Reader Design Dilemma: Mixed-Gender kids room

Reader Rebecca has a wonderful mid-century house with three bedrooms, one for herself and her husband, one for their 2-year-old son, Rudy, and one for their almost 5-year-old daughter, Scarlett. Well, guess what? Rebecca is pregnant! With a girl! And she's not sure whether she'll keep things along gender lines and put the baby in with Scarlett, or go more for age and put the big kids together. Hence, the design dilemma: How do you create a shared room for a boy and a girl that is cute as can be and satisfies the needs of both? Her one requirement is no bunk beds because, as she put it, who wants to climb a ladder to change the sheets?

I immediately thought of my favorite-ever shared kids room, in the house of actor Mark Ruffalo (who happens to make me weak in the knees, but his wife seems pretty awesome, so I guess that all works out.) I dug it out of the pile of Domino magazines and scanned the best images to share, but we'll get to that later because it kind of combines a number of strategies, which I'll go ahead and break down here.

I think the easiest way to go is to simply choose a gender-neutral palette. I love green and yellow, yellow and orange, orange and khaki, or pale blue and red.

[Amanda Nisbet, via High Street Market]
[via Domino]

[via Domino]

[via Domino]

Next, I would choose a gender-neutral shape to the headboards (think squared off rather than curvy), either upholstered or wood, and other goes-both-ways pieces, like the clean-lined dresser, above, or this wardrobe in actress Ione Skye's house (I guess the stars really know how to decorate kids rooms). Also love the crisp red and natural palette here.

[via Domino]

To inject a little of each child's personality, I like the idea of personalized pairs, like the coordinated but not matching sheets on these awesome orange bunk beds.

[Domino, again]

(I know: no bunks allowed. But you could paint a pair of second hand beds orange--or another bold color-- and mix up the sheets.) You could also do a pair of neutral headboards, like white or a natural linen, and personalize them with each child's monogram, or drape each with a different blanket. In this case, I might choose a pattern with a reverse, like blue with red polka dots on one bed and red with blue polka dots on the other.

If your architecture allows, you could delineate separate areas, one for each child, with paint.

[I found this on a blog and now cannot find it! I'm usually really good with sources, so my apologies here.]

But I'm guessing that this only applies to a small handful of people, so back to the Ruffalo's.

They do it all in this room. Gender neutral palette, mixed sheets on matching beds, delineating areas with different colors, and, taking it up a notch, throwing in pairs matched by shape but mixed by color.

Case in point: the adorable Jenny Lind style spindle beds, each with sheets of their own personality. Also, the african hoop style chairs (which I lust after, and blogged about here) in two different color combos. Then there's the pink rug on the "Girl" side, which artfully divides the space while still, somehow, maintaining a cohesive look. (warning: there's also a more masculine grey-striped rug under the beds, and not everyone could pull off the mixed-rug situation!)

Everything else in the room is totally gender neutral, from the white bean bag to the light-wood shelves, making them the perfect backdrop for all of the kids stuff which, when openly but artfully displayed, throws a whole lot of boy and girl personality into the room.

So I guess that's my best advice: copy Mark Ruffalo's wife.

I'll be back tomorrow with a couple of design boards to put these strategies into action.