Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Boy to Man: Re-imagining a childhood bedroom

If you just landed here from, this post is about tips for updating our "new" bedroom.  My husband and I are now living with my mother in law to save for our own house.  It's an ongoing project to recalibrate everyone's boundaries and style in this space.  It's going pretty well, so I thought I'd find out what we are doing that makes this work and share it with you.  
Adult kids moving back home is nothing new, and in fact may be a sensible option as young folks like us try to save money during this recession.  It runs counter to the 20th century American ideal of becoming magically self sufficient at 18 and staying that way permanently, but that formula is actually an anomaly.  Many cultures do multigenerational households, and while this has unique challenges in the US, it can work well.  I was raised in one, myself, and I think it benefited the entire family to have to deal with not only childrearing but also eldercare.  
But before I go writing a totally seperate essay on that subject, let me deliver the goods I promised!  Here's what I discovered trying to ease our now-bedroom from baby room to adult space and still respect its history:
1 - Clear it out!
First, last, forever - I say get it OUT YA HOUSE!  Emptying the room entirely really helped us think of new possiblities for it.  Trash and recycling went where they were supposed to go. Items to store went to their various homes, and anything left over that didn't belong in there was installed in its proper spot, out of the boudoir.
I can't emphasize this enough.  Lightening the load in the the "new" old room made it physically easier to deal with (in terms of cleaning) and psychologically easier, too.  Mr. Liz and I symbolically put away the little boy days, and made room for the grown man he is today.  And room for me, too!
2 - Scrub it down, up, sideways
This goes hand in hand with #1, but it's so important I had to showcase it.  When we came back to the old room, it hadn't seen use in a while, and was a little dusty and musty.  This happens, so it's nothing to be ashamed of.  Just like our bodies feel a little stiff and ragged if we don't get some sort of exercise every day, rooms get stiff and neglected if they're not used.  So I've been giving that room a workout!  
With my allergies, dusting was my first priority.  That's a continuous chore, but a good core dust-off always helps to get you going.  The next item of business was taking down any cobwebs, windexing the windows, and scrubbing the sills.  The windowsills in this room are painted white, so when they're really sparkly, they brighten the entire space well.
Part of this is a safety check: are there splinters anywhere?  Any drafts?  Are all the outlets freely accessed and in good working order?  Checking on these basic things  saves so much time and energy later, and its easy to fold them into the cleaning routine.
3 - What can you change?
This one's necessary if anyone is living with family members, or renting.  Some things you can't do anything about, and will have to make your peace with - or find a workaround.  Find out what those non-negotiables are and keep them in mind.  Are you stuck with carpet?  Keep an eye out for area rugs you like better, which can cover it.  Are the walls a nasty color, and you can't paint or paper?  Get into the DIY mode and make lots of art to hang up.  Frames can be had cheaply at dollar and thrift stores, or craft stores if you watch for a good sale.  If you can't put a bunch of nail holes in the wall, lean large framed posters/prints/etc up against the wall.  If they won't hide the awful wall entirely, at least you've put your style on it, which can be a good compromise.
4 - If you can, do something with the walls and floor
Ok, if you're lucky ducks, you can do something about the room's cosmetics.  In our bedroom, there's some really dated wallpaper and a patch of "gently used" hardwood right at the entrance of the room.

I surfed blogs, pintrest, and even BlogHer for ideas, and I found solutions!  For our floor, we splurged on a pretty area rug from Uban Outfitters.  Yes, yes, we bought new, but Husbandpants was determined to treat me with something, so I couldn't turn that down!
For our walls, I wanted something I could do in a weekend to really change the look of the room.  I caught onto the idea of fabric covering.  Carefully placed, and tacked discreetly in the corners, I thought a nice neutral colored fabric would be great in there.  It'd make the space feel like ours right away, and it would temporarily solve the problem of wallpaper, and I could repurpose it after.  I have permission to take that old paper down, but that's a summer project.  I was all set to do broadcloth or something similar, but Bloghers, I discovered....The Burlap Wall.
Oh yes, burlap.  I have 26 yards on its way to me as we speak.  Both Husband and I gravitate towards earth tones and natural things (seashells, rocks, sticks, bones), so I said why not go with the crunchies of granola fabrics?  Burlap seems to be hot right now, thanks to my super sophisticated research on Google images and  Apparently I'm trendy.  What about that, huh?
 5 - If you can't change paint/floor/etc., decorate like mad (within reason)
I'd advise doing this even if you can change the walls and floor!  But that's just because I love this step so much.  When I started to pretty up the windows and dresser tops, I let myself go nuts within certain limits.  Since this is a pretty small room, I had to keep things simple.  We used to have 2 dressers and 2 bookcases to play with, which is a lot of surface area.  Now there's only 1 small bookcase in the bedroom, and our dressers.  And everything's closer together, so I wanted to avoid visual clutter (and dusting disasters).
For instance, I thought of what I used on my dresser top, and dedicated it to that: jewelry, perfume, coaster for coffee.  There are a "few" other baubles on there, things I truly love seeing each morning, but it's much more restrained than it used to be.  Tiny pretties and my other thrift store finds were stored to be rotated in at a later date.

Another good guideline for decorating (especially if you're starting out) is to try to stay in some sort of theme.  That way there's visual harmony, which makes the space look (of course) neater and more pulled together.  Also, this can make the room look more "masculine", which was a unique concern for me.  
Mr. Liz genuinely likes all my bits and baubles, and will often salvage or thrift with me for more (such a gem!  no, he doens't have a brother!)  However, a ton of tiny brass vases, or porcelain pigs, or gew gaws makes the place look more fussy.  I'm trying to keep this room more mature and neutral, to cut down on any freudian freakouts he might have, sleeping once more in his baby room.  So I cut the fuss, and I'm keeping it as simple as I can while respecting both our tastes.

So there you have it, some handy tips for those downsizing, moving, or simply looking to frugally update their spaces!  If you have any more, feel free to leave me some comment love, or send them off to  I think we're onto something here, so I'd like to revisit this topic another time.


Ok, now pictures of the dogs!!

Gobi, showing that we're still working on not clashing colors!  It's been so cold we've just put all the blankets on the bed, coordinating or not.

The backyard is big.  Really big.  

And Gypsy loves that! Both puppies go zooming around together every day.

We also get a *lot* of birds:

Mr. Cardinal being shy...

A puffed-up finch or sparrow?  I forget what kind of bird it is, but I love when they get all plumped up for cold weather.

A blurry something or other!

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