Kids who leave their rooms a mess may be trying to tell us something.

1) They're holding out for arbitration on their allowances; or 2) They know you'll eventually pick everything up before company comes to visit.More likely, they just don't like their rooms, says Antonio Torrice, an interior designer renowned for his work with children's living spaces in homes, schools and hospitals.

Torrice presented a design seminar May 5, sponsored by the Utah State University College of Family Life and the student chapter of the American Association of Interior Designer (ASID).

Torrice brings an unusual background to his design projects and seminars. He began his education in elementary education and child psychology. He has worked with handicapped children and in a Montessori school.

He says this background helps him see through the eyes of a child.

"Children actually see things differently. Not only in their perspective but in the colors they see. Research now shows that infants see black, white and gray much better than colors. But what do most of the mobiles we hang over babies' cribs look like?"

They usually are colorful animals with the outline aimed toward the parents rather than down toward the infants' eye view, Torrice says.

This misguided perspective is continued as infants grow up.

"Most children's rooms are designed and decorated by parents based on what the parents think a child's room should look like. Boys get race car beds and baseball bat lamps. Girls get canopy beds and lots of ruffles, Torrice says.

"Most rooms are designed with the eye view of a parent or other adult."

He says he actually gets down on the floor with the children and asks them how they would like to see the room laid out.

"It is important not only to see the room from the child's eye level but also not to tower over children when asking them questions and thus influence their choices," he says.

Torrice says he starts with a blank piece of paper and a black crayon and helps children map out the various areas of their rooms - sleeping, storage, clothes, play areas, etc.

Again, Torrice says, the simple concept of "eye view" is important because rooms are seldom designed with the visual perspective of the child in mind. The backs of doors can often be used for drawing boards at children's eye level.

Also, for small children a closet is like another room. He says some of his designs incorporate a puppet theater in the closet door or a treehouse sort of loft in the top of the closet.

He says he then works on selecting room colors by playing a game using color cards. He takes the information from the interviews with the children and puts together several designs with color plates to show the parents.

"Parents are often amazed by their children's choices. They may even be surprised at the choice of favorite colors. Often adults subtly influence children's choices without knowing it," Torrice says.

Once he has consulted parents he goes to work. He emphasizes that these rooms are not expensive designer rooms that children will soon outgrow.

For instance, he says Mickey Mouse and "Star Wars" motifs are popular with parents, but this type of design quickly time-locks the room.

Torrice says he always incorporates convertibility into his design so the children can have an enjoyable, functional room when they are 6 as well as when they are 16. For example, the components of a platform bed may later be used for a desk.

Although Torrice got his start designing children's rooms, his new passion is designing areas for special needs. He is particularly concerned that hospitals and centers for the aging are designed with less aesthetic forethought than is given to most zoos.

Most recently he has been working on projects to make children's stays in hospitals less scary.

Just using warm colors and wall graphics is a great improvement, he says.