A Tried-and-True Color Palette Strategy: Start With the Wallpaper
Painterly stripes and safari animals done right.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 6:32 AM
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Safari animals, horses, soldiers, and painterly stripes. Kids’ rooms present an opportunity to take design risks. But with endless child-friendly bedding, furniture, and toys to choose from, a themed space can quickly go overboard. An easy solution: Start with the wallpaper and build a palette from there.
Colorful motifs can live beyond the walls and inspire all your decorating decisions, without the room falling into a matchy-matchy trap of pink princess everything. Pull a dominant shade for your trim, use another to inform your bedding choice, or upholster an existing piece in a coordinating tone. Here’s how three designers created their own children’s wonderlands using artful prints as a base.
For the Artist
When Jessica Geller, principal at Toledo Geller, was designing her daughter’s attic bedroom, she knew she needed a nondirectional wallpaper (meaning it looks the same no matter which way you install it) that could run up the sloped walls and along the ceiling. “One of my biggest design pet peeves is when a room with angles has an abrupt stop with a transition to paint,” she says. She found just the right print in Pierre Frey’s Arty (now discontinued). “It has an organized chaos to it, and the painterly feel captures the personality of the little girl who lives here,” Geller notes.
She knew she would need to mix in worn woods and neutrals to tone down the vibrant pattern, so she grounded it with a neutral-colored rug that has burnt umber undertones (pulled from the wallpaper) and added a hint of pink—at the demand of her daughter—with a bed upholstered in a fuchsia ticking stripe. She already owned the blue nightstand, which she inherited from her parents. “The color is not a perfect match, but because the painted brushstrokes fade from opaque to washed out, there is a range in coloration, which allows a variety of blues to work,” explains Geller.
For the History Buff
Interior designer Starrett Zenko Ringbom fell in love with the Brunschwig & Fils Battle of Valmy wallpaper in her son’s bedroom before he was even born. “I had always wanted to use it in a project one day, and luckily it was in my own home,” she remembers. “My son was just the right age for soldiers and horses, and I knew that it would look fantastic hung inside the picture moldings.” She then painted the trim in Benjamin Moore’s Colonial Blue and upholstered the bed in a crimson Sunbrella fabric that could handle the wear, tear, and sticky fingers of a growing boy. “Cherry red is always a good idea,” says Ringbom.
For the Adventurer
For interior designer Ginny Macdonald, Hygge & West’s Serengeti Sunrise seemed like a natural choice for a child’s room. “Architecturally, the space is very modern, which meant it was a nice, minimal, blank canvas,” she says. “We wanted to bring in a playful, warm energy.” She used the paper as a blueprint for the rest of the furnishings and began pulling colors that would coax the pastel motif to life. “We used the gray of the tree trunks when choosing a finish for the bed frame,” she notes, while light-toned wood pieces, like the oak nightstand and the play table, highlight the mustard cheetah. “I try not to get too themed when designing kids’ spaces, but I couldn’t resist those chairs.”
Macdonald did the same with the drapery, bedding, and squishy peach star garland, which plays with the leaves’ blush hue. And while she wasn’t overly concerned about finding an exact match, she chose shades that mixed well together. “As long as the tones are on the same spectrum, it works,” she explains.
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