As kids grow up and enter their tweens years, their personalities develop and their needs change. This is the perfect time to renovate their rooms and reclaim your home’s sophisticated interior style.


Ask any parent and they’ll tell you it can be hard to style a sophisticated home around busy kids. Kids seem to have so much ‘stuff’ don’t they? And that ‘stuff’ can usually be found by bare feet, at midnight in the dark, as you run the loungeroom gauntlet to grab a midnight drink #bloodylego


So how do you style a sophisticated and practical home around the kids? And how does interior design change as they grow from little kiddies to personality-filled tweens and beyond? haven sat down with award-winning interior designer Darren James of Darren James Interiors upon his return from Italy where he soaked up Milan Design Week and attended the world’s biggest international interiors trade fair, Salone Del Mobile. Based in Brisbane, not only is Darren a highly awarded interior designer (Australian Certified Designer of the Year 2015, 2014 and 2010), he’s also the father of three kids – Franki, 7, Hugo, 6, and Harper, 4. So he’s also stepped on his fair share of Lego.


“Clients are requesting stylish, modern and practical spaces for their kids,” Darren says. “Although they are wanting to ensure their kids’ rooms are practical and fun, there is still a strong desire for the kids’ spaces to be an extension of the rest of the style of the home. With modern trends still being somewhat minimal, fresh and clean – there is a desire for this to transition into the kids’ play spaces/rooms.”


Incy Interior’s Megan Morton four poster bed in rose gold, $1299

Incy Interior’s Megan Morton four poster bed in rose gold, $1299


When styling a home around kids, Darren says the first thing to consider before anything else is storage – both within the boundaries of your kids’ bedrooms and throughout the rest of the house.


“Sufficient, practical storage that is clean, organised and easy to tidy is key. In a lot of cases, kids’ playrooms also need to double as family rooms that are also adult appropriate,” he says.


For kids’ rooms specifically, Darren suggests:

  • Open shelves with baskets: “They hide the mess and are easy and safe to access for kids.”
  • Under-bed storage
  • Books on display on shelves mounted on the walls (try Ikea for the best options)
  • Hanging pockets, open shelves or boxes mounted on the wall: For smaller things and those cute display items.


For living area storage, Darren suggests:

  • Day beds/window seats: Choose furniture offering hidden storage. Window seats with drawers underneath are perfect multipurpose pieces.
  • Baskets, baskets and more baskets: “We love using baskets – it’s seriously addictive. Belly baskets are great or gorgeous rattan or wicker baskets. Colourful or metallic wire baskets are also really good.”


Once storage has been considered, the decorating fun really begins. And one of the biggest decisions will be your colour palette. Thankfully, colour palettes on trend in kids’ room right now are quite subtle and able to be worked into the rest of your home design very easily.


“There has been growth in the demand for gender-neutral schemes for kids’ rooms – a lot of clients don’t want too much pink for their girl’s room and, likewise, blue for boys,” Darren says.


“Scandinavian design is having a huge influence on the design of kids’ rooms. Black and white is quintessentially Scandi and this explains the massive monochrome trend for kids’ spaces. We love monochromatic rooms for boys – classic black and white with a little bit of colour. Otherwise, all versions of blues and greys work great together and transition your son well into their tween years. I would always pair those colour schemes with a few natural materials, for example, blonde timbers.


“For the girls, we love working with white and pastels and these colours combine beautifully with accents of grey or gold,” says Darren. “Think soft pink, grey and gold.”


Incy Interior’s Sybilla velvet settee, $999

Incy Interior’s Sybilla velvet settee, $999


As far as furniture goes, throw out the change table-come-shelving unit. Give away the cute little kiddie table and chairs set. Pop that mini play kitchen into storage. Now’s the time to incorporate some grown-up furniture pieces in your tween’s new room.


“The pre-teen or tween years are definitely the time to clean out the clutter. If space permits, a larger bed (maybe a king single or even a double) is always a good start. It is also a great time to think about a desk, although a lot of families are demanding study niches in open living areas – more for safety and being able to more easily monitor their kids’ computer/internet usage.”


Among the other little decorative pieces to really make your tween’s room their own, Darren likes:


With three kids of his own, how does Darren cope with all the ‘things’ that come with raising kids but still wanting to have a home with style?


“We have a designated playroom/family room for the kids. There’s a five-metre bench seat that doubles as storage for board games. We have open shelves with wicker baskets for storage of toys and slim open bookshelves for all their books.


“We also have a mud room at the entry of the home – this is one our favourite and most used rooms in the house. It incorporates seating for getting the kids to put on and take off shoes, storage and drawers underneath for their grassy shoes and gumboots, hooks for school bags, coats, hats and rain jackets and then overhead wicker baskets for other incidentals and hats. We LOVE it.


“Each family member has their own personal little locker/basket which is named and all their school stuff goes in there. It’s a great space that is extremely functional. Mud rooms are huge over in America and we are finding more and more people requesting them here.”


So there you have it. The complete guide to decorating around kids and reclaiming your home as they approach the tween years. So what’s the first thing on your to-do list this weekend?


Langdon’s Zulu round rug, $900


Get your home winter ready

The change of season means tweaking your interior design just slightly to keep your home, and its occupants, cosy and warm. Darren James Interiors principal designer Darren James shared his Top 3 easy ways to get your home winter ready:

Add some wool in the way of oversized knitted accessories – think beanbags, ottomans and cushions (try Nickel.n.co)

Layer up chairs, rugs etc with a sheepskin or ethically sourced deer hide

Add gorgeous organic linen and wool throws to your bed.

Darren says when selecting new pieces for your home this season, choose colours including tan and camel which are “really hot this winter” as are all shades of grey. “Choose some gorgeous, strong teal blues to add some luxe.”


Belinda Glindemann

Belinda Glindemann  

Belinda knew she was destined for a career in communications and publishing from the age of 11 when her Year 6 teacher introduced her to poster projects and glitter pens. She completed her journalism cadetship in the Whitsundays and went on to hold various newspaper and magazine editor roles across Brisbane in a media career spanning more than a decade. When Belinda's not writing for haven, she runs her own PR agency, kid-wrangles two young daughters and drinks way too much sweet tea.