The Golden Circlet

All the good things in life

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Playroom: Before and After

If this blog were at all an up-to-date chronicle of our family’s life, I should be showing you pictures of the work we’re doing on the kitchen, because that’s what we spent the weekend on. (Or, to be more accurate, what my husband spent the weekend on, while I took over the things he usually does, like cooking.) But the thing about D-I-Y home improvement is that it is very cheap, but it takes forever. All I could have shown you is the wall that last weekend he removed all the pine paneling from, revealing a structural disaster and an electrical fire waiting to happen. This weekend, he bought lumber to fix the structural disaster, and removed the outlet that I’m amazed had not yet succeeded in burning down the house, and he put in two studs, but none of this makes very thrilling photography. At least not thrilling in a good way. Very likely you’ll get kitchen before-and-after blog posts a year from today.

With home improvement on my mind, though, and needing some light at the end of my tunnel, I figured I’d show you last year’s home improvement project, which was to make over the boy’s playroom. Mostly, I am the queen of home improvement in our house. Being the queen means I make nearly all the fun decisions and do nearly none of the actual work. (My husband is a kind man. Or else he thinks I’d cut off my own arm with the reciprocating saw. I’m not sure which. Probably both. It is a goal of mine to learn these skills, however, so at some point I will put down my reign.) However, when it comes to the boy’s room, he is King of his domain. All your fun decisions are belong to him. And, in typical style, he made a lot of bold decisions and then wasn’t totally sure about them when all was said and done. However, I think his room looks great. What I love most about it is that all we will have to do to make this room suit him through adolescence and then to make it work as a study after he moves out is just to paint one wall.

Here’s how it looked before:

It looks bare because we’d taken out the broken and worn-out and repurposed-from-other-things plastic bins that lined three walls when we were getting ready to demolish it, but it didn’t look a whole lot better than this with the bins in. He had no furniture, terrible worn out brown carpet with decayed tape stuck to it, ugly beige walls he had improved over the years with crayon, pencil, and pen, and toys that simply were everywhere and could not be organized, even with adult help. It was not a happy play space. Here’s pretty much the same view, after:

The boy wanted a cheetah-themed room, because he is obsessed with cheetahs. His heroine is their fiercest protector, Dr. Laurie Marker.

We started by removing that carpet and replacing it with hardwood. This is the wood we used:

It’s oak flooring from Home Depot, in a color inexplicably called “Marsh.” We bought it five years ago to refinish our main floor, because it was insanely cheap, and we had nearly enough to redo the boy’s room leftover. We ended up paying $60 this go ’round for one additional box. We painted the walls a deep metallic gold which I think might have been from Ralph Lauren (or maybe Martha Stewart? Can’t remember or find it online, but I remember it was fancy-pants expensive paint because the shiny gold is not available in normal paint lines.) I had imagined painting the one wall as a savannah mural, with Robin and the cheetah running across it, but Robin nixed that idea. He wanted cheetah spots all across that wall with he and the cheetah running in the foreground “like a comic book.” (Did I mention he’s the king?) So that’s what we did. Here’s how it turned out:

Those cheetah spots on the wall were my contribution to this room. The boy painted a few, and my husband painted a few, but I painted 95% of them myself. Pretty happy with how they turned out, since painting walls is the last thing anyone ought to trust me to do, much less with fancy spots. I had Shutterfly make me a wall decal from a photo of the boy running a race. Finding a cheetah decal turned out to be surprisingly difficult, but I ended up buying this decal, and cutting it out. Both of the decals are removable when the boy gets tired of them, and can be moved around, so that’s cool.

My biggest goal with this room was to make it well-organized and easy for the boy to keep clean (one bin out for play at a time; each bin has its own toys), and also to create a natural limit on how many toys he could acquire in the future. (If it doesn’t fit in the furniture, something has to go to make room for it.) For that, we made the pilgrimage to Ikea. We bought deep brown Besta cabinets with glass door fronts, a long and simple Besta desk, and red bins for putting toys in. He also chose a red chair for his desk. Here’s how the desk looks:

He had the lamp already. The peace lily was a gift when his beloved horse Star died in early 2012, and that gorgeous drum was a gift our friend Dave made for him. On the wall at the left is a prized possession — a poster signed by Dr. Laurie Marker when we went to see her talk at her last visit to Dartmouth. Yes, that is a knitting basket on the floor. Here’s how the storage looks:

Months later, it still makes me happy to see all that order out of chaos. We finished things off with a fuzzy cheetah-print bean bag chairand a leopard print rug that I got for free with a free gift card. And voila: Here’s a happy kid in his happy new playroom.

Now, someday, let’s hope I can show you similar pictures of the kitchen.