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You Really Can Do-it-Yourself: Making One Space Work for Two

By Elyse Major

Growing up, I shared a bedroom with my older sister. I still think of those nights when we stayed up past bedtime to share “secret talks” among my most cherished memories. When my husband and I began house hunting for our family of four, a third bedroom never made my wish list. I wanted our boys to share a room holding onto the belief that a small space would provide them with some serious bonding time. Okay, so most nights it sounds like a slumber party going on across the hall, but it’s all for a good cause, right? Bonding.

Bedroom MakeoverMy boys are just two years apart and while they share many interests they naturally differ on issues and being my offspring they are both inherently passionate about color. My oldest is crazy about blue while my youngest favors green. I wanted the boys included in the creative process of their room re-do but we talked in circles about wall color choices for months. Blue or green? Orange? Tan? One day the idea of dividing the room in half by color was suggested and it stuck.

Choosing the right shades of blue and green became overwhelming as the boys would exit the paint department with shopping bags full of paint chips. Taking a cue from furnishings my oldest had liked at Ikea, I covertly selected the paint colors myself. I also bought white paint for trim and the ceiling, and plenty of painter’s tape.

I am a messy painter so needing to be precise for lines where the two colors meet was difficult for me. In other rooms I favor pale (read: forgiving) colors and tend to accept imperfections as elements of shabby-cottage style. This wasn’t the case painting the boys’ room using bolder choices, which required multiple coats of paint over primer. I also had the brainstorm to repaint their furniture the color of each side of the room, outlined and dotted with hardware, a darker tone from the same paint chip panel.

After a few days of prep, priming and painting, the room was uniquely two colors, balanced by white. Slowly we have been adding decorative elements (see below). It makes me very happy that the boys are excited to show friends their room. Wouldn’t it be nice if having “a cool room” also motivated them to keep it neat? Well, one dream at a time.

Target is terrific but don’t ignore Ikea

Ikea was a great resource for fun, uncommon, and yet still affordable things for the room. At just $24.99, it was easy to agree to new nightstands. Other favorite purchases: mounted lamps, L-shaped shelves, poster frames and fabric. Did I mention the cinnamon buns? So worth any drive.

Don’t sew? Don’t sweat it.

I can barely sew but when I saw blue and green striped fabric at Ikea, I had to buy it. I also purchased Ikea’s Dignitet cable and clips set which meant all I had to do was hem edges, which I did using fusible tape and an iron, mount the cable system to the wall, and we were covered.Bedroom Makeover Curtain Detail

Wall art

For wall décor we framed posters the boys already had, saved from packages of trading cards and boxes of themed valentines. We used vibrant construction paper (a perennial Ikea fave) to fill the extra space, like a mat.Bedroom Makeover-Green Side

Spotlight on collections

My boys probably have more collections that I can list. By providing some display space, these groups of beloved plastic can have their moment in the spotlight instead of underneath the bed or scattered in bins and boxes.


Because I wanted this room to be personal for each child, I gave up control of the bedding choice. One bed has robots and the other has Wolverine, and that’s okay.bedroom makeover Blue Side

Prep is key

To save time and minimize frustration, read about how to paint a room before you even buy a brush. The prep work is so important and involves spackling holes, washing walls and painting on primer before any real painting should begin. I like Brian Santos, The Wall Wizard.

Elyse’s Décor Do’s

  • Look at everything around you as possible décor. Even crayons look cool when displayed in jars by color.
  • Make throw pillows out of favorite but outgrown T-shirts and jammy tops: buy pillow inserts from a fabric store, stuff and sew (or fuse)
  • Add embellishments from the scrapbooking aisle to curtains and lampshades
  • Replace or paint furniture hardware — a super easy update
  • Back the inside of a bookcase with paper that can be seen from behind shelves. Use color copies of favorite illustrations, even comic book pages
  • Use tension rods to hang anything with a spool
  • Keep things unfussy, kid-friendly, washable and comfortable
  • Display art projects, Lego and other constructs, small action figure scenes

Take it from me …

  • Don’t begin painting without first learning about how to prep and prepare
  • For safety and your own sanity, have someone available to watch your children while you do any work that requires all of your focus
  • Don’t underestimate how much time a project may take. I once believed I could tape and paint a small bathroom while my son was at preschool. Not quite
  • “Cotton tarps” are an oxymoron; they will not protect work surfaces from paint
  • Always sand any glossy surface before priming if you want the paint to properly adhere (despite what “advice” you might get from any well-meaning home supply store staff)
  • For tightening and loosening screws, always remember what Luke from Gilmore Girls advised, “Tighty Righty and Lefty Loosey”

The process of choosing colors and materials can be lengthy but it’s part of the fun. When a room is “finished” I am always surprised that I took it on, trusted my design instincts, and completed the job. Sure, there are mistakes and drips but they’re all part of the story: your story.

Elyse Major divides her time between being a mostly stay-at-home mom, communications consultant, tinkerer, blogger and online seller. Elyse’s efforts are cheered on by her husband and two boys in northern RI. Elyse is featured in both the May and June issues of Romantic Homes magazine. Visit her blog at http://tinkeredtreasures.blogspot.com

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  • Nicely done! I like the give and take between the boys and how you handled it. Your reminiscing about your sister makes me super nostalgic for mine… even though we had separate rooms, more often than not we slept in the same one. Good times.

  • Elyse…do you rent out your talents??? The boys’ room looks awesome! We have two shared rooms, and could never come up with a great compromise…Also, I LOVE your idea with the two ikea shelves. I always thought that shelf was interesting, but not very practical. Not anymore!!!

  • Great job Elyse!! I especially like the way you put up the curtain. I would never have thought of that. (I really need to get to IKEA.)
    Great colors, great article, great ideas!

  • wow elyse!!! what an amazing room!

    our kids share a room too (and will for quite some time as there are no spare bedrooms). up ’til now they’ve just had mattresses on the floor and no real decorations.

    but this summer we are setting up bunk beds and i’m going to be spending a little time getting things set up in a cozy way for them.

    it’s a little tricky because we have a boy and a girl but their common love is farms so i’m going to go with that…lots of pictures of animals for my daughter and lots of pictures of tractors and other equipment for my son!!

    thank you so much for this inspiring post!!


  • Stephanie,
    we’re going through the same situation with a 3 year old and 11 month old. Elyse, I’d love some advice on how to manage sharing a room with a baby who doesn’t yet sleep all night. And I love your ideas for ways to incorporate colors and styles for both kids. Thanks.

  • So timely! My husband and I are working on moving the 8 month old into his 3-year old brother’s room. Last night was our first attempt and while it started well, the baby was back in our room by morning.

    Any non-design advice for room sharing and making sure that everyone gets at least a little sleep?

    And I look forward to looking back at this once our boys are ready to design their room together!

  • Great room, Elyse! I loved the mix of realism and optimism in this article. I might even try this curtain idea. ♥

  • Elyse!!!!
    The room looks fabulous. I LOVED this article. Lots of fantastic tips for all kinds of projects. Really fun. Well written, informative. Love your Kidinfo articles!!!!

  • Great job with the room Elyse! It looks wonderful! I love how you make it sound soo easy…
    Perhaps I won’t flee from my painting projects this summer.