Did you know that selecting the right outfit for the first day of school is more stressful for teens than worrying over the impending school year or homework? That’s according to a report sponsored by jean-maker Levi Strauss Signature. The national survey, conducted by Insight Express, revealed that nearly 42 percent of kids 13 to 17 believe selecting the right outfit for the first day of school is more stressful than doing homework (29 percent); being called on in class (19 percent); or extra-curricular activities (10 percent).
Why do we, as adults, care about this? It is because teens now are a viable force
in marketing. They have the ability to spend more discretionary income from their
parents than any time in history. More teens are working and spending their own
money, as well.
Teens today possess an astonishing wardrobe as compared to teens of a generation
ago. And with so many teens overindulged in clothing, transportation and multi-media
equipment, money spent on or by teens has overflowed into their living spaces:
bedrooms, bathrooms, study or entertainment areas in the moderate to upscale
In fact, there’s a new emphasis these days on creating stylish children’s
interior space. It’s partly the result of a shift by retailers who are
now devoting more selling space to children’s interiors, launching an amazing
array of product lines that appeal to kids and parents that will assure sales
from the next generation of shoppers. These products are well designed, practical
and fun, so both the parents and the youth are happy to open the purse and “feather
The age at which children begin making demands and choices has become ever younger.
A survey by Harris Interactive discovered that at age seven children are considered
a target consumer for youth market advertising. At an average age of 9.1 years
children can view advertising critically, and at age 9.3 years they are able
to separate fantasy from reality in media and advertising. Then by age 11.7 years
kids are old enough to make intelligent consumer choices.
But here’s some good news: Many kids actually are showing more maturity
in their dressing choices than their parents. With low-rise waistbands at an
all-time low, market research company NPD found kids today felt the only way
to go was up. Kids are becoming more conservative than their parents. More often
it’s mom who is dressing like a 14-year-old, while many youth are sporting
the “new age preppy look” with slim-cut polo shirts, cable knits
and Argyll sweaters in bright colors, even tweed and plaid jackets in a form
a bit shorter and tighter than earlier styles.
Teens whose savvy clothing choices have made them scrutinizing consumers have
also become astute in decorating their living environments, as well. Bottom line:
kids make better choices for their own interiors today than ever before. They
might choose styles that are somewhat different than what their parents would
choose, but that’s OK.
WHAT’S IN A TEEN STYLE?
There are two ways to view kids’ rooms. One is theme-oriented, and the
other is fashion and creativity based. Themes often have been based on activities
that children have traditionally loved, and usually the “boys-like-this
and girls-like-that” approach.
For boys the themes include not only frogs and snails and puppy-dog tails, but
all things sports and outdoors. In other words, “big-boys-at-play-in-training” spaces.
Some are contemporary, but some are nostalgic. For example, Toy Story and Toy
Story II combined the Space Age character, Buzz Lightyear with the original hero,
Woody the Cowboy. Horses are not necessarily Western, either. Horses, a favorite
theme, may take an equestrian turn or just a “connect-with-nature” look.
Boys and dogs, the backwoods or country themes that suggest wide open spaces
are appealing to adolescent boys and teens. For these rooms, a practical and
bold statement of blinds or shades at the window is a solid, good direction.
Straight lines mesh well with outdoor themes.
Another traditional boys’ look is found at the ballpark. Boys usually have
been categorized as sports-loving characters, so if the sport shoe fits, so to
speak, then discover the best-loved sport and run with it. Universal sports themes
are enjoyed by many boys who also love many sports. These allow boys to dream
of greatness and fame while lounging on their own bed in their own corner of
Older teen boys may also gravitate toward sport heroes or rock stars or movie
star themes. Coupled with a popular famous person scene is the high-tech look.
This theme utilizes colors, patterns and textures that are technology friendly:
angles and geometric shapes, bold patterns, black and white and/or pop-up computer
screen bright color palettes are in-style.
FLOWERS AND ROMANCE—
A SURE THING
Teen girls are inherent romantics, it seems. Themes for girls’ rooms based
on floral images in either pastels or in bright palettes often work well. Fun
is always at the top of any teen girls’ list of things they love, so if
the money supports the indulgence, many want fun bedrooms where friends can talk
nonstop for hours while trying on clothes, experimenting with hair and makeup
and planning social strategy—and occasionally studying or maybe watching
a good chick-flick and enjoying the cry and the romance.
Softer looks as well as bright, cheerful interiors with lots of coordinated textiles
and delightful images on the wall and fashionable privacy at the window are all
perfect ingredients for successful teenage girls’ spaces.
Girls tend to be shoppers. And yes, many, on a regular basis, shop till they
drop. In a survey by Cotton Incorporated, and reported in its Lifestyle Monitor™,
of females ages 16 to 19, 42 percent said they loved shopping and another 38
percent said they liked shopping. For this 80 percent, teenage shopping trips
take place an average of 3.2 times a month. Keeping up with fashions is a high
priority for this majority of teen girls, and when they shop they often buy on
For an interior design professional who is interested in building a clientele
who purchase with and for their teen daughters, it is wise to stay on top of
the fashions. With information instantly available on the Internet, runway fashions
translate almost overnight into home fashions and many are geared to a young
audience. A glance through teen magazines as well as shelter or design publications
that cater to youth will make a difference in staying on top of “home couture.” Knowing
what’s hot will give you far more credibility with the fashion-conscious
This also applies to teen boys, who are as influenced as girls by celebrities,
television, rock groups, books and music, as well as brand names. Fashion-conscious
young men also know what’s in style and will respond better to the sales
pitch when they know it will be “on trend.”
This burgeoning market for fresh interior design projects is right for every
residential interior design professional. When an adult calls for help for any
space in the home, be aware of signs for teens and do not be afraid to ask questions,
make suggestions, and show products that a teen would love. Many adults today
are reliving their own teen years through their children.
In a culture that is obsessed with youth and indulgence, the spaces where teens
sleep, play, interact, study and are entertained are all areas that are potential
friendly markets for design services. And helping customers to create teen spaces
can be one of the most delightful experiences for the adults—including
J. Nielson, Allied ASID, WCAA, is assistant professor of design at
Brigham Young University. She has authored several books including
Window Treatments, Understanding Fabrics and Interiors: An Introduction,
3rd Ed. Nielson is a regular
correspondent for Draperies & Window Coverings addressing the areas of fashion,
education and merchandising.