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. I can not believe you got that lamp for $25 – what a find! I love that red metal tray too.

    This room is wonderful – I love that the headboards don’t match!

    I think boys rooms are so much fun – okay, what’s next? Just kidding.

  2. tara, i am in that “just surviving” stage right now… 3 boys, ages 8, 6, 3.5 and boy #4 due in September.

    last april (2010) my sister was here for a visit and was remembering this stage (she has older children than me) and she commented that I was in “Survival Mode.”

    that comment has stuck with me, and it was such an eye-opener. yes, i am surviving…and at times, thriving.

    i daydream about decorating my home and making it beautiful…but let’s face it, MESSY KIDS ARE HAPPY KIDS! and mine are messy for sure!

    thank you for giving me hope for a future where i can make my home beautiful and someone else besides me will appreciate it.

    beautiful room, beautiful details. can’t wait to see what else you have in store!

  3. What a wonderful room. Just filled with positive energi. And I relate so much to what you write about your childhood decorating crushes. I surf Norwegian websites everyday with the intention to find some beautiful vintage furniture. :)

  4. see…this is what I mean. A video promo just wouldn’t cover how wonderfully you live the belief of “JUST BE YOU”….this room is probably so THEM. Pieces that weren’t bought to quickly throw together a room that look vaguely like something you’d see at Pottery Barn or Anthropologie. The same would go if you tried to tell people how you post process or work or whatever. While I know doing so would make you a lot of money, (ie. how you edit, interact with families, etc. etc.) it would make all this less unique!

    Anyway…sorry I’ll get off the crate now :) congrats on another thing finished!!! Feels so good (and it looks beautifully lived in) :)

  5. Oh my gosh Tara, this is awesome! Love the colors and the personal touches that you made with so much love in all of them. I love this idea of a project a month! Congrats for completing it & feeling so good about such a great accomplishment!

  6. First of all, I can’t believe your youngest is eight. She was so wee when I started reading your blog.

    Second, LOVE the boy’s bedroom. It looks just like my older brother’s rooms. Well done, you! I love all the great stuff we have lying around. We used two of my boy’s broken skateboard decks into shelves.

    How about a galvanized trash can for a hamper?

  7. It’s weird, over the past few months I’ve been finding myself on craigslist a lot more than ever. I didn’t think about it until I read this and realized I think I’m going through the same thing now that my kids are older. It’s hard when they’re little, like sweeping a driveway in a blizzard. But eventually, you’re right, it does calm down. And that urge to pick up the pieces and prettily arrange them kicks in again.

    K, so now I have to tell you everything I love about this.
    The mis-matched headboards (WHAT!) I’ve never seen that done before, SO cute! The toolbox is so clever. The school desk, the ammo-wooden thingy, the bowling pin. Love it all! And you. And so happy for new phases in life.

  8. T this looks AMAZING! I love all the greens (surprise) and the mix of pinstripe and plaid looks perfect on their beds. And I love the school desk as a bedside table, so perfect when you’re sharing! You’ve inspired me to slow my roll on finding things for the new place, because I’m on a tight budget and want to make sure it’s something I’ll love for a long time. :)

  9. I love it, Tara! Awesome that the boys were so pleased. Love how you show that living in a small space is doable! I know what you are saying about “just making it.” I often feel the urge to thrive but am reminded that sometimes it is survival mode that I am in with 4 children ages 3-12. :) Everything has it’s season, right? I love that you are sharing this. It is good to see pick up OPAM as the time is right for you.

  10. We have four boys ages 15, 12, 10 and 6…I have a boy in every kind of school but college :) We are in the process of finishing a couple of rooms in the basement, because finally we are moving out of survival mode. I have loved every bit of their growing stages and believe that the next phase will be wonderful as well. I love your boys’ room :) Because my oldest is almost 6′ we are going to use my mom’s old full size black lacquer bed :) I enjoy the whole remake reuse theory and will certainly be doing this for my boys :)

  11. I am so in the trenches…remember the trenches? 1,4,8,and 9!! I started following you right when your youngest was going to kindergarten and I cried and cried after reading that post! So funny because now i can see the light! My youngest (of 4) just turned one and I didn’t cry an cry! Funny how you get ready you prepare and just somewhere inside of you, you are ready for the next faze!
    Tara this next faze for you is going to be a Blast! i can’t wait to watch and read!
    Your biggest Fan!

  12. wow I cant believe the original OPAM was so long ago… I remember it, I was inspired at the time to do the same as you, but like you, life happened and things changed. Love your boys room, it looks like just a great space for them, and love that its not all new designery stuff, but things that have meaning and history, and, that didn’t cost the earth. Had to laugh cos my 15yo son had the same line up of deoderant in his room :)

  13. Such a great room for the boys! As someone is currently “just making it” with a 3, 5, and 6 year old, you give me hope. I adore my babies and I am enjoying this time, but it is somewhat of a relief to know that things will get a little easier.

  14. hooray for OPAM! I LOVE OPAM…. maybe I will try again too, thanks for inspiring me! – and that room is B E A U T I F U L!! I’d shower you with hugs too, so sweet that they appreciated it like that. you can do my room if you like…. just kidding ;) but seriously, love your style! great job :)

  15. soooo sweet I could just cry at this post, their reactions much have been priceless!!!
    what did you do with all the picture frames that used to be a border in their room????!
    please share!
    I plan to do the 12×12 photo thing with the frames from IKEA, in my entryway!

  16. That lamp! It sounds like we are drawn to the same sort of decor.

    This entire project came out lovely. My youngest is now 8 and I’ve been thinking about re-doing his room. We “grown-upified” our daughter’s room for her 12th bday last year (and it’s bright and quirky and sophisticated and artsy and bookish, just like her). Now I know what to do with the unused skimboard and the deodorant collection!

  17. LOL wait…. your last OPAM was in 2008? Not yesterday!? WHERE has the last 3 years gone!?!?!?!? So super fast! LOVE you and so glad OPAM is back!!! xox

  18. oh tara. i’m in the place where you were right now. the best part of this post was this: “i’m not just making it anymore.”

    totally made me smile and gives me hope.

    i get so frustrated about things not being just so. i just need to keep holding on…..a few more years. :)

    thank you again for another honest post.

  19. Thank you for sharing your room re-do. I am so happy OPAM is back, and I love what you’ve done. LOVE the skimboard on the wall. And my son has that same alligator on his bed. :)

  20. I love the way you think, Tara. So creative. I’ve got a list of projects and none of them get touched. I am always overwhelmed. But ONE per month is doable!!

  21. I can so relate to your post so much. I too live in a small home that cannot stay clean or organized. I mean, if it’s not broken, or stained….it’s not ours. I am glad to hear there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Of course my daughter is only 4 so I guess I have a few years until I have a “just so” home. But like you I hope it is filled with old stuff.

  22. My daughter sleeps in that same bed, the darker one on the right. It belonged to my uncle when he was a boy in the 40’s and 50’s. My brother slept on it all the way up to the day he got married. My son slept in for a few years and then I painted it white for my daughter. Gotta secure the bed slats though bc every time she tries to bounce on her bed the slats come out of place!
    I feel the same way about that mid-century modern furniture. It’s all I pin on Pinterest!

  23. love it all. can’t believe it’s been so long since the last OPAM! excited for you. (i’m nesting too – and for the first time in my life. just for me.)

  24. Great room! I feel like I can relate a little bit. In 2008, I also started doing OPAM with you and was really excited about the concept. Then I started working on my BASW and that project fell by the wayside. Yesterday was my last day of class for my MSW so now I can focus on this project again too! I’m so glad you’re bringing it back. You are such an inspiration to me!

  25. Tara…LOVE the headboards and I have to admit the Lamp couldn’t be more perfect than in their room…(Imagine the very lamp I shook my head at and Jeff rolled his eyes at Lamp)
    Their room looks so them and can visualize their excitement. I cant wait to add to their cork boards. I’m on a search…….Great job babe!!

  26. OMG!!! i can’t believe anna is 8 already. it seems like yesterday, really it does. its hard to believe that it has been 6 years since i met you too!!! time really does fly.

    i love that you are buying old and repurposing everything. it is so good for the environment and it has to feel good that you are contributing to that movement. i love the antique drawers..so cool…and austen is all about the axe products too!! hey, whatever gets him to take a shower daily is fine in my book…

    i’m glad you are back on board with the opam. i’ll keep checking back for the next one…

    hugs, cindy

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.