I am not someone who believes in playing things up the middle. There are many different ways to decorate a child’s room, but for clarity’s sake, let’s divide them into two: Maximalist and Minimalist.
The former approach, which is represented beautifully by this room in the New York apartment of photographer Pieter Estersohn, is all about going for theatre and atmosphere and letting practicality happen as it may. When I first came across this picture in Elle Decor I was enchanted to see a piece of furniture I had designed being used in a totally unexpected way. I guess I had gotten into the habit of thinking all Netto customers had apartments that looked like the furniture, white and airy and basically modernist, or close enough.
This however, is another kettle of fish. It is a highly personal environment and not for everybody, but you cannot deny that it is a wonderfully successful room. Let’s take a look, and maybe learn how we could do some exciting things in our child’s room too, if we are inclined to be Maximalist…
1. The photograph of Indian architecture blown up to create a mural makes a highly personal statement. Part of what makes it convincing here is that the father IS the photographer, so it is like a gift or an heirloom between parent and child. This is important since I believe the best decorating should be driven by personality, not just a cool idea. Drama, rationalized. You could try this with maps put up as wallpaper, and plan to teach your kid about geography a little later.
2. The contrast between the fictive exotic architecture and the cool lines of the furniture is just what I meant about not “playing it up the middle”. As with fashion, go for the strongest opposites and combine them. If this crib were not modern, you’d still have a beautiful picture to look at, but the composition would be soggy.
Likewise, if the photograph were of some Julius Shulman mid-century California house, it would all be very pleasant, but we would not be…Surprised. In a Maximalist nursery we want surprise, and contrast is maybe the best way to get it. Put a Victorian tufted needlepoint chair in an all white box.
3. Don’t stop at the walls. Look at the marvelous richly-colored rug which carries through the idea of being in an Indian palace, and is actually quite practical in here as a rug like this is very forgiving of spills. And can be cleaned. COMMIT to your Maximal scheme, right down the line.
4. I love that these parents know when to stop decorating and keep it cozy. The rocking horse is not an elephant. The toy basket is normal and not some exotic lidded thing to hold a cobra. Nothing fun is concealed in favor of staging, you can just dump ‘em out on the floor and have a playdate. This is very important in doing a successful Maximalist child’s room: knowing when to stop and let life take over– and it’s usually with the accessories as has been done here.
Next week we’ll talk about the opposite approach but for now, I wanted you to see a truly marvelous and unique background in which to raise a kid and let fantasy have its day. The book that just came out with this picture in it is called Style and Substance: The Best of Elle Decor, and there is a whole CHAPTER on children’s rooms…
This one is on p. 210.