Molly Flesher, age 8, recently faced a common but difficult rite of passage. She was giving up her bedroom to make space for a new baby brother. And she was not happy about it.
So her uncle Andy came to the rescue with an offer to decorate her new room. "He said, 'Don't worry, Molly, we'll make it fun,' " recalled Molly's mom, Beth Gooley of Minneapolis.
And he did, designing an eye-popping fuchsia and tangerine color scheme, up-to-the-minute horizontal stripes and a quilted Astro-Turf wall sprouting silk flowers.
"We thought that a way to make the transition would be to make it more of a grown-up girl's room -- fun and hip," he said. "Something she could live with for a while."
Not every big sister is lucky enough to have an Uncle Andy, especially one like Andrew Flesher of Gunkelman's Interior Design, who recently was named one of the hottest new design talents by House Beautiful magazine.
But Molly's neon-bright room embodies the playful sophistication of today's design-savvy kids and the spaces they are eager to call their own.
Spending on children's rooms has risen sharply in recent years, and with that increased investment comes increased expectation: for design that will grow with the child and support multiple uses.
Children's bedrooms aren't just for sleeping anymore. They're doing double-duty as playrooms, study rooms, multimedia rooms, even fantasy worlds where children can escape.
"Themes are very big," said Karlene Hunter Baum, senior designer with Gabberts Design Studio. "It used to be that people just wanted a cute room. Now there are more specialists to call on -- faux painters, custom-built furniture, like a bunk bed that becomes a fort or a cave. You can walk into a whole other world when you walk into their room, depending on the budget and how wild you want to get."
With home improvement playing a major role on TV and throughout the culture, children have more exposure to design and more interest in decorating, said Jane Kitchen, editor of Kids Today, a trade publication for the children's furniture industry. The result: They're more likely to have an opinion about what they want.
Molly Flesher had only one design directive for her room: She wanted it pink, and she wanted it bright. Beyond that, Uncle Andy had free rein.
The bold color palette he created suits Molly's outgoing personality, Gooley said. He also chose many of the room's accent pieces, including a lime green loveseat from Molly's earlier bedroom, a yellow armoire and a fuchsia throw.
"I wanted to give her a room she'd love," her uncle said.
And he succeeded. Molly loves spending time in her room, she said, especially playing dolls.
"On play dates, [the room] is like a magnet," Gooley said.
The kids' decor industry is growing as rapidly as a gangly adolescent. Retail sales of youth bedroom furniture rose 32 percent between 1998 and 2002, compared with 11 percent for furniture overall, Kitchen said. "A lot more companies are making youth bedroom furniture, showing parents that children's rooms can be fun, more than just a twin bed."
Many large retailers, including Pottery Barn, Ikea and Bombay, recently have launched children's product lines.