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No matter your living situation, space is always a hot commodity. I’ve lived in spaces hardly large enough for a full-sized bed, let alone a second bedroom. As I’ve gotten older, my space-related priorities have changed; I need a home office, covet kitchen counter-top space and (in the not-for-a-long-time-so-calm-down kind of way) anticipate making room for a baby.
As shared living spaces and communal dwellings become more popular for those on a budget, we find ourselves giving up privacy and getting creative to maximize the potential of our homes. Whether your child shares a space with your home office, a guest room, with another sibling or is lucky enough to have his or her own room, the inevitable day will come when he or she flees the nest. In (perhaps premature) anticipation of this day, I’ve always wondered why parents spend so much on baby-centric decor. Sure, it’s fun to have a new reason to shop and you might be able to pass some of it on as hand-me-down goods, but why buy products that have an expiration date in your apartment? These vintage child-friendly decor themes will make the adults in the room happy too with decor that will remain relevant even into the empty nest phase of life.
Every child loves the fantastical rides, the limitless cotton candy and a good game of ring toss. (Note: I was actually never a carnival fan as a child but I seem to be in the minority here). Channel your inner child with this nursery to school age-appropriate theme and choose vintage accents that compliment but don’t overpower your space. You already love typography; why not install some vintage marquee styled block lettering? If that’s not your style, red and white striped curtains or bed linens are suggestive of the classic circus tent panels. Vintage milk bottles from a carnival game are sculptural and also whimsically kid-worthy. I hardly need to add the bunting option since you probably already have some in your home. Bunting is so popular these days, one could almost overlook what a staple it is on the carnival scene. Whether you choose to incorporate one, two or more of these elements, you’ll have a youngster’s dream room and it might spruce up your existing decor as well.
Traveling the Globe
Whether or not you’re a vintage wall map person or if vintage globes are more your style, (I stand by both, though there appears to be some discussion on the topic), these timeless beauties are more than just aesthetically pleasing forms. It’s easy to forget that maps are tools: tools that we use each and every day as adults and, in school, how we learn about our world. If you haven’t gone the Moby route yet, a vintage map or globe-themed space is enjoyable for all ages. You might even incorporate some map DIY projects if you’re feeling extra ambitious.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Although the 1987 film is rated a solid R, as a decor theme, the subject appeals to the little ones too. Children love to look up; babies are fascinated by light fixtures and by the high-contrast toys we insist dangling above them for hours. A vintage tin airplane doubles as a mobile for baby without screaming, “this is a child’s space.” Hot air balloons are another aeronautical possibility and ground transportation can always be added into the mix to complement this theme. Love vintage trains or cars? Mount a few on some wall shelves, (Just make sure they’re out of baby’s reach!), or purchase some original vehicle patent art to hang above a crib or bed. Since vintage planes, trains and cars are popular among adults too, you’ll find plenty of vintage-inspired cotton fabrics to compliment these items on Etsy, Spoonflower or in your local notions shop.
It’s every parent’s dream to come into a room and to see their child reading quietly to themselves—so engrossed in the material that they hardly notice the disturbance. Reading is crucial for those of all ages and it’s certainly my intention to share enthusiasm for literature with my children from the get-go. Before the realms of CGI, artists hand-drew exquisite illustrations that brought our favorite authors’ characters to life. To this day, some of my favorite pieces of art are original children’s book illustrations. Even some small, simply-framed prints go a long way in making a room feel like home and additional small accents compliment each story. Here are just a few of the beloved stories (and illustrators) that provide enchanting visuals:
- Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit
- W.W. Denslow for L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz
- John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland
- E. H. Shepard for A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh
- E.H. Shepard for Kenneth Graham’s The Wind and the Willows
- Quentin Blake for Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, The BFG, Matilda and more
- Jean and Laurent De Brunhoff of Babar— A top hat just like Babar’s or a red model car is a fun addition.
- David McKee for Michael Bond’s Paddington Bear— (McKee is not the first to illustrate Bond’s character but is my personal favorite due to my beloved 1980’s Paddington collection). Add a vintage suitcase just like Paddington’s to your decor!
Quilts, Textiles and Pattern Play
This one is hardly a theme, since to many it seems obvious, but I love vintage textiles and quilts for their playfulness and color palette. Something as simple as adding a vintage quilt or curtains made of vintage handkerchiefs can add whimsy to a room without overpowering it with the little kid vibe. This theme works especially well as a nursery sometimes-turned guest bedroom. Even some vintage children prints are less offensive to the eye than the modern cartoon character variety and can pass for adult decor. The best way to go with textiles is to pick a color palette and go from there. I’ve been known to incorporate many-a-color in my rooms but I realize this is too much for some.
Check Out Krrb’s Pinterest For More Inspiration
No matter what theme you choose, there’s no need to overhaul the entire space. Even a few subtle accents can transform a room and make it feel like home to child and adult alike. Want more inspiration? Head over to Krrb’s Pinterest and check out children-centric home board. Each theme you’ve read about here has its own pin too!
Have you found a theme that works for you? We’d love to see it! Send photos of your vintage child-friendly spaces to firstname.lastname@example.org.