One minute they are toddlers with a room full of primary colours and plastic toys, the next moment they are teenagers with very different needs!
Shannon has been called in to help Ella, a confident and smart fourteen-year-old, decorate her new bedroom. Ella lives in a cute, colourful cottage with her artist mum Bronwyn, older brother Jack and younger sister Ruby-Rose. For the past five years she has slept in a small bedroom off the main kitchen/living room but now Jack is heading off to uni and Ella is inheriting the very cool, very private studio in the backyard. It's every teenager's dream space, but while the present décor might be fine for 17-year-old cricket-mad Jack, it needs a major overall to make it a hip hang-out for Ella.
Teenagers 'come of age' and have very different needs from a bedroom than younger children do. They need privacy as they begin to loosen their ties with the family unit and begin to express their own identity. They tend to spend more time in their bedroom than any other age group – to study, entertain, sleep, relax, read, listen to music and watch TV in the privacy of their own space. It's a good idea to get teenagers involved in the process of decorating their room so that they feel empowered. But it's important to remember that while they need their own space, you don't want to make them feel totally cut off from the rest of the home and family.
Ella says her present bedroom is too small to do much more than sleep and read in. In the studio, she hopes to have her friends around, watch TV, study, listen to music, play guitar… and just enjoy some privacy, peace and quiet. She is looking forward to having a double bed and more space.
Jack doesn't spend much time in his room whereas Ella really wants to use the space to the max. She is tidy and organised so with the right 'infrastructure' she should be able to have the multi-functional space she wants without it being too cluttered.
In deciding what to do with the studio, Shannon has identified three main considerations. Firstly, she says it's important to keep in mind that the room's longevity extends beyond the couple of years Ella will spend in it – Bronwyn is keen to reclaim it as her artist's studio once Ella has left home. With this in mind, Shannon is keen to come up with a solution that will allow flexibility of function in the future. Secondly, while the studio is a lot bigger than Ella's present room, there's not much floor-space once a double bed (Ella's main wish) is in place. If Ella is to make full use of the room, we need to maximise space. Thirdly, Shannon would like the style to be in keeping with the rest of the house. While Ella needs privacy, we don't want her to feel cut-off or segregated from the rest of the family home.
Ella has told Shannon that she loves blues and purples. She doesn't like pink because she is not a 'girlie-girl'. She also doesn't like floral prints and she definitely, definitely wants a double bed.
Shannon picked up on Ella's colours and used muted blues and purples, with some orange for contrast. The blue theme is not just Ella's favourite colour, it is in keeping with the rest of the house. Also, it's a colour that will still work if the room becomes a studio or guest room in the future.
Shannon says that teenagers love bright colours and one solution would be to fill the room with bright colours, but she says she wants to introduce a level of sophistication that is good to take on board as a teenager gets older. Shannon used bright colours diffused by neutrals rather than clashing primaries, which are more suitable for a much younger child's bedroom.
For the furniture, Shannon decided the best solution was to house the bed storage units along the right hand wall of the room. A pull-down bed is perfect for the space as it allows Ella to use the floor space, if needed, to spread work on the floor or do exercises. It also allows the room to work well as an artist's studio come guest room in the future. The reality is, Shannon says, that Ella will have the bed down most of the time but at least this way she has the option, while the possible functions of the room in the future remain open. In Shannon's opinion, a permanent bed in the middle of the floor would just limit the possibilities for everybody.
Open shelving between the bed and the far wall is for CDs, books, CD player, etc. It creates order for the room – something it most definitely needs! A pull-down desk was installed below the window as Ella likes to spread her books around and says she tends to take up a lot of space when studying. Like the bed, it can easily be folded away when not in use. The TV extends from an arm on the wall to limit the impact on the floor-space of the room. Cushions piled on the floor underneath the TV can be either spread around the room for when the bed is up (for watching telly or chatting with friends) or used as a mattress when a friend sleeps over.
The lighting in the room was fluro – very unflattering! We installed some downlights that can be controlled by dimmer switches. Why? Because nobody looks good under fluros! Teenagers are self-critical enough without having to see themselves in harsh lighting! The dimmer switches give several options for the lighting – from reading to painting.
The rest of the styling is minimal. There is now a neutral, sisal-style carpet under the bed so that the floor has a soft-covering when the bed is raised. We hung some sheer, transparent curtains – Shannon didn't want anything too heavy so that Ella isn't blocked off from the rest of the house. And there we have it – a teenage retreat that has an air of sophistication! It doesn't limit the possible functions of the space, either now or in the future and it tones in beautifully with the rest of the house.
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