My experience with au pairs is very mixed. I probably interviewed over 30 au pairs and had 4 staying with us for 2 years. I found it very difficult to find anyone who would fit my “not-so-demanding” criteria (I thought). The au-pair’s room had dark navy walls (which I painted because when we bought the house, the walls were bright mustard yellow, so I figured darker colour would cover it faster than lighter colour), white sheets, bedding and curtains for crisp contrast and a hint of fuchsia pink here and there through art and accessories.
Obviously, I didn’t really consider what the au pair would think about the room as long as it was clean, welcoming and had some privacy. How wrong was I! The first au pair walked in and pronounced immediately “Oh, I don’t like pink.” Well, you can imagine how well that went down. I though such an ungrateful girl! She has roof over her head, food and pocket money and that’s what I get in return. I’m not going to go in detail but all I can say is that she didn’t last long (for many other reasons!).
So second au pair came along, same room and totally opposite reaction. She absolutely loved her room. After that I figured one thing. Whatever style or colour scheme, your au pair’s room will be received in different ways. Of course as a hosting family you want to make sure that your au pair feels welcomed, content and safe while she’s adjusting to different way of life, culture, daily routine and learning another language plus helping with domestic and childcare duties.
So here are my 5 top tips which you can take away from this post.
1. Stick to your home overall colour palette
If you want your au pair to be part of your family, her/his room should reflect that too. When it comes to colour scheme, rather than trying to figure out what each au pair likes or doesn’t like, decorate the room with the similar mind set like you approach the rest of your house.
2. Go for neutral backdrop and inject colourful accents
Once you know what colours you want to introduce into the room (I would pick 4 core colours), introduce them through accents such as art, textiles and accessories while keeping the overall space neutral. I would use vases, small boxes, decorative objects, artwork, cushions, blankets, bedspread and rug to make the space visually cohesive, interesting, stylish and welcoming.
3. Decorate it for a young student
From my experience, au pairs are like young students. Apart from helping you with daily chores and childcare, they need to study a new language too. Providing them with a desk and chair in their room is very important. I found that if the space for studying isn’t great, they use other areas of your house. Which, isn’t great. Now, this might be debatable to some, saying it’s not necessary etc etc., but I think if you want to have a “happy au pair” you need to give her own quiet space or area to be able to work in. I managed to put a very small desk and chair in a very tiny room by just reshuffling the bed and wardrobe around. Think like when you were a teenager and what your needs were at that time.
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4. Don’t clutter the room with furniture leftovers
This follows on from my previous point. There is a certain tendency to use the room as a dumping ground for old, unused leftover furniture. I know I’ve done it. Before the au pair room, it was our office. We moved the desks, filing cabinets out and in went the bed. We left one writing desk in the corner, which was fine, but also 3 bookcases, which wasn’t great at all. With the big bed in the middle it was much harder to move around the room. In the end, I moved our bookcases in our hallway so the room could be more functional and nicer to be in. My advice? Only leave furniture that has its purpose in the room. Everything else has to go out in the garage or elsewhere. Also think about the size of the furniture in proportions to the space. Oversized, big chunky furniture is more suitable for larger spaces so it’s easy to move around it and the space can breathe.
5. Ensure the room has enough storage
One thing I learnt, au pairs like shopping. They love it. They come with one suitcase and leave with five! Honestly, it’s crazy. I found that underbed storage is extremely useful. Having drawers is another one. You want the au pair to look after the room well, so it’s organised, tidy and clean most of the time. Remember, your kids will be observing her matters and behaviour all the time. So if her room is cluttered with clothes everywhere, your kids will have an excuse and copy her too. In my house, that’s a big no no! Providing reasonably enough storage is a must, I say!
P.S. I have a FREE GUIDE for you to download. It’s packed with great advice for modern family interiors which you can apply straightaway. Plus there is also my secret rule to keeping my home looking like new!