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from cot to college

From Habitat magazine - issue 31, tips and tricks

Clever use of colour and a bit of planning are all it takes to create inspired kids’ spaces with staying power.

Renovating a child’s bedroom can be fun, but you shouldn’t need to start from scratch every time they outgrow their decorating scheme. With many people feeling their homes are short on space, it’s important that each room be designed well. Kids’ rooms should be designed with the same level of pragmatism as any other major living area in order to make the most out of the multi-purpose spaces that they are: a place where your children will sleep, play, study, create and entertain their friends.

By making thoroughly considered colour selections from the start, the evolution from nursery to childhood bedroom to teenage hangout can be done with ease.

A Nursery two-toned wall
Two-toned room transformed into an older kids room
Outgrown the cot
Teenagers bedroom
Childrens room
Room transformed into an office

Setting the groundwork

When the exciting news arrives that a baby is on the way, planning a nursery is one of the most fun preparation activities for soon-to-be parents.

Over the course of a 24-hour period, newborns typically sleep 14 to 19 of those hours, so it’s important to have a place where they can get their rest undisturbed by the other goings-on in your home. Typically, this means baby is going to need a room all to themselves.

When making the leap from a guest room or home office to a nursery, it’s important to keep things simple and to consider how the room will need to evolve in 10 or even 20 years’ time. Sticking to classic colours that will endure through one or more transitions is one of the simplest approaches to start off your scheme.

Designer and colour consultant Sylvia Sandford says that it’s not a bad idea to begin with a neutral base such as white, cream, duck egg blue or dove grey, such as Resene Poured Milk, Resene Rice Cake, Resene Duck Egg Blue or Resene Grey Seal, as other hues will present themselves through the myriad of accessories, toys, charts, pictures, pin boards and other decorations that you’ll be layering into the space.

“By the time you hang things from the ceiling, put artwork in frames, add in a colourful pendant light and some age-appropriate drapery, there will be plenty going on."

If you do have your heart set on a particular wall colour, however, you should go for it – it only takes a day or two to repaint – but keeping the often expensive flooring and window treatments neutral will save you in the long run. Just remember, children tend to outgrow traditional baby hues early, so you might find yourself repainting over these choices sooner rather than later.

A Nursery two-toned wall
Two-toned room transformed into an older kids room
Nursery: Including a rug in a nursery will ensure there is a soft and tactile element for baby while they are in their crawling phase while a timber floor will help for quicker clean up. Lower walls in Resene Artemis, upper walls in Resene Helix, floor, lamp and cot in Resene Poured Milk, side table in Resene Green Meets Blue, coat pegs in Resene Armadillo and vase in Resene Peace.  Stockists: Striped Cot Linen from Foxtrot Home. Slowdown Studio Blanket from Sunday Home Store. Wreath by Mark Antonia, T-Lab Animals and Studio Rug from Father Rabbit. Basket from Blackbird Goods. Luca Rocking Chair from Me & My Trend. Cushion from Città. Fabelab Octopus from Tea Pea. All other props are stylist’s own.

Kids room: Choosing a dark colour for the lower wall section in a space for babies and toddlers will help mask smudges and fingerprints from little hands. A lighter colour up top adds visual height and levity. Lower walls in Resene Artemis, upper walls in Resene Helix, floor in Resene Poured Milk, bedframe and lamp in Resene Green Meets Blue, shelf and coat pegs in Resene Armadillo and vases/pots on shelf in (from left to right) Resene Cleopatra, Resene Colins Wicket and Resene Swiss Caramel.  Stockists: Linen Bedding from Foxtrot Home. Flower Cushion and Elephant from Città. Bowery Basket from Tea Pea. Arnold Circus Stool from Everyday Needs. Studio Rug from Father Rabbit. Wooden blocks from Blackbird Goods. All other props are stylist’s own.

Choosing a darker paint colour for the lower section of a wall will help reduce the appearance of smudges.

Resene Artemis

Resene Helix

Resene Cleopatra

Resene Swiss Caramel

Resene Peace

Resene Poured Milk

Resene Grey Seal

If you’re struggling to come up with a colour scheme for your nursery, look to science to decide. For the first three months, babies can only see black, white and grey, so focus on contrasting colours, such as black and white, because they’re much easier to see than lighter, non-contrasting colours. Conveniently, this makes nursery renovations easy when it comes to choosing colours! Try Resene Rice Cake for a warm, neutral white and pair it with Resene Noir for a high-contrast look.

If a monochrome look isn’t your thing, try contrasting grey with a splash of colour, such as a subtle yellow like Resene Yuma, or go bold with one red feature, which could be a feature wall behind the cot head or a fun piece of furniture and frames. Red is one of the first colours a baby can see, at around three months of age. Try Resene Pohutukawa, Resene Poppy or Resene Code Red.

Consider a wallpaper like those from the Resene Jack ’N Rose 2 Wallpaper Collection – while they are designed for kids, many would look just as appropriate in a home office as they would in a nursery. When in doubt, consult a Resene Colour Expert. They can help you to pick the right palette and make a plan that’ll take your room seamlessly through the eighteen or more years that your child will be living at home.

When you’re ready to pick up the roller, Sylvia says paying proper attention to preparation is one of the most important things you can do from the outset.

“No painting over old wallpaper or layers of old paint. Start with as clean a slate as possible and seek advice for the appropriate finishes as these are going to be surfaces that will ring in changes over many years. Good initial preparation will allow you to layer up colour as time goes on with little effort.”

“While all rooms should be repainted frequently to re-energise them and freshen them, the work you put in at the beginning will stand you in good stead.”

When it comes to furniture, the nursery stage is a great time to take it easy, but once you hit the ‘incredible years’ – ages three to six – and beyond, you can start to get creative. Upcycling old furniture such as painting an old set of drawers in brighter colours, or even just their handles, can instantly transform a room.

Top tip: Look to the Resene Classic Collection for timeless colours to create a palette that will last for years to come.

Outgrowing the cot

As your child’s personality develops, their room can become more of a reflection of their individuality and tastes. Themes are a really fun way to define a kids’ space. Try to pick things that they’ll likely enjoy for a few years rather than just the flavour of the month. Sometimes more generic themes will work better than ones based on pop-culture. Look beyond TV and movies to imaginative worlds of jungles, deserts, sea, space, animals or royalty for inspiration.

“It’s sometimes hard for families to allow children’s rooms to move away from the very coordinated scheme that may have been created throughout their home. However, there is usually a sense of continuity that already connects the rest of the home to these children’s rooms,” says Sylvia.

She points out that your home likely already has the same skirting, architraves, doors and hardware throughout.

“So paint becomes a real friend in kids’ spaces because of its ease of application and the change it affords.”

“When making the move from an all-neutral room, adding a new wall colour doesn’t mean that it has to be everywhere,” she says. “One or two walls or the paint wrapped round at dado height can be all that is needed.”

“Often, a second opinion is invaluable at this stage for picking the right paint colours that will change the space to make it truly theirs. It is fun to have your child’s involvement too, and taking them for a visit to a Resene ColorShop can be of great benefit.” Start with small projects and look for ways your kids can help out.

Outgrown the cot
Teenagers bedroom
Areas that younger kids will use for more imaginative play can transition to a hangout or study space in their older years. Wall in Resene Bone, floor in Resene Blanc, bedframe in Resene Cashmere, toy chest in Resene Sante Fe, cane chair and lipped shelves in Resene Kalgoorie Sands, stools and hooks in Resene Moccasin and pendant lamp, mirror, lipped shelves, bedside table and play table in Resene Just Dance. Testpots in Resene Moccasin, Resene Just Dance, Resene Twilight, Resene Sante Fe, Resene Apache, Resene Sorbet and Resene Kalgoorie Sands were used to paint the round artwork, banner and wooden boxes to match the rest of the scheme.  

House-shaped bed frame from Mocka. Rug from H&M Home. Tilly Home basket from Farmers. Sage and Clare Palo Linen Pillowcase in Terracotta and Rhapsody Throw in Marsala from Shut the Front Door. Round rainbow cushion from Little Peach and Pip. Home Republic Stonewashed Cotton Quilt Cover Set, Home Republic Genoa Vintage Washed Linen Cushion in Clay, Home Republic Desert Sky Euro Pillowcase, Home Republic Stonewash Cotton Euro in pink all from Adairs. Iconic Wooden Tea Set, Nana Huchy Camilla the Camel, Maileg Bambi Girl and Fabelab Rope Basket from Little Whimsy. All other props are stylist’s own.

Stockists: House-shaped bed frame from Mocka. Home Republic Cotton Single Quilt Cover in Clay, Stonewash Euro Pillowcase in Clay, Mercer + Reid Boracay Mustard Fringe Cushion, Home Republic Belgian Vintage Washed Linen Cushion in Rust and Mercer + Reid Bombay Velvet Linen Cushion from Adairs. All other props are stylist’s own.

Pick up a few Resene testpots in coordinating colours and let your child decorate under bed storage boxes or create artwork to suit their scheme.

Resene Just Dance

Resene Twilight

Resene Sorbet

Framing your child’s artwork is another way to brighten things up with minimal change to the room’s main decor. When you and your child have agreed on a colour scheme, pick up a few Resene testpots in colours that coordinate with their walls, floor, furnishings and bedding and let them paint up something especially for their space.

Flexible furniture, either in its ability to transform from one thing to another or for its multi-tasking qualities, can also be a great investment during this phase. When your child has grown out of their cot, wooden bunk beds are perfect for freeing up floor space and can be painted to suit your child’s personality. As your child gets older, simply lose the bottom bunk and add a study nook underneath the top bunk.

Children love their privacy, too, and often enjoy having their own hideout. Bunks can easily convert into forts with a few blankets and boxes. And in the transition to a teenage bedroom, they will probably appreciate that privacy all the more.

Top tip: Opting for a matte finish, such as Resene SpaceCote Flat, can help mask imperfections in older walls.

The move to maturity

In the teenage years, it becomes especially important that bedrooms reflect identity and interests.

“At this age, there will likely be requests for more colour on the walls and possibly the ceilings,” says Sylvia. “If it is a room where a lot of time is going to be spent, the atmosphere will be important. A starting point such as new bedlinen, a wonderful rug, a hobby or interest may steer a scheme.”

“Creative ideas such as hand-painted stripes or a creative wall mural can be restricted to one wall to add personality while keeping things from getting out of hand. Adding a large mirror can help throw the size so that it will seem bigger to your teen.

”Photo and pin boards are popular with teens and can help save your walls from too many holes and tack marks. To steer clear of holes altogether, paint Resene Magnetic Magic under Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen tinted to the same colour as the rest of your walls and your teen can hang notes, posters or artwork – and even write on it with chalk. Simply use a damp cloth to wipe it clean. Or, finish your wall colour in Resene Write-on Wall Paint for a coloured whiteboard finish and your teen can use whiteboard markers to write on their wall.

To get your teen organised, incorporate shelving. Wooden crates are easy to stack and don’t take up too much room, while box or honeycomb shelves make a fun DIY painting project and can be arranged in different patterns on the wall. Picking something in a solid, classic shape means you can hang on to them once your teen moves out – and give them a pick-me-up with new paint colours.

Childrens room
Room transformed into an office
Bedroom: Even a simple painted headboard can help define a teen’s bedroom but painting a piece of furniture with a cool pattern, like this chest of drawers, can add real character to the space. Both can be achieved with masking and can be easily painted over when your teen leaves home. Wall in Resene Sea Fog, painted headboard feature in Resene Fast Forward, floor in Resene Truffle, message board in Resene Noir, plant pot in Resene Earthen, dresser in Resene Bismark, Resene Permanent Green, Resene Thumbs Up, Resene Alabaster and Resene Truffle.  Stockists: Star Cushion from Little Whimsy. Beast Rug from Thing Industries. Joan/Leopard Double Sided Quilt from Society of Wanderers. Task lamp from Kmart. All other props are stylist’s own.

Office: With a bit of foresight, a feature like a painted colour block headboard can find new purpose defining a home office space after your teen takes off with their bed. Wall in Resene Sea Fog, colour blocked feature, lipped shelves and desk top in Resene Fast Forward, chair in Resene Clockwork Orange, floor in Resene Truffle, desk organiser in Resene Alabaster, Resene Truffle and Resene Earthen, hook rack in Resene Secrets, plant pots in Resene Quarter Baltic Sea, Resene Moccasin and Resene Soulful.  Stockists: Karlsson Mr White Clock from Flux Boutique. Watermelon Velvet Penny Round Cushion from Castle. Hook rack, desk organiser, and task lamp from Kmart. All other props are stylist’s own.

Top tip: When painting a feature design, use low-tack masking tape from your Resene ColorShop over a dry, freshly painted background or existing paint that isn’t damaged for crisp clean lines.


Resene Fast Forward

Resene Noir

Resene Earthen

Resene Thumbs Up

Resene Soulful

Reclaiming the room

When your child leaves home, you’ll be reverting the room back to its original purpose, or giving it a brand new one. At this stage, the focus will return to you and your needs.

What you might not have anticipated is that it can be emotionally difficult to make changes to your teen’s bedroom after they leave home. But, if you’ve planned for that in advance of their departure, you might be able to redesign the space in a way that will make it easy to give it new purpose after they’re gone. Painting a colour block headboard behind their bed, for instance, could become a clever way to define your work space once the room becomes your home office.

Choosing multifunctional furniture when you’re refurnishing the room will also help you to make the most of your reclaimed room, especially if the space will likely be used for more than one purpose. If your teen has taken off with their bed, consider replacing it with a fold-out couch. That way, the space can still serve as a spare bedroom when company comes over but do double-duty as an office or library. Alternatively, try a bed with pull out drawers underneath to give yourself more storage space.

Getting another opinion

No matter what age of child you’re trying to design a bedroom for, it’s okay to seek out help if you’re feeling stuck for what to do.

“Colour is very personal and affects everyone differently, evoking varying emotional responses.” says Sylvia. “It’s important to try to understand how each family member responds to colours, as we can sometimes jump to conclusions. Choosing the right colours for the personality of the room’s user takes some skill. Professional guidance can be helpful and necessary.”

Visiting your local Resene ColorShop is a great place to start gathering ideas. For extra advice, book an appointment with a Resene Colour Specialist or ask for colour help online from the free Resene Ask a Colour Expert service,

Need more inspiration?

If you’re looking for ideas for you and your children before you roll up your sleeves and get started, the new habitat plus – kids’ spaces booklet is the perfect place to start. It’s full of useful tips, including how to create a theme, clever ideas for wall and headboard designs, shared spaces, nurseries and study nooks. Pick up your free copy at your local Resene ColorShop or selected Resene resellers or view online at

Styling: Gem Adams, Annick Larkin, Vanessa Nouwens
Images: Melanie Jenkins


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If you have an idea, project or story that you think would suit habitat, we’d love to hear from you. Please drop us an email with your details and include photos if submitting a project.

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