s different but still fun. It works as a little girl’s and a big girl’s room.”
Mae’s precocious nature (her mother describes her as “outgoing and a little bit sassy”) is perfectly in sync with her bedroom, and Mae herself is its biggest fan. With two younger brothers and a father—Cooper—who’s part of the Manning family football dynasty, she relishes her role as an only daughter. “My room is the only one that doesn’t have footballs,” she says proudly. What the room does have is a convivial use of color and a combination of old and new furnishings that is very of-the-moment. Rufty chose a graphic Manuel Canovas fabric for the curtains, a Schumacher fabric corded with pink cotton for the duvet and a check banded with pink for the bed skirt. She paired them with white pique linens also banded and monogrammed with vivid pink.
Vintage pieces include a Dorothy Draper style chest from Neophobia and a round mirror, purchased at Antiques On Jackson that was lacquered black; new pieces are end tables from Hugh Martin Home, a white Parson’s desk from West Elm and a leather desk chair from Room & Board. Mae’s brass bed belonged to Ellen when she was in college. All add up to give the room a grown-up vibe, of which Mae is not likely to tire anytime soon.
“The pink and black combo is sweet, but with a little attitude much like Mae,” says Rufty. “The room should transition nicely to the teen years. Bold color and graphics should be here to stay for some time. “But,” she adds, “it’s always a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.”