6 Tips for Designing a Big Kid Room

These inventive ideas will help you design a bedroom they'll love, and—more importantly—grow into

Transitioning our firstborn’s nursery into a big kid room presented all kinds of challenges for my husband, Gary and me. Our child has a personality now, so how do we incorporate that? We already spent so much money designing the nursery, so how do we make it feel fresh and new without breaking the bank? Our kid is going to keep growing up in this room, so how can we make the room feel complete now, while still making room for it to evolve through the years?

Well, it’s been a ton of work transitioning from nursery to now, but so worth it. And I’ve learned so much along the way! Big kid rooms are especially fun because they’re old enough to provide input about what they want, and they have a big ol’ personality that is ready to be infused into their space. You can see the before of Pierce’s room here, on page 33 of I Like Her Style magazine.

Without further ado, here are my six key things to keep in mind while designing your toddler’s new big kid room…


1. Tie the theme to their favourite things

little boy in room with truck blue decor
Janis Nicolay

It’s important to start with a themeand it’s even better if that them reflects your child’s favourite things. We focused on “busy cars and trucks” with accent colours in navy blue, cream and white. Cars and trucks are Pierce’s favourite things right now, so I just knew it would make him feel like this was really his space. Circling back to this theme throughout the designing process helped me to stay focused on my goals.


2. If you don’t have to change up the colour from the nursery, don’t

boys dresser
Janis Nicolay

The neutral accent colours will allow the room to evolve without any major changes in the future. For example, we saved a major cost (and headache) by keeping the wallpaper (Cannes Wallpaper from Urban Walls) from his nursery and working with it. I love the blue and grey stripes and really feel that this will grow with him. But if we decide to move, it will act as a great backdrop for any space as it’s relatively neutral.

We also ended up leaving the drapery as is. I’m so thankful for the beautiful white blackout curtains from Stylit Window Designs. We also kept the area rug (Salsa Rug from CF Interiors). I love the creamy, neutral backdrop it provides in the room.

Going the route of retaining these elements saved us so much time and money to focus on other aspects. And since they’re pretty neutral colours to begin with, it didn’t feel like any of this stuff was really in need of a big change. It was a no-brainer to let navy, creams and whites lead our colour palette for this transition. And wallpapering can be such a mess—literally.


3. Invest in a bed (and bedding) that they’ll love for years to come

Photo Credit: Janis Nicolay Photography
Janis Nicolay

Think about it: most of sleep an average of 26 years in our lifetime. Surprisingly, we also spend seven years trying to fall asleep—so that’s 33 years or 12,045 days spent in bed, according to the Sleep Matters Club. It’s therefore important to invest in a comfortable, high-quality bed and bedding that you’ll love for years to come. It’s also a bonus that these options I’m recommending are also affordable and ship fast.

We got this beautiful Navy Blue Upholstered Bed in Twin XL from Wayfair. Usually I would have opted for a pop of white, like this option from Pottery Barn, but supply chain issues had deliveries taking a super-long time. I’m happy with what we ended up with, but in terms of a more versatile piece, I would recommend opting for white.

For the bedding, we partnered with Haven Sleep, which is a Canadian company, and their products have zero-off-gassing, are non-toxic and plant-based/vegan friendly—all things I am very much behind.

For the mattress, we went with their Haven Jr Twin XL and for the pillow—OMG—the pillow! We got their IceGel pillow and I’m telling you, it’s so comfortable that when I lie next to Pierce at bedtime, I sometimes straight up fall asleep and Gary has to come get me. (#MomProbs)

Pro Tip: Always have two options for sheets. It makes laundry day so much easier. I hate it when I forget bedding in the washing machine or it just isn’t dry enough in time so someone has to stay up, or I have to find a makeshift set-up that I’m just going to have to remake tomorrow.

So for sheet option 1, we’ve got the comfy cozies, The Flax Sleep Bundle in Cloud (Twin), which I combined with an UGG Quilted Comforter from Bed, Bath and Beyond and it really is like you’re sleeping on a cloud. The combination is literally heavenly!!

For option 2, I found the cutest truck sheets ever from HomeSense Canada. Who doesn’t love a good HomeSense find?? HomeSense items can be notoriously difficult to track down online, though, so here’s something similar from Pottery Barn: Busy Trucks Bedding.


4. Opt for elevated ambiance items that will grow with your home

Photo Credit: Janis Nicolay Photography
Janis Nicolay

The perfect lighting can completely transform the look and feel of your space. Lighting can be both exciting and fun, and extremely overwhelming and challenging at the same time. There are so many styles, shapes, sizes to choose from—the pressure is real, I get it.

Lights can easily elevate any room and add lovely character to any space, but finding that right one can be a struggle. We paired a beautiful light fixture from Kichler Lighting with gold and black elements with our bedside table lamps that we got from Bed, Bath and Beyond that have black elements. They were a bit of a splurge but I love them and everything feels really cohesive since the side tables have gold hardware.

And it’s not my house without a Saje diffuser. I swear I have one in every room. Scent just adds so much depth to a space with barely any effort, and I love being able to use it subtly to set a mood. For example, if Pierce is having a hard time falling asleep, a few drops of lavender can work wonders! I highly recommend investing in a diffuser in your home to elevate your ambiance.

The Denim Ottoman from Luxe Loungers was a last minute addition that I just love in this space. The colours and texture work so perfectly, and it’s created a lovely reading nook. I love that this is such a fun piece for a little boy’s room.


5. Storage will save you

Natalie closet
Janis Nicolay

Let’s be realistic—the big kid room often becomes the default when you need extra space for guests. One way or another, your kid will need plenty of spots to hide the mess when the room needs to be tidy, STAT! So make sure they have plenty of storage.

We found a gorgeous white oak dresser and side tables from Style in Form that work so beautifully in the space and provide lots of room for clothes, books, toys, etc. We thought baby blue Pehr Baskets would look lovely in the closet, but I ended up going with a more neutral pom-pom basket that I found at HomeSense Canada.

Gary completely customized the closet with Stor-X, and now we have way more storage solutions. It’s a dream. We even decorated the inside of the closet with leftover wallpaper to elevate it that extra notch.


6. Keep decor simple so there’s room to grow

Photo Credit: Janis Nicolay Photography
Janis Nicolay

Keeping your decor simple is a great way to have your kid grow with the space and it’s less work for mama. I wanted to keep the decor clean with only a few key elements—who knows when Pierce’s interests will change? I want this room to grow with him and his hobbies.

We left the shelvesm but changed up some of the decor to tie in with our busy trucks and cars theme, adding in some model cars and some custom art. Kathy from Little Splashes of Colour, who I found on Etsy, was incredible to work with. She did the smaller train piece on the shelves along with the three featured trucks on the wall. We also had her customize them to the colours of the room, and she painted them with watercolour and we had them framed at PosterJack. I also found a really cute dump truck pillow from HomeSense Canada, and since I can’t post the exact link for it, here’s something really similar from Pottery Barn Canada!

We have a beautiful custom sign from Carly of CannFoster Creations that was in Pierce’s nursery. I love it as a reminder to slow down and cherish the precious time I have with him. Now, I don’t recommend keeping everything that carries sentimental value, but a few things here and there, sure! I layered it with a picture of Pierce and me, which we had printed and framed by Posterjack, and a vintage brushed-bronze bicycle from HomeSense Canada. We also kept this Homemade Dreamcatcher from Jenny Evelyn Dreamers from his Nursery.


Final thoughts

At the end of the day, theme is key. It’s a great way to stay on track and have something to circle back to the moment you get overwhelmed. There are so many decisions to make when designing a room, but having them all tied to a central idea and colour scheme will keep you narrowed in on your goals and will ultimately help the space to feel cohesive and calming.

Thinking long-term with furniture and hardware will help the space to grow with your little one. I try to buy items that will look good in other spaces in my house, so that when I need a refresh but don’t have the budget, I can just change out a chair and a lamp and it really helps things feel different. But that’s hard to do when you have a monkey lamp, right?

I hope this helped you plan your big kid room. If you have any questions or thoughts, please don’t hesitate to reach out. For more information and tips, visit me online or follow along on Instagram.