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How To Decorate A Too-Cool Tween Room With Sara Story

When one of the industry's top designers gets a hold of a dark and cluttered girl's room, the results are nothing short of groovy.

How To Decorate A Too-Cool Tween Room With Sara Story
After photos by Marco Ricca, before photos courtsey of Sara Story Design.

Sara Story's unique brand of grown-up, sleek style has helped her transform spaces that range from a sprawling Singapore penthouse to her own modernist Texas ranch—not to mention the reworked Upper East Side apartment we featured just last year. So when we got word that the oft-published designer applied her sophisticated aesthetic to make over a twelve-year-old girl's disheveled bedroom in downtown Manhattan, we had to know more about the eye-catching transformation. With a bold accent of imaginative wallpaper and statement-making blue built-ins, even we big kids were envious of this perfectly transitional hang out. We sat down with Story to chat about how she approached the daunting project of pleasing the tastes of one discerning tween. 

Lonny: Tell me about the “before.” What did you know you wanted to change?

Sara Story: The room was quite dark and serious beforehand, not nearly playful or engaging enough. There was limited lighting, minimal storage and grass cloth covering the walls—all things that needed to change.

L: Did your young client have any say in the design? 

SS: She knew from the get-go the color scheme she wanted and advised us on her basic needs: more book storage and more light!

Round pendant lamps and a French bulldog print hangs over a lacquer-and-mirror desk.  
Round pendant lamps and a French bulldog print hangs over a lacquer-and-mirror desk.  
A colorful rug compliments the blues of the bedside table and upholstered headboard.
A colorful rug compliments the blues of the bedside table and upholstered headboard.

L: You kept the design very gender neutral. How did you achieve that? 

SS: Her favorite colors are green and blue, and when she saw the Bora Bora wallpaper pattern on my website, she had to have it!

L: This room feels sophisticated, but still fun and youthful. How do you decorate so that a child won't outgrow their room in a few years?

SS: The overall color palette selected should provide a great backdrop for a child to grow with. The art or accessories can be changed as the child’s interests evolve, but properly selected millwork, lighting, upholstery and rugs will continue to evolve with the child. 

L: What was your biggest design challenge?

SS: The biggest challenge was the lack of sufficient lighting in the room. We got creative and used great string lights so she could have two pendants by her desk.  Adding a ceiling pendant, sconces by the bed, and bedside table lamps brightened up the room perfectly. Lighting is such a key element in design and having many options within a room makes a space more user-friendly. 

L: What are some important things people should keep in mind when designing for kids?

SS: Kids' rooms should be bright and colorful—a space that cultivates creativity and playfulness.  It is always smart to select materials that are easily maintained and not age specific. This way the room can grow with the child and you can easily make it more mature as the child gets older.

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