When it’s time for kids to go back to school, smart parents know that in addition to buying school supplies and lunch ingredients, they need to prepare a dedicated study space in their home. Once a nook is claimed for studying, though, the challenge comes in making it a place a child wants to be. Because if your kid doesn’t like cramming for tests there, what’s the point?
Whether your child is studying at the kitchen table or has a whole room devoted to scholastic endeavors, personalization, ownership and especially color are key. “I am a firm believer that color sparks creativity and affects the way you feel in any given space,” said Jenna Gross of Georgia’s Colordrunk Design. “Bright colors can be energizing, and a fun atmosphere will encourage them to work and study.” Balance a generally calm, white study area with bits of color, she advises, and you’ll encourage that perfect mix of focus and engagement.
Gross and Andrea Houck of A. Houck Designs in Arlington, Virginia, both mothers themselves, encourage parents to let kids help choose the color of paint, chairs, rugs and more. Then they suggest focusing on organization and lighting. And don’t forget to provide display zones for kids’ awards and funny pictures of friends. As Houck puts it, “The most important thing is to make sure the child has ownership over the space and uses it.”
Suggestions for a home study space:
“The older kids don’t need a desk as much because they’re typing on their laptops,” Houck said, “whereas the younger kids still do need a surface.” Pick something versatile that will grow with your kids, if you have the space, such as the Adjustable Activity Table, in small or medium ($239-$249, landofnod.com). Perfect for a toddler’s train table and a first-grader’s homework spot.
“If kids aren’t great at sitting still, a wobble stool or a swinging chair are other great alternatives,” Gross said. “I would steer clear from a chaise lounge or beanbag; kids may just fall asleep.” The Kore Wobble Chair ($50-$80, reallygoodstuff.com) for kids comes in four heights — for toddlers, preschoolers, older kids and teens — and has a rounded bottom that lets users rock in small movements.
“Make sure kids have proper task lighting,” Houck said. “You need a desk lamp.” Swivel two lights in one fixture with the Olson Collection Two Head Task Lamp ($40, target.com). “You might also need an overhead. Make sure any recessed lighting is placed in the right spot to give light but not create a shadow.”
Basic cream meets bright cotton tufts on the Rainbow Tufts Basket ($20-$28, anthropologie.com). Use it to tote binders and notebooks around the house if your student is a mobile learner or to store textbooks bedside for teens.
Chances are, Poppin has your child’s favorite color in chairs, desk accessories, notebooks, pens — or even the Stow Three-Drawer File Cabinet ($229, poppin.com). Bye-bye, boring steel. Hello, orange, yellow, navy, blue, aqua, pink, red, black, white, light gray or charcoal. “When they’re younger, try to teach them that this goes here, this goes there,” Houck said. “Then they have a steppingstone to how they can organize later in life.”
There are lots of seating options for kids today that don’t look like traditional, hard, straight-backed chairs. For its Fur Rockin’ Roller Desk Chairs ($149 each, pbteen.com), PBteen takes an exercise ball, covers it with a slipcover and adds a chrome base.
“Having a space dedicated just for students and their studies helps them stay organized and get things done,” Gross said. Organize paper clips and thumb drives in the Rainbow Mobin Wall-Mounted Organizer ($15, containerstore.com). Each container tips down and can be removed individually.
“The Kallax shelving unit from Ikea is something I buy for a majority of the kids’ rooms I design,” Gross said. “It is inexpensive, comes in a variety of bright colors and offers varied storage solutions, especially when the custom baskets and bins, also sold by Ikea, are incorporated.” ($66, ikea.com).
Because of its sophisticated tufting, adjustable height and casters, the Lorraine Swivel Desk Chair could roll with a teen right through college and beyond ($349, potterybarnkids.com).
Although color can be fun in a child’s study space, the challenge is to not have it be distracting. “Consider tranquility in the palette,” Houck said. The pastel mint of the Mid-Century Mini Desk ($399, westelm.com) has personality, but not too much.
“You’re kind of trying to determine what their taste is,” Houck said, noting that kids’ tastes will continue to evolve, so build in some flexibility. Pin boards, whiteboards and chalkboards, such as the Framed Navy Chalkboard ($129-$199, potterybarnkids.com), allow kids to put their individuality on display and change it up over time. Such boards are a good parent-child DIY project, too.