OPAM: June 2011 (boys’ room re-do)

definition: One Project A Month

In April 2008, I started a project that failed miserably after only two months. I named it OPAM, and hoped it would motivate me to get some things done around my house. The second month resulted in my #1 most linked blog post ever: our living room photo wall. I still get emails about this blog project, which always surprises me, but feels so nice.

I don’t really remember why I didn’t follow through with this, all I know is that for a long time I was just doing my best to survive. To get these little people grown, fed, and nurtured and live as satisfying a life together as we could. My focus has been just on making it, not making it plus making my house beautiful.

As with all of you, we have gone through a lot since 2008, and are in such a different type of place with our family now. My kids are growing. No longer writing on walls or spilling on couches or scraping cars on wood furniture. There was a point I reached in life with lots of little children where I just gave up on having anything just…so. I didn’t want to waste the energy! I had to preserve it for my four little home-wreckers. We would buy a new dresser and after a month, four drawers would be broken from them using the drawers as ladders. We installed surround sound and with one stray bounce of a ball a speaker was knocked off the wall and broken, never to be replaced. Holes were knocked in walls by doorknobs. We live in a small home, and I was happier giving it over to them, and dropping my desires for the perfect room. If they were happy, I was happy. And I believe messy children are happy children, so where does that fit into a perfect room?

Now, my youngest is 8. And I get to focus on my house in a different way. I spend less time cleaning up after them, or keeping them from breaking things or getting hurt. They mostly regulate all of that on their own now. Not only do they clean up after themselves, they clean up after me if I need them to! So that energy is freeing up. And it is definitely transferring to nesting. And thrifting. And garage saling. And Craigslisting. And seeing my little place in a whole new way.

What I am drawn to is changing. I still love the idea of an old farmhouse, all granny and cozy. I am also drawn with nostalgia to the 70’s. So much of how people used to decorate when I was a kid just feels so much like home to me. The resurgence of Mid-century modern furniture makes me very, very happy. The traveler in me loves textiles and found items from other countries. And I am always searching out anything metal and industrial, something not normally used in a home, that I can use in a unique way.

Over the last year I have been searching daily/weekly to find pieces for our home on Craigslist. I have a list of things I am looking for, and created saved searches on the iPhone app. So every few days (usually late at night when I can’t sleep) I go through and look. Usually it is hit and miss, but I am patient on the hunt. I have a huge inner drive to get things for a deal and finish a room without spending a lot of money. It makes the finished product all the better to know it was curated over time, for less.

One of the items I have been searching for is a twin headboard, for both of my boys. I have searched for a year, at least, never finding anything that hits me and is also at the right price. WELL….last week I found two in the same day. Two in the same day! After looking for a year! Timing like that is so fascinating to me. Jeff rolls his eyes but it was meant to be.

And so, last weekend, I set up their new beds and organized and decorated their room. I then decided this would be my June entry. I’m bringing OPAM back.

Room specs: 10×10 for two growing boys. OY.

Beds: Craigslist – $30 & $40
Lamp: thrifted (in Palm Springs) – $25
School desk: garage sale –  $3
Metal tray: garage sale – $1
Surf art: Pottery Barn hand me down – free
Ukulele: Drew’s, birthday gift from me
Duvets: IKEA – $12.99 each
Pillows: IKEA – $16 for both

The inside of their school desk is used as permanent storage, because you have to lift the lid to get to anything inside. I also placed a rolling metal basket found un-used in our garage underneath the desk, for journals, doodling notebooks, and current reads. Basically, anything they might use at night while winding down.

On top of the school desk is a red metal tray for smaller things they like to keep close-by. Pencils, remote, wallets, camera, etc. I placed this here to keep the top of their desk as neat as possible. And to keep all of their things from floating all over and getting lost.

Cork board: When Jeff and I were about 25, he bought this large cork board along with a map. We mounted the map to the board and pinned places we had already been, and places we wanted to go. When we moved here it found a new home in the garage for the last eight years. On a recent clean out, I found it and knew I wanted to give it to the boys. A perfect pre-teen/teen room addition – they are so excited to personalize it themselves. For the room reveal, Jeff and I went through a Game Informer magazine and some of their old things to decorate the board with. (free)

Skim board: gifted to us and never used. Also living in the garage. Thought it would balance and connect with the wood on the other side of the room. Up on the wall it went. (free)

TV: This is my least favorite thing about this room but of course it is their favorite. A TV used for video games that they got as their big gift last Christmas. The most expensive thing in the room. ($200)

Dresser: Already in room, purchased new and unfinished to save money, then painted black. ($can’t remember)
Hamper: Already in room, garage sale – $2 (I am looking for something industrial to take it’s place)

The top of their dresser is taken up by the TV and Xbox. I used a flea market bowling pin as a book-stop for their games. The basket on the other side holds their controllers and headsets. Under the basket are Drew’s school books. They each take one side of the dresser. This thing is a beast. I might change the knobs.

Mexico guitar print: girlhula (purchased during a 2 for 1 print sale) I used masking tape to mount the print to the front of the matte for something different.
Antique drawers: Long Beach flea market ($45) I think this was once used to store ammunition.

Inside the drawers are all kinds of things that boys need. On top is Nathan’s sunglasses collection and their deodorant/body spray.

Another shot of the top of the desk because I love that Drew keeps his guitar/uke pics on the lamp base and that Nate chose to showcase his fossil paperweight.

The wall opposite the cork board wall. I used six nails behind the door for Drew’s hat collection.

TTV burger and arcade print: purchased in 2008 from Mr. E. Cipher (whose site is no longer functioning, but I found his work shown here.)

We hung the planets in early 2010, and I asked if they wanted to keep them. Drew didn’t care, but Nathan did. So they stayed. I was glad they chose to keep them. I think things hanging from ceilings in bedrooms are magical.

When we showed them, I teared up over their reactions, and soaked up all the hugs they showered me with. The moment was so special and so sweet with their gratitude.

I gave them something and in that giving I remembered how much I loved doing this.

I’m not just making it anymore.



Join the Conversation


  1. Love it! The room kind of reminds me of the boy’s bedroom in Leave it to Beaver. Probably the headboard and plaid combo. That wall color is great too!

  2. love this.
    i am in the just surviving part right now – i was out of it but a surprise babe ( now a toddler ) threw me for a loop – i am almost making it again:). and this motivates me and makes me smile.
    and the pile of AXE deoderants? my teen has the same pile. weird;). but he always smells good:)

  3. What an incredible gift you’ve given them Tara! I admire your patience for thrifting and Craiglisting!

    PS – What color are the walls? Do you remember? It’s just SUCH a lovely shade of green!

  4. Hi Tara. I’ve been following your blog for many years. Literally. Anywho…I wanted to say over the last year or so that you’ve become my fav blogger. And it’s not just because of your amazing photography, although that is what attracted me here initially. It’s because you’ve become a real person to me through your words and the beautiful way you honestly articulate things going on in your life. It’s because you’ve opened up your life to your readers more than ever before. I love reading each and every one of your stories. Thanks for keeping it real and really interesting, sweetie!

  5. Tara, I love that you’ve done so much on just a little money. I agree that it somehow carries greater weight, satisfaction, and happiness. Things hanging from bedroom ceilings (or any ceiling for that matter!) is absolutely magical. It’s one of my favorite things about my home. Lovely job, Tara. You are definitely not just making it anymore. :)

  6. LOL when I saw Axe products! Oh how they’ve infiltrated my home too.

    The room is wonderful. Great job – and yes, you are living life!

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