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I have a question for your readers or staff. My husband and I have three wonderful kids: two girls (eight & four) and one boy (three). At this time, our kids share a room and do pretty well, most of the time. However, our eight-year-old wants 'her own space' and we feel she needs a place of her own. I am a stay-at-home mom and my husband works full time and our middle child has ongoing health problems. The above does not leave us with much excess income so we can not simply add on to our house or afford to change the layout of our home.
I am wondering if anyone has ever built a 'special place' for one of their kids and how they did it. I do have a hallway closet I will give up for her, but it has no light in it.
Recently on HGTV's Decorating Cents, they showed a bunk bed, which was transformed into a little girl's "Special Place". The top bed was left in place while the bottom bed was removed. With some basic carpentry, they turned the entire bed into a playhouse with the space underneath as the young girl's own play area complete with a window and a door. As a matter of fact, they turned the entire room into a beautiful and fun place for under $500! Check out the HGTV website for Decorating Cents show #DCT-1605.
In a back issue of Sunset magazine, there was an ingenious solution to the problem of small space and lots of guests visiting for skiing. But this would work for kids, too.
Based on the very old idea of Scandinavian medieval beds, a giant box with a "doorway", window, bookshelves, and an inside light would give each person space, privacy, some storage and a separation from other people. The idea is that the shelves and light are built in. A mattress or firm pad covers the "floor"; and the level of the "floor" is at least two feet off the main floor, so there is storage space underneath. Units like this could be built of wood or created with a few solid partitions and curtains hung from the ceiling. To simplify bedding, use a comforter that can be shaken to smooth and make the bed. Sheets and blankets that need tucking in and more than one pillow should not be used. Scandinavians use down comforters encased in washable covers. A few hooks inside and outside provide more storage space and organization. This can be simple or elaborate. The kids can decorate with paint, wallpaper, or fabric. You might even be able to fit three of these in one conventional bedroom, then use another small bedroom for the children to share as a playroom with a study desk.
Privacy is important; solitude is one of the keys to good mental health. This idea, a modernized "cupboard bed", was used in many European homes and palaces to keep warmth in and give the occupants privacy.
We have a six-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl. Recently, we remodeled to give each their own room. One of our rooms had two entrances. We split the room in half using cheap accordion doors from Home Depot. They each got to pick out the paint for their side of the "dividing wall."
In your case, let your daughter make as many decisions as possible. As for the light, use a lamp and run an extension cord along the wall to the nearest outlet. You can use a staple gun to keep the cord secure and out of the way.
Not knowing the layout of the children's room, I am not sure this idea will work. However, I bought three (used) tall bookcases and divided off a part of the shared room with these. I wallpapered the backsides to the choice of the eldest son on two of the bookcases that faced his portion. With the remaining one, I turned the bookcase side toward my oldest son's section and wallpapered (with discontinued papers) the back of it. This gave the three children their own space quite nicely by dividing the space virtually in half with the younger two in one half and the eldest in the other. It calmed the hassles and all three were quite proud of their space. There are so many available options to finish the back of your bookcases, such as wallpaper, corkboard, or paint. (You may want to try the paint that leaves a chalkboard finish.)
The closet idea is fine, too. You can buy those stick-up lights very inexpensively at Wal-Mart and attach them to the walls. I have my "office" in a doublewide closet and have eight lights mounted inside as well. I put up corkboard for extra space for photos, reminders, etc. I found a used desk with four drawers, a chair, and a file cabinet, which I painted and added a bit larger top to hold my CD player, etc. The possibilities are endless. Just study the area and draw it out as best as you can. Take your ideas to a Home Hardware or Home Depot and get their input. Then go out bargain hunting to duplicate their ideas. Hope this has opened up some ideas for you.
When our three girls (ages nine, ten, and twelve) shared a 12' by 12' room, our 12-year-old daughter desperately wanted her own space. So we put a long dresser down the middle of the room with a bookcase at each end and attached pegboard between the bookcases. Not only did the 12-year-old have a private area, but they also had an extra "wall" that could be used to display items on. The two younger girls had a bunk bed. Luckily, we had everything with the exception of the pegboard and we bought that at Home Depot. But cheap bookcases can be bought inexpensively at places like Wal-Mart.
Another thing we have done is to let each child have the room privately for an hour each afternoon. During this hour, they can listen to music, do homework or whatever. We wanted them to have the opportunity to have some down time without the other children bothering them. This has also worked. We are lucky in the fact that we have a very large laundry room and we have since put a bedroom in the end of it and moved the oldest girl there. But these ideas still work with the two sharing a room!
We did this for our kids as they got older. We took the doors off the bedroom closet and hung up "hippie" beads (you can get them in stores like Bed Bath & Beyond or Spencers) as a privacy curtain. Then, we painted the inside of the closet whatever colors they chose and added some painted designs with glow in the dark paint. (Or your could add a couple of glow in the dark posters.) We put in a black light and a regular light (small lamp with 40-watt bulb). We didn't have electricity in the closets either but ran a cord along the wall and floor trim and tacked it down good. As long as your lights are of a low wattage, you should be fine. We put in a blow up chair or one of those fabric covered foam seats you can get in any discount department store.
For one child we actually used several hippie bead curtains and made the opening to the closet even larger (a few feet out from the original opening) and added several blow up chairs for her and her friends. Eventually we bought her an inexpensive hippie looking telephone at Radio Shack and ran the phone line into the closet. She really appreciated the privacy. There's a lot you can do with an empty closet for a pre-teen. Just use your imagination.
We had the same problem when our nine-year-old had to share a room with a four-year-old. We purchased one of those fancy bed systems that have a large space underneath for the lower bed to be placed at right angles to the top bed. There was lots of headroom and shelf space under there and even room for a little shelf desk. Under the foot portion of the upper bed was a closet, accessible from the end, and a large set of drawers/doors, accessible from the side. We curtained off the lower bed where the upper bed went over it, added lighting, and it became our daughter's little hideaway. She actually took the whole assembly to college when she and her roommate needed to share a rather small room. It would be possible to build such a bed structure, rather than buying it.
When I was a young pre-teen, my brother and I shared a narrow second-story room as a bedroom. In order for me to have some privacy, my mother hung a large curtain across the width of the room, dividing it into two rooms. My brother could walk into my section when we played together, but when the curtain was drawn across the width, he knew I wanted to be left alone. Installing this is fairly easy to do, and making it draw back and forth like window coverings can let her choose when she would like some "alone" time.
I would say go ahead and have your eight-year-old daughter help make that closet her "own". As far as the items in the closet, use the clear plastic bins for storage that can slide under a bed. Find out how your daughter would like to decorate the closet. Let her pick out a fresh quart of paint and a small border roll. Put up a few shelves to hold books or other treasures. Just make sure you don't put shelves at head level when you daughter and a friend are sitting on the floor. There are round "touch lights" that could mount on the wall. Find material remnants to sew together and polyfill for pillows or use a beanbag.
Be sure to shop the dollar stores to find the items needed before going to other stores. You could save some money there. Include your daughter in the shopping and decision making. She may have some great ideas of how to make the space her own. Preset a monetary limit (say $75) and help her shop around to find the best buys. This could be a great learning experience for both of you!
I have had a similar problem. I started by hanging a curtain around my son's bed, but he found it too scary and dark. By accident, I came across freestanding trellis 'fencing' that stood about two feet high. I painted it white with leftover ceiling paint and gave it a farmyard theme, by hanging his barnyard animals off it. I fixed it to the wall by metal hooks and eyes and made a very simple gate. He was able to shut the gate behind him. It was a strict rule that no one could go through the gate without permission. It was easy to change the theme of that part of the room when he grew older. We ended up moving into a bigger house with four bedrooms. Believe it or not, they still wanted to share a room!
A space efficient, economical solution could be a homemade loft bed built in her existing bedroom. Just extend the area out a bit beyond the actual mattress shelf to provide an area for her books and stuffed animals. Provide a clip on lamp and create curtains with a dowel rod and some fabric hung from the ceiling with screws and thin wire or clear, plastic thread. She'll love climbing up the little stepladder to her own big girl space. Check out the library for a "how to" book on loft beds. The super bonus would be placing her brother's bed beneath the loft to create a private nook for him too!
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