Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

How to survive a mother-daughter home-decor project

We scraped wallpaper, we painted, we moved furniture. The room is beautiful, and we're still getting along great.



We did it.

Well, there are still a few loose ends to tidy up, but our daughter has the "dream bedroom" she's been wanting for several years. Gone are the pink paint, "babyish" wall decor and the bunkbed that always looked way too big in her small room.

Now she luxuriates in a white room with gold accents, under-bed storage bins and an uncluttered area for studying.

The project was challenging and time-consuming. I had a few days of very sore muscles, and I'm still finding paint in my hair. But I like looking at the result, and I love that we did it together.

The whole thing was a little out of my comfort zone. I'm not one of those people — like my sister, bless her heart — who give reports like, "I had the afternoon off, so I painted the living room maroon. It was fun!" I don't think I'm ever going to be that person. I tolerate painting, and I look forward to being done. But I have to confess: Our house has a few more rooms that could use some TLC, and with my preteen interior designer at my side, I might actually be willing to tackle them.

Here are some things we learned:

Allow more time than you'll think you need. Just do. We found removing wallpaper to be quite tedious, ditto all the prep work and furniture-moving necessary before busting out the paintbrushes. 

Set a budget. We decided to give our daughter quite a bit of autonomy (within reason) over this project. We didn't agree with all of her choices, but as long as they weren't utterly damaging or dangerous, we let her pursue her "vision." And I have to say, she created a beautiful room. Bonus: A little summer math practice. Bigger bonus: An appreciation for reusing, repurposing and "as is" purchases. In her shopping frenzy, she also learned about things like sales tax (unless you happen to be in Oregon one afternoon, which we were!) and shipping charges.

Play to your strengths, and theirs. (Likewise, know your limits.) Everyone refers to our daughter as a "can do" girl, and it's true. She is quite skilled at "some assembly required" projects and setting up electronics. However, she hadn't painted a room before, so I made it clear that I was the "expert" (ha!) and would be calling the shots (i.e., "Yes, we need those sheets to cover the carpet. 'Being careful' will not be good enough.") It went quite well.

A few days later, after an exhausting and rushed trip to IKEA to buy a bed, I turned her loose to start building it. She had done just fine with a desk and a bookshelf — and last summer, a balance beam — and I had work to do. Then she made one small but critical error that had me regretting my hands-off approach. So we joined forces for troubleshooting and a creative solution to the problem, and before long we both were feeling good (and working together) again.

Take advantage of the chance to chat. It was kind of like being on a car ride: We both were focused on what we were doing, so we weren't brushing shoulders or making eye contact. It was the last week of August, and there was plenty to talk about — the beginning of middle school, the progression of puberty, our tastes in music and clothes, our feelings about all sorts of things. We had received an update on an ill relative, and that led to reminiscences of a beloved great-great aunt we lost a few years ago.

Take before and after photos. I wish I had better ones.  We got rid. of some obnoxious baseball-themed wallpaper and covered over dingy, patched walls. I would love to have better photographic evidence of the transformation.

Make sure you have what you need — as much as possible, anyway. The afternoon when we had to tidy up our sweaty, paint-stained selves and go buy more paint was a bummer, not to mention a time suck. Having a plan for quick, easy meals or snacks would be good, too. You'll need nourishment, and you won't want to spend a lot of time organizing it.

Have fun! Yes, it can be fun.