Debbie Hollands is one half of Hollands and Burton. This nautical haven is the bedroom of her nine-year-old son, Max
‘If you’re faced with a shell of a room and don’t know where to start, I would say pick one item or colour and work from there. My starting point was the sailing boat curtain fabric – I loved it. Then I found the beach hut in JustKidding and I was away! The nautical theme is easy to throw together because you can find accessories anywhere and everywhere. It was my idea rather than Max’s – little boys aren’t interested in the room itself, just the toys you put in it.
‘I didn’t decorate this room immediately when we moved in; I think you have to live in a place for a while before you understand what’s right for a space. When you’re creating a child’s room you need to create an atmosphere that’s going to make them want to be in there because that’s where they’ll spend most of their time playing, so I was careful to make it a calm space rather than making it very bright and busy.
‘We started on the room around two years ago and it’s evolved – I pick things up as I see them, which is quite often as we’re always looking for new products for the shop. The trick is not to overdo it: you could go mad with the nautical theme but you have to know when to draw the line.
‘The room is normally a complete tip; the only rule we have is that the kids can’t eat or drink up there because it would ruin the carpet, which I put down because children like to have softness underfoot. Max and his friends generally play on the floor and on the big cushions, and I store his toys in the under-bed baskets which he can pull out easily.
‘If you’re on a budget I’d say you should choose one splurge item and work around it. Ours was the curtain, which really makes the room, but if it’s expensive fabric you can put a blind up and just have a dress curtain, which requires less material. The beach hut was quite pricey, but other than that there wasn’t a huge amount of expense in a lot of what I bought.
I had the desk made by a local carpenter based on a much pricier model; I bought the chair for Dhs10 from Ikea and spray-painted it a different colour; and the baskets were cheaper than cheap – I got them from The Warehouse in Jumeirah Plaza, which also sells shells for around Dhs10. I also have a lot of photos of Max and his friends on the wall – that’s what makes it personal to him.’
Sencha de Groot works for JustKidding and her daughters Chloe, five, and Jade, two, share this princess palace
‘All I knew when I started decorating this room was that I wanted it to be different. Five years ago, the options were very limited, but things have improved now.
‘I still source a lot of stuff from abroad, though: we wanted a traditional dollhouse and we eventually found this one in Flamant in Brussels and had it shipped over. The bed is also a foreign import, although it was bought at JustKidding. It’s a closet bed – a Dutch concept. In the olden days, they’d put hot stones in the bottom drawers, shut the doors and it would keep them warm. We just keep books in there though! It’s definitely my favourite thing in the room as it’s great for playing in as well as sleeping in; it really allows imaginations to run wild. Another great item here is the dinosaur. Because it uses so many different textures it develops kids’ fine motor skills.
‘The girls chose to have a pink theme in here but I didn’t want it to be too girly, so I tried to incorporate the colour subtly – most of the furniture is white. It’s my choice that they share a bedroom: I feel it will create a bond between them that they wouldn’t otherwise have, although in a few years I’ll probably let them have separate bedrooms.
‘For parents just beginning to think about decorating their child’s room, I’d recommend researching online and in catalogues. At JustKidding we have 20 rooms decorated and furnished so parents can visualise how rooms will look, and we also offer an interior design service. I don’t personally believe you need to spend huge amounts on cribs or changing tables – they all have to meet safety standards. If you are going to spend a lot on a crib, I’d recommend investing in one that also turns into a junior bed. One way to save on a changing table is to buy a normal chest of drawers and then have a changing mat on top.
‘The ultimate bedroom accessory for girls has to be a dollhouse. It lasts a long time, allows kids to interact and keeps them from sitting behind a computer. Dubai’s weather doesn’t really enable children to play in parks all year round so you need to be creative. ‘I see my house as “un-childproof” – even when Jade was a baby, I didn’t put gates up; instead, I taught her how to climb the stairs. It’s how you train your child to adapt to their environment. I have a life and, of course, babies change things but I’m not going to change everything to fit around them.’
Eight-months-pregnant Vanessa Lee, the proud owner of this funky fish-themed nursery, has just gone on maternity leave from Kidz Inc
‘I wanted to create a calm room for my baby, and I had read that pastel colours help babies sleep. For the first six months or so he’ll be in our room, which is white, and I had originally thought I’d do the nursery in pastels, too, but when I found this sheep cushion, I knew I wanted a blue and orange colour scheme. My husband loves the sea and he decided he wanted a fish theme, so those two specifications narrowed it down quite a lot! Once I’d found the fish cushions and matching light that settled it, and I bought fabric and so on to match it all. I’m having a boy. If the baby was going to be a girl we would have gone pink.
‘I’m just starting out as a part-time interior designer and it’s definitely fun doing baby rooms. It’s the only chance I’ll get to have total control over our child’s room so I thought I might as well do it exactly the way I want now. My husband painted, assembled furniture and hung everything on the walls. Basically, I chose it and he put it all in place!
‘It’s taken about three months to decorate the room. I made the cushion covers myself using fabric bought in Satwa, and the pin board was created using the ribbon my baby shower gifts were wrapped in, so I’ve done the room on a pretty good budget. The only exception is the crib which is from Kidz Inc. It’s designed based on a maternity unit bassinet and it’s on wheels so we can pull it around, although they can also be locked into position.
‘So many friends have told me they went overboard buying things for their baby that they didn’t end up using, so I decided to stick to the basics and keep it simple. My priorities were having a changing table at a convenient height where I could easily access the things I’d need, and to be comfortable when feeding, hence the feeding pillow and the comfy chair. The Finding Nemo kite was another gift. My husband kite surfs and now the baby has a kite too! I was going to make a patchwork bumper for the head-end of the bigger cot, but my midwife friend convinced me not to – she said it’s not necessary and, apparently, there have been links with infant cot death too.
‘When I first started on the nursery I was trying to source only organic, eco-friendly products, but that’s so expensive. I bought a natural wool carpet and I tried to find an eco-friendly mattress but I have no idea if the furniture itself is eco-friendly!’