Decorating For Little Boys: How To Choose Your Battles

Anticipating the arrival of baby #3 (and the desire not to purchase a second crib!), my Arlington Street clients were motivated to get a plan in place for their toddler son's room who was about to lose 3 out of 4 furniture items (crib, changing dresser, glider) to the nursery. 

When we talked about their goals for the room, it became very clear that they wanted a classic space that would stand the test of time and grow with their son. Having already selected several bold prints (Josef Frank + Raoul textiles, among others) for some other rooms in their home, I knew this space could handle some personality as well.

When I presented them with Brunschwig & Fils Battle of Valmy wallpaper as a backdrop for the design of the rest of their son's room, my clients politely considered other options, but ultimately declared victory on this darling paper.

After concluding that an upholstered daybed with a trundle made the most practical sense long run for this space, we decided to paper only a focal wall and layer the bed in front.  My clients already had a navy wool rug, so we went bold with a red bed in a durable, slightly textured indoor/outdoor fabric. The windows are covered in a navy and cream wide ticking and the cushion on the vintage banker's chair (that my clients re-finished themselves!) is also done in navy - velvet with a contrast linen welt.  

So that their son would have some flexibility later, we went for an acrylic console for the side table that can also be used as a desk. For now, it's a perfect place to house a basket full of stuffed animals and toys, but down the line I can see him puling up the vintage banker's chair to work on some homework. We layered a handsome brown leather pouf in front of the bed for flexible seating or another "table top" and replaced the changing table with a beautiful Hepplewhite style bow front dresser.

To finish off the space, we framed some vintage pennants from two of this lucky little boy's favorite sports teams and the Houston Rodeo. I also came across an antique book plate displaying a rainbow of heraldry designs, which worked perfectly in a vintage frame.

It can be tempting to guide clients towards new purchases since they are often more predictable and are a little easier to evaluate than old stuff that needs a little work ("ignore that hideous fabric, these are going to be great!"). The trade off is that a room filled with new stuff can lack the character that a little age, patina, and excellent original craftsmanship can so naturally add.

Unless I am giving myself too much credit (and it's really just the fabulous wallpaper...), what I really love about this space is the successful mix of new and vintage and all the personality the harmony between the two creates. 

Emily C. Butler

Emily C. Butler, 1153 3rd Avenue, New York, New York 10065, USA

Emily C. Butler is a New York City based interior designer + decorator.