The Slow Journey From Junk Room To Playroom

About a month ago we were walking around the park and Clara pointed to a dogwood tree and said “wow, that’s a big big tree in a big big world.” John and I cracked up. So now when I think of Clara’s playroom/big girl room, I also think of the big big tree and the big big world of ours. Hilarious. Anyway, back to the room that we have affectionately (and ironically) called the playroom. Remember that it looked like this when we moved in?

And then it got all cluttered up with junk and looked like this?

And then we organized it with the help of my mom and it looked like this?

And then in a Groundhog-Day-esque turn of events a year later it looked like this again (thanks to months of book insanity)?

So we cleaned it one last time and had a big yard sale and auctioned a bunch of book projects off for charity and finally we were left with this:

I may or may not have done a victory dance around the daybed that included some very painful-to-watch moonwalking. Gaining any actual use of this room will be ten times better than the junked up storage room that it has been for the past three Christmases (how are we on year three of living here without reclaiming this room sooner?!). So as we’ve mentioned a few times, it will serve as a nice little playroom for Clara and eventually will be her big girl room once she graduates from sleeping in her crib.

Why switch rooms? Well, the nursery is so small that adding a daybed basically sucks up all the floor space, so moving her into the larger spare room and keeping the nursery for a possible future kiddo makes the most sense for us). Of course we can always update the nursery for a boy bean if one should come our way someday (heck, kids rooms are our favorite things, so we’d jump at the chance). In fact here’s an old mood board we did a while back to show how Clara’s room could be adapted for a little dude:

Once all the extra stuff was cleared out and remaining items were pushed to the center of the room, it was time to paint (we had used the room as a secret-book-project backdrop so it was a hot mess). We’d repainted sections of the walls around ten times in there to create different colored backdrops for shooting – and had even painted the trim around one window a moody gray color and stenciled a good portion of another wall. Nothing was safe from the madness of book shots.

Here are a few other oddly-painted angles:

So yes, paint was definitely necessary. First I painted the book-project-window-shade from gray back to glossy white:

Before we pick a wall color we like to think about the other things that’ll be going on in the room. So we thought about that for a hot second or two. We actually wanted Clara to have some input, so we asked her what colors she wanted to see in her big girl room. Not surprisingly, she said “pink and red!” (her faves used to be pink and orange, but she moved to pink and red about a month ago).

It’ll be nice to have another room in the house with warmer touches in those red and pink tones (you know we love us some green & blue, so that’s prevalent in a lot of other areas). It was even cool with John since, in his words “as long as we’re not going hot pink all over the living room, I’m down with Clara getting to pick the colors that we use in her big girl room.” Mah man. He can build a deck and he’s cool with pink.

So just to give you an idea where we’re thinking of bringing in those pinks and reds (along with other hits of colors/textures that make a room feel layered and not-too-matchy-matchy) here’s a quick picture of some items we’ve been saving for Clara’s big girl room in a little floor-pile together. Floor-piles are the new mood board. Just kidding.

We don’t want the room to be red/pink overkill, so using tones like white and navy – along with hits of other colors like yellow and teal – to break things up is definitely on the agenda. And since we wanted the items in the photo above to stand out (instead of being the same color as the walls) we opted for a soft and pretty neutral that we know will be just as workable with any other accent colors down the line. Let’s face it, kids can change their favorite colors on a dime, so we don’t want our walls to be forever dependent on a red & pink scheme, ya know?

And this time instead of going with a gray-ish neutral (which we’ve done in a few other rooms) we dipped back into the warmer neutral palette and went for a super soft tan tone. Sort of like tea when you put in too much milk. Mmmm. It definitely still works within our whole house palette, but it’s a slightly warmer than some of the other grays.

We were between two extremely similar colors, so naturally, we picked the one with the better name. Totally reasonable tie-breaker move, right? The winner: Alaskan Skies by Benjamin Moore (we bought a gallon of their no-VOC Natura paint in an eggshell finish). The reason it won: we honeymooned in Alaska and took approximately 650,367 photos of the sky while we were there. The sweet little coincidence is that the paint in Clara’s nursery is Proposal (also by BM), so I guess we’re subconsciously drawn towards wedding/honeymoon related names.

Since I’m the cutter-inner and John’s the roller in this relationship (those sound like weird euphemisms) I was totally jealous about John’s big erase-the-past roller moves. Meanwhile I’m sitting on the floor painting above the baseboards. Look at me go! Just kidding. And now for a montage of John rolling over all of the randomly painted portions of the room (I wish it was a montage, it’s just this picture and the one above).

Not gonna lie, it felt pretty good to watch him go over all of those random colors and stencils on the walls and finally move towards a room that’s all one color again. Meanwhile I was inching my way around the room cutting in around the windows, doors and the ceiling. Speaking of which, we didn’t paint the ceiling (just left it white) but we’re debating adding some soft tone up there someday down the line after the room comes together more. Stay tuned…

I think we’re in love with the wall color though. Not too pink, gray, or tan. And not too white, so the window trim, molding (and future crown molding that we’d love to install) pop nicely against it. Just like extra milky tea against a clean white mug. Yum.

So we’re currently waiting for the paint to dry so we can move all of the furniture back into semi-normal spots.

Then we’ll share more photos along with planning/details/projects as we go! Back in 2010 Clara’s first nursery evolved over the course of about 20 posts and two or three months. Can’t wait to watch this bare little room take shape…

So that’s what we’ve been up to. What did you guys do this weekend?


  1. says

    Yup, my first thought was preggo? Isn’t lovely to have millions of people debating on the state of your uterus? You now have that in common with Jennifer Aniston.
    We’ve decided that the general floor plan for your house is what we want someday, with the master separated from the rest of the bedrooms. Grownups need privacy.
    I ordered seeds for our garden this weekend. Makes me so excited for spring!

  2. Pallavi says

    I have been following your blog for quite some time now. Out of the many home improvement/DIY blogs, yours is one of the best! I like things well organized and believe in keeping it simple and your blog and the work you do is just that.
    Can’t wait to see how Clara’s big girl room turns out. I was surprised to find that you have painted the walls tan. I thought it would be something bold after Clara’s “I love Pink and Red” comment. However, tan is a wonderful base for bold colors. So all the best and keep us posted.

    • says

      Aw thanks! Yes, I was thinking that going with a color that works will all other colors on the walls will help if Clara changes her favorite colors down the line. And now that red and pink will really pop :)


  3. kristi says

    that quote about the big big tree in the big big world (which is so adorable!) makes me think of this cute kids song – maybe clara would like it? it’s called “big world” :)
    got your book for christmas and love it! y’all are so fun. can’t wait to have a place someday to use some of your ideas :)

  4. Melissa says

    The room is getting off to a great start! And what a great time of year to look for a few pink/red accessories!

    In other news, you mentioned John building the deck and it got me thinking, did you ever string lights up over the deck? If so, how’d it go?

  5. says

    I also have a non-playroom question, but it was in the pictures so it kind of counts. Ha! Where did you get that stencil you all used on the wall that you painted over? I am looking for one and loved it!

  6. says

    The big tree in the big world reminded me of a little kid in my 4 yr old Sunday School class yesterday saying “polar bears live in the great snowy arctic”

  7. Maureen says

    So excited to see everything come together eventually! This weekend, I attempted (for the second time) to make a tufted ceiling in my closet. I failed. Again. Tonight, I will be buying the materials for attempt #3, and I think I FINALLY have the formula down pat. Ugh. Let’s hope so. I may or may not have thrown a baby tantrum upon realizing attempt #2 didn’t work.

  8. says

    The room looks nice–it’ll be even better once you move in some color!

    This weekend, we bought my 2 year old a full-sized mattress since he’s now trying to climb out of the crib. I almost cried since he’s my last baby. We also went to see Les Mis, and again, I almost cried while my husband actually did cry. Like a baby.

  9. Laura says

    Well, since you asked: my weekend was spent unpacking the very last box since moving into my new apartment! Whoohoo! It only took a month to unpack!

    Now, to do something about using my crashpad (a large, stiff foam pad using for bouldering, a type of rock climbing) as a sofa. Lack of real seating impedes having casual dinner with friends!

  10. Kelli says

    I LOVE seeing rooms transformed into playrooms, and I know you guys won’t disappoint! I was also relieved to hear that Clara’s still in her crib. Our son is about to turn two, and peer pressure keeps me thinking he should be in a toddler bed by now. But he can’t climb out of his crib yet, since the mattress is so low, so the fact that he can’t escape right now is really appealing, too. :)

    • says

      Our doc looked us in the eye and said “do not move her unless she’s sleeping poorly or jumping out” – apparently waiting until they’re ready to be moved is key in hopefully making a smooth transition. So we’re savoring it while it lasts :)


    • Kate says

      The room looks great! And by the way, we just converted our son’s crib to a toddler bed and he will be 3 this week. We wanted to wait until the last possible moment. He let us know when he was ready – he started sleeping poorly, acting afraid of his crib and waking up really early. We took the front crib rail off and bam – he loves his new bed and sleeps like a champ, no fears, no tears, and he stays put! Good luck with the transition.

  11. Brandi from Bloomington says

    We actually painted our boys’ room this weekend. We went with Valspar’s Tinted Spearmint. We ended up painting the ceiling the same color because of a mis-tint. The boys love the new color and I’m sprucing it up with white furnishings and pops of orange.

  12. says

    We just painted our kitchen last week. It’s amazing what a new color can do for how you feel about a room. It’s the first room in our house we’ve painted and I’m already thinking about a future palette for the whole house. I keep thinking back to how you do that and I love the idea of having everything flow together.

  13. says

    I love that day bed! And knowing that you all are working on that room in earnest after three years make me feel a lot better about the slower-than-molasses pace I’m setting for my home office re-do.

  14. says

    This weekend we had to take a window rough-in down to make it a bit more plumb :-(

    Then we house-wrapped part of our one-day-will-be-amazing abode! Building your own house is amazing, yet blows at the very same time!

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