Photography by Emily Dorio

Published on July 29, 2021

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For Atlanta-based designer Kate Hayes, no kids’ space should be designed without input from the littlest members of the household. “If a room makes me happy or the parents happy, but the kid doesn’t call it theirs, then I haven’t completely done my job,” she explains of her approach to working with younger clients. When it came to upgrading the bedroom of a 9-year-old budding gymnast (you can see the rest of the family home here), Hayes turned to a few of her tried-and-true tricks. The best part? The design got a gold medal from the sports-loving preteen.

Go for Unexpected Color Combos

To kick things off with a bright and cheerful color palette, Hayes tapped her coconspirator for her favorite hue: bright teal (Benjamin Moore’s Caribbean Breeze now coats the walls). And to keep things from feeling too precious, the designer juxtaposed the beachy shade with vibrant pops of cherry red, a pick that was inspired by the girl’s effervescent personality. “She’s a force of nature, and the room needed a bold palette that matched her energy,” explains Hayes. The rest of the space plays off that cool-meets-hot color combo, pairing shades of blue, red, and pink with white and age-worn brass.

Give Storied Pieces a Modern Upgrade

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To add some dimension, Hayes incorporated an heirloom bed that once belonged to Mom, giving her daughter a fittingly dreamy place to sleep. The carved wood design grounds the room, while the floral bedding from Biscuit Home helps bridge the gap between a kiddo-friendly ethos and grown-up appeal. “Everything was chosen with the hope that she’d be able to grow into it and enjoy it long-term,” says Hayes.    

Turn Toys Into Decor

For Hayes, there’s no need to hide the telltale signs of childhood behind closed doors or in baskets. Toys, collectibles, and tchotchkes are all welcome out in the open—in fact she prefers them as decor. In her own home, you’ll find Legos getting the star treatment in the living room, and in this space, everything from gymnastics trophies and a lava lamp to art class sculptures and an ever-growing rock collection get top billing. “I think seeing the signs of childhood can be so charming,” explains Hayes. “Plus there’s no reason why toys can’t be considered decor—some are incredibly stylish!”

Create Living Zones

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Making the most of the square footage was a big priority, so Hayes focused on carving out a few nooks. Below the windows lies a four-in-one built-in, with ample shelf space for the girl’s growing book collection. The window seats are perfect for lounging (they’re covered in durable indoor-outdoor fabric from Schumacher and sit on storage cubbies below), while the desk is an ideal place for arts and crafts now and longer homework sessions later. As for all that empty space in the middle of the room? That was by design, too, meant to give the aspiring Olympian a dedicated area to practice her floor work. “One of her biggest requests was lots of room for tumbling and flipping,” says Hayes. Now everybody wins. 

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