One of the occupational hazards of my job is that our kids have gotten spoiled with stupidly cute Pinterest-perfect rooms since the day they were born. They just popped into the world with animals wallpapered all over their rooms and carefully curated gallery walls. So easy! We are all EXTREMELY lucky and privileged, and while it’s not their fault, our kids have NO idea how much work, time, and money it takes to pull together a room. Before the pandemic it was different. I was so busy and had a team of designers that helped me with my own house. Emily Bowser and Julie Rose created the tent bed at the mountain house. Shade installed the rock climbing wall. Julie drew and executed the blue and white canopy in their last shared room. I remember crying in the shower, reaching a breaking point thinking “I don’t have time to even decorate my own kids’ rooms”. And yet there was immense pressure both internally and externally to have their rooms done, perfect, styled, shot, published, and praised. I was so embarrassed that they were both sleeping on mattresses on the floor for a couple of years that I stopped inviting anyone over that wasn’t a very, very, very close friend. I was so sick of apologizing. I actually didn’t mind showing you all on the internet, but if friends of friends came over I would have anxiety due to the expectation. The pressure was real and just so dumb (and trust me, people did judge and I don’t blame them). Even if it had been just me designing their rooms they were young, in school, and never really saw the hard work that it took to make a room beautiful. They were 3 and 5 then and now they are close to 7 and 9. Things are different. And I’m in such a different place physically and mentally.
Recently we watched the show Get Out Of My Room where siblings design each other’s rooms with the help of a team, and surprise! A new totally dialed-in room. It’s pretty darn fun for the whole family and the designs were super cute – if not totally far out. Afterward, they both had a massive list of ideas and design elements that they wanted for their rooms. Once again TV has made things look so easy and attainable. “Oh really??!!!,” I said. “And who is going to do all of this, and how are we going to pay for it?!!!” I think we all know how they would have answered, “Uh, you” but they were smart enough to not answer. As a mom who grew up not financially privileged, knowing that I’m responsible for their entitlement is a real bummer and has forced a change in how we do life.
I honestly haven’t really thought about their rooms at the farmhouse until now because I was too swamped with the renovation to think about decoration. We weren’t sure if they were sharing or not and still aren’t. During the day they both want their own rooms, but at bedtime, they say “we aren’t ready”. Right now they want to start with two full beds in one room, knowing that within the year once they get used to the house (and get over the fact that our room is so far away) they’ll separate. Another reason that I haven’t started their rooms is because I want to take my time and enjoy the process with them. Imagine that! And now that we are getting closer to moving in, our kids are talking about their rooms more which is what I needed to get excited. So here is how we are going to do it this time:
Find A Jumping-Off Point We BOTH Love
Now you don’t always have to have a “Jumping-Off Point” but with kids (and those of us who are ADHD), they can be all over the place and change their minds constantly with the newest shiny thing. I get it. Finding one thing, whether it’s a piece of furniture, a pattern, or a theme and then trying to keep everyone aligned with what we originally all loved I think helps. For Birdie, it was her wallpaper (which you’ll see this week) full of tons of colors for us to pull from. Such a relief. For Charlie, it was his vintage “net” chair, again full of colors and a vibe that gave us both good ideas for his 80s concept. I’m not going to be strict about it or anything, but knowing that they love these two design elements a lot gives me a sense of where we are headed, and then I can show them how to pull colors for the rest of the room to work with what they have chosen. Almost like the now restricted color palette was their idea.
Ask Them Their Opinions And Ideas Away From The Internet
I’ll write about it later this week but because of how ads have taken over every. single. platform, if you put in any theme for a room, even on Pinterest, it’s all product or moving videos. So guess what they want? New stuff and to watch annoying ad videos. So yes, I’m asking them all the questions and getting answers like “glow in the dark”, “boom box tech”, “disco sparkles”, etc. But then I’m going to find the good versions of those ideas and pitch them back to them. Otherwise, they see a lot of garbage and want it.
Curate Before You Show And Tell
I’ve made this mistake so many times thinking somehow we are aligned in our likes and dislikes. WE ARE NOT. Their ideas aren’t bad, but I’ve found that naturally, they choose the loudest versions of them, which I don’t think have longevity. When I gave them the whole paint deck to choose colors they somehow both found the colors that hurt my eyes. I’m not a monster and want them to have those colors, but there is a “good” version of every color, even neon green and bright purple (I hope, dear God, I hope). So now I show them curated chips instead of the whole fan deck – especially when we are talking about painting Birdie’s bed. Kids are the opposite of refined – as they should be! And I don’t want them to dislike something in a year as they grow. I think it’s ok to think about longevity and not dive too deep into colors, themes, or characters they may not love in a few years. Finding that balance between fostering and forcing is hard 🙂 Also, I’m not going to show them every option – I found this dope vintage architectural white metal lamp on Etsy the other day and showed Charlie, and he loved it. If I had shown him all the vintage lamps on Etsy he might have liked other ones more, and frankly, until it’s their money I’m only buying things that I know will go in our house well and for a long time. He’s happy and I’m happy.
My Secret Strategy For Family “Treasure Hunting” (Thrifting)
Ok. I know I started this post talking about how I have spoiled them but here’s my rationale for this: Kids don’t like the act of “shopping” without buying and I get that. But thrifting/vintage shopping is my favorite thing to do and I really, really want to do it with them. I tried telling them to bring their own money but understandably they don’t want to use their car wash dough on “old stuff”. So, for my birthday last year, I took Birdie to Aurora to go shopping for her dollhouse (Kinder wasn’t in school yet, Charlie was), offering to buy her antique dollhouse furniture. Once she knew that she was going to be able to walk away with something, she LOVED going in and shopping. It’s just getting them in the door that is hard. In order to cultivate shared interest they need to feel the whole experience and at least have the potential to walk away with something. Brian buys them tickets to professional soccer games and Dodgers games, spoiling them with cotton candy and soda because he wants to have that experience with his kids. He wants them to love sports so he can do that with them. This is the same thing. The whole experience basically serves as a bribe for them to enjoy it. And gosh darn it, it’s working. So yes now I either give them $5 or $10 (depending if we are at a thrift store, garage sale, or antique shop) so they actually have fun. Or if we are talking about their room then they know that if there is a lamp, pillow, or furniture that I also like and is a good deal (which is hard to explain), I’ll buy it for them. I am planning a future dream Paris flea market trip with Birdie – I need her to LOVE antiquing. Charlie was harder because he picked up Brian’s not-so-subtle opinion of antiquing, thinking that it’s a “lady mom” thing. But Brian shifted his outward opinion, I rebranded it as “treasure hunting” and it’s been much more fun ever since. Charlie has found old binoculars, pocket knives, and that cool basketball net chair I was talking about earlier. He’s still not as into it as Birdie is, but he doesn’t mind going. I also give them my phone and tell them to take pictures of everything they love, knowing that we likely won’t buy any of it but it gives me a good idea of what they like. This keeps them VERY engaged and feeling seen/heard and part of the design process.
Buy Used When Possible So They Start Getting Into That Habit And Understanding Waste + Budget
We mostly go to antique malls in Oregon because the thrift stores are honestly so overpriced and picked over. Recently we went garage sale-ing, which was SO FUN but as you can imagine they came home with 10 pretty disgusting stuffies each (people were just giving them away but I didn’t want to say “no” because we were having so much fun). Not everything can be “used” (like bedding and towels) but we are shopping vintage and second-hand first for this house and I’m just not really showing them anything new unless we can’t find it vintage. Also, if you try this, lower your expectations. It’s not perfect, they won’t last long shopping and there still might be arguments. But to me, it’s absolutely worth it to share my favorite hobby with my favorite people. Plus we are teaching about how much better it is for the planet, how much further our dollar goes.
Have Them Help DIY Their Own Art, Textiles, & Accessories
I have a whole post planned on what I want to DIY with them because I figure the only way for them to understand how much goes into making things is for them to start making things themselves. Their concept of money is hilarious and understandably they think we can just spend anything on anything. Again, I know this is my fault. So my hope is to engage them in a lot of DIY projects together (upholstering headboards, making art) and obviously that will be SO fun for me. I also totally recognize that most moms don’t have this kind of time, but I can set it aside because it’s still “work” and of course, I’ll be documenting them. So please don’t feel bad if you don’t have time to do these DIYs with your kids.
They’ll Help Paint Used Furniture In Their Bold Colors
They both want super bright bold colors which I think is VERY fun. I was Charlie’s age when I started 4-H and refinished my first piece of furniture. So if they are interested in using crazy bright colors that I don’t know if they’ll love in 5 years then they’ll help paint used pieces of furniture. I’m definitely not paying someone to paint neon dressers. That we will do ourselves. I have no idea if they are ready for the patience and hard work that comes with refinishing, and this plan might totally fail, but I think I can get them to engage enough to help (even if I might finish). I also know I am being super naive here and things aren’t going to always go well. But this is my intention 🙂
Foster Their Creativity, Not My Ego
I let go of the idea that their bedrooms would be in my “Scandinavian shaker farmhouse” concept months ago. Their bedrooms aren’t “mine”, and it’s so exciting to see them engaged in wanting their personality in their room. I really, really want that for them. While I love how our mountain house has a really cohesive concept, they just don’t want it. They want loud, bright, and messy and I get that! I did, too!!! This is why the DIY part of it will be important because even if it doesn’t turn out well, at least there was some learning and bonding along the way. So I’m literally just trying to say “yes” as much as possible and then tweak and supplement where needed.
I’m Keeping My Expectations Low And Flexibility High
This is likely not going to turn out as well as I want it to – not the rooms. The rooms will likely be great, but this whole experiment of heavily involving them won’t be easy. I’m sure there will be some battles. I’m not naive to that. We’ll both have to be flexible and compromise. They understand that this is my job and my job pays for everything in their life, so if they want to buy a $9 Frozen Elsa lamp, they will have to spend their own money on it. But it’s hard! I want them to express themselves creatively without battling with me, and not creating waste. That might sound harsh if you don’t have kids but if you do, you know that between their concept of money (zero. zip.) and what they like (everything branded and tacky), you have to edit them a bit in order to not contribute to waste in money and landfill. That’s why not giving them the option of the internet or new stores so at least it curbs that a bit. For now. But also y’all, this is my first rodeo doing this with them and I’m going to make a million mistakes. My goals go in this order: A. Have fun together, B. Foster their creativity, C. Create rooms full of good ideas that might help you, and D. Subtly teach them the value of hard work, longevity in design and money. I think I can say what you are all thinking real quick: GOOD LUCK, EMILY!!!!
Opener Image Credit: Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Mountain House: The Kids’ Room Reveal!!
When my daughters were first handed creative freedom over their bedrooms, and we were trying to impart these same lessons, using a budget was an essential tool in helping them make good choices. We all found that financial restriction to be very freeing, rather than the depressing limitation that many people assume budgets to be. A budget helped our kids focus in on what mattered most to them, and they made some really great decisions about how to get the most bang for their buck. Once we gained consensus around a “no licensed characters” rule, the rest of the process was great fun. Enjoy!
How am I still learning this in my 40s?!!
The no licensed character ANYTHING, was always my rule too. Yikes, they changed weekly. And, weren’t the clothing and shoes the worst?
I love how thoughtful and intentional this post is. It’s wonderful for you to want to involve them and teach them about what you do and how. You are correct that it can be incredibly frustrating to do things with kids. My husband and I try to involve our kids (10 and 6) in as much as possible. One thing that has helped us when we teach them things is remembering the larger goal. The goal is not to end up with the perfect cake or the very best loft bed, but to end up with a strengthened relationship and kids who feel capable and engaged. At the same time, we want a tasty cake and a safe bed, so it really is ok to insist they do it right. It doesn’t benefit anyone to be praised for producing garbage. Sometimes things don’t work out, but then they can try again. Really, could you teach your kids a more valuable lesson than bouncing back after failure? The other thing that helps me is remembering that they can do both more than you think and less than you think. With a lot of things, we try and just demonstrate how to… Read more »
I love this. so much good advice. i’m much more of a ‘they can do more than you think’ parent and brian is the opposite, so and we are both right and wrong often 🙂 And yes, just doing it together is just so fun and strengthening. I chant all the time to myself ‘competence = confidence’ . it’s so much easier to do everything for them, but just making their own meals I think builds that confidence. xx
Good luck, Emily! 😘
Aaand… You’re doing a grrreat job too!
Child development is my jam. I have 2 degrees and a partial Masters. I know how their brains work….and clearly, YOU do too!😁
All of your strategies are great, practical, doable and try demonstrate that you DO know more than you’re giving yourself credit for.
The now, next, new, more, new, next….is rrreal.
Me thinks you might be a whole lot more successful at this than you think?
On ya Brian, for shifting the language to “treasure hunting”. There’s a Principal Henderson still in ya from those home schooling days! 🤩
In addition, thank you sooo much for focusing on reusing and recycling, upcycling and avoiding waste and plastic garbage. Every, little action adds up! Yaaay!! 🌏 ❤
ah, thanks Rusty. and to be clear (not keeping score over here) I rebranded it to treasure hunting. Hilariously i think it worked for Brian, too. hahahahah.
Hehehe….that’s a bit like SUBLIMINAL ADVERTISING!! It works!🤣🤣🤣
…sounds like you’re on the right track. So many parents make the room about their own taste and ideas – almost making up for what was missing in their own childhood. (I know I did.)
Well said! I also involve my child in diy. Just last night she helped me caulk baseboards (she’s 4). It was incredibly frustrating to watch her take off a lot of caulking but she was so excited to help! And in the end, it turned out just perfect.
I have a relatively blank canvas for her room and I’d love to have her suggest something to me on how to personalize it. What a special age and what special children you have!
I just wanted to hop on to say that I love Emily’s posts that have some parenting philosophy in them… she has a really unique background/present life and I really appreciate her perspective. Good luck with the rooms! Sounds so fun/challenging/fun! PS: While the kids share a room, you might consider stuffies and books in the sleeping room, toys in the other room. Makes clean up a LOT easier!
We have this set-up and it works really well!
Just two ideas:
The other benefit to two beds in each room is even when they don’t want to share a room, they will have an extra bed for friends sleeping over. Past the time I shared a room, I had bunk beds and then a king size bed (when I moved to the basement bedroom, best thing ever for an early teen :)), and one of my friends had two (hand me down) queen beds in her (oversized basement :)) bedroom. The extra bed space got used all the time for sleepovers.
Just two excellent ideas!
Yes to two beds, for all the reasons mentioned! It could even be a daybed or trundle if room is an issue.
I was thinking trundle too! I had a day bed with a trundle and it was great for sleep overs
oh this is interesting!!! the rooms are big so they might be able to handle two. I just bought birdies full bed off fB yesterday, but maybe could also fit a daybed?
Emily, I love the idea of two beds with one being a daybed. That way it would feel like a sofa and place to lounge. So excited to see what the kids and you come up with.
Re: sharing rooms or not. My son and daughter shared a room until a year ago (they are 13 and 9!). My advice would be to make two separate rooms for them but with at least one of the rooms having space for them both to sleep in. (Ie bunk beds or a big bed.) When my kids got their own rooms, we got my daughter a full sized bed. My son still sleeps in her room when he’s scared sometimes (I’m not crying, you’re crying) but they both have their own places to go when they want it. Plus it’s fun for them to both put their own spin on a room!
Also, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate how Emily ALWAYS acknowledges her privilege when talking about the renovation. No one I follow online seems to “get it” quite like Emily does. It’s noticed and appreciated!!!
I think it’s a little too much honestly, like yes, maybe you can say it once, but we are here! Enjoying every post and along for the ride! I have zero issues with Emily making this as her living and i hate that she feels like she has to apologize for “making it”. So many of us support her and buy her book etc. we get that this is her living
Everyone has an opinion on this, I’m sure, and here’s mine: I think it’s refreshing. It’s rare for other influencers to do, and it’s grounding for me as a reader so I don’t get swept up in some comparison game. Studies show just how depressing the current social media landscape is for users, and I think a core piece of that is seeing how shiny the lives of those that we follow look on the internet and therefore thinking we are less than because real life is messy and not curated etc etc. When I engage with this blog or other blogs/social media, yes, I know how they make their living, and I’m bought into it. That doesn’t mean my lizard brain always remembers. I also think Emily is being authentic when she says this stuff and doesn’t put it as an apology, but clearly it could be seen otherwise!
Not everyone that clicks in here has is a regular or has even been here before.
First impressions countcaswell as reinforcing messages.
It’s totally fine IMO.👍
Yes. No-one else I follow does this.
Some even write lke it’s ‘normal’ and outwardly even pose as elite/unber-wealthy in a braggy way. I’m on the berge ofdeleting a couple. It’s becoming obscene in OTT wealth.
Emily is still Emily! She clearly strives to be a good human.💗
Oh, and I gorgot to say in my comment, thst I made a really loud “Aaaawwwww” when I saw Baby Charlie in the post. I remember that little bubba…look at the young man he’s becoming…like, how? This is like warp-speed!!👶
Meeee too, forgot his strawberry blonde hair. And such a darling chub 💋💋
We just did a room this summer for some of our kids and for me, a way to commit to bolder ideas was to choose canvases that could be easily changed if their tastes changed or they got tired of them. Example: my son loves mountains, and drew out a mountain mural on the focal wall that he then helped me paint. It was one of those things I thought could either look really great or really terrible, but if we ended up hating it, it was just paint and could be changed out. It ended up looking really good and was the jumping off point for other decisions in the room.
I have great memories of being allowed to make my own decisions for my room growing up. I loved the Kliban cat if anyone born in the early 70’s remembers, its a B+W cat cartoon/book. I painted the walls red, had a B+W rug, and got the Kliban cat sheet set, comforter, etc and loved it for a LONG time. Then as a young teenager, I became obsessed with Laura Ashley, English cottage style and we re-did my room as a present. I sewed a round pillow with Laura Ashley fabric in my home economics class, and I loved that room so much! A tip I have for getting your kids to enjoy thrifting is to have them start a collection of something. As a kid, I started collecting pretty china teacups and saucers and my dad put a shelf up all around my room to display them. I would search for teacups and saucers when we went thrifting or to yard sales and it was so much fun to find one you loved and it was a good price. Lots of good memories, not alot of $$ needed.
Amy, I think you’re me! I still have (and we still use) the Kliban Cat sheets that my grandmother gave me for Christmas when I was 10! And I absolutely lusted over some Laura Ashley sheets for my college dorm room, but never got them because my mom refused to spend that much money on dorm sheets (and I had no spare cash) — I still dream of those sheets: peach shell pattern. And my dad hung shelves in my bedroom so that I could display all of my treasures (including fancy tea cups!). 🙂
We are sisters, my friend!! That is awesome 🙂 My go-to Laura Ashley print was the periwinkle sweet pea pattern. I had the wallpaper border up by the ceiling, and my mom found a sweet desk set of Limoges china in a blue and white floral pattern that i still have. There was a Laura Ashley store in my home town and I would go there and just look and look, get swatches, and pore over the catalogs, planning my “dream house” someday. What a fun escape that was for me.
Emily, I so appreciate your thoughtful approach! And all these comments have added even more great ideas. I was at the mercy of my parents when it came to my rooms (divorce) growing up and it made no sense to me. My mom was very excited about this French floral wallpaper but all i saw was a lot of brown and beige. And my Dad literally insisted I display a poster of Princess Diana in my teenage room because he and my stepmom brought it back from London for me. Yet neither of them had bothered to notice I had long since grown out of my Princess Di obsession. Allowing your kids to participate is just another way of showing them you love and value them and that their ideas have merit. We’ll done, Mama!!!
My parents let me make all of the decisions for my room starting at age 5. I picked lime green shag (it was 1980) and the entire rest of the room was shades of yellow and green. Later I switched it all to dusty blue and geese themed. Both utterly hideous to me now but what I cherished was the autonomy I had. We were poor so I had to make furniture, sew my own curtains, stitch my own decorative pillows (thank you 4-H club) as I was old enough to do those things. I decorated with hand me downs and found objects like seashells and would rearrange it all frequently. Good times. I learned so much and also, it was my safe retreat from the chaos of life. Sounds like you are on the right track with your kids.
Similar story! Except i went shabby chic! (I think i was 15 or 16) and faux distressed all the things, wooed furniture bought from yard sales lol! SMH now!
Just moved (divorce, small new home, tiny weird attic room) and my 8-year-old’s choices wound up … amazing. Not what I would have picked and it’s even better. Rainbows bed, cloud curtains, cheap white nightstand, glow-in-the-dark stars (am I the only one who hates those??). – and she **loves** it. The one disagreement is that she wants to tape her artwork to the walls, and I want to have cute little frames that rotate artwork through. Also she wants an enormous recliner and that just won’t fit. 🙂
I thought this was a beautifully written post about something that can be really complicated but also really wonderful. I’d imagine a lot of parents can relate to this struggle in some way, and I really appreciate your honesty about your unique position. I also really loved the honesty with which you spoke about your and Brian’s hopes that the kids will enjoy things you enjoy. I think this is something so many of us try for but pretend we don’t. 🙂 While I love so much about this site (and this community) these are some of my favorite types of posts. Thanks so much for the work that you and your team do!
ah, thank you 🙂 that means a lot. xx
I love your ideas, Emily. Can’t wait to see how it goes with the kids! Or the reveal of every single space in your farmhouse!
I don’t want to bring bad news here, but something about your family made me think of this family, and maybe other readers would want to help this little Arlo as he navigates the impossible. I don’t know them, but this happened near me. Maybe we can help him know there is good in the world. https://www.gofundme.com/f/arlo-schmidt
I have two younger kids (5 & 3). Just this last weekend they helped me paint their bathroom a muted teal. It was a lot of prep work on my part (e.g. taping off and/or blocking the floor, vanity, and bathtub that we did not want to paint) but it was so worth it to have them in there learning how to use a roller or paint brush. My 5 year old was really invested and worked for over an hour. The 3 year old lost interest after about 15 minutes but they’re both so proud of the results. Totally worth the extra work (and worry) on my part.
Down the road when they want to re-do their rooms, my plan has always been to give them free rein within limits. I’m 100% going to bookmark this post as Emily clearly laid out my more jumbled thoughts. I’m also going to adopt the “no licensed characters” rule that someone else mentioned. That’s a great idea!
thats so awesome. and also i bet you felt like a good mom going to be that night which is totally worth the mess. just this morning birdie said ‘i’m not sure about unicorns anymore because I don’t know if i’m going to still like them when i’m 10’ and it felt like a huge win. she felt like it was her call. And then she was like ‘besides i have so many unicorn stuffies!’ and I was like YES!!! lean into the licenced stuff in the stuffies!
Yaaaaay!!! & Phew!
I am actually one of the 2 designers on the show “Get Out of My Room” and I design mostly fun, wacky, themed rooms and props for television.
When I was a kid, I was given free reign of my room and it was a very formative experience. My room was my first 3D canvas. I went though weird phases where I plastered my room in teeny bopper posters. Then I wallpapered my room in fashion ads torn out of Vogue. Then I went through a “Madonna in the Frozen” video phase where I was borrowing HARD from south Asian motifs. Then I took a 180 and started experimenting with shabby chic. It was all bad, but it led me to the job I have today.
Wow Jen, your rooms are so bold and fun but also cohesive and sophisticated!! Makes me want to give more control to my kids, who I’ve kind of steered into more muted and “safe” territory….so cool!
Looked up your site. Great designs. You have accomplished Bold! using great restraint at the same time that is so subtle but super effective. things as a designer i would never have thought of but love, love, love! If i wasn’t 82 and still had littles you would be my pick!
Incredible, Jen! I am a minimalist, but even I could live with these. Bold but balanced! Kudos to your parents for allowing your creativity to reign so you could find your place in the world.
Thank you for sharing, Jen! I love the shared room design you linked. Looking forward to exploring more of your work!
JEN!!!! your stuff is SO GOOD. dangerously good. Its really what got both kids so involved (they wanted everything). i blogged about it a few weeks ago as well – such a good family show and so much creativity. We should talk – your kids spaces on your site are so inspiring. xx
Thanks so much, I’ve been in the TV business for 15 years and Get Out of My Room is my favorite body of work of my whole career so far. The parents may have planted a few seeds in their kids’ brains, but for the most part they had no say in what the room would look like. Anything the kids asked for, they got it. I think about the parents a lot when I design, though. The reveal is for them, too. I try to keep it upscale even if the theme is silly. I’d love to chat, anytime!
@Jen your career trajectory is probably the best data point yet in why it’s important to let kids’ self expression run free!
Before kids I thought everything they’d wear and play with would be perfectly curated and muted, boy does that change fast. My 5yo’s is constantly cycling through different loud, colorful, character-laden stuff, and I love it. I want her to be able to celebrate what she likes and move onto the next thing. I’ve stopped trying to contain it.
I just bonded with a friend over the fact that our teenage rooms were both covered in Leonardo DiCaprio posters. I try to remember this is not something that would have happened if my mom had forced decor on me. Let kids be kids, with some light guidance but my own control and OCD 🙂
100%. My room was SO ridiculous at times. “NSync everywhere, baby blue everything, glitter everything, collage everything, mosaic mirrors glued on everything. My parents let me hand-paint a 10′ navy blue swirl on my wall and I filled it in with 3000 little hand-drawn silver stars. Dreaming up projects and having a physical space to practice/execute was the most important benefit of having creative freedom. A lot of kids are creative in 3D and not just 2D.
Love this, but I do want to say, nothing wrong with thrifted bedding and towels, as long as you clean them! Why put that restriction on your eco-thrifting? Textile waste is a huge problem.
My mom buys sheets at garage sales, especially estate sales, and they are heavenly! These 50-year-old sheets she finds are such incredible quality and so soft but without any holes. I can’t believe the quality! (And when people get earthy-conscious and go and buy new cloths to use as rags, I can’t help but wonder why they don’t grab some from a thrift store if their own old cloths aren’t at that point yet!)
Love hearing Emily’s voice ( stylist and parent) and such thoughtful contributions from the community.
This is such a lovely post. My mom gave me a lot of freedom to help design (or just design) my rooms growing up, and I think it’s what sparked my love of design. Mistakes were made, and lessons learned (I think twice about painting antique wood furniture in good condition after I spent a week stripping electric spring green paint off a solid oak teacher desk because my high school taste no longer suited my college taste), but fun things happened too (like a disco ball collection hanging over my bed that would have made a lot of people today jealous).
I love the plan and your attitude about it. As always I’ll follow you on the journey and I may adopt some ideas as well.
I don’t think “Good luck, Emily!” at all (at least not in a sarcastic way). The kids are lucky to have a creative, engaged Mom who wants them to find the joy in their surroundings, AND a Mom who wants to teach them to value time and money without excess consumerism. The rest is just baby steps through the process, and a lot of letting go. Besides, my kids are only a little older and then enjoy the puzzle of it – here’s the freedom, here’s the constraint, now have at! Have a great time with this, and don’t worry about what the blog is going to think about the result. The blog is for grownup business. Can’t wait to hear about the adventures!
Any advice for what to do for my 8yo who is SUPER stoked to paint his wall with graffiti? hahahaha (fingers crossed i can find a graffiti wallpaper mural that’s not too offensive…)
I wonder if there is a paintable peel and stick wallpaper. Then you just pull it off when he tired of it.
Sounds so cooool to me❣️
How about getting some large blank canvases and letting him graffiti them? You could then just hang them around his room.
I’m an artist and took a day course in graffiti to learn methods and the history of it, which is actually pretty fascinating. We graffitied some random objects like old records. You might be able to think of some fun things you could hang on the wall (in addition to possibilities like canvas) that your son could graffiti and be even cooler than a graffitied wall.
That is a great idea! In my college apartment we let our friends graffiti all over the walls during a party with sharpie and spraypaint thinking we could just paint over it…. it took us 6 coats of paint and primer. Big mistake! LOL
Yes, to all of this. I applaud Emily’s determination to be a good parent and involve the kids in how things get done, what to focus on and how money works! I enjoy the posts about the kids room as I do the other rooms.
I do feel a prick in the heart whenever people say that not having had kids makes you unable to understand/interact/teach/talk to/feed/have fun with/teach/etc them.
Seriously, stop doing that, people.
I love this! I loved thrifting with my parents from a very young age. I remember when we redid our bathroom (only one in the whole house!) we got an antique clawfoot tub at a nearby antique mall. It stayed there for a few months until we were ready for it and we’d go “visit” it every couple weeks. I LOVED it! Second point on the money topic. My parents were not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination and both owned their own businesses so it was hit or miss. But when my parents divorced when I was 12 my mom made it part of the deal that my dad pay his child support directly to me as an “allowance.” So yes this is wild for 2001, but I got $200/mo “allowance.” I had to put half immediately into a savings account I couldn’t touch (and they made me physically do it at the bank, handing over the cash which I think is important) and the other half was my money but I had to buy EVERYTHING myself. Unless it was school or sports-related, or a gift from my parents, I paid for it. If I wanted a $40… Read more »
W🤩W, I suck at money. Hence my parenting regarding money….sucks too. My adult children are not great. I’m a retired accountant/controller too. Good with other’s 💰. ⚰️
My kids are 10 and 14 and have their own checking accounts. They have to do chores to fund their accounts and if they want new video games, etc, they have to buy them with their money. It’s really helped to calm down the never-ending desire to purchase instant-gratification.
First of all, I love all iterations of your kids’ rooms. So fun! I always thought over the years, what lucky kids!!!
Ok, as far as your new plans for their rooms. I am a big believer in letting kids plan how they want their rooms to look instead of trying to make it design-y for them. That kid vision window is short, so let them enjoy it I say. I also do a lot of treasure hunting and sometimes bring my kids, but don’t always let them get stuff they want. I love your approach to bringing them into it. You explained it really well. I’m definitely going to modify my take on it with them a little to get them more involved. Also, I really love that you’re taking a less waste approach with your new home! It makes my little eco heart so happy!
I can’t wait to see what you do! And what they do!
Everyone has such great ideas and advice that I only have one I’d thought to add. After having done my kids’ bedrooms over four times now (nursery, kid, teen and college) I would suggest decor that is not difficult or expensive to “undo”
Wow Emily, I think this is the best blog post I have read of yours and I am a very long time reader all the way back to when Orlando was with you! I found myself nodding to all your thoughtful points and strategies, and thinking how lucky Charlie and Birdie are to have such an engaged and respectful mom – you are doing a wonderful job as MOM! 🙂 Allowing your children to grow and learn by doing and exploring, within boundaries suitable for their ages, teaches so many good lessons. Children are hardwired to learn by watching and doing and NEED to to learn that way. Yes they don’t do things perfect or as fast as adults, but it’s important that they do them because learning by doing is a process and over time they build skills, confidence and competence. Brava, Brava, Brava!! 🙂 PS, I grew up thrifting with my Mom, and going to garage sales and stadium flea markets with both my parents and siblings – we did not have much money as my parents married very young and my dad was in school until I was 6 when he finished his Ph.D. – and I continue to… Read more »
This was interesting because we’re doing rooms for my kids right now. And my 7 year old has fantastic taste. So I actually tend to involve her since I think it’ll come out way better (she saw a bunch of wallpaper samples and pulled out a cool kind of cloudlike one and suggested it for the ceiling without prompting, stuff like that). Her brother, not so much, and he’d prefer to be surprised. I’m not sure when to show him things and when to just make it a done deal. Fashion-wise, daughter tends to wear flowy maxi dresses with motorcycle boots and son wears all one color because he thinks that matches. So I think curating his choices might be the way to go? I like that concept a lot. But all this to say, decorating a kid room is so very kid dependent!
Hello – I just wanted to say that I appreciate the thoughtful, kind, empathetic approach you took to telling this story, especially recognizing the difference in families’ time, budgets etc. I really appreciate your thougtfulness and hearing your approach to parenting when it comes to design. Thanks for sharing!
Also treasure hunting rebrand is GENIUS.
…just waiting for all the ads to load on this page so i can read about an influencer complaining about ads everywhere???
When I was 14 we moved from the Bay Area to the Central Valley in California. My parents made a decent amount of money on our Bay Area house in that move, so for the first time in our lives we had some money to spend. We also moved into a house where my sister and I first got our own rooms. My parents gave us each $1000 to decorate our rooms, which felt like an ENORMOUS sum at the time. I was very careful with my budget and saved up and added my own money as well, and honestly I’m still proud of my decisions. I was very into Crate and Barrel and bought a black metal bedframe, matching nightstand, a black wooden mirror with shelf and hanging pegs, and a black storage bench. 25 years later I still have the mirror and bench and use both daily! I painted the walls a kind of muted lavender called Mt Kilimanjaro in Ralph Lauren paint, and had a fluffy all white duvet. Black and white framed stills from old movies went up as art work. The feeling of serenity and pride I had being in that room is still with… Read more »
I can imagine they are really excited to create their own rooms! A little guidance from you will be how they learn.
I’m afraid that I don’t understand the need to “decorate” a child’s room. We were given a bed, a desk and a dresser with white walls. If we pasted stupid stickers all over the dresser and then wanted a more mature room, you figured out how to get the stickers off. Was my room beautiful? Probably not. But, I painted the walls (after a lesson in tarping floors and taping trim) whatever color I wanted – there was the George Harrison phase of purple, the goth black walls, save the whales blue…I loved each of them at the time. When I tired of the color, I spent my money on the next gallon of paint. My “gallery” wall was thumbtacked posters of my favorite crush, a cute animal, a band. Sometimes arranged haphazardly, sometimes with great precision. I loved it. It was my room and my tastes. Heck, I even changed the colors of the lightbulbs! The only rules – no food, it couldn’t smell bad (more of an issue with my brother!), it was your money, and it had to be returned to white when we left for college. I loved my room. And, yes my mattress was on… Read more »
I love your idea of curating the paint deck. I was trying to be a purist about letting my daughter choose her room color, a la Shavonda’s daughter’s bedroom, but OMG the yellow that she chose could burn the eyes off of the sun itself. It’s SO. YELLOW. Like, I didn’t know this yellow could exist outside of the platonic “bright yellow”. I’m SO wishing that I had let her choose the color and then asked for 25% saturation a la Rusty. Oh well. Lesson learned. And she only kinda likes it, 3 months later.
Great post and great comments. Don’t know which I love more?
OK, Emily, I tried to focus on the kids’ room(s). I really did! But about halfway through your post appeared the little dog painting of yours that I LOOOOOOVE so much, it’s all I could think about. Thanks for the glimpse of my favorite possession of yours. It’s like seeing an old friend.
This was such a lovely post, Emily – I love your attitude in this and – as someone with no kids and so also literally no clue – I wholeheartedetly and very honestly wish you good luck and am very excited to see where it leads!! For whats its worth the intention to center you and your kids having fun together sounds just right and very wonderful to have as a parent/kid 🙂
Love this Emily!!
Wait, Emily you have ADHD? I would be so excited to read about your experience if you ever wrote something. I’m 39, recently diagnosed and inhaling ADHD answers and information for myself. I’ve also found the most wonderful local support group of ADHD women and it has been so healing to be with them.
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