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Profiting from Kids' Rooms

by Leon A. Frechette

Riiinnnnnnngg!!

Riiinnnnnnngg!!

Riiinnnnnnngg!!

"Good morning! This is Jack with ABC & Company. How can I help you?"

"Well, this is Mrs. Jones. Do you do decks?"

Does this sound familiar? You bet it does! Whether it's a deck, addition, kitchen, bathroom, or even a garage, it all sounds just a little too familiar. Wouldn't it be nice if one day the customer would propose a project that would be wildly different and offer a real creative challenge? The only way this will happen is if you promote ideas that customers only dream about or have seen in magazines. One idea that comes to mind—one that could be a real winner—would be to do kids' rooms.

What a concept! As you look around in this business, you have probably noticed showrooms popping up that represent full-line remodeling firms or display kitchens, baths, or decks. Don't you think a showroom spotlighting kids' rooms and baths would be exciting for you as well as for the customer?

Adults spend thousands of dollars—and I do mean thousands of dollars—to decorate and furnish rooms. Will they spend it on kids' rooms? You bet—especially if you present the idea that the room you create would provide a safe and stimulating environment and a place where kids can go to give Mom and Dad some breathing room.

Whether for an infant or a teen, the room should mesh with the image and personality of the child. This will be a challenge in itself, but it's more than just that. You will also want to create a space where the children/young adults can feel comfortable and to keep them happy and possibly out of trouble. This business idea could start a trend, a worthwhile cause for the younger generation—a private space kids can call all their own.

Safety Is Important

Walking into this business, you'll need both eyes open. This is especially true when you carry products and sell them from the showroom; they all must meet current safety standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Additionally, because of the detail work that may go into a design, you will want to protect your investment (both you and your company) by carrying sufficient insurance. Children are children, and you never know if they will remove some of the pieces involved in the design and ... well, you know where this is going. Unfortunately, we live in a sue-happy society, so protect your assets.

You've heard it before, haven't you? "Children should be seen and not heard." Why? Judith Miley of JEMarketing Communications Inc. puts like this:

"Designers, builders and remodelers can help parents raise self-reliant children who have a positive self-image. Whoa, you say, isn't that a little more than you contracted to do? Perhaps. But at some precious time each toddler wants desperately to be considered grown up and insists on doing things independently—if unsteadily, sloppily or unsafely. A well-designed, -built and -equipped child's room and bathroom can encourage this desire without endangering the child. "Parents who encourage that independence, with certain safeguards, can help their child develop confidence and coping skills. And the designer, builder or remodeler who creates a supportive, enabling and organized environment will contribute greatly to the process. "To help children become self sufficient, parents have a responsibility to

•  make it possible,
•  make it safe,
•  make it easy, and
•  make it fun.

Here's the theory: If the home, and particularly children's rooms and bathrooms, are designed and equipped to enable them to control their possessions and manage their time a greater degree each month while very young, the parent will have less picking up, scolding and monitoring to do when they are older."

I agree with Judith. Unfortunately, the reality is that children have minds of their own and with so many broken homes, if this theory is going to work, it has to start at a very early age. This means that you professionals have to plant the seeds. It should be part of your advertising campaign.

National SAFE KIDS Campaign

So, are you ready to dive into this market? Gary White, CID, CKD, CBD, of Kitchen & Bath Design thought so back in 1978 when he opened his showroom (about 1,100 sq. ft.). While the square footage seems small for a showroom, he's glad he opened one that size because the lower costs (lease/rent) helped during slower economic times. Since that time, he has become a pioneer in the field of safer designed baths (and kitchens). He is well known for his work with the National SAFE KIDS Campaign. His "Safe Kids Bath" exhibit achieved national media coverage after its debut at the "Design Idea Center" of the National Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in 1992. He is currently conducting a series of seminars for the Safe Bath Alliance.

He comments that "over a quarter of a million people are seriously injured in the kitchen and bath of their own homes each year. In fact, the kitchen and bath are the two most dangerous things you own next to your automobile. All of us are aware of the value of seat belts, anti-lock brakes and air bags for our vehicles, but what do you know about pressure balanced valves or ground fault devices in your home?"

We can protect our most precious national resource—our children—with common sense planning and today's exciting new safety features. Mr. White's clever design of a kids' bath features good universal design which is invisible—it blends right into the aesthetics. In this particular bathroom, the tub platform (which includes a soft bathtub) was constructed to resemble a yacht. Just as ocean-going vessels have railings around them to prevent passengers from falling overboard, rails—grab bars—have been incorporated into the design of the yacht bath platform. This one is lit with fiber optic lighting. It glows and changes color, drawing even more attention to the one thing that most people are most reluctant to accept. Anchors aweigh! This shipshape room is a secure home port for kids.

What are some of the things we could do as professionals to secure kids' environments?

For starters, in a bathroom we could:

  • Install an adjustable hand-held shower head
  • Place a temporary platform at the side of the tub for safe entry and exit
  • Create a space for platform or step stool storage
  • Install grab bars
  • Install slip-resistant flooring
  • Lower mirrors and cabinets
  • Use single-control lever-style scald-resistant faucets

In the bedroom, we could:

  • Install a bed with storage drawers
  • Suggest headboards with storage areas
  • Install adjustable closet rods
  • Install a series of hooks horizontally at waist height
  • Mount drawers at the floor level of the closet
  • Suggest a toy chest with one drawer that could be used for seating as well
  • Secure a shoe rack to the back of the bedroom door
  • Lower light switches

Infants have special needs. For children in this age group, we could:

  • Provide a built-in changing table
  • Install insulating blackout (for naptime) window coverings that feature a device to corral cords (to minimize risk of strangulation)
  • Install a dimmer switch and a nightlight as well as an intercom system

Consider Personality in Your Designs

This list covers safety issues, but you still need to incorporate them into a design that will fit the personality of the individual who will use the room. Of course, you will have to rely on Mom and Dad for some help here. It wouldn't hurt to page through a few current magazines. You never know—they may even offer plans. Doing this will also fill your portfolio with ideas to present to potential customers, and this could put you ahead of the competition. Quite frankly, however, you have nothing to worry about. Just get out there and start beating the pavement.

Consider a theme rooms such as "Indoor Adventure—Jungle Room" and "Jungle Nook." These rooms could make any kid's dreams come true. Bedrooms such as these allow the wild creatures to just roam freely. Projects like this are actually quite simple—really no different from building a cabinet—and they have a real personality and seem to come to life. Fitting the environment to the child's personality is half the fun; the other half is building it.

Don't Forget Storage and Homework

Other ideas could include a kid's home office tucked beneath a bunk bed. This idea supplies efficient storage and frees up space in the rest of the bedroom. Start by incorporating a dresser at the foot of the bed with open shelving above it. Attach a ladder to the side of the dresser that will lead to the bunk bed. Then, to maximize storage, add shelving above the desk.

How about installing built-ins around a window? From floor to ceiling and wall to wall, a unit can be built with storage at the ceiling for those items that are just being stored (adult-only access), open shelving (adjustable) on one side, and a closet on the other. The lower end could feature a seating area with drawers. When building such a unit, make sure it doesn't overpower the room. Consider using crown and/or chair rail molding to tie the unit into the rest of the room.

Here's one that could be a kick in the pants to build and it can save space in the room and be decorative at the same time. How about a circus cabinet with folding table and benches? When closed, the cabinet looks like a colorful circus. When opened, a table, a couple of benches, drawers, and shelves are all handy for the kids to play or start their homework. Great idea!

Put Unused Space to Work

How about turning the attic, spare bedroom, or part of the garage into a game room or an arts and crafts room. Installing skylights in an attic will bring lots of natural light for children to play under—a suggestion worth mentioning to the customer. You could also suggest a computer work station and built-in encyclopedia shelves for a learning center. It's a great place for children to work and it beats having them do homework on the kitchen or dining room table—"... but Mom, I can't watch TV!"

The good thing about a showroom is that it gives you the opportunity to bring customers in to actually see all these ideas on display. It also allows you to set up training classes to update your customers on the latest products and ideas to help them to stay within their budgets.

Don't Forget About Upkeep

Are you looking to create a clean but cute room? Then recommend solid sheet vinyl wallcoverings that are scrubbable, pretrimmed, prepasted, and have coordinating fabrics and borders—an interior designer is just around the corner. A vinyl that has a theme to it—for example the sun, moon, and stars incorporated in to the design of the wallcovering.

For those kids who enjoy using the walls for their own personal drawing board, you need to know Zinsser (an RPM Company). They carry Bulls Eye products, which work great around kids' rooms under these types of conditions. Some products to consider include:

1. Perma-White Mildew-Proof Bathroom Paint. This mildew- and blister-proof paint is specifically for moisture-prone areas in the home and comes in a white tintable water-base formula. It provides a durable, washable and scrubbable finish in satin or semi-gloss. It is also self-priming and adheres to porous and glossy surfaces. This paint features a 5-year mildew-proof guarantee.

2. Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Base Stain-Killing Primer-Sealer. This universal "whole house" primer-sealer is ideal for all types of interior and exterior surfaces. It works great for priming porous drywall or exterior siding, and it blocks cedar and redwood tannin bleed. Its low-odor formula prevents blistering and peeling. Easy soap and water cleanup makes it a breeze to work with.

3. Shieldz Universal Pre-Wallcovering Primer. This water-based primer is for all types of surfaces and works with all wallcovering and pastes. It "Shieldz" and protects drywall so that wallcoverings can later be stripped without damaging the facing paper. It is white-pigmented to hide dark surfaces, marks, and stains and tintable to match the background color of the wallpaper to help conceal seam splits. It has low odor and is also available in an oil-base formula.

Make It Durable

Flooring can have a huge impact on the overall design. Solid color vinyl tiles give you options to create a design or mix the colors for that unique—and clean—look. Some floor covering manufacturers offer a huge selection of solid colors so you and your customer can have a heyday. Made from 85% natural limestone and post-industrial recycled vinyl and manufactured in 1/8" gauge, they are available in a variety of sizes. With a product like this, there is no excuse for not coming up with a unique design.

And for those kids who want to start early in this trade by practicing on the walls, then you need to offer an indestructible wall surface. Sto Corp. markets Decocoat, a superior wall coating that is resistant to smoke, fire, moisture, and fading while offering excellent protection from scratches, nicks, peeling, mildew, and those little inquisitive fingers that seem to do amazing things. Made from millions of tiny, high-fired ceramic beads, Decocoat is available in 14 standard colors. This one-step coating comes in ready-mixed pails and can be sprayed or troweled over prepared plaster, wood, concrete, or masonry. It dries in a matter of hours. When the kids realize the walls are indestructible, what will they do next? Only time will tell!

Here is an item I considered installing just to keep the kids from running in and out of the kitchen: a wall-mount water cooler. ELKAY model LIEATL8 is a self-contained wall-hung electric refrigerated water cooler that removes lead from the drinking water using WaterSentry VII filter system and, most importantly, is a barrier-free access cooler. Mounting one of these puppies in the garage would eliminate a lot of slamming doors and footprints tracked into the house! Yes—Yes—Yes!

Kids Can't Live on the Floor

You can't create a room masterpiece without putting in some great-looking furniture. BarlowTyrie has created a collection of solid teakwood furniture called the Glenham Junior, which no doubt will become instant heirlooms. Each piece is perfectly proportioned to a smaller scale, the range encompasses an armchair, seat, and dining table. Another consideration would be to hang the Kenilworth Swing Seat, also made from teakwood. The swing utilizes hand-braided marine ropes and heavy brass fittings for support. This would bring a touch of class (and fun) to any kid's room.

Now children can be treated as equals to Mom and Dad, and you can help make this all happen. Remember, you are not just a contractor who swings a hammer, but a people-oriented professional—and that includes the kids as well! So, are your ready to jump into this business?

There will be times when you'll need something special for a project or your customer will be searching for that perfect item for the kids' room. Where do you look for such items? I have located a couple of catalogs that are packed full of products to keep children safe, secure, and healthy: Write or call the following:

The Safety Zone
Hanover, PA 17333-0019
1-800-999-3030
www.safetyzone.com
Perfectly Safe
7245 Whipple Avenue NW
North Canton, OH 44720
1-800-837-5437
www.perfectlysafe.com

Resources:

Judith Miley
JEMarketing Communications Inc.
352-867-0678
Sto Industries
800-221-2397
www.stocorp.com
Gary E. White, CMKBD, CID
Kitchen & Bath Design
949-955-1232
www.kitchenbath-design.com
Elkay Manufacturing Company
630-574-8484
www.elkay.com
Zinsser
732-469-8100
www.zinsser.com
BarlowTyrie Inc.
800-451-7467
www.barlowtyrie.com

Copyright © 1995, 1998, & 2006 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved. The previous article,
in whole or in part, appeared in the December 1995 issue of Building & Remodeling News.


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