When we bought the bungalow we knew we would put Zane on the first floor so we could have the two rooms upstairs to ourselves. We thought he'd like not being on the same floor as us, being so close to the bathroom, and having a window close to the ground to one day sneak out of. We were right, about all three of those things.

 The previous owners really liked bright colors

The previous owners really liked bright colors

But we also knew it was a small room and that he wasn't getting any smaller. My dad built him a loft when we moved in, trying to maximize space, but as he grew, inexplicably, to well over 6 feet, the loft became a serious head-injury/spine-curving liability and we took it down when he was 15.

For four years he lived with the colors he had chosen as a 13 year old: dark blue with black trim.


It could have been worse. He painted a beautiful flaming heart (well, as beautiful as a flaming heart can be) with our dear friend Molly S. on one wall and took artistic liberties with the access the loft gave him to the ceiling.

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We never really bought him any furniture; it was all cobbled together with roadside finds and hand-me-downs, and he seemed fine with that. And then he hit 17 and started complaining about the size of his room. Being the space problem-solver that I am I kept telling him that there was a lot of ways to maximize his room without having to build a $20,000 addition, something he did not buy.



Before he left on his big winter expedition I asked if I could empty his room out while he was gone. I'd paint and buy furniture and problem solve and uncover invisible square footage. Incredibly, he said yes. I say incredibly because if my mother so much as looked in my room when I was a teenager I threw something at her (not really, but you know, I probably wanted to).

Right before he left I had him remove anything that was going to gross me out or embarrass him to death and got started shortly after he left. I chose a not-too-dissimilar pallette so as not to rock the boat; a more elegant bue-gray for the walls and a darker version of it for the trim.


I found myself pretty emotional about painting over the heart. He had assured me that he did not care in the least, but asking a mother to actively destroy her child's art is not the easiest request. Then I decided I'd replace it with something and felt better.

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I thought birch trees would be easy to paint (I have zero drawing/painting talent - less than zero), and would remind him of his long ski expedition through the forests of Vermont. I loved that they would come out from behind his television, urging him to remember that there are other things in life besides video games. I added new curtains, risking his wrath by removing his beloved purple velour ones, bought a new desk and bed and set about designing the room for space and teenage boy beauty (I was sure there was such a thing).


I built out his closet by installing shelves I made out of wood we had lying around since there was no room for a dresser and then I built shelves over his bed in order to get rid of a bookcase taking up floor space. Getting things off the ground; the bed, the books, the clothes - immediately transformed the room into a much larger, higher functioning space. And the addition of new textiles and colors (and the removal of ceiling graffiti) really makes it feel like a young man's room.


When he got home he was happy with the results, didn't ask after the purple curtains, and - Victory! He complimented me on my birch trees with, "the branch scars are pretty accurate." 

AuthorSarah Reid