{decorating with style} How to Decorate a Boy's Room That Will Grow with Him

How to Design a Boy's Room that Will Grow With Him

Before I share my tips for decorating a room that will grow with a boy, I first have to fill you in on a very exciting event happening all week long! In honor of March Madness, 15 boy moms (including yours truly) have teamed up to bring you five days of blog posts related to all things boy. Each day this week has a new theme - beginning today with boys' rooms, and wrapping up on Friday with an "All Things Boy" link party and a huge giveaway of the Ultimate Boy Mom Bundle {worth over $500}!

Boy Mom Madness

The 15 boy moms participating in this event are, among us, raising a whopping 36 little men. Since this week is all about the boys, it seems appropriate that I should formally introduce you to my two sons, Beckett (3) and Cooper (22 months). I think they are THE CUTEST, but I'll admit that I might be biased!

Ok, so now that I've got your excited for a whole week of Boy Mom Madness, and now that you've met the boys that make ours a madhouse much of the time... let's get back to the topic of today's post - Boys' Rooms, and more specifically, HOW TO DESIGN A BOY'S ROOM THAT WILL GROW WITH HIM.

Before having kids I never envisioned myself as a boy mom, but it really is the best, and I've discovered just how fun it is to decorate for little boys! At this time time last year, we were getting ready to move Beckett from the nursery into a "big boy" room so that Cooper could move out of our master bedroom and claim his place in the nursery. 

I came up with several fun design concepts before we settled on the final plans for Beckett's big boy room, and, as we debated on which way to go, one of my main goals was to design a space perfectly suited to then-two year old Beckett, but that could grow with him all the way into his teenage years. That is a really tall order! 

But ever since we completed the room - which I call his Vintage Preppy Little Man's Lounge - I've heard time and again from friends and readers that their teenage sons would love to live in that room {with a few minor adjustments, of course}. Comments like those really make my heart go pitter-patter, because they mean that I achieved my goal! 

So, how did we do it? Of course, there is no magic formula! No one right way to design a room that can grow with a boy from toddler to teen. But after going through the process myself, and after studying hundreds of boys' room photos, I've come up with a list of tips to get you on the right track! 

Use a Layered Approach
Like all good design, a layered approach is the best way to achieve a well designed space. In the case a boy's room, begin with walls, followed by the major furniture pieces, then layer in textiles and art, and then, finally, add accessories and toys.

The first layer in a room is the walls. From paint to wallpaper, the walls of the room can have a major impact or can instead serve as a subtle backdrop. Either can work well in a growing boy's room, so long as you steer clear of choices that are too childish.

The second layer - the furniture - should be the layer that will really stand the test of time in the room. You may update a piece or two of furniture over the years {a crib/toddler bed exchanged for a twin or double bed, for example}, but the right dressers and bookshelves can easily grow with the boy.

The third layer - the art and textiles - can be updated more easily, and at less expense, than furniture, but being mindful of you selections can save a lot of money down the road.

The final layer - the accessories and toys - is where you can really personalize the space and this layer is the easiest to update as your child grows.

Start with a Sophisticated Color Palette, Then Add Pops of Color
In order to design a boy's room that is going to stand the test of time, start with a sophisticated color palette - one that you might use elsewhere in your home. But it is a child's room, after all, so don't be afraid to add pops of brighter colors that you might not choose for your adult spaces. Sophisticated does not have to mean a lack of color - nor does it have to mean just one or two color, it simply necessitates combining colors in a way that doesn't look too childish.

For example, navy looks great with grays, browns, or white, but can be also enhanced by pops of a brighter color, like orange or kelly green. Intense colors like red and orange work best in limited quantities, but both can have a very sophisticated feel when paired with gray.

For Beckett's room, the design plan was inspired by menswear, so I chose to begin with the colors most often found in a man's wardrobe - browns, grays and blues. But to make it more fun, I added a few pops of bright yellow. The yellow adds a playful and unexpected touch, perfect for a little boy, but in combination with the other colors, the palette remains sophisticated that he won't outgrow.

When choosing paint color(s), you'll have to decided between a neutrals (like grey or beige) versus color. Avoid colors that are too bright or two pastel. Pastel colors are traditional hallmarks of nurseries {though less so these days}, and bright, vibrant shades are traditional for toddler and pre-school spaces, but they feel less appropriate for a boy in his teenage years. Instead, if you want to paint the walls a color (as opposed to a neutral), opt for a shade with a gray undertone, which mutes the color a bit. Slightly muted shades allow you to achieve a sophisticated feel without being limited to neutral wall colors.

Cooper's room is still set up as a nursery, but over time we'll be making changes to convert it into a big boy room that we'll want to last for many years to come. When designing the nursery, we didn't know if we'd be having boys or girls, so I wanted the space to be gender neutral without being neutral in color. I chose teal {my favorite color and one I've used throughout our home} as the main color for the space, but I was careful to select teals with gray undertones {those on the right}.  The two sets of paint swatches below illustrate the difference between the brighter shades on the left and the more muted shades on the right.

For the nursery, since I was using teal on the walls, I balanced the wall color with white, brown and gray for all of the furniture and textiles. Then, to bring some whimsy to the room, I added small pops of red, yellow and green. 

This makes for a very colorful space perfect for Cooper's current age, but since the bright colors are limited to accents around the room, as he gets older, the color palette can easily be made more sophisticated by swapping out these vibrant colors. I can envision the teal walls looking very classy in an older boy's room paired with navy, or perhaps even simple black and white. 

Boy's Room Color Palettes

Don't Be Afraid to Go Bold
Keeping the overall color palette sophisticated will allow the room to grow with the boy through his teen years, but one thing that kids and teens have in common is that they like things bold - so don't be afraid to make some big choices in when designing your boy's room - just be strategic about it. If you want to go bold on the walls {which admittedly is not for everyone!}, consider classic patterns that are also found in adult decor.

My design style is pretty bold to begin with, so I didn't hesitate to go bold on the walls of my sons' rooms. In Cooper's nursery, my husband and I painted ombre stripes on all the walls of the room. Because stripes are such a classic design element, they will work just as well for a teenager as they do for a toddler.

The other bold element that probably jumps out at you in the nursery photo is that giant white giraffe, which is simply a very large, removable wall sticker. As a result, the giraffe can go at any time that Cooper feels he has outgrown him. 

In Beckett's room, I went bold with a hand painted argyle pattern covering one entire wall {the other three walls are a light, grayish blue}. Again, argyle is a sophisticated, masculine pattern that has stood the test of time in the fashion world, and should similarly stand the test of time in Beckett's bedroom.

Argyle feature wall

Of course, striped and argyle are just two examples of ways that you could go bold on the walls. Wallpaper is another option, whether on one wall or multiple, and the new temporary wallpaper options make this much less of a commitment than it used to be. But avoid childish patterns and patterns that are overly trendy, which will go out of style and make the room feel dated in time. 

If you don't want to go bold on the walls, or don't think you can commit to one bold design choice, you might instead consider a bold, colorful piece of furniture {a dresser painted blue, perhaps?}. For even less commitment, you can go bold in your choice of textiles or in the art for the room. With each subsequent design layer, the bold choices are a bit easier and less expensive to change over time. 

Just be careful to avoid too many competing bold elements in the room. I chose to go bold with Beckett's argyle wall, but then I stuck to much more neutral colors for the furniture and bedding, and chose a rug with just a subtle tone on tone pattern.

Bookshelf and toy storage in boy's room

Choose Adult Furniture that Can Multi-Function
Furniture is an investment, and while I don't advocate spending too much money on furniture for a kid's room, you also don't want to be replacing furniture every few years! Often times if you shop at a kid-specific furniture store, you'll end up paying more for a smaller-scale piece of furniture that they'll outgrow before their teen years.

Right now, more than half of Beckett's dresser drawers are empty {because most of his clothes are in the closet}, but over time I know those drawers will fill up quickly and we'll be glad that we purchased an adult-size dresser rather than a small scale child's dresser!

Use adult size furniture in boy's room

When making the first furniture purchases for a nursery, forgo a dedicated changing table in favor of dresser, and simply add a removable changing tray on top. And when purchasing a crib, find one that converts to a toddler bed to double the time you can use it before upgrading to a regular bed. When buying a convertible crib, double check whether it comes with the toddler rails, or whether they have to be purchased separately. Our Babyletto cribs came with the conversion rails, but most others we looked at did not.

Crib converts to toddler bed

Keep multi-tasking in mind across all of your other furniture purposes as well. Skip the toy box in favor of a storage baskets on shelves. Shelves provide much more flexibility for the future, and those same baskets can hold anything down the road.

bookshelf and toy storage

Storage trunks, or ottomans and benches with built-in storage, are also great options for flexible, multi-tasking furniture. I found this stylish trunk on clearance, which is perfect for holding large toys {and little brothers}, and down the road it might also make a perfect nightstand.

Storage trunk in boy's room

Little boys need lots of room to play and build, but I didn't want to purchase another small scale play table that will be outgrown in a few years {we already have one such play table in the basement}. Instead, I found a round coffee table with storage drawers. 

Coffee play table in boy's room

The height is just right for Beckett to stand and play, and the drawers provide more toy storage {you can never have enough storage space in a boy's room}.

Coffee play table with storage drawers

But this table will later be a perfect place for Beckett and his friends to put their feet up and sit their drinks, and I imagine the drawers might end up storing video game controllers. Alternatively, because the table is styled like an adult piece of furniture, it could always be relocated to another room in our home.

Address his Current Interests While Expanding His Horizons
Now that we've talked about the first two layers of the room - the walls and the furniture - we can move on to the final two layers - the textiles and the accessories. It's in these two layers that you can really personalize the space and address your son's interests.

In order for the room to grow with him, it's best to avoid characters and themey-themes. But this doesn't mean the room can't be fun and creative. In Beckett's menswear-inspired bedroom, we turned mens' belts into hanging shelves and dresser drawer  pulls, and I framed calendar photos of dogs wearing mens' suits to create inexpensive and whimsical art.

Leather belt drawer pulls

Menswear Dog Art

It's important to give a boy a space that expresses his interests, but don't invest too much in decorating around those interests because we all know that kids change so quickly and it can be hard to keep up. Instead, fill the shelves and bins with books and toys that address his current interests, and then add art and accessories that will help to expand his horizons. For example, Beckett loves animals, so his bookshelf is packed with animal books, and then we use the globes on top of the bookshelf to talk about where those animals live. At only three years old, he can name which animals live in Africa, Asia and Australia, and he can point to each on his globes.

Globes in boys' room

Beckett's favorite thing to do is to look at books, so I took special care to add elements in his room that would foster a love of reading. We provided him with two comfy chairs {room for his brother to join him}, as well as a hanging play tent where he can often be found for hours with stacks of books. {I'll be sharing the tutorial for this play tent on Wednesday!}

Hanging Play Tent in Boys' Room

If your son just can't live without some superheros in his room, for example, there are plenty of options to make it easy to update! How about some Spiderman sheets on his bed? {Sheets are less expensive to replace than the bedspread}. If he really wants superheros on his walls, consider a vintage framed movie poster, or framed pages from a comic book. Or if you expect his interests will change next week, invest even less by simply displaying some of his favorite superhero toys on his shelves {and then swap them out for dinosaur toys when superheros are so last-week}.

Another way to accessories a little boys room that will stand the test of time as he grows up is to fill the room with nods to the men in his life. One of Beckett's grandpa's works at Denver International Airport, so I included a small framed travel poster of the airport together with some decorative airplanes. And one of his great grandpa's was a cross-country bus driver for Trailways, so his vintage toy Trailways bus sits on a high shelf. This serves as a great way to share family stories and connect the generations. 

Family mementos in boy's room

And the top of Beckett's hanging play tent is another special nod tribute to all of the men in our family. The roof is made from ties collected from dad, great grandpas, grandpas, and uncles. Obviously not everyone will want a play tent covered in neckties, but think creatively about other ways you can incorporate some special family mementos in the form of framed art, sports memorabilia, or pillows made from special shirts, for example.

Hanging play tent tie top boy's room

Break Some of the Rules, but with a Plan in Mind
Make the space work for you and your son! This will mean breaking some of the "rules." There is no way you can design a room that will take your son from toddler to teen years without at least a few tweaks along the way! And there is nothing wrong with that. But make those transitions easier by planning ahead as much as possible.

So what rules did we break in Beckett's room? Well, as you probably noticed, we do have some kid-sized furniture - namely those two adorable reading chairs. We just couldn't pass them up, and he spends so much time sitting in them and reading that they are well worth it even though he'll someday outgrow them.

Button tufted reading chairs for little boy

We'll also have to upgrade Beckett from toddler bed to real bed in another year or two, but that's where the planning comes in. When I decided on the layout for the bedroom furniture in his room, I also measured how a twin bed would later fit the space. The plan is to put the twin bed on the same wall as his toddler bed, but to tuck the head of the bed into his hanging tent. This will allow the tent to have a longer life span in his room, and will make going to bed at night that much more fun. I also anticipate moving the storage trunk over to become his nightstand, and eventually replacing the small chairs with a desk when he's old enough to need one.

Boy's room layout plans

There's no way to predict how your son's interests will evolve over time, or how his needs might change, but by planning as best you can, and by avoiding surefire pitfalls {like primary colored rooms and theme everything}, you'll have the best chance of designing a room he can grow into for many years!

Click here to read all the details, see more photos, and learn about each of the DIY projects in Beckett's Menswear Inspired Bedroom. Click here to tour Cooper's nursery.

Decorating Boys' Rooms

And come back each day this week as Boy Mom Madness continues! Special thanks to Heather of Southern State of Mind for coordinating this fun event!

Boy Mom Madness


  1. Love these tips and love your boys' rooms, Angela! I'm sure they adore their spaces! Hope you have a wonderful week!

    ~Abby =)

  2. I love every room in your house but WOW these are amazing spaces. I'm dying over the play tent... mine would LOVE!! xo

  3. Seriously - this is off the charts! I just love everything about it. You were so smart to go for a space that will grow with the boys - we just did our 3 year old's room (his name is Beckham - close to yours :)!) and I'm already plotting the next round of changes. xx, b @ being-blanca.com

  4. This room is incredible! I love that it will take him through each season of life--I mean...I want this room!! LOL!

  5. Love that argyle wall..must have taken quite some time to hand paint that! You did a wonderful job decorating the boys rooms and with minimal changes they can stay in those rooms until college!

  6. Such awesome tips Angela- you have truly created amazing boys' spaces! Such a fabulous job with so much attention to detail on both!!

  7. I love those spaces! My little boy's room is blue and that is definitely the perfect color for boys!

  8. I am just discovering your blog, and I LOVE this project. It is very functional, yet very stylish. It is hard to find cute BOY room makeovers, but this one is spot on. Great job! I especially love the "tie tent!" Thanks for sharing!

  9. Where did you get the cute chairs?!

    1. Destine, would you believe the are actually dog beds? We saw them one day when shopping at Homegoods and my son ran over and plopped himself down and asked for a book. We left with out buying them, and then ended up kicking ourselves later... but after much research I was able to find them on Amazon. I haven't checked recently to see if they are still available, but the link is in this post: http://www.blueistyleblog.com/2014/05/MenswearInspiredBoysRoomSourceList.html

  10. You did a fabulous job here! Thank you so much for sharing. My boys are now 18 and 20, but this is a wonderful idea after another wonderful idea! I can say from experience, that you hit the nail right on the head and I'm sure this will be an easy transitioning room for him!

  11. Great ideas! Will share this on my page here http://bit.ly/Sleepybunnybabyworld. Thanks!

  12. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to
    your blog? My blog site is in the very same niche as
    yours and my users would really benefit from some of the information you present here.
    Please let me know if this okay with you. Thanks!

    1. No, you may not share my content on your blog. If you believe your readers would benefit from this information, you may direct them to my site to read it, but you may not copy any text from my site.

  15. Please tell me where you got those leather chairs from. I love them!!