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Designing With An ALMOST Tween Boy: Charlie’s Room Update/Progress With A Thrifted 80s Vibe

As you might know, the kids are now in separate rooms after 5 years of opting to share. With that comes a lot of new independence and asserting a sense of who they are (or want to be). It’s incredibly fun and also full of new challenges for me. After some initial immature pushback on my part last year I’ve taken the approach of back seat designer, letting them guide the process, tell me what they are into, and then definitely curating it along the way behind the scenes (so that there aren’t literal pokemon and Minecraft murals on all the walls). If you are wondering about my methods on such manipulation I wrote a whole post about it (and not going on Pinterest with them is my #1 piece of advice). Obviously, kids don’t need fully designed rooms, we surely never had them growing up. But due to my wonderful job of creating inspiration and avoiding pitfalls for others, our kids get the full treatment – to their benefit (and likely detriment :)). Today, you’ll see where we are at after two months of settling into Charie’s solo room. It’s definitely not done but headed in a good direction and he and I are both LOVING IT.

Charlie is nine and in that sweet age between being a snuggly little kid and wanting to be a teenager. He hasn’t been as forthcoming when it comes to his style as Birdie, but once I opened the door and showed him some ideas he came in with a lot of his own opinions. He mostly likes funky stuff – things that are unexpected, irreverent, that make you laugh (think fart jokes, for the walls), and make him feel like a big kid with a sense of humor (he has a GREAT affinity towards puns that is pretty impressive). He also wants a lot of graffiti-based prints so I’m doing a pretty strong redirect to “street art” (as you’ll see below). Also, that stuffie closet is not for stuffies – the shelves were just recently installed and he put all his stuffies in there, but obviously hoping to use it for more function (seasonal sports gear, games, nerf guns, etc).

Wall Color | Roman Shades | Carpet

We centered his bed which might stay here, might not, and have yet to buy a more complete bed (it’s currently just on an Ikea frame). Part of me wants to design a bed that is wacko and so fun, while the other part of me wants to do something simple that can be easily styled around. I’m very tempted by this bed in pine green. I’m currently waiting for inspiration to strike or for the mental brain space to dedicate to it properly. I also can’t decide if I want to upgrade to a queen just in case we need extra guest space – the room can def handle it and it’s better for sleepovers. We’ve had the green bookshelf for years (same with the white lamp with blue shade from Schoolhouse) but almost everything else was found used in Portland.

Red Lamp | Side Table with Drawer (vintage) | Keith Haring Poster | Blue and White Lamp | Side Table

I have plans to paint or strip the vintage nightstand (left) and desk chair (which have such playful round lines and are SOLID wood – so heavy), but waiting to decide what direction I want to go in. The table on the right is an Ikea table that I got at a thrift store (and love).

Net Chair (Made by Purl aka @total_nonsequitur | Green Bookcase | Light Bulb Lamp (similar option and smaller version) | Rounded Chair (thrifted)

Both those chairs are EPIC, with good stories. The one on the left was made by my new friend Purl (IG: @total_nonsequitur). I bought it from Urbanite, through another dealer I love (@thingspdx) but he makes them in all different colorways (he lived on a commune for 18 years where they made hammocks to support the community so he knows what he’s doing). Charlie and I were shopping on Mother’s Day and he picked it out and I said, “YES!!”. He loved that it looks like a basketball net and I loved it because it was unique/funky, so it was a win/win and in a lot of ways our jumping-off point. The massive round chair was a FB marketplace purchase. The guy selling it had it in a storage unit so he wouldn’t tell me how big it was nor measure it, but kept saying “really big”. I thought it was like a Satellite chair – something I’ve wanted forever and usually very expensive. And like a lot of FB marketplace purchases I bought it sight unseen – just hired a lugger to pick up in Vancouver and bring it to our house. Y’all it’s HUGE – like 6′ in diameter. It barely made it up the stairs and it’s not going anywhere. We all love it, but is this the right room for a 6′ round chair? Probably not (a huge basement TV room would be more appropriate) but he loves it so much and all four of us can snuggle/read in it. I need to style it right (which would include playful/soft pillows + stuffies). But it’s big enough for a kid to sleep on during a sleepover (which we’ve decided to opt out of these days except for special/important occasions because nobody sleeps, like at all, and we regret it every time).

“&” Poster (David Shrigley) | Impasta Print | Sus Print | Turdle Print | Blue Lines Print | Pac Man Print | Second Rodeo Print | Mix Tape Print | Crab Print | Keith Haring Walking Dog Collage Figure

We were watching High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (which is a solid TV show that Bri and I even love a lot – it’s like a G-rated version of Glee) and Ricky (one of the characters) had a room full of posters like this. Charlie perked up and said, “I want that!!” and I loved the idea. They were all layered and haphazard which is a great vibe (and one that I’m tweaking). So I went on to Etsy and Society 6 and started pinning the ones that I loved. I made the mistake of googling “graffiti-inspired posters” with him and y’all it was mostly bad (think if Home Goods hired AI to create “graffiti” art), but once I shifted to David Shrigley and Keith Haring (which he learned about in art class at school) I was able to convince him to change. I am still looking for more graffiti-style art because he’s not satisfied, so I might reach out to my friend Timothy Goodman and see if he has any ideas 😉

Also, try to explain that rodeo print to children if they haven’t heard that phrase – it’s REALLY HARD.

Door Color | Desk (vintage) | Chair (vintage) | Smiley Face Neon Sign | Blue Light (vintage)

That desk was an expensive consignment shop purchase (shout out to PDX Hoot-N-Annie). It was $400 which I think is still overpriced, but Charlie was with me and LOVED IT. Then the more I thought about it the more I actually thought it was just so fun and perfect for him and that corner. I got it down to $350 (should be $125, but it is in perfect condition) and honestly, I LOVE the vibe. I got that smiley face neon sign from Urban Outfitters and Charlie hung it on his own – REALLY REALLY HIGH. But the more we hang his art around it the more I’m into the high art. When I asked him why he put it where he did he said, “the sun is really high, so …” and then it made total sense to me.

The desk is actually really big and spacious. And please note that he pulled my vintage wood hand sculptures from the prop room and put them on his desk!!! It was one of the first things that he really responded to (whereas Birdie wants almost everything in the prop room). It made me real happy. I got the blue lamp on Craigslist last year in Portland and the red lamp from Hay four years ago.

I can’t wait to fill that wall full of his art, or posters, or other things he loves. It should be a big old casual mashup. I’m not sure if I’m going to do a huge corkboard, masonite, or just tape to the wall but the vibe will be casual and something he can add to himself.

I have a few ideas I’m toying with – a simple stripe or spiral stripe mural throughout the room (and ceiling?), a fun mural on the ceiling, or using contact paper to create a pattern or graphics all over the walls. I think something extra special like that could make all the haphazardness feel even more fun. It’s all happening in the background so stay tuned… xx

Window Treatments: Decorview
Carpet: Stark Carpet
Wall Color: Extra White by Sherwin-Williams
Door Color: Upward by Sherwin-Williams

Outlet Covers: Rejuvenation
Lighting: Rejuvenation

*Photos by Kaitlin Green


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52 thoughts on “Designing With An ALMOST Tween Boy: Charlie’s Room Update/Progress With A Thrifted 80s Vibe

  1. I love it. My son is 12 and my daughter is 10, they transitioned from sharing a room to their own rooms about 18 months ago, so I’m definitely in a similar headspace. This room design will transition well from pre-tween to tween to teen. My 12 year old has similar art but a few darker edgier pieces and I think art/bedding is definitely the way to transition without having to redo the whole room. My advice is to put the biggest possible bed in there. I don’t live in the states so our classification of Queen and king might not match up, but I bought my daughter two twins which can join together which makes a 180×200 king. For my son I got a Queen which is 150×200. I now regret not also getting him a king, as it does allow the room to be used as a guest room if a lot of family cons to stay and having the option of twins or a king makes it more versatile (no way would my 12 year old son share a bed with a friend sleeping over). So even though it’s just a kids room, definitely think about how else it might get used.

  2. Ahhh this was so fun!!! Thanks for the update Emily!
    Loving this room. And definitely sent a screenshot of the rodeo poster to my sis who will also get a kick out of it. 😁

  3. What about graffiti art on the actual wall? I bet there are some incredible artists in Portland that you could feature who could turn one of those walls into a masterpiece worthy of such a cool kid! Just sayin’. Loved this update!

    1. That was my thought! Or select a large sized board and pay an artist to create some graffiti on it that you can then install on the wall as a headboard. This way you could have a plain bed frame but have that funky vibe and if/when he outgrows you can swap out the headboard.

      1. That is a great idea for a headboard. It could even work if the graffiti artist painted on drop cloth and that was turned into an upholstered headboard!

        1. I was coming here to make this exact suggestion! I did faux headboards for the kids that we attached to the wall. I think we changed out the fabric 2-3 times in 10 years, which isn’t bad given the transitions between 7 and 17.

  4. The rodeo print was my favorite and I quite literally laughed out loud and immediately sent a link to my husband! But I also had the thought of “do kids even know what that means now?” and so when you said that just a paragraph later it made me start laughing all over again! What a great way to start a Friday. This room is awesome and his desk light is very nostalgic to me as I had one of those in magenta (!) attached to my desk as a teen. Thank you for the reminder this morning that design can have a sense of humor.

  5. If I was Charlie, I wouldn’t let that cool huge chair out of my room for anything! 😉 The whole room is filled with nifty pieces. Nicely done.

  6. Good call on the “no sleepovers except special occasions.” Covid gave us some good things!

    1. I’m not the downvote but I have such happy memories of sleepovers – both as a kid and as a parent to my three. And I guess I’m still hosting sleepovers now that they’re all adults and invite their friends over to stay when they visit!

      1. I loved it so much when I would come downstairs and the kids and all their friends would just be passed out in the living room. Teenagers… hahaha

  7. I’m loving it! I actually think the giant chair is PERFECT! It’s great for a long-legged lounging friend, a sleepover (eventually), and it grounds the room in a way that’s still fun, but not “kiddie” (to me). Also loving the posters with painter’s tape. It’s design without being precious. Yay for the fruits of collaboration!

  8. My plan for my boys’ room is a literal Minecraft Mural, and I’m excited for it! I know themed rooms aren’t for everyone, but I find them quite fun.

  9. If he is into the wood hands, did he ask for the wood hand chair, for his desk, that appears in your living room?

  10. I love a mishmash in a kid’s room. It reflects who they are – a big jumble of everything sorting itself out. That desk… too expensive and perfectly weird and impractical. Nine year old logic at its best! Whatever wackadoodle “moment” you choose to create, be prepared for him to want to change it out sooner than you want — he’s watched mom change her mind a time or 37, after all! 🙂 I love the nudge in the street art direction. A collection of photos of iconic street art from around the city/country/world could be fun.

    The round mega chair is _magnificent_ and does not require the scourge of tween sleepovers to justify its existence. We found stay-lates more fun anyway — dinner and movies or gaming until “late” (maybe 10?) and then drive everyone home while blasting music in the car. All the best parts of the sleepover without the horrors of a grumpy morning.

  11. I think you’ve already struck a great balance between what Charlie wants right now and something you can be proud to share on the blog. I can remember as a kid designing a room with my mom and then immediately realizing I was no longer into sponge-painted pastels and wanting everything to be neon (it was the 80’s) and having to live in a room I hated for years. There’s nothing in Charlie’s room that can’t be easily changed, and I think that’s great. And, I LOVE the big chair right where it is.

  12. Very cute-9 year old vibes in this room. It’s so spacious and light that lots of things don’t seem to make it feel cluttered. To weigh in on sleepovers – they are the worst. I don’t know how we made it through the sleepover years, but I’ve since advised people with young kids to make it a family thing – “we don’t do sleepovers.” Picking the kids up at midnight is what I recommend as they get to stay up late but miss out on the stupid things that happen after (like no one sleeping, strange hazing rituals that do on one any good, getting sick from no sleep, being traumatized by your friend’s strange hazing rituals…etc). If you could get your kids friends families on board, you will avoid a lot of unpleasantness.

  13. A big YES to stay lates over sleepovers, yes to the giant round chair…which would be awesome recovered in worn-in denim but would cost $$$$. Taping art to the walls is AWESOME, and makes it so easy to layer and/or update. Maybe pass on the scalloped green bed, which I love but cannot picture either of my now-grown sons ever liking at all.

  14. Loving this! I have a tween and a teen boy and this is so their vibe too. I feel like you need a Banyan Bridges mural! Racheal is amazing and local ish to you.

  15. I love this so much! Such a good, casual vibe… very “teen” and just creative and fun. And I love Charlie’s smiley placement. Makes sense and looks super unique and cool high up there. Home Goods enlisting AI to create graffiti art made me lol

  16. This feels like such an amazing opportunity for you to team up with Racheal from Banyan Bridges. Another Portland artist!! That would be awesome.

  17. This room is a such a breath of fresh air (which is to be expected for you and your team!). I haven’t seen anything like it in my feeds or blogs and I love that!

  18. This is fantastic – it looks so specific to your little boy and fun and welcoming too. I realize that a lot of your language is tongue-in-cheek but I think you are being way to hard on yourself. You aren’t “manipulating” the kids, you’re using your adult experience to prevent them from filling their rooms with things that they won’t like in a year.

  19. What a great room for your son. It looks fresh, and young, but also not pandering to the commercial tropes for what boys are supposed to like. The room looks like it belongs to a real person, which is a big victory in the children’s decor department.
    I am loving the Keith Haring and the rodeo print!

  20. This isn’t my first rodeo means I am not a novice to this situation, I have experience in this area and I am competent. The idiom this isn’t my first rodeo is mostly used in instances where a less experienced person is trying to give advice to a more experienced person, and is meant to establish superiority. From the Grammarist via the web.
    Love this phrase and the wall art about it.Love the room, lucky kid!

  21. The Clementine bed would add weight to balance the big chair. However, it is scalloped to me not squiggles like the artwork. You may still be looking for that funky headboard.

  22. Is it okay that I’m a 38-year-old woman and this is exactly how I want my room to look? The white walls, the color, the posters–I love it!! What a creative space.

  23. Emily, I’ve got a contact over who works with the legendary graffiti artist Risky; I’d be happy to see if there’s potential for a collab here if you’d like!

  24. So fun to see how this is turning out! I feel like you need some of Orlando’s art in here– it would suit the vibe!

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