Susanna Salk on Room for Children

Susanna Salk on Room for Children

Carrie McBride
Jun 24, 2010

There are so few books on the market dedicated to design for children so we take note whenever we see one. Susanna Salk’s recent book, Room for Children: Stylish Spaces for Sleep and Play, is a beautiful contribution to this area – filled with tantalizing photographs (over 200) of engaging children’s spaces to inspire parents and decorators alike. We had a chance to ask Susanna about the book and, of course, hit her up for some design advice!

Room for Children is a beautiful book and a marvelous resource for design professionals, parents and anyone interested in kids spaces. Not only did we enjoy taking in each room as a whole, but we found so many individual ideas that could be applied to any child's bedroom or play space. Not once did we say, "awww..." because, while these spaces are charming and sometimes sweet, they aren't babyish or juvenile and instead express the rich inner lives of children with decor that honors this. We're so pleased to be able to ask author, Susanna Salk, more about her latest endeavor:

Ohdeedoh: The rooms in your book are designed by professionals (many of whom happen to be parents) and they are presumably working with bigger budgets than the average family as well as have access to some trade-only products – what are some takeaways from the book that any parent on any budget can appreciate?

Susanna Salk: That whimsy and imagination don't cost a lot. That children's art can rival the masters (at least in their parents' eyes) so use their walls as their gallery. Color is such an instantly gratifying way to bring happiness and drama into a room and a gallon of paint can go a long way with that. Leave room for children's ideas and personalities to shine and shun too much perfection- the rooms will look the better for it.

Susanna and her son Winston.

Ohdeedoh: What would you say is the number one mistake parents make when setting up a nursery or child’s room?

Susanna Salk: Buying expensive pieces that are too age specific: just remember, that changing table looks great now but in one year you'll wish you hadn't spent so much on it as it will suddenly feel dated. Why not invest in a fabulous bureau the child will have their whole life and attach a changing pad on top?

Ohdeedoh: Many families, especially city families, live in small homes and their children have very tiny rooms – any advice for making very small rooms work for kids?

Susanna Salk: Believe it or not the smaller a room is the more color and detail it can take: kids love nooks and feeling cosy so emphasize this with delicious curtains and even an enclosed bed. Also wall decals of oceans, city skylines or fantasy landscapes are instant ways to transport and enlarge whatever sized wall space into another realm.

Ohdeedoh: What trends are you seeing in children’s rooms right now?

Susanna Salk: Sophisticated materials paired with fun patterns

Ohdeedoh: For older children how can parents involve them in creating the look of their room in a way that makes both parties happy?

Susanna Salk: Look at design magazines and blogs together (and my book!) and tag your favorite looks even if the spaces have nothing in common with your children's. This way you'll see common ground and then decide on color, style and layout. Both parties should be prepared to compromise!

photo: John Gruen

Ohdeedoh: You feature several rooms in the book that are shared by siblings. The strategy of most of the designers was to create symmetry with furniture placement and to use color and fabric to create harmony and cohesion. Do you think this works better than trying to divide up the room for each child?

Susanna Salk: Yes. Dividing and doing two personalities in one room just ends up looking chaotic. Kids like order. So build symmetry with the big pieces and then personalize for each child via accessories. And if separation is needed try putting a fun curtain down the middle of the room on wheels that can be pulled for privacy when needed!

Ohdeedoh: You have two sons and you talk about designing rooms to grow with them rather than trying to capture a moment in time – in practical terms, how does one do this?

Susanna Salk: Pick/invest in important pieces like beds and rugs and bureaus you'll - and they'll - love forever. Then weave in the fun stuff that can change over time as they do: lighting, art, sheets, etc.

Ohdeedoh: Is there anything else you’d like to share with Ohdeedoh readers about the book or about designing for children?

Susanna Salk: Have fun and relish them. And don't forget to document each room’s stage! How quickly it passes and how we don't want to forget.

Thank you Susanna! If you'd like to know more about Susanna, visit where you can also get a video peek at the book.

Room for Children: Stylish Spaces for Sleep and Play (April 2010) is published by Rizzoli and includes a foreword by Kelly Wearstler. Find it at your local book shop or online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or Powells.

(All photos above appear in Room for Children, Rizzoli, 2010. Photographer credits: 1. Pieter Estersohn 2. Bruce Hemming 3. Costa Picadas 4. Zach DeSart 5. & 6. Tim Street-Porter 7. & 9. Tria Giovan 8. Zeff Design 10. Matthew Hranek/Art + Commerce)

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