• Establish a budget — and stick to it.
• Try to incorporate existing furniture, and shop discount stores for linens and accessories.
• Be creative. Turn an old table into a desk. Frame magazine pictures to match the new decor.
• Think about the future. Can certain components of the new room be used in a different way later on? If the answer is yes, you'll get more out of your investment.
Designer rooms are not uncommon. In an online Angie's List poll, 16 percent of members reported customizing a child's room. Five percent plan on doing so, and 1 percent had an entirely new room built.
And while many artists and remodelers can handle the metamorphosis, there are plenty of professionals who specialize in indoor play structures, fantasy beds, murals and other custom designs for children.
Whether inspiration comes cheap or at a high cost, room makeovers for the young should take into account that tastes likely will change in a relatively short period of time. "Kids grow up so quickly, and you want them to be able to use the space for more than a couple of years," says Hank Rousseau, owner of highly rated Rousseau Woodworks in Atlanta, who two years ago fashioned a $2,200 castle bed with turrets for a boy's room. "At some point, they're going to be a little bit old for the original concepts, so you want them to be able to appreciate it for as long as possible."
With that in mind, designers suggest creating window seats, storage cubbies and other spaces that can be part of the new look but easily transition into the room's next evolution. For members Ben and Lea Friedman of Atlanta, the renovation of 8-year-old son Andrew's "crazy attic bedroom" is already paying dividends for the entire family, which includes his 5-year-old sister, Caroline.
They turned a large walk-in closet into an entertainment room decorated with retro video game prints, adding a twin daybed and trundle on one side and cabinets, a TV and a PlayStation on the other. "The big joke is that we put the kids in the closet and let them stay up late," Lea says.The renovation also included a bookcase that opens up to reveal a secret stash of toys.
Kids' room makeovers may improve home value
Theme rooms undoubtedly make a statement, but do they help or hurt when trying to sell a home? The answer depends on who's looking. "It was either an asset or an albatross," Kuhl says of his nephew's extreme bedroom during that home's stint on the real estate market. The house ultimately went to a couple with two teenagers.
Marion Wadsworth, a real estate agent with Mountain West Realty in Burley, Idaho, has seen over-the-top designs yield different results for home sellers. "My clients walked into a jungle room that was just stunning," she recalls. "There were big leaves, monkeys and bananas in beautiful lime greens and browns. My client said, 'I wish I'd found this house when our kids were younger. How am I going to turn this over to my teenager?' I half-jokingly offered to have somebody else come in and repaint, but she just couldn't do it. It was a true work of art."
Wadsworth ended up not selling that particular home. But another house with a children's room painted to look a like a farm — with horses, fences and pastures — sold "pretty darn quickly," she says.
National homebuilder KB Home offers buyers the chance to create Disney-themed rooms. Think butterflies and beaded chandeliers for "The Hannah Montana Hangout," and nature-inspired scenes from the Hundred Acre Wood in "Pooh Corner." The rooms start at $1,500, according to KB Home spokesman Craig LeMessurier.
Room makeovers can be a priceless acknowledgement that children and teens have a personal refuge. Member Sean O'Donnell of Fishkill, N.Y., banned son Logan, 9, from his own bedroom for three days during an overhaul last year that paid homage to the boy's fascination with GI Joe and the Army — a cargo net on the ceiling, camouflage stencils on the walls, and an around-the-room shelf adorned with four cases of shotgun shells he'd emptied on his brother's range.
"He was blown away," O'Donnell says. "The expression on his face was worth every bit of agony painting all of those stencils."