Child’s Play

When designing the perfect space for kids, it’s all about personality.

When Lisa and David Semerjian moved into their Berwyn home two years ago, daughters Lauren and Amanda had the chance to pick their bedrooms and how they wanted them decorated. Naturally, these were the only two rooms in the house (custom built by their father) that the girls would have a role in designing—and that was fine with them.

Lisa offered guidance throughout the design process. “I wanted to make sure the rooms were ones that the girls could grow into,” she says. “I wanted them to reflect their likes and personalities. I didn’t want to have to redecorate in another six years.”

For first-timers, the girls were surprisingly decisive. They knew exactly what they wanted—and the end result was two rooms that had a completely different feel and character. After years of spending summers at the beach, Lauren, 12, can’t get enough of the ocean and sand. And although she hasn’t tried it herself, she loves the idea of surfing. All of which inspired every last detail of her retro-themed bedroom, from the picture book by pioneering surf photographer Leroy Grannis to the skimboard that doubles as a small table in front of the window seat.

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The parents’ creativity entered the mix in the form of an idea to repurpose vintage surfboards from a shop in Ocean City, N.J. They’re now a headboard—and a grass skirt replaces a traditional bed skirt.

Not just any ceiling fan would work in such a unique space, so the Semerjians tracked down the perfect complement for the room’s beachy vibe from the Indiana-based company Fanimation. Its Punkah model features large palm-leaf blades that wave rather than spin. “Lauren loves the movie Gidget; we’ve watched it so many times,” says Lisa. “This room has a Gidget feel to it.”

Rest assured, Lauren loves her space—and so do her friends.

A few steps down the hall, Amanda’s bedroom couldn’t feel any different from her sister’s. The 11-year-old imagined a more grown-up, princess-like atmosphere. “Amanda wanted a beautiful room—she’s definitely a girl’s girl,” says Lisa. “It was fun to decorate.” 

Pink and brown—Amanda’s favorite colors—inspired the room’s décor. Its furniture is sophisticated, with a shiny nickel poster bed and a deep-chocolate-brown armoire that conceals a television and stores clothing. A sitting area in front of a bay window features a brown velvet settee complete with handmade pillows in pinks and browns, and an Oriental carpet in similar shades. An aqua-blue ottoman brings a burst of color to the space.

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The bedroom’s focal point is located above the seating area: a turret ceiling faux-painted with clouds and an elegant crystal chandelier hanging below. Lest anyone forget this is a girl’s bedroom, pictures of teen heartthrob Nick Jonas on the night stand and a framed portrait of Disney characters serve as reassuring reminders.

Looking ahead, the Semerjians will have a beautiful guest room for visitors when Amanda heads off to college.

When it comes to children’s bedrooms, décor options are endless. When weighing those options, keep in mind that the room should be a place for alone time—where they can think, imagine, dream, relax, play and do all the other things children do. Making them part of the room’s design process is a great way to instill a sense of ownership.

“We were lucky that our daughters had a very clear idea of what they wanted for their rooms,” says Lisa. “We didn’t have any disagreements.”

But many times, when parents and children work together, compromise has to come into the mix. “Negotiation is key during this process,” says Lisa. “You defin-itely have to pick your battles.”

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When daughter Lauren wanted bright blue paint for her bedroom, Lisa had to intervene and explain why the color would be too overpowering for the space. “Children shouldn’t be expected to make all the decisions,” she says. “Parents have to be a part of the process.”

Continued on page 2 …

Mary Dima’s Beatrix Potter mural is perfect for any nursery.Nursery Designs

For most parents, it might be comforting to know that the opinions of the younger set won’t figure into the design of a baby’s first bedroom. According to Linda Barone, sales associate for Light-Parker Kids Furniture in Conshohocken, not every couple that comes in looking to outfit their nursery knows—or cares—whether they’re having a boy or a girl.

“Many are deciding not to go gender-specific with the furniture or the décor, so they can use the nursery again if they’re planning on having more than one child,” Barone says.

One of the most popular sellers at Barone’s store is the convertible crib. Some models go from a crib to a toddler bed to a single, while others convert to a full-size bed. “The crib literally can take a child from diapers to college,” says Barone.

While white and brown have always been popular colors for nursery furniture, Barone has seen an increased demand for black. “It’s gender neutral, which is an attractive selling point,” she says, adding that it’s also easy to soften black with colorful nursery bedding.

For parents who like a more modern aesthetic, there are plenty of cool options from manufacturers like Nurseryworks at Piccolini in Bryn Mawr, a baby lifestyle boutique full of innovative designs. You’ll want to keep this stuff around long after potty training—even the changing tables and rockers.

Monogrammed headboard and bedding give this Pottery Barn Kids bedroom a personalized look.Rooms for Bigger Kids

Once your child’s ready to graduate from nursery/toddler décor into a more age-appropriate room, major decisions must be made. The first thing to consider is the durability of the design. Sure, at the age of 7, your son may want a circus-themed room with clowns and jugglers on the walls. But fast-forward seven years: Will that theme still appeal to him when he’s 14?

Every little girl may think she wants a pretty pink room, but she may tire of it once she hits her teens. An interior designer might recommend staying away from character-themed motifs, simply to avoid having to totally redo the room in a couple of years.

Accessories are an easy way to breathe new life into a space while avoiding the hassle of major redesign work. Touches like fresh bedding, lamps, throw pillows and artwork can give a room an instant update. Or think outside the box and incorporate removable floor carpet tiles in fun, vibrant colors to match the room. Non-permanent wall sticker graphics are another whimsical choice—perfect for those who don’t want to commit to one particular look.

A child’s bedroom should have a personalized feel—and there’s no better way to achieve that than with a hand-painted mural. Mary Dima, owner of Daroo Designs of Blue Bell, has been creating one-of-a-kind murals for bedrooms on the Main Line for years.

“Kids’ bedrooms are fun,” says Dima. “I do all rooms in the home, but kids’ rooms are definitely a specialty.”

Every Dima mural is unique. “I’m not interested in reproducing things that I’ve done, or that someone has seen in a magazine,” she says. “I can use these images as an inspiration, but I want every one of my murals to reflect my client’s unique tastes.”

When working on kids’ rooms, Dima always goes directly to the source to find out what they envision for the space. “I think it’s so important to allow them to have a voice, since it is their room,” she says. “I think this helps build their character and gives them the sense that their opinion counts—that it matters.”

Continued on page 3 … Plus, Five Great Tips for an Exceptional Kid’s Room”

Dima’s impressive portfolio includes murals that are simple in design (a name above the bed in pretty script lettering), along with more intricate scenes (two horses on pocket doors that look as if they’re gazing outside their stable).

For one Villanova couple with sports-crazed sons, Dima conceived bedroom themes in each child’s sport of choice. For the hockey lover: a mural depicting the players, colors and name of his favorite team. “To make it even more personal, I did a caricature of two of the teammates’ faces to look like the two boys in the family,” she says.

Colors from the mural were carried over to the bedding, and the theme continues with the use of hockey sticks for window valances.

For the Boston Red Sox fan in the family, Dima painted a version of the “Green Monster” scoreboard at Fenway Park, including the stats from the first game of the 2004 World Series. AstroTurf carpeting and Red Sox pennants made the theme complete.

“Murals are definitely an investment,” says Dima. “But I always tell people that buying wallpaper is an investment, too. To have something truly unique in a house, like a mural, you have to be willing to invest in it.”

Five Great Tips for an Exceptional Kid’s Room

Interior designer Miho Kahn of West Chester brings children’s bedroom fantasies to life—everything from safari themes for boys to princess castles for girls. She offers a handful of useful ground rules below.

1. Make the investment. Kahn’s No. 1 piece of advice to parents: Buy really good furniture. “Purchase pieces that the child will grow into and that they can take with them when they move out,” she says. (That is, if you want them to take the furniture when they leave.)

2. Think beyond pink. Clients are typically more excited about decorating a little girl’s room than a little boy’s room. “For boys, it’s usually more about space planning and giving them room to keep all of their stuff,” says Kahn. For girls, Kahn encourages parents to explore colors other than pink. “Purple, yellow, green and even blue can be incorporated into a girl’s room,” she says. Another great addition: stenciled quotes from books or poems about the joys of being a girl.

3. Find room to read. Though a child’s bedroom is, first and foremost, meant for sleep, space is needed for entertaining friends, doing homework and getting ready for school. Kahn suggests a reading area with a child-size chair close to a bookshelf and a good lamp. “It’s a great way for them to be by themselves and just relax,” she says.

4. Get artsy. Kahn suggests starting a meaningful collection of some sort for children when their young—anything from beautiful paperweight crystals to sports memorabilia. The room would then require a china cabinet or shelves to display the
collection. “If the child received one piece every year at a holiday or for their birthday, by the time they were 21, they would have a substantial collection,” she says.

5. Cut the clutter. Many homes with young children have toys and games scattered throughout. Kahn recommends keeping the majority of kids’ stuff in a separate play area rather than in the bedroom. Tell your child where things belong in the room and make cleaning up their rooms a daily habit. “It’s best to start teaching children young about having a clean, uncluttered space that they can take pride in living in,” she says.


Interior Design: Miho Kahn, West Chester; (610) 308-0607,
Muralist: Mary Dima, Daroo Designs, Blue Bell, (610) 272-5532,
Furniture: Light-Parker Kids & Bedroom Furniture, 128 Fayette St., Conshohocken; (610) 828-7990,; Piccolini, 932 W. Lancaster Ave., Bryn Mawr; (610) 527-4505,; Pottery Barn Kids, Court at King of Prussia, 690 W. Dekalb Pike, King of Prussia; (610) 491-8180,


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