Learning From A Room

Learning from a Room: SMID Design Tips for Creating a Kid’s Room

by Amy Azzarito

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room
Welcome to our second column in our new series, “Learning from a Room.” Today we’re headed to the home of Southern California designer Betsy Ginn of SMID. Betsy works to inject a little glamour into every space she designs – even children’s rooms. This room was particularly challenging because it had to work for a boy and a girl and Betsy wanted it grow with them. The space is great example of Betsy’s philosophy of juxtaposition in design. She was able to marry modern, industrial, glamour and vintage all in one room. She paired the industrial filing system with veined carera marble  top and a vintage marquee arrow. The pattern on the rug is very modern, the floor is an unpolished cement, there are heavy glamorous velvet blue curtains and a vintage horse and mannequin in the room.  The closet has galvanized plumbing for clothing racks, raw wood for shelving, an old vintage garage lamp for lighting and she softened it with the glam silver paint (metallic silver paint by rust oleum) along with pink and blue velvet hangers.  Betsy is a firm believer incorporating all the styles you love into a space. She says that the important thing is to not focus your design too much on a particular style. Just have fun with it. –Amy

(All photographs by Renata Stone)

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room

What was your goal with this room?
Betsy: I think every room in your home should be inspiring and connect with you and your soul.  This might be a bit dramatic but it should be a place that makes you happy and a place where even when there is no other activity going on, you are ok just sitting in there admiring it and being in it.  I wanted to accomplish this for myself and for my kids when I set out to design this space. My goal was to make this room feel magical. I wanted it to be both masculine and feminine because both my son and my daughter share this room. I wanted the room to feel as glamourous and as tough as the rest of the house.  This helped pull together the overall theme and provide a sense of continuity to our home.  This room also needed to grow with my children because they grow up too fast. And as much as I love to move furniture around, decorate and redecorate (obsessed actually); I dont want to be forced to do it in two years because they have outgrown it entirely. That is just not practical for anyone.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in this room?
Betsy: It was creating an open clear space for my littles to play in, house ALL of their toys and things they collect, accommodate two children’s beds and play with a few fun design elements at the same time. Bunk beds are genius! Kids LOVE them. You can make the BEST tents out of them and they minimize the amount of space that two twin beds would take up. I chose a taller thin vintage filing system for their toys and left the closet open (without doors) to make the space feel more open. Now they have an open floor area to play in and can fully enjoy their room.

See more lessons from this fantastic kids’ room after the jump!

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room

-Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room
Many people are afraid of combining blue and black but here you did it in a dramatic way with the rug and the blue velvet curtains. Why do you think it worked? 
Betsy: Oh gosh! I love black and blue together but yes, sometimes it can go really wrong. It works here because I used a pattern to break it up a bit. When you use black and blue together it can be really rich and handsome. But, something needs to break it up or “throw it off,” like a pattern or a splash of a softer color like blush or baby pink. (Another tip: You can play on the height of your room by using floor to ceiling curtains and allowing them to puddle slightly. It gives an illusion of more height to a room.)

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room
A tip from Betsy: Establish a color palette for a room and an inspiration board for your design. When you are out shopping, you will know whether it fits into your scheme/plan or if it’s way off. This will help you stay on track with your vision.

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room
You left the walls white, why? Did you think about using a color?
Betsy: Yes, I did think about using color. I really love rich patterned wallpaper and dark wall colors. This room sits in an area of the house thatdoesn’t get the best lighting. I wanted to play on the light with white paint and bring my color into the room with unique pieces. Also, with the furniture I chose for the room (all with a lot of height), I felt like a rich bold color on the wall would make the room feel smaller. I wanted to open it up.

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room
Many people are afraid of using yellow, but you’ve made it work throughout your home. Do you have any tips for making it work?
Betsy: It’s really all about the right color yellow! Once you have it, it can be so fun. I was scared too when I painted my childhood bed that bright vibrant yellow but,it was worth the risk. The vintage horse was worth it too. We have a vintage carousel outside the kids room. I wanted the carousel to feel like it was part of their room. When I found this horse, I knew it was perfect. It didn’t match the carousel exactly which would of been too much. It pulled the carousel inside and looks as if one of its’ horses jumped off and came inside. I love that! This yellow was bright. It was vibrant and in the same family of the other hues used in the room. The raw wood base and the leather saddle helped pull it together with other design aspects in the room like the closet.

Always buy a few different color yellows and test them out in your space before going for it. Your lighting is always different and you won’t be sure until you see how it looks in your lighting. Live with it for a few days and make sure it speaks to you. Then go for it!

I would also say it’s also great to play with yellow on something that is going to be a focal point of your room so that it’s grounding as well as bold. Then if you want to bring in more yellow, try to avoid more solid yellow by playing with patterns or touches of the same yellow with in a smaller piece; like a painting with a hint of yellow or a stuffed animal with a yellow shirt. It’s less overwhelming this way.

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room
Do you have any tips about keeping a kid’s room organized? (particularly the closet)
Betsy: Okay, I struggled with whether this might actually be the bigger challenge of designing this room. They really have SO MUCH STUFF. Here are some tips that I used:
1. Make sure everything has a place. They need a place for their dirty clothes, a place for shoes, belts, toys, guitars, books etc. I found the vintage filing system while out antiquing. This thing was a life saver. The bins are deep and there are 12 of them. We have a place for all of the toys (a car drawer, helicopter drawer, dress-up clothes, building blocks, etc. We also used old dim sum vendor carts to store their min-legos. I love mini-legos but, they go everywhere. This is a fun solution to keeping it all together. The kids think they have this cool cart with secret compartments. They can even lock up their legos so they are safe :)
2. Try to keep everything together that is supposed to go together
logically anyway.  For example; I put a silver bucket in the closet on top of the dresser so that when they are getting dressed in the morning or undressed in the evening, their dirties go right in that bin and their clean clothes come from the dresser. The bucket is like a magnet. They can’t avoid it!
3. Try to keep things off the floor. I have shelving for shoes in the closet but there are still those annoying shoes like slippers, flip flops that are just messy and don’t really earn a spot on the shelf or don’t store well on a shelf. I bought crates from the flea market and put wheels on it. I actually got this idea from the Design Sponge Book! I painted it a fun orange color and it is the best thing to keep all those messy shoes out of the way and organized. It also is great for cleaning because it rolls right out. Thanks D*S.

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room

Design*Sponge/Learning from a Room

Suggested For You


  • Just a question, not a critique: There’s a lot of rust (literally, not the color) and sharp edges on all the vintage metal goods in this room. Did you file down the sharp edges and/or seal in the rust? Perhaps your kiddos are older than my three year old, but I’d be afraid of lockjaw (half joking), cuts and scrapes from all the old metal pieces.

  • Betsy did a great job creating a space that is playful and unique but doesn’t feel to kiddie. Why shouldn’t all of the rooms in our home follow the same design philosophy, even the children’s spaces? It definitely is a space that functions well for small children but I can absolutely see how it will be a fun and cool spot as they get older. Great tip about creating an inspiration board and colour palette for the space so that when you are out shopping and looking you just have to check back in to determine if items follow your vision and overall design. Great space.

  • lol…June! My son IS 3 and knocked his head in the same spot 5 times last year. It looked like he was growing a second nose on his on his forehead. My hubby and I actually considered putting a helmut on him from the time he woke up until he went to bed. He is a total dude. So I get it. Great question. The dresser in the closet was restored and has smoother edges. All the metal is as smooth as silk. So no rough spots. The drawers are smooth and there is all new cedar paneling inside and all sanded. On the vintage filing piece, the legs actually extend all the way up and serve as a type of railing, protecting them from the edges on the sides. But, the drawers on this did need a little love. So yes, we sanded them back a bit. I didn’t seal this piece but I have on others where I worried about this. I have a friend that works with metal and has gotten things really smooth. Make friends with a welder ;). That’s another tip.

    LOUISE FROM THEDASHERIE: I’m so glad. Thank you.

    TRIX & TRUMPET: Thank you for your comment.

  • I’d love to know where you found those AWESOME bunk beds! My boys share a room and it has an industrial feel. I’d love to find some metal bunks like this (instead of the steel tubing you see EVERYWHERE) but I haven’t found anything that I love…until now! Help a girl out!

  • TRIX & TRUMPET, I share my inspiration boards on Instagram @smidthat – ill find this one and post it today so you can get a feel for it, if you’d like.

    Thank you Allie and Frippery Vintage!

    Emily, the bunk is actually from Ikea! I bought the raw wood one and painted it in the same color as the closet mentioned above. It made it look metal with just the right amount of shine and not too much. Restoration Hardware has some beautiful metal ones….if metal is really what you want. I just had too much metal in the room to go that route….the wood was a nice way to break up the metal but still achieve consistency in all the furniture. Ikea’s price was more what i was hoping for given they will eventually grow up. Just helpin’ a girl out ;)

  • Wow! I love the Industrial Bunks from RH, but with that price tag, my boys would be forced to sleep in them until adulthood! IKEA is definitely more of the price point I’d be looking for! Thanks for the great tips and inspiration!

  • This series is great. i am so glad you thought of it and look forward to reading more. Also, I am so glad the closet is open…I have an open closet in my son’s room and people are always telling me I should cover it up.

  • Is it just me or does all the rust, although very cool looking, also look very dangerous for a kid?

  • Awesome. I really learned a lot from this. Metal, even vintage metal is okay in a kids room, when looked after! I was curious about the shoe solution baskets but didn’t see them. Too bad. But maybe I’ll buy the D*S book for that one :)
    I got the same rug, for my living room. It just looks great no matter where you put it.

  • Totally love this room! As far as people’s comments regarding the old vintage pieces with peeling paint/rust (which i love) I ‘m sealing an old metal desk with varnish due to the possibility that the paint is lead based – don’t know if that’s the perfect solution but it’ll make me feel better! :)

  • I would love to see a pic of the dim sum carts!! Where did you find them? After reading this, owning one is definitely my new dream.

  • Great Room! Do kids really sleep here? Or its just for show because like what other said and not to be a downer I hope those are safe for the kids

  • Fab room, I love that its all white with fabulous accessories adding the fun pops of colour.
    Children’s rooms should definitely have colour to create a creative, inspiring space.

  • Eva – Sorry the shoe crate didn’t show up well in the photos. I will put a picture on my instagram @smidthat so you can see or they are up on my blog.

    Malia – the dim sum carts are the bronze carts with the paper rockets we made and next to their canvas painting (which sits on the right). We found them an an antique warehouse. I have seen more since so they are out there. Hope that helps.

    Thank you KINGDOM OF LOVE. Thank you everyone for your feedback both positive and constructive. Agree things need to be safe for children. I would recommend sealing anything with chipped paint to anyone bringing in an old piece. It will make it safer and achieve the look you want. Yes, steel items should be taken care of and it would lessen the concern. The vintage drawer set and the file system did not have rust on it luckily and all edges have been smoothed out which was an important step. Its a pretty cool system and I love the way it helps us keep things neat and tidy but super fun.

  • Love that rug, I keep checking it out but I just cannot decide where it would go. Maybe I should just go for it and try it out round the house. Beautiful photographs and I loved the carousel horse. Wow

  • I love the colors combination and philosophy of design. The organizational tips are accurate. Love the rug and blue velvet with the yellow. It makes for very appealing photographs. This would be a great show room or even boutique. This does not, however, feel like a safe room for any kid let alone small ones as is assumed by the size of the small red table. Bunk beds are not secured to wall, rusty sharp edges, peeling industrial paint from horse. Epoxy sealers are toxic so not a healthy solution. General rule no peeling paint around small children. No rusty elements especially until they get Tetanus shots. Storage would not be effective or useful. Height and weight of boxes does not work for children difficult to get out and see and can fall on head but great for teens. Other little rusty boxes not practical. The most concerning is the headless, feet/handless mannequin which would be terrifying for the young (and me!) especially at night. I would love to see designs that are creative, beautiful , and safe.