Fantasy furnishing not just child's play


December 27, 1992|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

I long ago lost count of all the interior spaces I've seen that were clearly intended to exhibit good taste but wound up being big bores.

So many people falsely equate flamboyance with a lack of design standards. They assume, quite wrongly, that only a sedate setting can express a cultured sensibility.

There's one room of the house, however, where this extremely conservative approach is almost never applied. Even the most staunch upholders of tradition will usually let loose their imagination when it comes to designing a child's room. It's somehow accepted that fantasy is not in bad taste in such a setting. If only the same insight were operative elsewhere in the home, we'd be spared a lot of tedium.

But exuberance alone, of course, will not guarantee a happy outcome, not even in a child's room. A proper conceptual framework has to be put in place in order for this space -- or any space -- to succeed as a work of interior design.

The first step is to take account of all the functions a room is expected to perform. In the case of a child's room, consideration has to be given to sleeping, playing and reading or quiet time. The space plan should then encompass all the furnishings, storage and equipment needed for those functions.

Next, I don't think it's possible to design any room appropriately unless the occupant is consulted in advance. What are the child's interests and color preferences? If he or she is too young to answer such questions, then the adult designer has an obligation to try to think like a child.

Let's look at an example of what I regard as a well-designed child's room. This long and relatively narrow space was transformed into an exciting multipurpose environment by Jennifer Cunin-Khan for the 1992 Pasadena, Calif., Showcase House of Design.

The play and quiet areas are separated here by the free-standing bed that is placed at an angle to the window wall. This creates some interesting geometric shapes along with a correspondingly unusual furniture layout.

The bunk-style bed is supported by a combination of columns and cabinets that provide a natural storage area. A decorative bit of woodwork has been added to form an archway that emphasizes the separation between the play and study areas.

Water, earth and sky are the decorative motifs here. The walls and ceiling are painted in various shades of blue, yellow, red and orange, while the straw beige of the carpeting suggests a sandy surface. Ms. Cunin-Khan chose this Du Pont "Stainmaster Xtra Life" not just for its color but because of its durability as well.

I'm not arguing that a thematic design like this will be equally appropriate in a living room. In fact, imposing any prefab formula on those kinds of settings often results in a look that's corny or trashy -- and that's no improvement on boring. My point, rather, is that the spirit of inventiveness seen in children's rooms should not be abandoned when designing other parts of the home.

Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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