Girls Room Revamp: Large Art Prints

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In my secret quest to rid the world of carpet, we recently ripped the girls’ room’s hideous dark carpet that the dogs had taken full control of with their bladders in a revolt against the humans. As long as that carpet remained, there was nothing we could have done to that room to make it cute or cozy or anything outside the lines of living-in-a-litter-box. Once we replaced the flooring, it was finally time to give that room a little more love, so this past weekend we did a mini transformation. I had three main goals: 1) Carpet, be GONE!  2) Replace bulky, dark ceiling fan light fixture and 3) Incorporate subtle color with Lainey’s chosen wall color–pink. I also wanted to blend their age gap with a room that represents both little girl and big girl–some dolls and stuffed animals still neatly tucked away.

A quick phone picture mid-paint and pre-carpet-ripout:

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And the finished product:

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We switched the bedding with new sheets, pillows and versatile white quilts that can be paired with anything for a new look and still work with our prized Vintage Giggles heritage quilt made from all the kids’ baby clothes. The girls love the new space, and I practically made out with the new floors because they feel so fresh and clean.

The large scale art prints of the girls take up an entire wall space, and I love how they turned out. If you’re interested, there’s a D.I.Y. at the end of this post for creating, printing and hanging prints like these.

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We have Nella’s sight words at her eye level everywhere in this house right now, and it’s so great for reminding us to work on them. You can’t walk down a hallway or into a room without stopping for a moment to pick a few out and test her. She loves it and is very proud of learning how to read.

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I love these reversible white quilts (gray on the other side) from Target. They were inexpensive, can be washed at home, and I love that I can create an entirely new bedding look by simply switching out the sheets and toss pillows. One of the girls’ favorite things in the room are the hot air balloon paper lanterns I found on Amazon. Dash isn’t allowed on the top bunk, I should add (we keep the ladder off, and usually there are bed rails on the side of the top bunk).

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Will it stay this clean forever? Hell to the no. But it definitely helps to love your space so that you’ll want to keep it clean. In changing things up, we went through a lot of clothes and toys–got rid of what we didn’t need and organized the closet with designated places for games and crafts, so hopefully we’re on the right track. Also, these are fresh-from-transformation photos. We look forward to added bits of character with the girls’ artwork taped to the walls and handfuls of Shopkins and tiny treasures piled on the dresser.

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Room Sources
Paint Color: Behr Island Hopping
Bed: Cargo Kids, purchased from our neighbors. Similar twin-over-full sets: this one ($420) and this super inexpensive set ($162!).
Primrose Blue Floral Sheets, Tommy Hilfiger: (found only one set at Marshall’s, found the other one on Amazon)
White Quilts (reversible with gray on the underside–love them!): Xhilaration, Target
Red Gingham Down Toss Pillows, “Hey You” print, fuzzy stool: Hobby Lobby
Moroccan Wool Area Rug
Hot Air Balloon Paper Lanterns (5-pack)
Moon Wall Light

Now for those big prints, one of our favorite things in their room:

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You can make these from any photos you have, but I think they stand out best when you give them a studio look with a white background. With two sisters, I knew I wanted side-by-side photos, taken at angles so it looked like Nella was facing Lainey’s camera. You could create whatever fun look you wanted with these though–throw the kids in superhero costumes, have them making faces at each other, have one kid cupping their mouth “telling” a secret and the other holding their ear out to “receive” the secret…the possibilities are endless. I borrowed my neighbor’s vintage Polaroid for a prop for this shot (that her mother bought for her parents in the 60’s–still in perfect condition!), and created a studio in five minutes by rolling out my seamless white background paper in front of our garage (shot in natural light, but under the roof overhang for shade to avoid harsh sunlight) and securing it with hot pink duct tape because HEY NEIGHBORS! I AM SO PROFESSIONAL! This is how I do most of my “studio” shots as well as my friends’ Christmas card photos, and I always make sure I have a clean roll of white background paper in my closet.

Lainey stood in the corner to give Nella someone to look at and create the angle I wanted, and we repeated the shot switching the girls’ out at the other angle.

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I edited these with a high-contrast/desaturated/vignette filter (I think it was “mystery bus” from the Totally Rad Lightroom presets) to give them a bit of a retro look.

As for printing these, I am fortunate to have a kind father-in-law who does all his own printing and thus owns very large printers that use canvas rolls, and he doesn’t mind printing photos for his daughter-in-law from time to time.  But there are several online sources that will do the same, for less than a stretched or framed canvas.  At UPrinting, you can order your print in a rolled canvas and have it custom sized to exactly what you want. For a 25 x 36 in. print like the ones hanging in the girls’ room, it runs about $37. Easy Canvas Prints also prints rolled canvas for about the same price. For a little less, you can skip the canvas and make the same display from large-scale regular prints. Costco makes a 20 x 30 print for $9.99. Just make sure you choose a photo with good image quality for blowing it up this size. Trim off any white border before hanging.

To hang them, I wanted to do something similar to this picture hanger we have for a print in our bedroom, but I knew I could make them myself. The print is basically clamped between two wood boards on both the top and bottom to create a casual framed look. I purchased flat 2-inch wood from Home Depot and cut 4 equal sections to the width of my canvas print (25 inches) so that each print would hang gripped between 2 boards–front and back–on both the top and the bottom (so, 8 total wood pieces, 25 in. each, for 2 hanging prints–have I lost you yet?). I should add that, while I like to make things, I’m often intimidated by D.I.Y.s that venture beyond a glue gun. So when I was using a power saw (dug through Brett’s tools without telling him and even figured out how to pop the battery pack in) to cut these on my own, I wanted to yell to all passing neighbors: “DO YOU SEE ME? I AM MAKING THINGS! I AM OWNING THIS SAW! LOOK AT ME! I CAN SAW THINGS ON MY OWN!” because I’m humble like that. You could leave the boards as is for a natural look, but I slapped a walnut stain on ours to richen them up. WordPress is telling me richen isn’t a real word, and they are so wrong.

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I don’t have pictures of the this middle step, but stay with me…

Once the boards were dried, I laid my canvases on the floor and slid the “back side” set of boards under the top and bottom edge of the canvas, setting the canvas in place with a few strips of clear tape. Line up the “front side” set of boards on top so that the canvas print fits between them. Secure in place with a couple screws (“DON’T MIND ME, NEIGHBORS! I’M JUST USING A POWER DRILL FOR THESE SCREWS! LOOK AT ME!”) and tighten a nut (they’re called nuts, right?) on the back to lock in place.

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I wound some wire around the top two screws to hang.

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And there you have it.

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A room for my sister bears. xo

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It’s Homework Time!: 9 Tips for Creating a Cozy Study Space for Kids

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This post is sponsored by Kohl’s.
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Now that we’re back in the game of school schedules and homework, I’ve been wanting to designate a kids’ work area. Up until now, we’ve used countertops, the kitchen table and a very small kids’ table for homework and projects, but all of these spaces are in the main area of our home, open to distractions. They also function as eating areas, so there’s really no room to store supplies. I’ve been dreaming up a simple multi-functional space where resources are easily accessible–a space that would work for homework, art projects, crafting, quiet reading and Nella’s tutoring (our poor tutor has been sitting on a tiny kids’ chair, hunched over a small table–“I’m fine, I’m fine,” she keeps saying.). We recently did some rearranging to create an office space, and with lots of room leftover, I figured it was the perfect place to add a work area for the kids. With this all up in my brain, imagine how thrilled I was when Kohl’s approached me: “Hey, would you be interested in working with us? We’d love you to create a back-to-school space in your home.” It was like they were IN MY HEAD.

So we did what we do best–work with what we already have (table and chair) yet add some fun and functional new pieces to create a cozy, colorful space for our kids to study and be creative. Kohl’s made it easy and affordable by offering a great selection of home goods that were inexpensive yet on trend. From desks to lamps to fun accessories that match each child’s personality, Kohl’s has an array of products to help create an exciting place to learn and grow outside of school. The result? Two new functional kid nooks in our office–a creative desk space and a quiet reading corner.

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Without knocking down walls, calling a designer or spending a lot of money, you can easily make a creative work space for kids. The bonus? Work is more enjoyable. Kids are no different than adults–I’ve had a few different work spaces over the years, and I enjoy writing and creating far more when my desk area is clean, when there’s good light and when the surrounding area is fun and creatively motivating.

Dreaming up a homework nook in your home? A reading corner? A project table? Here are a few tips for creating that perfect space for your kids.

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Creating a Cozy Study Space

1. Go to the Light
Kids need to be able to see well while they’re working, especially in the evening, so make sure work areas are well-lit–a desk lamp, good overhead lighting, a book light for reading nooks. Sunlight was a huge factor in deciding where to put my own desk–it’s energy, happiness and motivation all funneled into super power sunbeams, pouring into my work space.

2. Make it Comfy, Cozy
When I taught fifth grade, my students loved when I let them take a project to the rug or find a cozy space to read other than their desk. You can easily create a reading nook with some pillows, a blanket, a rug and a basket of books. We found a super comfortable backrest pillow and a sweater-knit throw pillow from Kohl’s that together, tucked in a corner, created a cozy floor nook. Keep clipboards on hand, and kids can use the same space to take homework to the floor. And a little insider tip? Call the nook the Secret Reading Nook, and your kids’ interest in spending time there will instantly double. Kids love secret things.

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3. Lots of Accessible Books
Baskets, storage totes, old suitcases–any of these can be used to keep books out in the open, a welcoming invitation to read. Keep favorites in it, but switch them out for variety and interest. Make sure to include on-level books including picture books, board books for toddlers, chapter books for bigger kids (within their reading level) and non-fiction for fact-lovers. Florida has a Sunshine State Reader program where a suggested list of the best new reads is released each year, so I just refreshed our library with several new chapter books from the list.

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4. Keep the Basics on Hand
There’s nothing worse than going to start your homework and having to search for paper or a pencil that’s not broken with a chewed-off eraser. Always keep your study area stocked with the basics: paper (stackable trays work great for storing both lined paper and plain paper for drawing), pencils, erasers, and a pencil sharpener.

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5. Add Resource Tools
Other great things to keep in your study area: a student thesaurus, pocket dictionary, ruler, scissors, math manipulatives, flash cards. I like having these things on hand because if I tuck them away in a cabinet, I’m likely to forget they’re there and not use them. Since we’ve kept our flash cards out on our desk, we remember to spend a few minutes practicing every night. We also keep preschool workbooks in our study area for practice with Nella and Dash (you can often find them in dollar bins) as well as some occupational therapy tools–fat pencils, grips, etc.

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6. Store Creative Utensils
The great thing about study spaces is that they can double as creative art spaces. We found an awesome wood utensil caddy at Kohl’s that holds everything in one place–crayons, markers, colored pencils, glue, scissors, etc. And it can be easily moved to other places without making a mess. When the kids aren’t using our new spaces to do school work, they can use them to draw, make art, form Play-Doh structures, color, etc.

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7. Personal Touches–Express Yourself!
This part was our favorite–adding the fun stuff. Lainey loves the light-up heart marquee in her desk space, and we had fun personalizing the wall hanging by adding photos and color. I hung a strip of designer wrapping paper (adhered with wall putty, easily removable) above the desk and added some positive message prints we found at Kohl’s, great encouraging reminders for creative work time. Without overwhelming a space with distractions, you can neatly arrange a few prints, taped photos, positive messages and kid artwork to make a study space unique and personalized.

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8. A Display Board
A bulletin board, magnetic wipe board or chalkboard works great for posting reminders and due dates. We transformed a great wall hanging we found at Kohl’s into an expressive display board simply by taping up some photos and slipping some S-hooks through the slats to hang things. Now we can hang weekly spelling lists, project requirement lists and important communication/dates from the teacher so that we don’t forget.

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9. The Perfect Ambience
Your space is created, your kids are ready to work, everything’s in order. Just a few last touches to set the tone for a positive learning environment. A few optional additions to include in the room of a study space: house plants (research shows plants enhance productivity and reduce stress in the workplace), an essential oil diffuser (try citrus blends for “waking up”, lavender to calm or rosemary for focus) and an audio player and speaker for kids who might benefit from some background classical music or audio books. Also, I always burn a candle at my desk when I work, and Lainey has inherited my candle love, so when I’m working in the office with her, we’ll add some candlelight to our work session.

 

Creating a cozy study space is a fun challenge and one your kids will enjoy helping with. We all love our new study nooks and are grateful to Kohl’s for working with us and providing all the accessories we needed to make our space unique and colorful.

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The following accessories are all from Kohl’s:

Desk Area
Large wood slat wall art (the open slats are great openings for S-hooks so you can hang things from it!)
“I love you to the moon and back” block print
“You are my Sunshine” framed print
Yellow picture frame
Heart marquee
Utensil caddy
Geometric rug

Reading Nook
Black backrest pillow
Chaps cable knit sweater pillow
Geometric rug
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book and stuffed animal

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A Bedroom for Two Sisters

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For years, I shared a room with my sister when I was young–one big bed, two dressers and a shared closet that was mostly empty because every piece of clothing we owned covered the floor which, on rare occasions, displayed purple shag carpet that looked like thick yarn. If our room had a tagline, it was, “Why do you guys even have dressers?”

Because of my childhood–or maybe it was Marsha, Jan and Cindy–“sister,” to me, is synonymous with shared room. And the moment I discovered Nella would be a girl, I started planning it out in my head–the big bed they’d share, the clothes they’d fight over, the Bop and Tiger Beat magazines I’d let slide because tweens gotta be tweens. For a short irrational moment after Nella was born, I let those dreams deflate. Pardon my silliness. But of course they’ll share a room and of course they’ll fight over clothes (Just did. Purple ballerina dress. Nella won.), and of course they’ll buy Tiger Beat because however else will they drive their mother crazy?

This is the room I dreamed for them. Some stuff we made, some stuff we gathered from other places in the house, and some stuff we bought, stretching dollars as far as we could and mixing discount with a few splurges (let’s call them thoughtful investments) to create a playful, homey nook that makes us all very happy.

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“You Can” Letters D.I.Y. 

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This room was originally an office. We added built-in bookshelves and a corner closet to transform it to a bedroom when I was pregnant with Lainey. The bonus is that we created a lot of great storage space, but the trade-off is that we limited our possibilities for furniture arrangement. We chose furniture carefully, opting for a discount bed frame so that we could afford my favorite thing about this room: the quilt.

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The quilt is made from seven years of baby clothes, maternity jeans, Halloween costumes, hats and nursery fabrics from all three kids. My dear friend Rebecca of Vintage Giggles designed and sewed it and included all these sweet details–pockets and buttons and straps and collars–to create a timeless gift for our family, one that’s already initiated nights of storytelling (“That square right there? That was your birthday dress. You wore that when…”). You can read the story of this quilt and find answers to more questions about it on Vintage Giggles’ blog this week.

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Other room details (including personalized cloud pillows which many people asked about on Instagram) can be found at the end of this post.

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Hair Accessory/Jewelry Box: The Adorned Adobe

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(saw a retro “Imagine” pennant in a Land of Nod display and fell in love with it. Couldn’t find it anywhere, so we made one with felt) 

One of my favorite things about decorating kids’ rooms is that the stuff they love–the toys and dolls, the stuffed animals and book illustrations and even the things they wear like their favorite sneakers or rain boots–works great as decor and naturally adds personality and whimsy.


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Print details at end of post

I fell in love with these pillows as soon as I saw them–reminds me of something my sister and I would have had in our room. Except they’d be on the floor instead of the bed and covered with clothes.

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The other thing I love about this room–and it took me a long time to master this with kids–is it’s really easy to keep clean. Everything has a place, and if it doesn’t, then something has to go before we make room for something new. I am by no means a naturally organized person, so when I figure something out like this, I want to jump up and down and drag anyone who might come into my house into the room and say, “Look! See? CLEAN.”

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Look at that teeny tiny pocket on this quilt. Vintage Giggles is genious, I tell you! 

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Music was a must-have for this room because we need accompaniment for our bed-jumping and teenybopper tunes for sleepovers and, most important, a constant stream of Carpenters and Andy Williams to go with the little twinkly tree that will be hauled in at Christmas. We opted for an inexpensive record player because there’s something fun and tactile and memory-making about picking out records and watching them spin. Plus–chipmunk voice mode is hilarious–a childhood must. Nella likes to run the record player herself, but the stool–as you see–causes problems.

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“Trouble Trouble” is a favorite bedroom soundtrack.

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My friend Annie Flavin, who moonlights as a poet, shares my affinity for saddle shoes on kids, cozy quilts, children’s literature and getting sentimental about dreams and motherhood and making the best of life. We texted back and forth the day the girls’ bed arrived, and she knew how much I had looked forward to this sisters room thing. “Did you set the bed up yet? Send me a picture.” She shared my enthusiasm and yet remembered that this was a dream I stumbled over for a bit in the beginning. The night my girls enjoyed their first sleep in their new bed, she sent me a gift–a poem she wrote. And then our friend Tammi turned it into art, and now it’s hanging on the girls’ wall, and I couldn’t love it more.

This Beautiful Life

There will be beds in the room;
there will be one bed.

There will be a girl in our home;
there will be two girls.

They will
look like
and be like
and ooze life like
I thought I had imagined.

Only it is different.
Only it is better.

Only my soul
knows that
the bed and
the girls–
oh goodness, the girls–
are exactly
what I needed
to break open and build
this beautiful life.

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I cannot wait for the memories my girls will make in this room. And, as all brothers should, Dash will squeeze in bed between them for bedtime stories and make fun of all the Taylor Swift songs they know by heart.  It’s going to be fun.

*******
Room Details:

Bed frame: Overstock.com (currently not available in white)
Heritage quilt: Vintage Giggles
Cloud Name Pillows and Heart Pillow Garland: Gray Moon
Wall Prints: Pooping Rabbit, Irena Sophia and Gingiber
Hot Air Balloon Mobile: Schylling
Lamp, mirror and mushroom pillowcase: thrifted
Retro fan and (Ralph Lauren) polka dot sheets: Homegoods
Owl Hanging: Darlybird
Tiny Photo Hangers: Target (in store)

*Several have asked about how the room sharing is going, particularly for nighttime. It took a while to get Nella used to the bed, and I spent a few nights sleeping horizontal at the bottom of the bed to make sure she stayed in it. We ended up using a very thin specially-made coconut mattress that a friend loaned us (small size that only takes up half of the bed) because she likes the hard surface (usually if she crawled out of bed, it was because she wanted to sleep on the floor). We keep the mattress under the bed during the day and slip it over the mattress on her side at night. She’s doing much better and hardly wakes up anymore. When it comes to transitions, I rely on “Patience, Grasshopper.” 

*******

Tomorrow’s Grandparents Day (Hoorah, Hooray! Hugs to all the grandmas and grandpas!).

I took my research notes from watching my own grandparents and made a little guide over on eHow…How to be a Grandparent. Click below to read.

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