By Laura Samuel Meyn
Photos by Stephen Karlisch
Sophisticated design creates rooms that kids don’t outgrow.
Soaring wood ceilings, sumptuous fabrics and original artwork aren’t the first things we think of when we imagine a child’s bedroom. But designer Tori Rubinson is not a big believer in themed designs, even for her youngest clients. She gravitates toward fabrics, accessories and furniture with the sort of classic, collected look that stands the test of time. So when friend Susan Horton called about her children’s bedrooms — Maddie, 11, and Zachary, 9, had become enthusiastic about redoing their rooms after watching HGTV — Rubinson was ready to realize their design dreams while staying true to her own aesthetic.
Both bedrooms boasted lofty ceilings, but the recently built home didn’t have the depth of character found in many older houses. Rubinson expertly introduced a seasoned feeling by adding beams and wood cladding to the ceilings. “I am so thankful she introduced the idea of v-groove. It turned out beautifully,” says Susan. Rubinson says she loves to incorporate architectural details into spaces lacking them: “There’s only so much you can do with window treatments and pretty furniture.”
While the designer typically goes for wood floors and area rugs, she honored the kids’ preference for wall-to-wall carpet, which is undeniably cozier for those who spend a lot of time on the floor. From there, the designs unfolded in distinct directions, driven by each child’s personality.
On Maddie’s wish list was a daybed, complete with a trundle to accommodate sleepover guests. Rubinson met the request with a beautiful coral velvet-upholstered version; the matching bed skirt, finished in a fabric trim, conceals the second bed tucked underneath. The deep tone is contrasted by a pastel sage green that’s repeated in the throw blanket, the v-groove ceiling and the antique dresser, a piece Rubinson sourced from a colleague. With a fresh coat of paint and the addition of gold leaf and updated hardware, the dresser adds a curated touch while blending in seamlessly with the new furniture. The valance and curtains, done in a classic Schumacher print, soften the space and maximize the small window. “We used window treatments to make it look a lot larger than it actually is, tricking the eye,” says Rubinson. “It made the scale more appropriate.” A Capiz shell chandelier adds shimmer overhead.
Maddie’s love of animals was honored in a collection of six sweet prints, each showing one baby creature peering directly at the viewer from the lower half of the frame. Large coral-pink mats and gold-tone frames pull together the preteen’s two favorite colors; the prints hang in two sets. A graceful brass and glass étagère standing between the prints holds a few prized possessions, including storage baskets that can serve as catchalls. “My daughter says her animal prints are her favorite part of her new room, and she loves her chandelier and her ceiling,” says Susan. “It really transitions her room from little girl to young lady.”
Zachary has long been drawn to ocean life — with a special fascination for sharks — so while Rubinson didn’t want to create a themed room, she did want to add some nautical touches. She started with his favorite color, blue, painting the walls in a cool shade that contrasts nicely with the newly installed white beadboard ceiling.
As part of the designer’s mission to keep things classic, she incorporated an antique into each bedroom. For Zachary, she painted an inherited highboy chest a deep blue and swapped out ornate hardware in favor of more-streamlined pulls. Another family find was a pen-and-ink sketch of a sailboat that Susan’s father had drawn many years ago. “It was the perfect piece for Zachary’s wall alongside other sailing pictures Tori and her team found,” says Susan. A string of maritime signal flags adds color and whimsy.
The pair of white ladder shelves show off, among other items, an octopus wall hanging that is one of Zachary’s favorite details. “He also loves to collect treasures, and Tori was brilliant to include boxes and other items to allow for storage in her design without cluttering his room,” says Susan. The new full-size bed, a handsome piece with a gently curved headboard and footboard, was an upgrade that makes the space feel more grown-up. Rubinson customized the look of the blue-and-white bedding by adding shark appliques to the pillow shams. Over the bed, a circular mirror evokes a porthole; beside it, a trunk-style bedside table offers more storage.
Rubinson also applied her touch to the home’s entrance and family room, where the Hortons’ collected, timeless style is reflected in a Morocco-inspired entry hall mirror and a gallery wall of black-and-white family photos.
The women hope to collaborate on more of the house. For now, they’re delighted to have given the kids their own HGTV-like redesign experience. The result is sophisticated yet kid-friendly spaces that they will grow into instead of out of. “They gave me a lot of freedom to design the rooms, and they loved what we put together,” says Rubinson. “It was a really sweet, fun little project.”