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For teenage girls, it's their bedroom, their rules

Giving a teenage girl free rein to design her bedroom is a terrifying idea. In a perfect world, it would be banned. The good news, though, is that with smarts and collaboration, you and your daughter can create a room that both serves her needs and complements the overall design of your home.

The first step is in understanding the fact that the young woman living in your home, running up your phone bill, and eating your food is a creature from another dimension. Creating a living space for her that looks just like your own is almost certain to fail.

Here are a few tips for spanning the generational divide. We devised them on a recent project where we transformed a guest bedroom into a teen lounge/study for two gals aged 13 and 15.

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Kill the beige

Few people old enough to know who Joe Clark is are comfortable in gold lamé leggings, pink slouch socks and threadbare vintage dresses. Of course, we've just described an average outfit for a teenage girl. Many adolescent girls use bold fashion as a way to articulate a sense of self and style.

Keep this in mind when it comes to her room. If taupe upholstery, Persian rugs and silk window dressings are the order of your home, transposing them to your teen's quarters will likely paralyze her - and her all-important sense of self-expression. But there's a strategy that can satisfy you both.

Start with the bones of the room

Baseboards, doors, ceilings and carpets are expensive to refinish or replace, so keep them tastefully neutral. But give the princess control over the walls. If what she wants is scrawl them in fuchsia with Vampire Weekend lyrics, let her. Walls have two great virtues: They're easy to repaint later on and, since they're large, they give the illusion of great aesthetic control.

In the room we designed for the two girls, we wanted a look that was pretty but not fluffy, modern but not edgy and fun but not kitschy. A tall order, considering that the rest of the home was sophisticated, quiet and traditional.

Here's what we proposed to the clients and their daughters: a youthful colour palette of bright blues and greens, soft on the eyes but punchy enough to satisfy the girls' desire for visual drama.

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We tracked down some vibrant, Japanese-inspired wallpaper patterned with chartreuse and turquoise parasols. We used it to cover every wall; it looked great. Without appearing crass or oversaturated with colour, the girls' room distinguished itself from every other in the home, yet didn't break from its theme completely. A success for parent and child alike.

Don't forget the tech

Texting, tweeting, blogging - technology is as much a part of teen culture as the word "like" and that perplexing habit of ending every sentence as though it's a question?

A workspace is a crucial consideration for a teen room. Make sure to design an area that's comfortable, can house the computers and other machines she needs (and will need in the future) and has ready access to electrical outlets. A workspace that's conceived well will encourage your teen to study and hang out with her friends at home.

The area is easy to set up. Since most teens have laptops, the main expense is in acquiring the equipment and furniture for storage, printing and Internet access. A wireless router, shared drive, printer and decent speakers will cost in the neighbourhood of $600. Desks and tables will be more.

Prepare the space for many uses

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For the girls' room, we were given a budget of $2,500. No big surprise, then, that looking for a blend of the functional and the unique, our shopping started at IKEA and finished at the vintage shops of Vancouver's Main Street.

We ended up with a great collection of small-scale pieces: two simple white desks (for either side of the room), a 1950s settee we reupholstered in avocado tweed and a round storage ottoman. Eclectic to the core.

During the installation, I took a moment to watch my team kibitzing as they set up the room - Nicole was at the desk, putting a storage box together; Lindsay was on the ottoman, coordinating her notes; and Amy was lounging on the settee, taking a break. Although each was at her own task, the conversation flowed back and forth. For a room like this, that means success.

There were a couple of more tricks we used to make the girls' room youthful without debasing the design of the rest of the house. One was allowing the girls to choose lighting fixtures that aligned with the overstated, large-hoop-earrings style girls tend to prefer. To that end, we installed an enormous fixture over the ottoman.

The other trick was to provide a place to display their mementoes. We put up six white frames we had fit corkboard into. That way, whatever Miley Cyrus posters, castaway Justin Bieber locks or sweat-stained Jonas Brothers T-shirts they care to display will have an attractive place to live.

All design is a negotiation between what must exist and what might, and, although it's easy to overlook your teenager's vote when it comes to interior design, having open ears and a big-tent philosophy will pay off.


Desks, wall cabinetry, ceiling light, desk lamp and floor lamp: IKEA,

Desk chairs: Sofamakers available through Sellution, 604-876-4517

- Fabric upholstery: Tritex 604-255-4242

- Chair reupholstered: Sofamakers 604-327-3002

Wall covering: Cole and Sons available through Kravet,

Drapery: Fabrication, Windowworks, 604-231-1433; fabric, Kravet,

Cork boards: Magnum Frames 604-873-3884

Settee: Second Time Around Antiques, 604-879-2313

- Fabric upholstery: Tritex, 604-255-4242

- Settee reupholstered: Sofamakers, 604-327-3002

- Settee cushions: Pottery Barn,

Ottoman: Lalji Home, 604-523-0100

- Reupholstered: Bari Designs, 604-448-8684

- Fabric: Kravet,

- Blanket throw: Pottery Barn,

Custom white paint finish: General Paint,

Book wrapping, colour wheel, gift bags, gift boxes: Michaels Art Supply,; The Bay,

Easel, canvas, pencil crayons, paint brushes, journal: Opus Frames,

Mannequin bodice: Farmhouse antiques, 604.738.0167

Thread spools: Pottery Barn,

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About the Author

Kelly Deck has been advocating for West Coast design since 2002, when she 
 opened an interior decor boutique on Vancouver's Main Street. Since then, 
 Kelly has immersed herself in the lifestyle and community that makes West 
 Coast design unique. More

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