When my son was born, we squeezed a crib into our spare room–office and found ways of using our old furniture for our new life, like converting a dresser into a changing table. Now he’s older and has his own, proper room, and it’s a delight to find ways for his space to reflect his interests, his personality, and the way he likes to spend time.
When I was first putting together his big-kid room, I struggled with the landscape of children’s furniture and decor: Everywhere I looked, I saw either ubiquitous Ikea pieces or pricey high-end designer items. What I wanted was furniture that was fun, sturdy, and flexible enough that it could adapt to the changing style of his room. In other words, I wanted pieces that could last through the train phase, dinosaur phase, Pokémon phase, and wherever we are headed next.
Below are some of my tried-and-tested pieces for children’s rooms. They’re affordable, durable, and full of personality, but also easy to mix and match as the years pass.
When it came time to move out of the crib, we decided to go with a floor bed, making it easy for the little dude to get in and out and to prevent big falls. This house bed, available from numerous sellers on Etsy, has been a huge hit. It’s easy to hang sheets and blankets over the top to create a secret hideaway, and we’ve bedecked the posts with climbing vines to create a jungle treehouse. It’s made of a lovely unfinished maple wood, and its thin profile, while not the most rigid (we have a no swinging from the top rule!), allows it to become a blank palette for a child’s imagination.
When my son’s bedroom suddenly became a classroom during the pandemic, I spent a while looking for a good classroom setup for the corner. We ordered this set, but the stools weren’t comfortable for sitting for a whole Zoom lesson. We kept the bent plywood table and added in these molded plastic chairs, which have been a great investment. They’re comfortable, hard to tip over, and have a really great shape that works for toddlers and elementary schoolers (and even for a homeschooling parent in a pinch).
You may ask yourself, Why does a pillow cost as much as a piece of furniture?, but I would tell you that this is the single most used object in our home. My kids jump off of couches, roll on carpets, and somersault on ottomans, and I had been looking for a long time for some floor cushions to support these shenanigans. This dense cushion is the foundation for a pillow fort, a base for snuggling with stuffed animals, and a landing pad for sofa launching. The handles make them easy to drag around, and they come in a great range of easy-to-clean stylish neutrals.
I discovered this Etsy store when looking for Rifle paper print masks, and I have now ordered dozens of these name banners as gifts. In our house, we decorated the names with gemstones and puffy paint and pinned them to each child’s door. They’re such simple banners, but because of their great typography and charming colors, they’re an easy and affordable piece to feature on a wall or above a bed. Every child in the world wants their name in big letters in every possible location in their room, and I’ve also ordered them with funny messages for holidays and parties.
I’ve been enchanted by mobiles since I spent a summer guarding a Calder sculpture at the Peggy Guggenheim in Venice. Mobiles are dynamic and ever-changing, and they engage three-dimensional space in a way that delights and mystifies children. Our kids’ rooms’ walls are covered with years of artwork, from fingerpaints to collages to pencil drawings, not leaving much space for anything else. Mobiles are a way to use the ceiling to display artwork, and I love this Calder-inspired one for its fun colors and childlike shapes.
I spent a long time looking for a solid-wood shelf that was low enough for a toddler to access before I came across this great line of Montessori furniture. School furniture is incredibly tough, scaled to the right size, and generally really affordable. Plus, it comes in a lightly finished maple plywood that goes well with furniture from Ikea and other light-wood Scandinavian pieces. We filled this with soft felt bins for Legos, bristle blocks, and play food.
There are a lot of fun message boards out in the world, but what I love about this one is that it’s a magnet board and a double-sided chalkboard at the same time. It comes in classic green and black as well as bright blue, and the soft foam letters are in a great Futura/Gotham sans serif font in a wild range of colors. We keep two next to my son’s bed in a tone-on-tone blue color scheme; one board is host to an ongoing game of Snowman, and the other is for practicing times tables. Pro tip: Order the letter organization box and this fantastic soft Japanese chalk.
I’ve tried kids’ sheets from lots of stores, but the H&M sheets are my hands-down favorites. The sets are mostly below $30, all cotton, and come in great prints, like this space one lifted out of an Oliver Jeffers book or this dinosaur taxonomy print. After years of having the flat sheet kicked off to the side of the bed, I’m using H&M’s European approach of having only a fitted sheet and a duvet cover, and it’s so much simpler!
We get folders and folders of cute drawings and paintings from our kids’ schools, and for years I struggled with how to manage the papers. Framing them just isn’t practical, and with their wide range of sizes, I couldn’t always get them to fit in my fave magnetic oak hangers. Instead, I’ve been using these very basic cork strips in stacks of long rows; the artwork is neatly top aligned, creating some order out of chaos. I like to spray-paint the aluminum holders either white or a bright neon color.
I’ve tried a lot of different laundry hampers over the years — natural woven baskets, wide plastic tubs — but this has been the one that works the best. It’s rigid enough to stand up in the closet, soft enough to be easy to lug to the laundry, and it has a drawstring to keep the mess inside. This cute twill storage basket comes in a few different animal faces and coordinates with some matching small bins for socks and winter mittens.