Published on June 24, 2020

Interior designer Frances Merrill of Reath Design loves a splash of rainbow hues and patterns on patterns, so decorating kids’ rooms comes naturally. Recently she transformed two bedrooms and a multipurpose media-playspace for a young family’s Bend, Oregon, home with her signature whimsical patterns and bold hues, all the while keeping things completely fuss-free. Her trick: not overdecorating and making choices that are both long-lasting and versatile.

As a mom of two herself, Merrill knows what works from a practical perspective (think: dark patterns hide stains and overly fussy storage never stays organized). Here, she shares her best tips for decorating kids’ spaces.

Build Pieces That Can Grow With Them

Kids room with wavy daybed and purple rugPin It
Photography by Laure Joliet; Design by Reath Design

The house’s architecture firm, Bestor Architecture, had already built a recessed sleeping nook in the daughter’s bedroom, but it was a little too high for her when the family moved in. Merrill designed a multipurpose daybed to transition her from the crib. “We made it versatile so she could sleep in it now and it could also be used as a sofa later,” she explains. 

Merrill drew inspiration from a custom sectional she had made for a previous client, which had a wavy base, flipping the design to have the motif line the mahogany arms and back. “I like the idea of an older wood, something that you don’t currently see all that much,” she says. She topped the playful piece with a mix of checkered bedding and striped pillows. 

Cozy It Up With a Curtain

Built-in bed with curtain in kids roomPin It
Photography by Laure Joliet; Design by Reath Design

To give the little girl a sense of security, Merrill lined the built-in bed with a delicate lacy white fabric from Gray Line Linens. “That nook was asking for a curtain,” she says. “Their daughter is younger, so she’s looking for privacy.” 

Don’t Overlook Grandma’s Favorite Bedding

Patchwork quilt in kids roomPin It
Photography by Laure Joliet; Design by Reath Design

In both bedrooms, Merrill covered the beds in patchwork quilts she dug up on Etsy. “I like that they’re not inherently kid-like, but they’re graphic and casual,” she says. The easy (and affordable) detail is a way to add a sense of history and age to a kid’s space without filling it with stuffy vintage furniture.

Pick Rugs That Can Conceal the Clutter

Media room with leafy wallpaper and wood ceilingPin It
Photography by Laure Joliet; Design by Reath Design
Kids play table above a Turkish rugPin It
Photography by Laure Joliet; Design by Reath Design

Graphic and casual are qualities that Merrill looks for in rugs, too: “One of my rules of thumb is not to design spaces that only look good when they’re cleaned up,” she says. “Motifs go a long way in hiding that.” In lieu of covering every inch of the room in princess pink (the toddler’s favorite color), she brought in delicate touches through a fluffy horse-themed rug and pillows, pairing them with a soft green wallpaper by Clarence House. 

Make It Personal

Kids room with bunk beds and Eames chairPin It
Photography by Laure Joliet; Design by Reath Design

The designer always adds in at least one heirloom that the child can one day pass on to the next generation. In the son’s room, that is an Eames chair that belonged to the parents, reupholstered in a green striped fabric. “It’s something that can stay with him forever and he can cherish as an adult, which I think is really special,” says Merrill.

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