When Parents Divorce: Designing a Convertible Kid’s Bedroom

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Backpack ChildDivorce. It’s an unavoidable reality for many, with 34% of today’s marriages ending before their 20th anniversary — quite a bit before “until death do we part.”

Often, a product of those ended marriages are the “Backpack Generation” of kids who have to live two lives, depending what the custody agreement includes.

This puts parents in a difficult position. If you only have your kid every weekend or every second weekend, can you really afford to dedicate an entire room to them?

Real estate is expensive, and with more and more of us living in urban spaces, facing tough economic times in a New Financial World Order, the notion of having an extra bedroom is a luxury, and no matter how much you might love your child, it might not be a luxury you can afford.

When kids are in their teens, they can better understand the complexities of the situation, but littler kids still want, and need, a relatively normal childhood, complete with a space to call their own.

Thankfully, in today’s mad, mad world, we’re not the only ones who know that space and utility are at a premium, and furniture design is becoming more creative and convertible, meaning not-so-spare spaces can do double duty.

Double-duty decor for double-duty spaces

From creative raised beds to wallbeds, there’s a whole world of options that can help you turn a workspace into a spare bedroom in a hurry.

With some forward thinking and consideration, you can make room do double duty, performing as both your office and your visiting child’s bedroom. For this to be successful in still being a special place for your child, what you really want to do is make sure it has some touches that shows that you’re not just making space for them — but, instead, you’re sharing space with them.

Begin with a nice base color that will appeal to their fun, childish nature while giving you a soothing workspace. Maybe blues, greens, purples, reds, and other such colors that offer a range of intensities can work for both of you.

If you can’t find wall art that’ll appeal to you both, then consider taking some of their art to a framing shop and decking it out with a gorgeous matting and frame combo that enhances the art and makes it really stand out in the space. I once had a doctor whose offices were entirely decorated with his kid’s paintings, all matted and framed in a way that made it seem anything but child’s play.

Let them see they’re always a part of the space

Keep toy trunks out in the open. You’ll have a place for all the toys to go, and you’ll have order and sanity, but your child won’t feel like you make them become invisible by shoving this box in a closet every time they go home on Sunday night.

You can split the closet up, too, and still get use for yourself as well as them. Make a second rack for hangers halfway down, so they can hang their stuff at their height, while you still have spaces for extra jackets and such up top.

If you need space for career-related work books, why not have a bookshelf that has all your books up top, but filled with great reads, and maybe some favorite mementoes, for your kid down below?

Invest in a smart bed-desk option

Your choice for the bed-slash-desk will be the most important thing you do in this office/bedroom space. If you can afford a couple thousand dollars to spend, you can likely get a custom-built bed and desk unit to complete the space, but even if your budget is lower, there are a lot of fun, playful ready-made Wall-Bed options these days, like the trusty old Murphy Bed, where the desk is on the outside when the bed’s raised into the wall, and when you lower the bed, the desk vanishes. This will help your child enjoy the illusion that it’s “their” bedroom when they’re over, because your work vanishes.

Eclectic Bedroom by Other Metro Photographer Elad Gonen & Zeev Beech

For an even more budget-friendly approach, there are a lot of raised beds you can put a desk underneath. This is the more affordable, less-custom solution, but it means you have to have good storage options there so you can clear your work away when they come to visit, so they’re not made to feel like they’re taking over your world — or vice versa.

Sure, in a perfect world, your child would have a wonderful bedroom dedicated only to them, but it’s often an imperfect world. Thankfully, there’s a lot of ways we can bridge the gap between what we need for our working lives and what children need for their mental well-being.

With a little creative design and thinking of both yours and their needs, it’s possible to have the best of both worlds in one spare bedroom, making divorce a little less hard — especially financially — on all the parties involved.

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.