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Kid-friendly décor

In no other room of the house can creativity get carried away and spontaneity be welcomed with open arms. Decorating a child's bedroom offers a chance to hone amateur design skills and take on the challenge of creating a relished retreat.

What horse-loving girl wouldn't want a room with photos of her favorite stallion? Shouldn't the pitcher have a room in his team colors, decked out in all things baseball?

Of all rooms in the house, Burmeister's associate Stephanie Gunter says, parents are most willing to design their kids' rooms.

"We have a lot of moms that come in wanting to do their kids' rooms themselves. There's a ton of stuff you can do with themes for children and they're so easy to please," Gunter says.

Perhaps the biggest rule of thumb in decorating a child's room, says Gunter, "is when a child is younger, keep it really simple and build on it when their personality kind of emerges."

"Do a background in a faux finish or check, or divide the room in two, with a simple pattern on top and gingham or plaid on bottom," suggests Gunter.

"You can add a border along a chair rail in the middle."

As interests change, swap out the border, bedding and artwork, instead of redoing the entire room.

"A really little girl can have purses, butterflies or flowers. As they get older they may get into cats or horses and all Mom has to change is a border and some artwork," Gunter says.

For her 5-year-old, Medford mom Amy Bennett created a sports theme complete with basketball, football and baseball. On one wall, a mural of a basketball hoop is topped off with an actual hoop attached to the wall. A plush basketball gives the boy a chance to shoot hoops indoors with dad. An umpire suit adorns a far wall.

Tracy Hammett of Medford brought the outdoors inside for her 8-year-old, Allyson, by attaching a white picket fence to one wall with a birdhouse perched on one post. The girl's bed has a mesh curtain with butterflies clipped on. Her walls are done in pale blue with white clouds.

"She saw something like it in a craft store and it looked easy enough to do," says the mother.

"We're going to add hooks to some of the fence posts to hang her things on. She wants a giant sun painted in one corner, but we're discussing that."

In addition to artwork and murals, add something personal. Frame a child's own artwork to accent a bedroom or trace, cut and laminate a silhouette of a little 'cowgirl' to mount on her wall.

Create framed "magazine covers" of the family soccer star or add an area of the room with blackboard paint for a budding artist. Rather than buy new bedding, consider a favorite solid color and buy decorative pillows to match changing themes or décor. Another touch, Gunter suggests, are window clings.

"You can do clouds or stained glass," she says. "It adds another element to the room and gives a little extra privacy, too."

Most of all, Gunter encourages, be open-minded and let the child guide the design project.

"You can do so much in a child's room -- and it's just paint and paper. It can always be changed," she adds.

Besides, what other time of their life can they be the focus of a room's décor, whether it's purple walls, planets on the ceiling or giant horses staring from afar?