THERE is some disagreement among designers about what kind of decor is suitable for a child's room, with some opting for cutesy designs and others going for more practical furnishings. But they all agree on one thing: designing a child's room is fun and offers a chance to let the imagination run wild. 'Designing a child's room can be fun as you can bring out all your unusual ideas. If the room is a fairly generous size, it can be an interesting space. But some children's rooms can be so stereotyped,' says Joseph Sy, of Joseph Sy and Associate. Designer Jun Alday also rejects the notion that a child's room calls for a childish design. 'A child's room shouldn't be too contrived. After all, they are children and do not need to be reminded of it 24 hours a day!' he says. 'The room's also got to be inviting because children love to stay up late watching television, but if there are fun things in the room it will be less hassle getting them to go to bed,' says Peggy Paik, of Peggy Paik Designs, Sy has an advantage in the child design stakes: he has two daughters, aged three and five. When he designed their shared bedroom, he 'interviewed' them. He usually consults the parents when designing their child's bedroom, but if the child is over 10, Sy may also ask for his or her opinion. However, Alday says he consults the parents, not the child, because 'the children don't have much say in the design of their room. It's the parents' dream of the children's world.' But all the designers agree on one element: colour is of vital importance. 'Scientifically, it has been proved that strong colours excite the senses. However, pastel colours are more popular for children's rooms. But even if you're using mainly pastels, strong colours such as yellow and blue can be used on loose pieces such as pillows, or included in the room's artwork,' Sy says. The traditional boy/girl colour schemes no longer hold true, he adds. 'It varies, especially among teenagers. A lot of girls like traditional boys' colours but it does not necessarily mean they are tomboys.' Themed furnishings are popular; Sy believes themes based on Japanese cartoons, such as Sailormoon and Hello Kitty, are dominating the market at the moment. He says most parents go for practicality rather than fashion; if the child is a toddler, they think three or four years ahead and ask for a study bench to be incorporated into the design. Alday opts for creating a 'good shell'. 'I try to imagine a basic shell in which a child can grow, not a throwaway setting. For example, if I was designing a room for a 10-year-old I would include a study area.' He favours an architectural, tidy approach - but still allowing plenty of space for toys. Most of his clients prefer a sophisticated room for their children, in keeping with the rest of the interior. 'But with toddlers, you can't discount the element of play, even when the overall design is sophisticated,' Alday says. Sy says parents tend to spend less on a child's room, seeing it as a short-term space with furnishings that need to be changed over the years to match maturing tastes. On average, designing a child's room costs between $500 and $600 per square foot. Because Hong Kong is such a transient society, parents do not want to spend a fortune on their children's rooms, says Charlotte Snoxall, although she has found that couples will splash out on a first child's bedroom, with the budget dropping for the second and third child. Snoxall, co-owner of The Design House, takes several points into consideration when designing a child's room: age, sex, if it is a shared room, how long the family is likely to stay in the residence, and the budget. 'If the budget is limited, very inexpensive tartan and plain fabrics can be used for boys, and simple plaids for girls,' she says. For something special but relatively cheap, Snoxall suggests paint effects, a wall mural, or paintings on cupboard doors. Snoxall says L-shaped bunk beds are great space savers, as are child-sized pieces of furniture. As far as colour goes, her clients still opt for traditional schemes, although yellow is popular for both sexes, being fresh and sunny. Paik says a child's room must be colourful, practical and, more importantly, safe. One of her designs for a two-year-old boy's room featured a bed with a removable, multi-coloured gate fixture, which livened up the decor and also stopped the child from tumbling out of bed. Cupboards featuring knobs or drawers painted in different colours help parents to teach their child the colours, by saying, for example, 'Teddy is in the green drawer', Paik says. Anne Sixt, of Anne Sixt Interiors, says that besides being functional, a child's room must also have enough open space for play. 'It's best not to be too co-ordinated,' she says. 'A child's room needs to be fun and stimulating - not too perfect.' Meanwhile, for those parents who want a distinctive look for their child's bedroom, but who can not afford the services of a designer, many shops in Hong Kong, such as Source, Designers Guild and Osborne & Little, sell fabrics to give it the designer look at half the price.