Living a Teenage Dream


Designer Dana Wolter creates a space for teens to grow.

Written and Photographed by Graham Yelton

Here we are in July and summer is disappearing faster than a popsicle in the Alabama sun. The countdown to the first day of school has begun and preparation for a new year is in the works. For parents of teens and tweens, summer isn’t the only season flying by. The kids have gone from coloring books to Facebook in the blink of an eye. They’ve outgrown clothes, Disney-themed interests and their childhood bedrooms. While updating the bedroom may seem like the least of these parents’ worries, creating a space that feels like a reflection their tweens’ ever–evolving personality may be a great way to motivate and inspire the tween during this next chapter in life.

As a working mother of three, Dana Wolter, an experienced designer, understands the stress associated with everyday life. She believes a home should be a retreat as well as a place to enjoy family and friends. Over the years, she has worked on residential and small commercial projects from Chicago to major cities across the Southeast.  Occasionally, she has the opportunity to visit the brighter side of the paint deck and work with younger clientele.  Dana showcases four tween bedrooms and offers practical tips for helping your child makeover their bedroom.

We all know how quickly trends can change for children. What’s your approach designing a tween room?
My approach for designing any space is to put your money into the core pieces and watch your dollars on the trendy ones.  Many times the size, window placement, traffic flow, and function of the room will dictate its layout. For a child’s bedroom, I try to learn a little about the child’s personality, interests, and needs, and I go from there.  I want the room to be fun, but I also want it to be practical enough to grow with the child.

How much input does the tween have in the process?
Depends on the child! In any space I design, my goal is to create a cohesive, functional space that is a reflection of my client’s personality.  A child’s room is no different.    Many times I will find a few patterned fabric options I can work off, and my client will choose one for me to use for inspiration for the bedroom design.  In the end, it is my job to make sure the end result is what was envisioned.

Where do you splurge and where are you cost effective? Spend a little more on the headboard/bed and window treatments, as these can grow with a child. I always incorporate having some of the bedding made in my workroom—even if it is just a few pillows—because it is a great way to make the entire room look custom, even if it is not.

What are your favorite places to shop for kid-friendly pieces? My headboards, window treatments and most of my bedding are custom made through my firm. For my coverlets, throws, bedside tables, lamps, accessories etc…, I like Suite Dreams, At Home, and Atmosphere.  Soho Retro is also a great place for fun, trendy pieces for teen rooms.

Do you have any quick tips for freshening up a tween room when on a budget?
Paint as it gives you the biggest bang for your buck. Wallpaper on the ceiling or on an accent wall is a great way to add a little unexpected to the room. Throw pillows filled with down inserts and fun accessories are also a great way to freshen up a space.

Do’s and Dont’s
Do invest in a good bed and/or headboard that fits the size of the room nicely. Don’t buy an entire room off of a showroom floor or online store. Mix it up!
Do buy the biggest mattress size the room can hold.  While you may have a little one who looks lost in a queen size bed, they will grow into it.  I have also found with my girls the older they are, the more friends they have spend the night at a time, and larger beds and sofas are perfect for sleepovers.
Do make the room a reflection of his/her personality. This is their personal space, and they should love where they spend so much of their time. Don’t spend a lot of money on trendy items as that is what it is, a trend.
Do step out of the box in a child’s room. This is a great place to take a risk. Depending on the child’s personality and age, pull in a unique chair, some fun artwork or a great pattern.
Do use lined curtains and dust ruffles. Sometimes, you get what you pay for, and this is one of those areas. Don’t make your child’s hobby the center of the room, but rather incorporate their hobby through accessories, artwork, etc… Again think long term.  While they may love soccer now, they may not be as into it in a year.
Do think long term. A bedroom is an investment, and one furnished the right way should be able to carry your child through many years.

3 Responses to “Living a Teenage Dream”

  1. Emily says:

    I am wondering if there was a way I could find out where you found those hot pink and grey horizontal striped curtains? I love these and would love to have them in my house!

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