Mission Makeover: Transitional Rooms for Tweens and Teens

tween_1Our house has been our home since 2003 when my oldest daughter was four. I was so excited to have her room painted in pastels and add all sorts of girly little accents in every corner of her space. Fast forward to 2010, and I have a preteen daughter who is still in that room that screams of the loves of a once-preschooler who enjoyed all things pink and purple.

Several of us find ourselves in the same situation. It is hard enough to have our children grow up and become more adult-like in their tastes, yet it is even more difficult to have a physical manifestation of their changing ways in redecorating their space into the preteen or even young adult room that can grow with them.

How do we go about making these changes? When is a good time to change the room into a “transitional” room that can take someone from childhood to young adulthood without having to rethink purchases and do even more redecorating? These are valid questions, and although there are not hard and fast rules about making these changes, there are some guidelines that can help us along the way.

Dianne Mowry of Yellow Door Interiors offers sage advice when beginning to plan a room that is meant to evolve along with a child. “Our concept for transitional rooms is keeping the function in mind. Use simple bedding with a punch of pillows, lamps or accessories, and keep the ‘basics’ basic,” she says.

tween_6Purchasing furniture and other costly items in neutral colors allows for other less expensive items, such as wall hangings or curtains, to be purchased in colors that pop. Keeping the main plan classic and adding different trendy accent colors is the way to help any room evolve over time. Lighting is also one thing to consider when designing for a tween. “Every room needs good lighting, especially task lighting for reading and homework,” offers Mowry.

In today’s economy, raising children can be expensive, so hiring a designer may seem out of reach, yet interior decorators can work with any budget. Mowry even hit up local stores such as TJ Maxx and Pier 1 Imports for budget-friendly finds. One thing to consider is that having an expert included in on the planning process can be a big plus.

“Preteens can be strong-minded. A design consultant is a third party that can come in for the sake of consulting or designing. It is a benefit to have someone involved who is not emotionally attached, and the designer can be a mediator who comes in and works through the wants and needs of both the mother and daughter,” Mowry said. She also suggested, “Having a third party gives both the venue to say their priorities, and the person mediating can blend the ideas so that everyone is happy.” It’s timeless advice for achieving a beautifully designed room that can please both the parent and child without causing a battle.

tween_5Once the overall plan is in process, the rest is fairly simple. Tried and true design principles apply to transitional spaces just as they would any other room. Mowry suggests asking questions. “The key no matter what their age is to listen to them. What do they like? What do they want?” she says. The goal is to try to reflect the child’s personality and have the end result be something that she can be proud of. At that young age there are many things that define who they are, and their tastes should be reflected in the room itself.

Look at the room of 10th grader Laura Wingfield as an example. She could not quite figure out what she wanted for Christmas last year, so she asked her parents for a makeover—a room makeover! Wingfield consulted a design catalog for an overall concept and she took those ideas and made them her own. By utilizing local stores such as Macy’s and Kohl’s, shopping online and incorporating items she already owned, Wingfield and her parents came up with a room that perfectly suited a 16-year-old.

The poster in her room states, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” which not only characterizes Wingfield, but it is also the way to look at redecorating—do not stress about it and have fun with it! She even commented, “I like the slogan, and it is something to live by.” Wingfield has sentimental touches—a butterfly hanging that was her grandmother’s—along with things that reflect her likes and tastes—such as her shelves full of books that she has read and photos of when she was able to meet the members of her favorite band. Her room not only reflects the more mature tastes of a teenager but it truly represents her as a person.


Nine-year-old Shannon is thrilled about her new space that has her ready for the years ahead. Leaving behind a color scheme of pink, her room now has a more grown-up feel expressed in tones of brown, green and cream. Mowry had the pleasure of working with Shannon to create this transitional room, and it went from a little girl’s room to a functional room that will grow with her. She now has a reading chair, storage place for mementos and an area to do homework. Friends are important to Shannon, so she now has a place to put her photos and artwork. The room also had a lot of doors to work around, and now a full-length mirror creatively disguises the existing attic entry behind one of the doors.

Mowry met and consulted with Shannon, saying, “She and her mother were my clients, but I met with Shannon. I got an idea of her tastes and what types of things she likes. You have to consider what the child is into and at what age. With the transition it was important for her to have what she wanted and not what I wanted her to have. We worked as a team. We transitioned the room from a child’s room into a young lady’s room because we wanted it to last.” Shannon and her designer made a lot of decisions together and Mowry was able to bring in functionality while putting her ideas into practice. The end result is a stunning example of a room that can make this preteen happy for years to come.

Shannon raved, “I have new mirrors and now I can look at my full self. I now have all of my books in my room so that I will not have to go into another room to read.” Specific places to store knickknacks (“junk” as she put it), hang photos and tack up important papers were all vital to the utility of the design. Shannon, like Laura, has something sentimental from her grandmother in her room.


“I have a picture from my grandma, who is an artist. She painted a picture of me and my best friend at the beach and you can see our backs with the ocean and the sand. I have it over my bed.” It is those personal touches that really make a bedroom a haven.

Mowry also added one last bit of design advice. “The one thing that I suggest is to have a plan. Get a scheme. Prioritize the plan and do a few things at a time. You can piecemeal the design as long as you have a plan, but if you do not have a scheme and just purchase things here and there along the way, you may not like it when it all comes together. This is key in every room,” she suggested.

So, if you are like me, maybe it is time to finally dive in and talk to your daughter about taking the plunge from pink into the sea of other colors that are out there for girls of all ages. Maybe your son is ready to go from baby blue to a more masculine theme to carry him through his transition into the teenage years. For myself, I think I will start by purchasing the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster and make that my mantra through both the decorating process and the beginning stages of my little girl transitioning into a young lady.

Thanks to the following local businesses for their contributions of furniture, custom window treatments, mirrors, accessories, service and advice: Yellow Door Interiors, David Michael Upholstery, From M.E. to You, Commercial Glass, Long Meadows, Duralee Fabrics and Pier One Imports.

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