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'Room for Children' is a sophisticated take on kid decor

April 15, 2010 |  7:50 am

Susanna Salk, author of the new book "Room for Children," is a former special projects editor at House & Garden and author of "A Privileged Life: Celebrating WASP Culture." So it should come as no surprise that her sensibility veers refreshingly away from all the cutesy, bright, modernist stuff permeating child decor and instead leans firmly toward good old-fashioned design opulence. The book suggests that just because a room is designed for a kid, that's no reason the design can't be all grown up.

There is nothing DIY about "Room for Children," and no sense of trying to do more with less. Two-dozen-plus rooms in the book differ in style, but few could be described as "cute."

"Over the past five to 10 years, children's design has been moving away from either it has to be blue or Babar or choo-choo trains for a boy, and pink and Raggedy Ann for girls," Salk said. "People started realizing they could put an antique chandelier over a crib and it would look fabulous."

Many of the rooms are in houses that have appeared in shelter magazines, but because editors often skip the children's rooms, few in the book have been seen before. After the jump I've included pictures of a few of my favorites.


Simple exotic: One expects a wistful Anthropologie model to emerge at any moment from this "getaway retreat" in Kenya. As Salk writes: "Sometimes the best decor is to let the location and the architecture speak for itself."


Youthful safari: One of the rooms whose design is seemingly easier to copy, this look begins with a faux leopard print rug and colonial-style beds. Add vintage trunks and some oversize stuffed animals to complete the vibe.


Teenage room of my dreams: This cozy attic bedroom is in an 1895 beach house on New York's Fire Island. Salk said the tie-dye bedspread was chosen by the young occupant of the room, and the design went from there.


Salk said she wrote the book for new parents, parents about to have their third or fourth child, designers and teenagers who want to change up their room. Chances are only the wealthiest readers or those with years of design experience will come close to providing a child with rooms like these, but the rest can look and dream.

-- Deborah Netburn

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Credits, from top: Pink room designed by Barry Dixon, photographed by Gordon Beall; African retreat photographed by Pieter Eastersohn; young safari photographed by Pieter Eastersohn; attic bedroom designed by Thomas Jayne and photographed by Jonathan Wallen. All photos from Rizzoli.