Budget Boys’ Rooms {that withstand their phases}

I’m lucky to have another one of my family members here to blog about home decorating projects, while I am working on some of mine (this is the only time you’ll hear me complain that my pantry is too big). Trina has shared some fantastic projects on the blog before (Check out the Good Knight Party, and the Bionicle Birthday Party). Today you will see how she achieved some designer looks in her boys’ rooms for a thrift store price tag.


boys room map wall

Hi, I’m Trina, one of Kendra’s many sisters. I’m not a “real” blogger, (as evidenced by, among other things, the fact that I don’t really know how to take decent pictures), but from time to time, Kendra has allowed me to share some of my attempts at creativity here. I know that many of you come here looking for great party inspirations, and Kendra has asked me to put together a post or two on some of my recent boy birthdays, but in the meantime, I’ve got a couple of home-decorating ideas to share.

I’ve always loved the idea of elaborate theme-bedrooms, and have even made attempts at them in the past. At this stage of life, however, I’ve realized that my boys’ interests change faster than I want to be changing a room. And where the boys are sharing rooms (and likely always will be), whose passion do you choose and whose do you ignore? Or do you try some funky combination of dragons and ABC’s, or insects and music (crickets, anyone?). While I’m sure there are some very creative people out there who could make fabulous rooms combining themes, when it came time for my four boys to make room for their baby sister, I didn’t want to think that hard. And frankly, I just had to get the job done.

So, during the Great Room Shuffle of 2010, instead of theme, I focused on colors. I kept it simple and tried to make it interchangeable between the two boy rooms so that we could shuffle sleeping positions as needed, or so we’d be set if we ever did follow through on our elaborate plans to knock out walls and create one big Ultimate Boys’ Room, dorm-style (sigh, Maybe someday.).

In the room with Boy 2 and Boy 4 (ages 10 and 3), the walls were really in horrid shape, and the idea for the stripes came from wanting to try and draw the eyes away from the many flaws (we did try patching and re-texturing, but there’s only so much an un-trained mother and grandmother can do in the afternoon allotted to the project). I’m really pleased with how it turned out. I feel like it’s a simple way to pull the room together but still keep it uncluttered. What did make it on the wall is the big rice paper tiger painting my husband and I purchased on a trip to China several years ago, and a couple of jungle-themed wall-hangings I made around the same time. The colors worked, so they went up. If the boys decide they want something else, that’s fine with me.

The stripes weren’t really that hard to do. First, I experimented by taping up different-sized paper to see approximately what size of stripe I wanted. After painting the walls (which really aren’t as peachy as they look in some of the pictures), I measured down from the ceiling, then used those marks as approximate guidelines, depending more on my level than the uneven ceiling, for where to tape off. For the space in between the colors, I just used one strip of tape so there would be a little less measuring. I matched the colors to the dresser and the bedding. I bought a quart of the dark blue because I thought it would need at least a couple of coats, and only bought a tester of the green. I had plenty of both, and the actually painting went really quickly. (Oh, I do have to say that I really love the Olympic low-VOC paint sold at Lowes. You almost can’t smell it at all. Great stuff!)


I opted not to paint the stripes on the wall with the closet and the door into the room because I thought it would look too busy–and because I’m a bit on the lazy side and can only take so much measuring and taping.

A couple of weeks later, I had a friend cut the vinyl lettering for the blue cups (purchased with the rod from IKEA) that the boys keep some ready art supplies in. Boy 2 loves to draw and was tickled to have a space set aside just for his hobby.

Room 2, for Boys 1 and 3 (ages 12 and 7), is smaller, but has a built in desk space and some shelving (it used to be our school room) that my oldest son coveted. The walls weren’t in as bad of shape as the other room, so I opted to only wash them down and skip painting for now. But the plain white was painfully boring. While it was the school room, we hung a world map on on wall, and added an ancient history timeline around the top of the room. With that inspiration, I decided to cover one whole wall with maps.

I flipped the large map around to the “physical” side because it showed the blues and greens best. Then I added a couple of larger maps (the one of Southeast Asia, for example) that we got through our National Geographic subscription one year. For the rest of the wall, I was really tempted to tear up a 1960’s World Atlas that we inherited when my grandfather moved out of his home 14 years ago, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. In the end, I was thrilled to find a large-scale atlas from 1997 at a local thrift store for $6. I got input from the boys on the selection and placement of different maps (my oldest is taking French this year, so wanted the map of France by his head. He’s actually done really well in the class, so maybe it helped :-). It took almost every page of the book (that had a map on it, anyway) to cover the wall, and we opted to keep the timeline at the top so it would all be filled it (hey, as far as I’m concerned, history and geography can happily co-exist). I actually just stapled the maps to the wall, eyeballing their placement. Super simple. I figure the wall was no masterpiece to begin with, and staple holes mostly disappear with a new coat of paint.

Incidentally, because of the size of this room, I didn’t want to try and fit a dresser in it. Several years ago, my husband built shelves into the closet that would hold cardboard file boxes full of school supplies. This is what the boys have ended up using for their clothes–lots cheaper than a dresser, and we can close the doors on the mess–most of the time.

(Don’t we love the mirrored closet doors? I actually had plans to paint them over with chalkboard paint, but Boy 1 insisted that he doesn’t like the feel of chalk and chalkboards. His brothers agreed with him and the mirrors stayed. Any other ideas?)

Just days after I found the atlas and finished this little project, my October 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine arrived. And look what I found on page 165.

Then I saw this in the back of the magazine.

At that point, I stopped feeling bad about my hand-me-down bunk beds, lack of cool vintage desk set and sisal/jute rug, and actually felt pretty darn good about my map wall and my investment of $6 and half a box of staples!


Not too shabby for a “non-real blogger,” eh? Way to scoop, Martha! Thanks, Trina! Any ideas for the mirrored closet doors for her? Would whiteboard paint work? What paint adheres to glass? Ooh, maybe you could etch some cool frosted design–a globe maybe? Somebody stop me! 

What would you do?


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  1. Anonymous says

    If you want to do something to the mirror, what about creating a stencil of a continent (or all?) out of frosted paper (window film)?

  2. Leave the mirrors as is!!!
    I just moved into a place that has full closet mirrors, and they are AMAZING. Coming from a home where I didn't have a single full length mirror anywhere, these doors were a godsend. They reflect light, which is amazing, my room looks much bigger (big black chalkboards would definitely make the room look smaller), and I can see my entire outfit at once.

    I *may* paint over the gold trim on mine, and make it something more contemporary, like black or white… but I will never touch my full length mirrors.

  3. Now I'm itching to do some redecorating!! Love these ideas especially since I've got one large bedroom with three boys in it and this summer the youngest will be moving out of his crib and we'll be shuffling furniture around anyway. Thanks for the great ideas!

  4. staci @ lizard n ladybug says

    What a great job!!

    We have the exact mirrored closet doors. I've considered painting them with chalkboard paint..but I like the fact that we don't need any other mirrors in the rooms 🙂

  5. An idea for the mirrored closet doors-Jen at Tator Tots and Jello used her Silhouette to cut out a connected circle pattern out of frosted vinyl to go on the glass in French doors, you could cut circles out of light blue vinyl and then with the silver peeking through the light blue it will look sparkly like the ocean. You'll have to check hers out, I'm not doing a very good job describing, or maybe skip the circles and do a wave pattern out of vinyl….

  6. Anu@My Dream Canvas says

    Lovely blog, hope to see you at My Dream Canvas!

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