What Your Childhood Bedroom Says About Your Current Design Style
I remember what all of my childhood bedrooms looked like because, well, I had a hand in picking most of the big pieces out and looked forward to redecorating every couple of years: Bedding, art for the walls and even paint colors. Let’s put it this way—I used to collect and hoard paint chips from The Home Depot when I was a kid. Pink gave way to yellow once I became a tween, and I recall a brilliant idea my mom had—and I executed—of using flower placemats to create a 3D garden mural on one of my walls. That must have been fun to paint over when my parents finally sold our house. But I digress.
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Point is, clearly there were early indicators that I’d be into design, and when I think about my old rooms and my bedroom now, I was definitely always into following new trends, and that hasn’t really changed. And guess what? I currently have an abstract floral wallpaper on the wall by my bedroom closet. So those painted blooms weren’t so far off base. So, what can the style of your childhood bedroom say about your current style? Definitely something, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what, so I interviewed a few designers to get their expert opinions.
“There’s really no prescriptive formula for how your childhood environment translates to your space as an adult,” says designer Sarah Cousins. “But there is something about the first childhood bedroom that you’re allowed to have design input on that I do think shapes your design sensibility as an adult.” Case in point: Cousins’ own childhood room. “For myself, I grew up with a lime green bedroom with bright yellow accents,” she says. “It was like living in a traffic light, and I loved it. As I’ve gotten older, I tried the whole white and natural tones trend—thanks, Instagram—but I always come back to color and texture.”
So, it seems our rooms today echo the past, maybe not overtly but with subtle nods to colors we loved or motifs we gravitated towards growing up—just now more mature. And if you never had the agency to really decorate your own space, there won’t be much that links your current sleep space to your childhood one, that’s is, until maybe your college dorm or first real apartment. “I know clients who weren’t allowed to do anything creative in their rooms growing up, so that experimentation phase in regards to their environment came a bit later in life,” says Cousins.
Jessica McLaughlin, Studio Operations Manager at TruDesign Colorado, agrees. “When I think of childhood bedrooms, I think of the choices your mom made for you,” says McLaughlin. “When I look to the choices made by early adults, especially during college, I find it a much more accurate representation of who we are, even in mid-to-late adulthood.” Even still, those purple or pink hearts you might have wanted on your walls back in the day, she says, can absolutely translate into the bold choices you still crave today. Everything just ends up a little more appropriate for “adulting.” But you shouldn’t lose sight of what you liked, especially if you still like it. “If you were over-the-top girly and still are, let that show,” says McLaughlin. “Give yourself the glam version.” Instead of purple and pink hearts, for example, maybe it’s a dramatic floral wallpaper that adds a more modern feminine feel. Or a funky neon light and playful pink shag pillows.
For Cousins, children of divorce (or those who otherwise grew up with two bedrooms) are really interesting to think about in terms of what each house or apartment meant to a certain child and how that translates into an environment today. “I know for myself, I had one bedroom fully decorated and the other just bare bones, so when I stayed there, it felt more like a hotel than a room of my own,” says Cousins. You may find that you gravitate towards things that remind you of the homier space from your youth, either in terms of colors, textures or style of furniture. It may also make you averse to certain hand-me-downs or that vintage hodgepodge look, which guest rooms sometimes have by nature of the fact that they’re often furnished with older, cast-offs.
Designer and set stylist Brynne Rinderknecht of From the Inside NYC shares a similar sentiment. “My parents got divorced when I was five, and my sister and I eventually slept in a guest room at my dad’s house,” says Rinderknecht. “It had a cross-stitch craft piece on the wall referring to ‘welcoming guests.’ Seeing that in our bedroom every other weekend did send a message to us that this was not our room but rather the guest room that we were sleeping in.” We weren’t encouraged to keep anything there or personalize it in any way.” So small things like that, or even the lack of decor, can be internalized and expressed later in life.
On the flip side, Rinderknecht says the home she had with her mom—her main bedroom—felt like a colorful but blank slate to create and make her own. “I was able to pin personal things up on the wall that had meaning to me at them time: Heartthrobs from fan magazines, drawings from school art classes, and my Miami Vice poster of Sonny and Rico,” she says. And that personalization never really leaves us or our bedrooms, if we’re able to express it at an early age. Only now, posters and centerfolds give way to favorite art prints or family photographs.
And what about those of you who shared a decorated room growing up? Well, you probably still seriously crave a space of your own now and may push harder on a partner, if you have one, to take a little more creative control of the decor. Some distaste for aesthetic compromise from childhood might still linger. Maybe you weren’t able to paint your walls cerulean because your sister wanted pink, for example, so it’s all blue all the time for you now. Or perhaps your parents went super neutral with the room because you and your sibling liked two different things. That could make you more bold these days and willing to take more risks simply because you never felt like you got the chance back then. Or maybe you’re the most agreeable person on the planet when it comes to decor because that’s just how you roll, and neutrals are still—and always will be—your jam. In this scenario, it could really go two ways.
What goes around seems to come around, at least when it comes to your childhood and adult bedrooms. There may not be exact parallels, and correlation is not always causation, as they say in science. But the vibe in your childhood bedroom may be similar to your current sleep space if you really think on it. So what’s your deal? Can you see traces of your kid (or tween/teen) self in your room today, or is it an utter and total departure, despite what the designers here have suggested?