A 20-year-old who needs a bedroom makeover is either home from college during break times, or starting a career while living at home. Take every opportunity to consult with the room's resident before launching an all-out attack on the decor. Someone on the cusp of adulthood likely has some reasonably developed ideas of her own style and interests, and the room will work better if it reflects her preferences, not yours. If you've got a real part-timer, or a creative genius who can't be engaged in something as mundane as the color of the bed linens, err on the side of sophisticated with a few extra comforts and quirky details that capture the utterly unique person you know.
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Skip the frills and ruffles and head straight for black and white. Girls and guys can appreciate an oversized black-and-white Cartier-Bresson print or Audrey Hepburn movie poster, framed in black enamel and hung on a stark white wall. Paint all the walls white -- and white out the trim and ceiling -- before you score a perfect faux zebra or black-and-white abstract modern carpet, a mix of white, black and gray bedding with Euro-sham pillows and a fluffy duvet, a large, solid mirror panel to lean against one wall, and plain canvas roman shades -- white edged in a black border. Nothing frou-frou about that, but the room's resident can add a lacy vanity or a black leather butterfly chair and accent colors of her own -- possibly consisting of piles of variegated laundry left lying on the floor.
The Sports Lover
Soccer and surfing will never be in this 20-something's past; when studies or work is finished, it's always time to pull on some cleats or a wetsuit. Decor in an accommodating bedroom should be as spare -- but not as dreary -- as a locker room or cabana. Soft blue walls are relaxing for a hard-driving type of either gender. Blue promotes restful sleep, and more of it, and it blends with other colors used as accents. Try powder-blue walls, white or natural wood trim, a faded oriental carpet and color contrasts to go with wall-hung boogie boards, a row of painted metal lockers for gear or folded clothing storage or extra hanging space, or a team logo. A jolt of lime or chartreuse in a chevron bedspread gets picked up in pillow shams or a bedside lampshade. A molded red or orange Eames-style fiberglass chair pulls up to a white laminate or brushed metal slab of desk. Wire crates hold books and rackets, basketballs, ice skates or helmets. A cool, contemporary minimalist bike hook suspends the wheels on one wall.
The Style Maven
It's all about the iconoclastic, independent taste, and you only provide the setting. White-on-white or cream-on-cream are safe color schemes for the fashion-forward of either gender; feedback might send you chasing after the perfect gray or a completely unexpected hue. A collaborative foray into a design district might result in a daring striped fabric to paste to a wall behind the bed with matte paint to match for the remaining walls. A three-way mirrored screen lets the style-setter check front and back drapes and creases and can hide the wall-mounted shoe rack for all those wingtips and Louboutins -- or really clever knock-offs. When the closet isn't large enough, borrow a trick from theater and park a rolling costume rack in one corner, with matched wood hangers to display the couture. A clear Plexi wastebasket holds style and shelter magazines, and an ottoman upholstered to match the curtains has hidden storage under the seat. Consult, consult, consult on this room. You can get it so wrong by substituting your best intentions for the 20-year-old's carefully nurtured panache.