'I JUST COULDN'T bear the thought of looking at Winnie the Pooh and his pastel-coloured world for five years,' says new mother Jennifer Katz. 'So, we decided to go for a bright colour motif in our nursery that can be easily adapted for our son over time.' Katz, like many design-conscious parents, moved away from traditional kiddie styles - Disney, baby-blue teddy bears and pastel-pink princesses - in preparing her baby's room. The contemporary design elements she's incorporated in his room include modern Japanese-print curtains, a mobile in primary colours, and furniture in light wood with clean lines and no ornamentation. Because couples are waiting longer to start families, they have more money to invest in creating well-designed nests, says Hong Kong-based interior designer Nicole Cromwell. She says children's furniture has shifted towards a contemporary look in the past few years. Collections that combine elements from Danish Modern and other European design traditions may cost a bit more than mass-produced nursery furniture, but can be enjoyed for longer. 'Modern furniture doesn't date, so it can grow along with the child,' Cromwell says. Caroline Ma, architect, designer and co-owner of Jason Caroline Design, says it's logical that the growth of the shelter industry and subsequent increase in awareness of design would make its way into children's rooms - areas of the house traditionally not on display to guests. 'We've noticed a growing demand for children's rooms to be stylish, but not decorated in a stereotypically childlike way,' she says. 'Clients are requesting that we design rooms that can last.' Towards this end, Ma and her partner, Jason Yung, create neutral backdrops with custom-designed features that can be adapted as the infant grows from toddler to child. 'Wood floors are good for baby and children's rooms because they're easy to clean,' Ma says. 'Throw-rugs that provide protection when kids are crawling and learning to walk can be easily updated for older toddlers, as can bedding and curtains.' Whimsical doorknobs and other thematic cabinetry that can be refitted in more mature styles are another design element Jason Caroline Design uses, as are walls fronted with cork and magnetic board, which make child's work of displaying and rotating posters, art work, schedules and notes. The couple installed a magnetic white board across a wall in the room of their one-year-old son, Aden. Although Hongkongers enjoy the option of having items custom-made, child experts say that, for safety reasons, cots should be purchased only from reputable manufacturers. There's much to choose from. Proving that pint-size furnishings aren't necessarily puny in price, Magazzini (which carries Moll from Germany and Blop from Portugal) and Little Misses and Mini Masters (which stocks Lion, Witch and Wardrobe from Britain and Castor and Chouca from Switzerland) offer well-made baby and children's furniture lines that are beautifully crafted, but may dent junior's university funds. Indigo's Tree House brand from South Africa, G.O.D.'s custom-sized designs and Bumps to Babes' Mama's and Papa's furniture from Britain are high quality and good value. Then there's everybody's fallback, Ikea, which has a fun and inexpensive children's line. Flexibility, whether for room decor or hard furnishings, seems to be a key draw. 'Most parents who shop with us are looking for room sets that can be multi-functional,' says Katrina Walker, co-owner of Bumps to Babes in Central and Ap Lei Chau. 'They want cots that transition to toddler beds and changing tables that also have a chest of drawers so that the furniture can be used for babies through to the age of five.' Walker says that although traditional styles - cots in white and other soft colours - remain popular, parents are moving away from cartoon designs and making their own adjustments to the typical pink/blue in favour of bolder shades and the style possibilities afforded by colour. 'For a boy, parents may do royal blue instead of powder blue,' she says. Bold colours such as vibrant red, pumpkin orange and sunshine yellow are all the rage at Indigo (formerly Banyan Tree). Managing director John McLennan says that parents, fed up with the commercialism of branded kiddie furnishings, appreciate the range of natural motifs, including fish, flowers and wild animals, available with this brightly painted - non-toxic of course - co-ordinated hard and soft furnishings line. 'Kids need a place to play, to dream, to store their collections and be creative,' says McLennan. 'Function is as important as look.' He says the design principles that exist in the rest of the house can extend to children's rooms, but should be modified to fit their needs. 'Kids won't really appreciate a Flos lamp - one pillow fight later and that lamp is gone,' McLennan says. He also encourages parents to include their children in minor design decision-making. For example, the Moll children's bed from Magazzini can be festooned with linen in a child's favourite colour. 'For me, children's design is a scaled-down version of adult furniture, with a twist, like using bright colours for accent,' says Benjamin Lau, co-founder of Hong Kong design emporia G.O.D. 'Something fun and classical, like a rococo chair painted in pink or white, could be perfect for a child's room.' Because G.O.D.'s furniture is made to measure, it can be tailored for little bodies and compact bedrooms. 'We carry little stools and desks that can be sized for children,' Lau says. These items can reflect parental taste in a fun, off-beat way that suits a child's need for play. Let's not forget all the stuff that comes with a child's room, apart from the furniture and decorations. Basketry, available at G.O.D. and many other local outlets, is adaptable and comes in different sizes and colours. It's a good-looking way to store toys, Lau says. 'Baskets are much more stylish than a plastic box.'