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Ample play area is top priority for child's room

"Consider your child first and try to forget the decoration scheme of your home or your preference for orange," suggest Donna Lang and Lucretia Robertson of the design firm of Lang/Robertson Ltd. A Colonial theme might work for the rest of the house, but for your child's room a simple and colorful decorating plan is best.

A child's room differs because it is multifunctional. It should be designed with the young occupant in mind and with his help, if possible. Unlike adult rooms, where furniture arrangement is intricate and creative, children's furniture should be seen but not heard from too loudly. Keep pieces close to the walls and not left to clutter precious floor space. "It's most important," say the designers, who are mothers of two sons each, "to think in terms of adequate and appropriate play space."

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They suggest a hard-surface floor brightened with washable rag rugs, the rugs to soften the sitting and sleeping areas. Wall-to-wall carpeting for children is not practical for painting and other creative and sometimes messy projects.

Keep window treatments as simple as possible. A toddler will use floor-length curtains to pull himself up, so instead try shades, shutters, or Venetian blinds in bright colors.

Mrs. Lang and Mrs. Robertson usually find themselves drifting toward the bright primary colors when asked to design a room for a child. "These are the colors a young child responds to." What about the wallpaper and fabrics printed with pastel nursery characters? "Go out and buy yourself an ice cream sundae and get over the urge to buy it," they advise. Though cute, the patterns are not visually interesting, and the child and mother (another inhabitant of the nursery) will soon tire of them.

"One perfect kid' solution" to the sleeping area is bed units made of plastic-covered aluminum tubing. Anything from a simple bed to a study/sleep or jungle gym area can be created from this material. Storage is integrated by adding canvas organizers that are attached to the pipings. The zippers and pockets make putting things away more a pleasure than a chore.

Industrial-style lighting (which comes in bright colors) suspended from wall or ceiling work well and doesn't sacrifice floor or tabletop space.

Many accessories can be made at home. Your child might enjoy a nap mat made of a one-inch foam pad covered in canvas or terry cloth and fastened with zipper or Velcro. To store, roll up and tie with a web belt. Children also love pillows, especially bed rests which make reading in bed much more comfortable. This fall McCall's patterns will produce a series of patterns entitled "Home Furniture Collection," designed by Lang/Robertson Ltd. everything from bathroom accessories to furniture will be made easy to sew.

You can also bhild children's furniture:

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"Easy-to-Make Children's Furniture," by David Stiles (New York: Pantheon).

"Make Your Own Baby Furniture," by Florence Adams (New York: M. Evans & Co.).

"How to Build Children's Furniture and Play Equipment," by Mario Dal Fabbro (New York: McGraw-Hill).

Other quick tips:

-- Plan furniture and lighting at the same time and you'll avoid too many desk lamps and electrical cords.

-- Before you buy, keep in mind cleanability, durability, and safety.

-- Remember your child's height. Get down on your knees and view the room from another angle before hanging mirrors or bulleting boards.

-- Open storage bins (so your child know what belongs there) could be those brightly colored ones found in kitchen- ware departments. They are perfect for toys, socks, and balls and can either be stacked in a closet or hung from the ceiling.

-- For children who share rooms, personalize what you can. Brightly colored graphic initials and color-coded drawers, towels, or bedspreads will make each child feel objects are especially his.

-- For easier bedmaking, invest in a duvet: a down-filled comforter with changeable sheets.

-- Instead of a safety gate, have the door made into a Dutch door.

-- Hang a string hammock in the corner of the room for stuffed animals to "sleep" in.

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