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Making Over the Kids' Rooms: Martha Stewart Living's Kevin Sharkey Tells Us How

Sep 23 2011 - 7:01am

There's been a quite a revolution in the world of kids' room design. Simply stenciling a lil cartoon character on the wall and throwing some pastel sheets on a twin bed doesn't quite cut it anymore. Kevin Sharkey, the executive editorial director of decorating for Martha Stewart Living — and the uncle of 4-year-old and 18-month-old boys, welcomes the changes.

"First and foremost, the concept is now a big deal. So you're seeing merchandise available for [kids' rooms]. It's not like you have to search out things to put in a kids room now. There's a lot of things on the market. [And] they seem much more sophisticated than I would have imagined. If you look at the Pottery Barn Kids thing, that would have been my dorm room!"

The decorating guru (who happens to live just below Martha Stewart's granddaughter) took some time out to talk with me about the state of children's rooms and the biggest trends he's seeing. Check it out!

You Don't Have to Wallpaper a Room in Toy Soldiers

Kevin Sharkey suggests that the room should reflect the child, not the parents' vision of what a kid's room should be.

"If you start off with a good room, with good bones, colors are beautiful regardless of whether you're five or 55. You pick colors, and then you decorate. A lot of people decorate the room with the things that make up the child — whether it's artwork that they've done, pictures of themselves, pictures of their friends, big cutouts of their initials, or their trophies. That's when a child's room really looks like a real person lives here."

Photo by Matthew Hranek. Copyright 2011. Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine [1]

Personalization Is the Biggest Trend in Kids' Rooms

Kevin Sharkey says that kids like to see themselves in their rooms.

"Eclectic rooms are always the most comfortable to be in because you're really getting an impression of who lives in this room. With kids' rooms you really want to feel like you're participating in them growing as a little person.

Like everything else, consumers are conditioned to expect more, and kids, they're just a lot savvier than we think. So yes, everyone has their doll that they really like, and their teddy bear that's really cute, but they also want to display their art work or their photographs or their pictures of their friends. It's just not enough to have plaid giraffes walking around the room. They want to see themselves

Rebecca Robertson [a Martha Stewart Living editor] did her little boy's room. She has her little boy's pieces of artwork displayed on these pieces of laths. That are on the wall, and its just a rotating art collection. And then there's this sombrero that he loves just hanging up there. That's a beautiful room. It's a beautiful white on the walls, they picked a beautiful color yellow on the lath, there's a shag floor, and pretty bedding. It doesn't need to feel like "here's a beautifully packaged decorator's room" Those are not fun rooms to be in."

Photo by Jonny Valiant. Copyright 2011. Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine [2]

Pin-Up Boards Can Be a Focal Point

Kevin Sharkey believes in creating a central spot for kids to display things.

"Pin-up boards are my number-one pick, because they've become this canvas for all kinds of things. To this day, I have a pin-up board at home inside my shoe closet. It's just things that catch my eye, things that mean something to me for a million different reasons. Before you know it, you have this great, kind of collage of your life, or a collage of your interests. For children, I think that's essential."

Photo by Annie Schlechter. Copyright 2011. Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine [3]

Bookshelves Are Key to a Room

Kevin Sharkey says the bookshelf can evolve as the kids grow up.

"Books are really important first and foremost. If the interest in reading begins to wane, [and suddenly] you've got a lot of baseball trophies, then those go up there too. And before you know it you have a whole curated collection of my little boy or my little girl's, life. As long as there are those things there to receive all of these layers, like a bookshelf, or a pin-up board, or a chalkboard, or something like that, then it will all just naturally happen."

Photo by Annie Schlechter. Copyright 2011. Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine [4]

It's About the Art of the Compromise

When designing the room, Kevin Sharkey says mom's opinion doesn't take precedence of the kids'.

"I think one opinion should inform another. I don't think there should be one overruling. Do I think a whole room should be painted bubble gum pink with a [pink] shag rug because your little girl loves bubble gum pink? No. But I think there are smart ways of incorporating her request, or something that seems to be of interest to her, into the room.

If you're able to get that out of the child, you're ahead of the gang. It's nice to be able to talk to children about what they want to be surrounded with. How do they want to express themselves in their room. How do they want their rooms to reflect them?"

Photo by Jonny Valiant. Copyright 2011. Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine [5]

Shared Rooms Are Easier to Create Than Ever

Having shared a room with his brother, Kevin Sharkey knows how to make a shared room work

"It's just good to designate areas. Literally, you have to kind of divide things in half. One person gets one set of shelves, one person gets the other set of shelves. You try to come to some shared opinion of colors. If one likes red and one likes blue, maybe its a plaid or a stripe with red and blue in it — so the one who likes red, only sees red, and the one who likes blue only sees blue.

The way bedding sold these days, you can easily make that happen. The one who likes red can only have red sheets, so they'll always know that that's their bed. And then that's cute — have a little design statement going on there!"

Photo by Jason Schmidt. Copyright 2011. Originally published in the October 2011 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine [6]

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