Big kid room designs that will last

It's very tempting to look at childhood as a wonderful excuse to paint an entire wall fire-engine red or vivid purple. Eye-popping pink or tractor green is exciting, of course, but there's one major drawback: once the novelty wears off or your child's interests change, you're stuck with that one really distinctive wall (or even an entire bedroom) that doesn't quite deliver anymore.

There's no need to avoid color; in fact, you should embrace it. Instead of committing to a bold color palette, consider one that grows with your child's changing interests and won't be outgrown in a year or two. The answer, of course, is one with neutrals as the canvas.

Alternatives to Pink Walls

Heart set on pink, but worried about how it will stand the test of time? Instead of reaching for bubble gum, pick a peach: colors that work together in nature will almost always work for you at home. Start with a neutral beige and add fruity colors like apricot and peach or even raspberry, with creamy white and buttery gold work well to pull the look together.

If you've got your heart set on pink, however, not to worry: it's set off wonderfully against a neutral gray palette. Silvery-gray and white make a wonderful base for pretty pink accent pieces, and help showcase items like beautiful bedding and artwork.

The World at Your Door

Take the cue from the muted neutrals and related accent colors from a favorite map or globe. This works for both boys and girls and is an easy look to carry through their teen years with the help of color-coordinated accessories. Note the warm antique gold, earth tones, the brick red accents and slate gray; they make a complimentary color palette that's flexible and suggests a multitude of possibilities.

Airplanes, nautical items, and even animals are easily incorporated into this general theme. Focus on a single geographic area, such as North America or Africa, for a different take on it. Don't overlook the ceiling as a canvas: paint a compass rose around the ceiling light, using the colors of a map of globe as a guide.

Solutions for Small Spaces

You can't beat neutrals for making the most of small spaces. Consider, too, that the riot of colors found in children's toys and clothing make for a room that can feel congested and overwhelming. A clean, neutral palette works wonders in tiny, crowded places.

Don't overlook the value of marvelous, neutral muted greens: as in nature, it goes with everything. Pair it with a lavender-beige and add crisp, white accents, for example. Chocolate brown grounds it and pulls it all together.

Another good pairing to consider with green-based beige: browns with a yellow undertone (think of spicy brown mustard).

As your children grow and change, so should the utility and beauty of their surroundings. The best way to do this is by making the most of a hardworking, versatile neutral scheme as the basis for your decorating.