We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

In my pre-motherhood days, my aesthetic leaned toward muted tones, but the arrival of my son, Philou, catapulted me into a design identity crisis like no other. Perhaps it was Philou’s unstoppable energy, which he made abundantly clear by kicking me as early as 17 weeks into pregnancy and still does when he pounces on our bed at 6 a.m. Suddenly my previous creations felt lackluster and devoid of vibrant hues. 

Although Philou may not be able to articulate his decor preferences just yet (he’s 20 months old), I attempted to decipher his energy to create a space that truly resonates with his vivacious personality. Our rental home in Brighton, England, with its stripped-back white finishes, became the canvas for a transformation that involved infusing his room with a kaleidoscope of colors, patterns, and shapes. But there was a catch—I aimed to achieve this without making major modifications to the space, ensuring a seamless departure when the time to move eventually arrives. 

Bring Things Down to Their Level

To set the tone, I drew inspiration from the art I accrued during Philou’s first year of life. A framed Matisse print from the local junk market, cards received at his birth, and exhibition leaflets from my pregnant adventures set the stage. But the true star of our son’s budding collection? Two IKEA-framed tea towels by Nigerian artist Yinka Ilori. Hung low just over his play couch, they invite Philou to engage with his room, celebrating his cultural heritage while adding color to the walls.

Pattern doesn’t just belong behind the confines of a frame. To balance out the organic shapes in Philou’s art, I incorporated geometric fabrics, which I used to cover an IKEA Ivar unit using Mod Podge. I also swapped out the doors for curtains to satisfy his obsession with opening and closing things. The miniature closet choice was meant to foster his independence in choosing outfits, although it’s still a work in progress. So far, he prefers to throw his shirts and pants on the floor to create a hideout when he’s not in the mood for nursery in the morning.

Keep Them Busy With Versatile Furniture

Philou’s most cherished (and most versatile) piece of furniture is undoubtedly his Possum Play couch. Its charm lies in its ability to transform from being a cozy nursing chair and a fortress for imaginative adventures to a climbing structure and a comforting nighttime haven for my husband or me when Philou’s under the weather. Our Charles-Antoine Chappuis–inspired papier-mâché lamp, crafted from a Styrofoam ball and two yogurt cups, transforms this wondrous couch into a comfortable reading nook before bedtime.

Design Solutions That Are Safe But Not Boring

Originally an office space, Philou’s room posed a few safety challenges. With the Wi-Fi router and floor plugs posing tripping hazards, and a radiator becoming an impromptu climbing prop near the window, changes were in order. To babyproof in one fell swoop, we bought custom-size MDF panels online and built a ledge that allowed us to conceal the tech and the heater. Using a hole-saw attachment, we drilled openings into the sheet to allow for access and airflow to the radiator, and then painted the whole thing green to add even more color to the walls.

Elevate Their Bed With Basic Reno Materials

When it comes to cribs, I have found many to be lacking in imagination and/or attached with a hefty price tag. I opted for IKEA’s solid beech Sniglar crib, priced at a wallet-friendly $120. In an effort to elevate the simple wood piece, I added a lick of paint (the color is Garden by Little Greene) and—succumbing to my fondness for squiggles and spheres—attached doorknobs from Pretty Pegs to the four corners. (Psst: Amazon sells similar ones.) All this gave a playful nod to a four-poster bed. Finally, I painted eaves fillers from the hardware store, typically used for corrugated roofs, and glued them to the bottom ledge of the bed frame.

From greeting the figures in his art to playfully hiding behind curtains, Philou owns this lively space. Witnessing the sheer delight in his eyes upon returning to his cherished belongings after some time away is comical. But the real win for me? This little adventurer, who detests confinement, now happily spends extended periods playing in his room. Anyone familiar with life alongside a spirited toddler will understand that this achievement is nothing short of a triumph.