07/10/2012 01:56 EDT | Updated 09/09/2012 05:12 EDT

Self-expression in the hallway: Kids decorate lockers with wallpaper, carpet and more

Kids, especially girls, have always hung photos, mirrors or handmade decorations in their school lockers. Now, retailers are giving them the option of buying co-ordinated locker trimmings that would make interior designers jealous.

Options include carpeting, chandeliers, wallpaper and a variety of accessories in bold, bright colours. Everything adheres magnetically so the products don't damage the lockers.

The trend gives kids a chance to express themselves in a venue that's more public than their bedroom.

"The locker becomes an extension of them and their personal space," said Christy Clapper, a school counsellor at Quaker Valley Middle School in Sewickley, Pa. "It gives them an opportunity to say who they are and gives them an outlet for expression."

Plus, it makes the space more attractive, added Kira Harvey, a soon-to-be eighth-grader in Albuquerque, N.M.

"The lockers are a disgusting colour," she said. The wallpaper "makes it really pretty."

She and her friends at Albuquerque Academy enjoy choosing decorations that suit their personalities. Choices range from lime-green polka dots to aqua zebra stripes to pink cheetah prints.

"It's really fun," said Kira, 13. "We all have our own wallpaper."

She also uses some of the organizational accessories to hold her cellphone and pencils.

Product creators Christi Sterling and JoAnn Brewer started their company, LockerLookz, in 2010 after creating some handmade pieces to decorate their daughters' lockers. Once other students saw the decorations, their parents started calling the women asking where they could buy them.

The friends decided to test-market a few products and were overwhelmed by the response.

"We found that locker decorating is a rite of passage. It's a really big deal to them," said Sterling of Plano, Texas. "They need to show others who they are."

Retailers also loved it, added Brewer, also of Plano. "It's a time-sensitive product that helped to drive sales," she said.

Paul Buckel got the idea to create magnetic wallpaper when his daughter's friend got in trouble for covering her locker with contact paper. Buckel, who runs a company, Magna Card, in DuBois, Pa., that makes magnetic business cards and other promotional products, saw locker decorations as an exciting new merchandise line.

Dee Tipps, owner of a boutique called a.k.a. Girl Stuff in Birmingham, Ala., says she "started jumping up and down" when locker decorations caught her eye. The LockerLookz decorations flew off shelves last summer, she said, thanks mostly to middle-school girls.

"It's like somebody has opened a safe full of diamonds," she said.

Caroline McCormick, 12, remembers walking into Tipps' boutique. "The first thing I thought was, 'How can I get this for my locker?'" she said. "I wanted to make my locker be a symbol of me. I didn't want my locker to look like everyone else's."

She also was happy that she could cover the locker's dreary grey metal interior.

After decorating the space with a white chandelier, blue carpet and black-and-white wallpaper, Caroline considered her locker "a room that's away from my house."

Buckel said schools have gotten behind the products, especially because they don't damage the lockers. Some schools in his area have hosted decorating contests, he said.

The organizational products are great for kids, said Clapper, the school counsellor, who tries to teach students that an organized locker can contribute to academic success.

"We actually spend a lot of time teaching them appropriate ways to organize their lives and their space," she said. "Some kids co-ordinate everything. Others you can only imagine what their bedrooms look like."