At the end of this past summer I gave myself one goal: to give my boys’ bedroom an overhaul. Alex and Ben, ages 5 and 3, share a space that has grown more colorful and cluttered every year since Ben was born. One day I looked around at the clashing patterns, wall-to-wall (to ceiling!) shelves and toys, and sad boarded-up window on one side (we used to have an river view, then a 10-story school was constructed next door and the builders hammered plywood over the glass from the outside) and felt a frisson of terror: We were becoming New York City hoarders.
I’m no home-design expert, and didn’t know where to start. But I got very lucky. I found out that a friend of a friend, Tara Fray, who works at an ad agency, had decided to fulfill her dream of starting an interior design business. I’d seen pictures of her house upstate and knew she had beautiful, simple, interesting taste. Plus, she has two little kids. Plus, I’ve always known her to be incredibly meticulous and creative–and also a little childlike. She eagerly agreed to re-do the boys’ room; all we’d have to do is pay for materials and her labor. She took pictures of the space and asked me what Alex and Ben are interested in. Since I didn’t want monster trucks or Bakugons painted all over the walls, I said, “Ocean animals. And. . . dinosaurs. But I’d rather go with an ocean theme. . . but nothing too theme-y.” Tara wrote it all down and asked with a big smile, “And can I please re-organize their closets?”
Incredibly, that was all the direction Tara needed. She told me her vision was surf shack; her palette blue, black, and white. We set a budget of $2000, including labor (among other things, she and her husband painted, installed blinds, removed all kinds of heavy old furniture, and re-wired the light fixture) and she set to work, emailing me links to lights, rugs, and baskets. I was worried about where she’d put all the stuff–trucks, cars, airplanes, dragons, stuffed animals, balls, plastic foods, blocks, Legos, a gazillion toy animals and dinosaurs—and worried the boys would miss having it all at their fingertips. And then I realized they didn’t play with half the stuff anyway; nor did they pull books off of the shelf for fear of avalanches. I gave her our keys before going away for the last week of August.
And we returned to this oasis! The boys immediately lay on the furry white rug and started pulling out books to look at. I found a stack of plastic drawers in one of the closets filled with stuffies and other toys, plus all of Ben’s diapers and wipes; amazingly, she’d found logical, accessible places for everything. Best of all, the room has stayed amazingly intact in the six weeks since the renovation. It’s a fully functional sanctuary, where we all (finally) have space to breathe—and room to grow.