News & Politics

2004 Kids Rooms: Teenagers

Teens would rather paint the walls lizard green, electric blue, or orange. Here's why you should let them.

Forget Pink

By the time your children hit the preteen years, be ready to give up claim to their room decor. You've had your way with cutesy themes and color schemes.

Now it's their turn.

The walls are the most likely place for children to start trying to exercise control. You might have to hold your breath–and your tongue.

Color Monitors

A makeover typically begins with a fresh coat of paint. Luckily, paint gives a lot of bang for the buck.

You may not feel so fortunate when it comes to color choice. At this age, children gravitate toward the extreme end of color charts.

Gabriel Nassar Jr., who owns GN Contracting in Arlington, didn't shy away from the choices his three boys made at the Sherwin-Williams counter: lizard green, electric blue, and outrageous orange. He says the colors reflect the personality of each boy.

Also popular: glow-in-the-dark paint, which absorbs and releases light for a glowing effect.

Wall Space

Special paints and wall treatments can not only add color but also be practical.

Chalkboard paint, which costs $10 to $15 a quart and creates a writable surface, is popular with kids and parents.

The newest specialty paint is magnetic, which is $20 to $25 quart. Buy cool magnets–they'll stick to the paint–and your teen has a place to hang homecoming photos and concert ticket stubs.

Galvanized sheet metal (glued or screwed to the wall) also makes a good magnetic surface. Homasote, a fiberboard used in construction, comes in four products ideal for pushpins. The large-format panels can be painted, covered in fabric, or used as is.

Getting a Say

The trick for parents is to work with a child's ideas and share constructive direction but allow the child to create a room that reflects his or her personality.

"It's really important to get a child involved in making color choices as soon as he or she is old enough to articulate likes and dislikes," says interior designer Lisa Adams of Adams Design in Georgetown. "But that doesn't mean parents can't offer guidance."

When her son, then 12, wanted to paint his room black, the two talked it out. They agreed that the walls would stay light, but came up with other ways–like bedding and carpet–to incorporate black. A cabinetmaker built a wooden flip-down window covering that keeps the room dark, even during the day.


Pop culture often dictates what your child wants on the walls. Popular posters include Scarface (since the movie's 20th-anniversary re-release), everything Redskins (especially since Joe Gibbs returned), and fantasy or wizard pictures.

Younger boys like Orioles players, panoramic photos of Camden Yards, and cool cars. Teenage guys like Bob Marley, the Grateful Dead, and celebrity women of the moment.

Girls are looking for Vermeer's "Girl With a Pearl Earring." Other current top sellers: city panoramic photos of Washington and New York, flowers, and Justin Timberlake.