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In living color

Three approaches to children's rooms let the imagination soar

September 19, 2004|Barbara Thornburg

While the rest of their Beverly Hills home was a study in serene, muted hues of celadon, yellow and peach, when it came to the owners' 4-year-old son Luke's playroom, they wanted something "bright, fun and cheery," says Los Angeles designer Peter Dunham.

Strawberry red fit the bill. A red-and-white striped cotton area rug, seat cushion, bolsters, pillows and a berry-trimmed Roman shade are set against crisp white walls. "It's a simple, sophisticated scheme to inspire and grow in," he says.

To further brighten the room, Los Angeles architect Tim Barber, who worked with Dunham in the redesign of the '50s home, removed three small diagonal-paned windows and doubled the window size. Built-in bookcases on either side offer ample storage for Luke's growing library and collection of toys.

The focal point of the playroom is the spacious window seat requested by Luke's mother, film producer Julie Rowen. The idea, Dunham says, was to give her a place where she could sit and read to her son as well as a place for him to nap. She also wanted a seat big enough to comfortably hold several moms while they watch their kids play in the room.

Barber designed the 9 1/2 -foot-long seat (there's also one in Luke's adjacent bedroom) with built-in drawers that allow him easy access to his toys. A down-filled cushion and red-and-white patterned pillows from Dunham's hand-screened fabric collection make it an inviting place.

Sadly, says Rowen, upon moving into their remodeled home last year, Luke announced, "There's no more baby in the house" and promptly stopped taking siestas. The good news is that he loves to lie on the window seat next to his mom while she reads him a story.

Color is a great stimulant for children," says Los Angeles interior designer Mark Cutler. "Used in a fantastic way, it gives a kick-start to their imagination." Inspired by Tricia Guild's Paladino fabric, Cutler designed a bedroom for two Costa Mesa brothers, ages 8 and 9, in eye-popping taxicab yellow, electric blue and acid lime. Pillows covered with the fabric line one bed, while two adjacent beds sport solid blue or green comforters.

Originally the room was to house the boys until the older one moved into his own bedroom. Three years later, they still share the room. "They love it so much," their mother says. "Neither one wants to move out. It's become their cockpit, space capsule, castle, barracks, barn and theater."

In the 10-by-12-foot space, which is both a bedroom and a playroom, the three twin beds are pushed to the perimeter. Because the beds are at varying heights, they create different play opportunities, Cutler explains. The younger boy occupies the 2-foot-high bed, his brother the 3-foot-high bed. The center bed, a.k.a. the cockpit, at 5 feet high, is reserved for overnight guests and play.

A small enclosed room underneath the center bed is furnished with a small table and pegboard covered with artwork, awards and vacation photos. A ladder inside the space and a pair of blue window-like cutouts make it possible for the boys to climb up to the top bed. Cutler says they chase each other up the ladder, across the top bed, then jump to a lower bed and onto the floor, scrambling up again like playful hamsters. "Adults rarely see the openings as stairs, but kids get it immediately--they have such great imaginations."

Ten-year-old Andie Grossman loves bright colors, so she requested a lot of them for her recent bedroom makeover. Her favorites include "red and especially orange," she says. Santa Monica interior designer Sasha Emerson obliged, giving the room a funky floral motif and color palette reminiscent of the '60s. "For young girls," Emerson says, "orange has become the new pink."

Andie's dark hillside-view room needed some brightening, so Emerson started by adding a graphic orange-and-white linoleum-tile floor set on the diagonal. Then she gave a faux cherrywood highboy from Wertz Bros. a 21st century makeover with hot pink and orange paint and vintage swirl hardware. A mid-century butterfly chair, which once belonged to Andie's grandmother, was powder-coated the color of Tang and dressed with new floral fabric. Chartreuse walls and windows trimmed with gray complete the kaleidoscopic scheme.

To make the room appear larger, cumbersome free-standing furniture was traded in for blond-hued built-ins. Emerson collaborated with Los Angeles architect Ariel Raphael Asken to design an 8-foot-tall custom bookcase wall, a desk with a pullout laptop shelf and a hutch with many nooks and crannies. A 6-foot-long window bench offers additional seating and storage, and its vintage Lucite pulls continue the room's '60s flower-power theme.

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