Pony Palace, Safari Adventure—Each of These 4 Kids’ Rooms Is Its Own Little World
Even the ceilings got special attention.
Published Mar 7, 2023 1:00 AM
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Emma Stevenson can’t bear plain white ceilings. “I think it’s such a shame when so much effort goes into choosing wall colors, flooring, and furnishings, and then there’s just a big white blob overhead,” says the London-based designer. And she practices what she preaches: Her kids’ bedrooms—belonging to Oscar (11), Georgia (10), Errol (8), and Teddy (6)—are a visual feast, from the rainbow-flecked carpets right up to the fifth walls.
The Stevensons moved into the elegant townhouse in Notting Hill in 2022 after living in several rentals following Emma’s divorce two years ago. After that period of unsettlement, “it was even more important to me to get the kids involved and for them to put their mark on their rooms,” she explains. With a permanent home base to finally let their imaginations run wild, here’s how Emma created the most magical of childhood escapes—four times over.
Throw It at the Wall and See What Sticks
Pony-mad Georgia—the only girl in the clan—devoured the entire Heartland television series over the summer. Now her interpretation of the animal covers her walls—Emma took her daughter’s drawings and had them turned into wallpaper. “I loved the process of putting the illustrations together and creating pattern repeats,” says the designer, who had dabbled in custom coverings before. An added bonus: being able to tweak the color palette. “If there are primary colors you don’t like, you can change them digitally, and, often, the child won’t even notice that you did it!” she confesses.
Errol and Teddy were united in their desire for a jungle-themed room, so Emma picked out three wallpapers she liked, and (miraculously) the brothers landed on the same one: a hand-painted safari motif. Oscar, who as the oldest has his own space, requested a mural. They used a style they found online as a jumping-off point, personalizing it with his favorite characters and food, then hiring a pro to bring it to life.
Don’t Sleep on Vintage Wallpaper
When she’s not creating her own wall coverings, Emma scours Etsy and eBay for end-of-roll treasures. “It’s “a bit of a mission,” she admits, “but you’re guaranteed to get something completely unique and that hasn’t been seen in every house or magazine.” The graphic Mr. Men print adorning the bright blue bathroom is an ’80s find and boasts a noticeably textural finish compared to modern-day papers. Incoming is a piece of glass behind the sink to protect it from zealous teeth brushing.
For the rest of the petite bathroom, Emma embraced what was already there, from the quirky layout to the yellowing laminate tile. To disguise the latter, she had her decorator apply jaunty rainbow stripes on a fresh white base coat. Painting directly onto floors is a cost-cutting hack she uses at every opportunity: “It really makes surfaces pop without having to change the whole thing.”
In the bedrooms, look closely and you notice hints of blue, red, yellow, and green yarns in the beige wool carpets. “All the different colors of the rooms pick themselves out naturally,” she says. And yes, natural fibers are her go-tos for kids’ rooms. “They might not be the most hard-wearing and washable, but they evolve in a more organic-looking way,” she justifies.
While Oscar’s ceiling is coated in a vibrant shade of blue, paint isn’t the only way Emma grabs attention overhead. There and in the younger boys’ room, the designer also employed whimsical light fixtures to draw the eye up.
Georgia’s space, however, got a finish so rare, her mom had to commission an artisan from her native France to get the effect just right. Using the same pinkish red ticking stripe that wraps Georgia’s bed niche (yes, even the walls are fabric), they installed plissé soleil (which translates to “sunray pleats”) to create an enveloping starburst effect overhead. It’s a touch of nostalgia for Emma, too: “It’s a technique that I saw growing up in our country houses, and I always wanted to do it somewhere,” she explains.
The moment her room was finished, Georgia’s sleep improved overnight. “I couldn’t believe that after a year and a half of waking up five times a night, she’s been sleeping right through,” remarks Emma. “The power of interiors is fascinating—create the right space and a lot of anxieties can be soothed.”