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Interior design's youth movement; Retailers target teens' and tweens' personal spaces

 

 Suzanne C. Ryan

The Boston Globe

 
ominique Cadet can't believe her good fortune. After her parents' recent home renovation, the sixth-grader inherited a gold nugget: the former master bedroom.

But the 12-year-old isn't satisfied with more space. She's itching to rip down the tan floral wallpaper, replace the hollow brown closet doors and cover the plain white shades.

"I want to get new white doors, and I'm thinking purple curtains," she said. "My friend Bailey has a pretty blue sparkly paint in her room. I want that in lavender, with vertical blue stripes."

Who needs Martha Stewart? In an era bursting with home-design magazines, catalogs, websites and television shows, Americans have gotten quite cozy with their inner designer. But while adults may focus on the kitchen or bathroom, a growing number of teens and tweens (8- to 12-year-olds) are pushing to have their space - the bedroom - made over, as well.

Rachel, Dominique Cadet's 8-year-old sister, also has big plans for her room: a wood platform shaped like a runway so she can model her fashions, a bunk bed with a slide attached to the top, pink walls that coordinate with the Pottery Barn Kids comforter she's chosen, a hot pink lounge chair, and - the final touch - a "Go Rachel" sign painted on the door.

"I really want to funk my room up," Rachel said. "My 'Dora the Explorer' alarm clock is pretty babyish."

WSL Strategic Retail, the New York retail consulting firm that has published "How America Shops" studies since 1989, found in 2005 that 75 percent of the 1,011 parents surveyed nationwide purchased home decor products for their kids' rooms based on what their tweens preferred.

And what a choice. Wal-Mart, JCPenney, Delia's, Ethan Allen and Bombay Co. are just some of the retailers that now have bedding lines, curtains, furniture, lighting, or wall decor aimed at the tween and teen demographic.

Pottery Barn's "PBteen" brand, which is available only via the Internet or catalog, has $129 glass beaded mini-chandeliers for the bedroom and $129 "smart" pillows with built-in speakers and a control panel to broadcast iPod music.

Sears' "Room for Kids" line has $139 upholstery-covered headboards, $49 leopard-print rugs and $19 sheer canopy nets for beds. Bombay Kids has $69 putting greens and $137 zebra-print ottomans.

For tweens not ready to make a decision, there's a virtual community (Habbo.com) where users can decorate a room, using virtual money.

"Things have really exploded in the last five years," said Paula Marshall, editor of "Kids' Rooms: Designs for Living" a how-to design book recently published by Home Depot. "Before, you were lucky to replace the bedspread every five years. Now that kids have been exposed to all of these design TV shows, they realize they can buy a secondhand dresser and paint it. They can go to Wal-Mart or Target or Kmart. They all have something, and everything is affordable."

The trend has caught some parents by surprise. "I'm blown away," said Rachel and Dominique's mom, Tammy Cadet. "We have been through magazine after magazine, store after store. ... I never did this. Decorate? My room was white. I had no say."

Vickie Muse, whose 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, redecorated her bedroom last winter, refused to get too ambitious. She painted the top half of her daughter's walls pink and the bottom half white with a green stripe across the middle. The bedspread is a floral print with pompoms on the edges. The minimalist furniture is white and the lamps pink and green with tassels. The windows are decorated with multicolored beaded strings that hang down, '60s style.

"I'm not going to pay $200 for a 'PBteen' comforter," Vickie said. "I ordered the comforter online from Sears or JC Penney. I got her furniture from craigslist."

Sarah didn't mind. "When my friends come over, they usually say I have a cool bedroom ... Now I'm bugging my parents for a computer."

Experts say the desire for a customized room experience has been driven by technology. "From iPods to MySpace pages, everything today is very much designed for individual personalities," said Samantha Skey, executive vice president of marketing at Alloy Media + Marketing, an advertising and marketing firm with a focus on youth markets.

Others argue that children today have more power and authority than previous generations, and overworked parents are happy to hand over some decision-making.

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