Kid Lit Style: Room decor inspired by children’s books

Using children’s books as inspiration for bedrooms and playrooms is one way to introduce a child to literature. It also can be just a fun, imaginative way to decorate.

“I lifted the oranges, greens and yellows from the pages of ‘The Wind in the Willows,’ ‘Charlotte’s Web’ and ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,’ and used those colors in the fabrics, wall color” and furniture of a child’s room, said Sheilah Michaels, an interior designer in Crozet, Virginia, who designed the room for the Charlottesville Design House a few years ago. She used the classic kids’ books as her jumping-off point.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, she said.

“My heart was in [it], as I was an avid reader growing up and my grandparents had a book business,” Michaels said.

She also channeled Beatrix Potter, using watercolor artwork, a tea set, a hand-painted dresser and a lamp with flower and garden motifs reminiscent of Mr. McGregor’s garden from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.”

Many designers and retailers, from bookstores to home-decorating stores, have picked up on the theme of children’s literature as decor inspiration. (Pottery Barn Kids stocks Peter Rabbit-themed bedding, for example.)

The work of authors and illustrators such as James Gurney, Jan Brett, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Steven Kellogg and many more also is available online in unframed, downloadable or ready-to-hang art. Check websites like Etsy,, Zazzle and Books of Wonder.

Some images can be transferred to photo fabric and crafted into pillow covers or window coverings.

Cynthia Mehlberg, a designer in Gillette, Wyoming, crafts canvas pillows with quotes from “Peter Pan,” Hans Christian Andersen and others.

“To quote famous classic children’s literature keeps those words alive, introducing them to a whole new generation,” she said. “And knowing that those words may inspire a child makes my heart sing.”

For a contemporary space, consider Chicago artist Christian Jackson’s minimalist versions of classic fairy tales: Little Red Riding Hood is evoked by a copse of trees and a flash of red cape; the Goldilocks print shows three bowls of oatmeal, each a different size; Three Little Pigs consists of a sprig of straw, a twig and a brick. While each is rendered in muted hues, the spare imagery packs graphic punch. ( )

Land of Nod partnered with Little Golden Books this spring to produce a bed and bath collection featuring several of the series’ beloved characters, such as Tawny Scrawny Lion, Poky Little Puppy, Shy Little Kitten and Scuffy the Tugboat. The illustrations have been reproduced on a range of soft furnishings and wall art. ( )

At , find organic cotton printed with fun motifs from books like Mo Willems’ “Knuffle Bunny” and Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon.”

Besides using artwork from kids’ books, you can integrate the books’ overall style into a room. For a “Goodnight Moon” room, for example, you might use a color palette of green, orange, blue and yellow. Bring in striped curtains, a starry night poster and a round, hooked rug.

A palette of browns, indigo and gray; shaggy ottomans; and a big sailboat pendant light set the scene for a “Where the Wild Things Are” rumpus room.

For an “Alice in Wonderland” room, use classic Victorian furniture and black-and-white checkerboard textiles. Add a big vintage-style wall clock and a teacup lamp ( ).

Find rugs, nightlights and wall decals from Eric Carle books (“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and more) at .

Or design your own decorative elements. Create nursery mobiles out of old book pages, for instance, by gluing cutouts onto card stock and hanging them from ribbon or filament. Make your own teacup lamp with instructions from .

Graham suggests using clearance Easter decorations for a “Guess How Much I Love You” or Peter Rabbit room. A carved, wooden lion and a closet door painted like a wardrobe suggest C.S. Lewis’ “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

Loading more

Digital Access

Digital Access
Access and all Shaw Media Illinois content from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, weekend and Sunday packages.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Stay connected to us wherever you are! Get breaking news updates along with other area information sent to you as a text message to your wireless device.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Plan your weekend and catch up on the news with our newsletters.