Tween Dream

A child’s playroom morphs into a mod-inspired lounge and study space fit for a sophisticated preteen.

Lamps with tree trunk-shaped bases and topped with carved birds by Stray Dog Designs add whimsy and a punch of pink.


When Melrose-based designer Justine Sterling was hired to transform this lower-level playroom filled with Legos into a space suitable for a much more mature 12-year-old girl, she aimed to establish a stylish and functional design.

“I wanted to create a space where she would be able to go with her girlfriends and just hang out on the couch, while also providing a place where she could do her homework,” says Sterling.

In transforming the suite, Sterling used a palette that incorporates neutral tones with pops of pink. “What tween girl doesn’t love fuchsia?” says Sterling, referring to the vibrant upholstered Room & Board chair and throw pillows that punctuate the beige Crate & Barrel sectional.

The Eames chairs are blush-toned, making the midcentury classic feminine and youthful.  

Sterling also focused on flexibility throughout the room, making sure everything, from the gold Lulu & Georgia ottomans to the Lucite-legged side tables, could be easily moved to accommodate seating space for more people—or an “impromptu dance party,” she adds.

For when it’s time to hit the books, Sterling selected a modern classic, an Eero Saarinen Tulip pedestal table from Knoll, and paired it with Eames molded-plastic, dowel-leg chairs in blush. The space was freshened up with new doors and hardware, along with durable tile flooring that has the look of wood, which is important in moisture-rich basement living.

Personalization played a key role in the scheme. Sterling encouraged her client to comb through social media sites such as Pinterest and Instagram to find images that would help create her vision. The gallery wall over the sectional consists of pieces sourced from Etsy; there’s also a decorative box filled with golf balls, a nod to the tween’s love of the game.

The refreshed room has longevity. “It’s a fun, functional space that she [the young inhabitant] can grow into well beyond her teenage years,” says Sterling.