Q: We need to buy some furniture for our 8-year-old daughter's room in the gracious old home to which we are moving. It's our hope that these furnishings will remain usable as she gets older, and perhaps even be appropriate a dozen or so years from now, when the space is converted into a guest room. We already have a four-poster bed that would make a good centerpiece for the 18th century-style furniture that we prefer. What design advice can you offer?
A: Your requirements aren't simple, but I can think of a few possibilities that might conform with your long-range plan while also making the room comfortable and cheerful for an 8-year-old. Most of my suggestions have to do with color and pattern for the walls, floor and additional pieces of furniture.
Let me note at the outset, however, that 18th century-type furniture is generally limited in its flexibility. Pieces of that sort might be quite appropriate for an older teen-ager's room, but they're usually seen as too formal for a young child.
One solution, however, might be to add occasional pieces such as a desk and chair that have been decoratively painted in an 18th century manner. But items like that may be rather difficult to find. If so, I advise you to focus on the room's surround and its accessories in order to soften the formal appearance of the furnishings.
The photo gives some clues as to how this can be accomplished. Here, a four-poster bed is accompanied by pieces that are more English than French. Such a mixture of styles and finishes will be quite acceptable as long as the furnishings aren't larger than average.
While this combination of bed, desk and chair does take some of the stiffness out of the setting, additional softening was still needed. The choice of wall covering and fabrics was thus important in further mellowing the appearance of the dark-stained furniture.
This Wall-Tex covering consists of stripes with a ballet dancer border, topped off with a fake painted molding that caps the wall at ceiling height. It's a design that most young girls would find appealing.
A young woman or, later on, an adult visitor will probably not be so taken by this kind of wall covering, so eventually you may have to do a bit of renovation. It's not that hard, however, to change the treatment to a floral all-over pattern, or even to replace the wallpaper with paint.
The color scheme in this model includes various shades of rose and white -- the dark rose for the carpeting and the lightest for the stripe and dust ruffle. A white eyelet-bordered quilt and pillow shams with matching curtains make a crisp contrast to the mahogany-finished furniture.
Accessories like pictures, lamps and personal belongs are always what give a room a distinctive character. The dolls and toys seen here, for example, indicate immediately that this is a child's space, regardless of the formal styling of the furniture. As your daughter grows up and eventually moves away, the changing accessories will play a similar role in defining the room's function.