Design Diplomat

beautiful house; minimal drama

by P a i ge Ri en
Pu t t i n g a h o m e t o g e t h e r c a n i n v o l v e more negotiating and deal making than a typical d a y a t t h e U N . W h e n I w o r k w i t h c l i e nts who are not on the same page, whether it’s w i t h t h e i r s p o u s e , t h e i r t e e n a g e d a u g hter, or even their real estate agent, I become the k e y d i p l o m a t a n d m e d i a t o r f o r a l l d e sign concerns. People hire me just because their l a c k o f c o n s e n s u s h a s l e f t t h e m p a r alyzed -- hating their current environment, but h a t i n g i t a l i t t l e l e s s t h a n g i v i n g i n t o someone else’s desires. I become the no drama d e s i g n m a m a , m a k i n g s u r e t h e p r o j e c t gets done, no one gets killed, and all parties feel g o o d t h e v e r y f i r s t d a y t h e y s p e n d i n their new space.
Creating a room for a teenager, with a teenager, is a creative challenge on many fronts. Together with almost everything else, decorating your teenager’s bedroom will more than likely be a source for disagreement. Somewhere around age twelve “my room” starts to be important. “My room” is where we want to be surrounded by things we like and where we go to be with the steamy cocktail of hormones, feelings and questions that pop up like crocuses on the path to adulthood. When I’m working on updating a child’s room to accommodate adolescence the following scenario is common: Mom wants periwinkle toile and a French country four-poster bed. Her thirteen-year-old dreams of Palm Beach pinks and big florals – more Mamas and the Papas than Provence. What’s the diplomatic design answer to this family-decorating dilemma? The answer is to find a way to coordinate, if not coalesce – ideas, styles and methods. Include your child in the process of his or her room décor early in life, so they feel heard and as if they are part of the design. Even if they are seemingly indifferent, make sure what you choose reflects them. And if they want to do things that make your inner designer cry – don’t distress – find middle ground. Would I “let my sons do whatever they want, tape stuff up on their walls, let go of my design sense?” a friend recently asked. Yes and no. Yes, I will allow my sons to express their jock zeal, or Justin Bieber-of-the-moment obsession or whatever else they might be into. Might it include tape on walls? Maybe. But, no, I will not shelve my design sense – that which binds my house together and keeps it, and me, sane and happy. I won’t be shoving said design sense down my son’s throats. I am committed to taking what they like, what makes them swoon or what inspires them, and working with them on their rooms. As in everything else with parenting, I intend to be involved, but to guide, not control, their desire for great space.

Madonna said it, so you know it must be true: “Express yourself!”
I strongly believe the teen bedroom should ultimately be theirs. My 13-year-old bedroom was an exercise in layers. Chad and Rob Lowe, Michael and Janet Jackson, collages, photos of women playing basketball; layered like pizza toppings over my mother’s colonial Williamsburg scheme. Back then I wanted to look at all the pretty boys from Seventeen and I was inspired by women playing basketball in college – something I would later do by the way. My mom had a vision in Wedgwood blue and Virginia rose pink. We co-existed, albeit a bit awkwardly. For clients experiencing more “clash” when trying to create a bedroom with their teenagers or tweens, cooperation is key. To create a dynamic and integrated bedroom for their child, with their child takes work, but it’s possible. It’s important that your child knows that you are committed to creating a space they will love. Keep sentences beginning with “this is my house…” to a minimum. Parents should involve their children and take their ideas seriously. If the kids want Star Wars or Lady Gaga – allow it and work with it, but don’t give up on creating a room that you find chic – it can be done in a cohesive way. What does a cohesive NFL or teen-idol-strewn bedroom look like? Teen bedrooms are big business. Pottery Barn has birthed PBTeen – a resource for teen and tween spaces exclusively. Although it can be pricey, it’s not a bad place to start for ideas. It has a parent-friendly line of products that are interesting and youthful without being overly commercial. Once your child has expressed their greatest desire, thematically, for their room – think big. Think murals, vinyl appliqués, wallpaper. Try for affordable and expressive, easily removable vinyl wall appliqués that trump small stuff from magazines taped on walls. There is also JCPenney, on the less costly side of teen-décor, and CB2, the inexpensive version of Crate and Barrel, which has chic, modern stuff for your hipster-in-training. Tread lightly – don’t buy more than one or two pieces from each store. Teen is not a look, it’s an age and it shouldn’t be copied out of a catalogue – the origins should start with your own teenager. Finally, think old –, garage sales, and eBay – vintage expressions of your teen’s interests are a great way to bridge generational style gaps. This is also a perfect time to encourage individuality and uniqueness, especially if fourteen-year-old Francie wants to copy the spread in the PBTeen catalogue which could run a cool $5000 – tell her only old farts copy what’s in catalogues. Hip rooms, like works of art, should be highly personal and created over time. Madonna said it, so you know it must be true: “Express yourself!” Teen rooms are iterative – they evolve and change on a daily basis just like teenagers themselves. Unlike adults who are obsessed with rooms being “done” – teens like to change it up. Once you’ve chosen a theme and started with a large feature as previously suggested, include space for clips from magazines, photos of friends, ticket-stubs, etc. Teenagers like to live inside their own time capsules and among the relics of last week – let them. Install a wallsized corkboard or border the room in cork to allow this with cohesion and balance in the room -- make it bold and challenge them to fill the board with cool stuff. What are your true colors? Finding an intergenerational color scheme can be a challenge. One idea: look at paint colors together - your teenager picks the color or the paint chip – say flamingo pink -- you pick the tone – which shade of flamingo pink – each side feels empowered. Perhaps you paint one wall in a brighter color as an accent wall and the rest remain subdued. I also love Idea Paint, which turns any wall into a write board – hence a white wall that can be gussied up in pink marker in moment-to-moment individual expression and which can happily be edited by mom. ( Parents need to respect their children’s blossoming design sensibility and their children need to know that if mom is paying she gets say. This is a great introduction to a collaborative creative process. Ideally all would be involved in painting, sourcing décor, bedding, lighting and furniture inside a defined budget. Children who learn the lessons of hanging art work, painting walls, and buying bedding, will have a much easier time with their first apartments outside the house, and they’ll thank you for it!

Paige Rien, aka, the design diplomat, is a designer on HGTV’s “Hidden Potential” as well as the principal of Rien with An Eye for Design Consultancy. Paige’s design work is about bringing two sides together, helping to unearth what people truly want and developing plans for long-term enjoyment and value for homes all over the world. She lives in Summit with her husband and two young sons.


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