Changing children’s rooms to meet their growing needs


I heard a great word recently: “floordrobe”. On one morning nudging my way into work in the car listening to the radio, listeners were asked to send in words their families had invented. A father of I’m not sure how many teenagers had come up with that one. Perfect.

I see a lot of homes and am rarely allowed into a teenage bedroom, either because the teenager is asleep in there or because the poor parent showing me around the house is too terrified to let me discover what lies beyond the door.

As part of the Design Doctors series, we were given the challenge of designing two bedrooms for 18-year-old twins Ronan and Aoife. We never have teenagers as clients because they don’t have their own home, so it was a first for us.

Inviting spaces
I dented my car recently – driving tired with seriously diminished reaction time. My father’s words of wisdom – get it fixed straight away otherwise you’ll stop caring. I know what he means and, to be honest, it’s the same with teenagers’ rooms.

They start off as sweet children’s rooms and suddenly in the blink of an eye there’s a young adult inhabiting the space. Because the room has now got nothing to do with them they can lose respect and stop caring about it.

I don’t promise that by spending money on decorating the room it will turn your teenager into an obsessive housekeeper. But as long as you allow them to get involved and don’t impose your vision of what their room should be like, they will take pride in the space and be more inclined to look after it.

With Ronan and Aoife we were very conscious not to theme the rooms. We wanted them to be comfortable, inviting spaces where they could add their own belongings and build on the scheme over time – to really give them ownership of the space.

We have a lot of clients with teenage children asking us to create space that will encourage their teenagers to spend more time at home. To do this the rooms need to be multi-functional, they need to be a place for sleeping, relaxing, studying and hanging out with friends – a tall order for a space that generally measures 3m by 3m.

Storage was a really important factor and our budgets were extremely limited, so we had to be creative. Aoife said she liked to have all of her clothes on display – nice idea but unless you are obsessive about folding and hanging it could look pretty chaotic pretty quickly – so we came up with the idea of hanging curtains in front of the open wardrobes so she could see everything at a glance and hide everything effortlessly.

Ronan liked reading and spending time on his computer, so we decided to give him plenty of bookshelves and to create different spaces where he could use his computer.

By raising the bed up onto a platform we split a very narrow room into two, creating a hangout/sleeping space and a separate study/work space. In both rooms we used colour to define different zones.

Just like any other room in the house, the space needs to adapt as the occupant’s needs change – an eight-year-old and an 18-year-old have totally different needs, so their room should be fit for purpose.

I’m not saying you have to go all out, but if you decide to tackle a project like this get your teenager involved for the best possible outcome.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant. She features in Design Doctors on RTÉ 1