How to Decorate a Room for a Boy and a Girl

One bedroom, two little kids, two genders -- you can make this work, but plan a bedroom for a young boy and girl so each has a private area that expresses each child's personality. Play with colors and color play spaces and get creative with divvying up available space. With enough imagination, you will come up with an appealing room that encourages peaceful coexistence.

Two children playing at the table
credit: SergiyN/iStock/Getty Images
Common interests mean toys do double-duty.

Fake It

Place matching twin beds end-to-end against one wall of the room and separate them with an old door, bolted securely to the wall on one side. But first, paper each area of the wall behind the beds with a distinctive wallpaper to express the style of each child. He might be all toy trucks and surfboards, while her design may be all skateboards or cartoon figures. You could opt for blue-and-white vertical stripes and pink-and-white vertical stripes -- not too adventurous but pretty clear. Paint the door-divider with homemade chalkboard paint on both sides. Match the chalkboard paint colors to the wallpaper designs, or just default to old-fashioned, easy-to-scribble-on blackboard. Baskets under each bed store toys; a double dresser or armoire corrals the clothes. Color-coordinate bed linens, area rugs and comforters for each child.

Same and Separate

Place beds on opposite walls, and curtain each one off with a ceiling-mounted wire and floor-length painted canvas drape. In an all-white room, help children personalize their spaces by drawing graffiti on their curtains, decorating a large bulletin board at the head of each bed with distinctive and important "stuff," and filling open bookshelf/cabinets at the foot of each bed with displayed treasures and favorite books. Range two matching desks along the window wall with different, colorful, molded fiberglass Eames chairs. Over each desk hang half of a common poster or print, framed -- a blown-up duo shot of the two of them, her half in one frame, his in the other; a painted spouting whale in a candy-colored sea; a giraffe -- head end here, tail end there.

Art Attack

The room is less than generous, but your kids are pretty good-natured about not killing each other. Post some affirming art over the wall behind each bunk bed to let them know you value their privacy -- even if you can't supply much of it. A No Boyz Allowed poster in tangerine or rose sends her message loud and clear. His No Girlz Allowed poster in lime or navy provides a perfectly matched rebuttal. Pink and orange bedding and a flounced pull-over curtain turns her bottom bunk into a tiny cabin. Blue-and-white striped sheets and 3-inch wide fabric streamers hung on two ceiling-mounted short curtain rods put his top-bunk aerie out of reach. Matching wardrobes with white-board faces encourage more self-defining art and pithy messages. Stencil several cartoon-style mood-influencers on a bare wall: a couple of smiley faces and letter-symbols ROFL! LOL! HA-HA-HA! SNICKER! and GIGGLE!

Put It in Neutral

Don't skimp on color, but do choose gender-neutral shades to create trendy decor with something for everyone. White wainscoting, upper medium-gray walls, black-framed twin beds and lime curtains set the stage for vivid green and yellow bedding on one bed, neat gray-and-white striped bedding with splashes of cherry red in a throw and pillow sham on the other, and a red molded plastic chair in one corner. Lilac walls, white floor, trim and bed frames, a chambray-and-white checked area rug, lead-and-white Twombly-like scribbled roman shades, and russet quilts folded at the ends of the beds are spirited and striking for middle-schoolers. Add different color reading lamps and storage trunks, mismatched lilac and denim beanbag chairs, and a folding screen, wallpapered in coordinated but different patterns on each side to give not-quite-'tweens a shared, less childlike space.