For this week’s Family Style post, we asked Hannah Alexander, At Home contributing blogger, illustrator and mother of four to give us her two cents on decorating for kids. We love her take on a Winnie-the-Pooh themed room that uses ZERO cartoon characters. Read more of Hannah’s hilarious parenting adventures, style posts and musings on her blog, Sundry Mumsy.
I’m not much for themed nurseries or children’s rooms.Â I like a child’s room to look like a normal room, just child appropriate – not like someone unleashed a cartoon circus or animated movie all over the place.
One particular theme that really gets me wanting to hide my eyes is Winnie-the-Pooh.Â There for awhile, everywhere I looked I was seeing Pooh – diapers, strollers, bouncers, sippy cups, bedding, etc.Â What is the meaning of wanting your child surrounded by cartoon characters day in and day out?Â I’m not sure.
Look, I love Winnie-the-Pooh as much as the next mom.Â In fact, IÂ desperatelyÂ love A.A. Milne’s books and have fond memories of them being read to me as a child.Â As an artist, I find so much inspiration from E.H. Shepard’s illustrations of Christopher Robin and his “wonderful world of make-believe”.Â But let’s not destroy the classic quality the story and its characters behold.
When I had Silas, almost six years ago, and I began creating his room, the room of Christopher Robin, as depicted in the 1961 Disney movie, served as my greatest inspiration.Â I wanted to create a room like his, something inviting, a place to play and imagine; not overdone with cartoons staring you down, but simple, classic.
In the recent issue of House Beautiful I came across this wallpaper which got me dreaming of Christopher’s room all over again.Â It’s Pooh themed, but it’s good.Â It’s very good.Â It’s subtle.Â It’s simple.Â It’s classic.Â It takes me right back to the pages of the story I knew as a child without overwhelming the senses.Â So, with the recent birth of another little boy (our fourth child),Â I decided to scour the web for some other pieces to inspire a modern-day Christopher Robin room.
1.Â Pop GunÂ 2.Â One Hundred Acre Wood Map WallpaperÂ 3.Â Brass Leaf Side TableÂ 4.Â BedÂ 5.Â Plaid Sheet SetÂ Â 6.Â Stuffed AnimalsÂ 7.Â Classic A.A. Milne novelÂ 8.Â RugÂ 9.Â Toy DrumÂ 10.Â Trench CoatÂ Â 11.Â Classic RainbootÂ 12.Â SailboatÂ Â 13.Â Â Blocks
“There is a fleeting time when, for all too short a period, the very young live in a wonderful world of make-believe.” -the Disney movieÂ Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree.
I’ve always loved houses. When I was five my parents took me on a trolley ride through Eureka Springs, and I spent the duration standing, pressing my nose to the window yelling at the gingerbread houses, “Oooh! I like that one! It’s mine! No wait that one! Oooh!” I imagined the perfect rooms inside, with window sheers blowing in the breeze, shiny hardwood floors and sparkling chandeliers in the dining rooms. I fancied that I would one day live in a gingerbread house. Today I live in a 1950’s ranch, but it’s every bit as precious to me as the gingerbread houses of my childhood vacations. I love to decorate it, change things around, organize bookshelves and paint. I’m no professional, but I work at it.
But after having my daughter, Jane, I quickly realized that my house-loving life could easily be divided into two halves.
BJD: Before Jane Decorating
AJD: After Jane Decorating
BJD: Before Jane I made sure to clean the dining table each morning, because it’s black and seems to attract a layer of dust every day.
AJD: I can’t even see the dining table anymore, mostly because each morning I’m too busy crouching on all fours, my nostrils sniffing our carpet like a bloodhound to find the source of spoiled milk smell that’s permeated the house. Why, you ask? Because Jane likes to press her sippy cups into the floor and watch the contents spurt out.
BJD: Before Jane I bought fresh flowers almost weekly to put in the kitchen.
AJD: There’s no more room for fresh flowers in the kitchen because the counter-tops are full of those fake plastic grass bottle drying racks. Normal people have one. We have four.
The list could go on, from the design-deterrent plastic covered highchair on rollers that dominates dinner parties, or the brown and pink pack-n-play with vanilla wafers ground into its cushion. The ground is littered with pacifiers, there are countless bath toys in our only bathtub, and, of course, there’s the diaper genie. Last time I checked, none of these items graced the pages of my favorite decorating magazines. But at night, after Jane goes to bed, I sit on the couch and survey the damage.
There’s a brown piece of banana inexplicably stuck to the side of the china cabinet. Jane’s stack of books by the reading chair wobble precariously. Her toy chest is in the corner by the mid century console I found in an antique mall, and on top of said console are carefully arranged batman toys (my husband is afraid his world will become all-pink and he’s trying to imprint a love of superheros on her early).
It makes me smile, because these little messes, these little “blemishes” to what was once a carefully arranged house are a good thing. They’re signs that she was there, signs that Jane came and turned our lives upside down in the best of ways. Do I wish they made more stylish highchairs that middle class folks could actually afford? Yes. But I wouldn’t change a thing. There’s plenty of time in life for decorating and non-child-proof accessories. This “After Jane Decorating” phase of my life makes all those imagined gingerbread dream houses pale in comparison.
Our August issue celebrates family homes around the state, and we love hearing how you use ideas from our magazine in your own home. We chatted with reader Christen Byrd of Little Rock about the makeover she recently completed–and photographed–for her two young daughters’ shared bedroom.
What was this space like before you started?
I had actually started redesigning the space a couple of times before, but everything was too stock looking. It looked like I bought it at a store…and I realized that’s not what I wanted. Overall, it was just a mismatched mess of pink and green girly stuff.
Well, it turned out to be very bright and happy–as well as personalized. Where did you find your inspiration?
Ultimately, I wanted to steer clear of pink and girly girl. I love pink, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not a fan of a pink room just because that’s what girls should have. As a general rule, I don’t want what everybody else has. I want unique and personal. It’s no secret that I’m obsessed with aqua colored anything. That was my starting point. I wanted the room to be bright and it has beautiful natural light. Yellow really makes that “pop,” so I searched and found the perfect drapes to add to this.
I also find inspiration in pieces. I may find a room in a magazine, Pinterest, etc. that I just like one tiny little piece of…a wall color, doll, blanket…and then I just build from there. All in my head. I know exactly what I want it to look like. Because I know how I want my girls to feel in this room. And I know what they will love.
You also had a good deal of cost-saving ideas when it came to the decor. How did you go about your makeover while be conscious of the bottom line?
I’m pretty sure that even if I had all the money in the world, I would still do things on a budget just because. I like the challenge of it. Most importantly, I had to be patient. It took me about 7 months to collect all the pieces for their space.
The main pieces are the beds which I got at flea markets. I do have a new favorite place that I check into often. It’s the Hampton Expo Flea Market on Daisy Bates. As I recommend with all flea markets…you have to check often. You just never know when you’ll walk in and find the perfect piece of furniture for next to nothing. The beds were both around $40 each. Lucy’s bed had to be completely stripped down from a couple of horrible paint jobs. It was quite the undertaking, but it has such beautiful detailing, I could just see it through the horrible black paint job…and I had to have it. My girls are so very different and I wanted the room to coordinate, but still allow for their own space. Having different beds but painted the same color worked perfectly for this.
The little bedside table was also from my favorite little flea market. I decided not to paint it at all because it just fit perfectly how it was. Their dresser actually belonged to my great aunt and has been stored away for years in a storage building. My dad spent months stripping the paint, fixing it up and repainting it for the girls. I wanted to keep it simple in color because it was an antique and the beds were already such a strong color piece in the room. I absolutely love finding old pieces and bringing them back to life.
I also wanted to have a strong handmade feel to the room. I made the curtains and all the decorations from the bed buntings to the name prints. I wanted it to be very personal. It was so fun to make and the girls just love it! The biggest and brightest piece in the room is the pom cloud that hangs above their beds. Which consists of several packages of tissue paper and some wire…and hanging it just out of reach. It really adds so much to the room, especially since they have such a high ceiling. It kind of pulls everything together and allows for little splurges of different colors all over the room. Nothing in the room is matchy matchy, but it all coordinates.
Did your girls help with the design?
Yes, they did indeed help with the design. They actually picked the bed color which was a pretty big deal. I gave them a stack of paint choices and they picked this one and we went from there. Lucy actually picked out the bookshelf color and painted most of it herself. We just stapled on a vintage sheet to the old backing and nailed it back in place. She also helped sand down her own bed. Both girls helped design their own name prints. They picked out the colors and letter patterns. Lucy chose a vintage floral and Olive chose cherries. Their favorite part was setting the table and their dresser for the pictures and making sure to add their own personal touch.
Are there pieces that will “grow” with them as they get older?
Definitely the beds and dresser. The beds are purposely very low to the ground for now, but we’ll eventually add box springs as they get older and bigger. And the dresser will obviously be around for years to come.
What’s your favorite thing about the result?
My favorite thing about the room is that it doesn’t look like anyone else’s room. And they love it so much. Even when it’s messy (which is often), at least it’s a relatively pretty mess. It’s bright and lovely and so inviting.
Thanks to Christen for sharing her renovation with us! If you have a Reader Renovation to share, send your submission to us via email at email@example.com.
We celebrate family life in the August issue of At Home, so we’ve asked a group of Arkansas moms to contribute a bit of what they do best on the blog this month. Kicking off our Family Style series is writer and blogger, Kyran Pittman. Learn more about Kyran at her blog, PlantingDandelions.com, and in the August issue’s At Home With feature.
The late, great humorist Nora Ephron wrote that “if pregnancy were a book, they would cut the last two chapters.” The same could be said of Arkansas summer. July and August are superfluous and overwrought. Cut them, or give us the Reader’s Digest version: a week just sultry enough to call for a hand fan and a mint julep. Those forced to endure late pregnancy and late Arkansas summer simultaneously should be evacuated to Canada on humanitarian grounds.
As for the rest of us sweltering wretches trapped at home, here are my strategies for surviving Southern summer after it’s jumped the shark.
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