The Treehouse: Girls Room Remodel

olive and june

Photos and text by Gabrielle.

This is a photo of Olive and June. Which reminds me, I really need to write a post about how Olive and Ralph are doing in France!

But really, this photo is here, just so I can have something pretty at the top of this post. Because after the jump, I’m showing lots of photos of the girls’ room pre-remodel, and the photos are not pretty. They’re not pretty because I snapped them with my phone in low light. And they’re not pretty, because, it’s just not a very pretty space. Yet.

But it will be! I’m confident of that.

We started the remodel on Tuesday. Want to see what we’re up to?

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This is the girls room. The former owners used it as the master bedroom. You can see what it was like when we moved in here. It hasn’t changed much.

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There used to be two big closets. The one pictured here, and another one that backed up to the boys’ room.

girls room wall1

See that wall by the door that looks like it’s freshly dry-walled? That was a closet. But we walled it in so we could add a couple of feet to the boys’ room, in order to fit two twin beds in there.

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Here’s another angle. Note the acoustic ceiling tiles.

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Our first idea was to remake the closet that’s still here into 4 equal-sized closets, one for each girl. But then we learned that the electric box in the farthest closet shouldn’t be in a closet at all. So we’ve decided to do something different.

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Here’s a shot of the progress after two days. The carpet is gone. And the remaining closet is gone.

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The ceiling is divided by beams into 3 sections. The tiles came off of two sections to reveal pretty wood planks on the ceiling. (Which was also true in the boys’ room.)

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But on the third section, the tiles were over drywall — no wood planks underneath. So we’ve been thinking about how we want to handle that.

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Another surprise, one of the beams that goes across the ceiling, was cut short during a previous remodel. It’s hard to tell why. But it means there is a random post in the room which holds up the beam. So we’re also figuring out how to move that post.

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Here’s a closer shot of the cut-off beam and post holding it up.

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Another discovery: based on the old flooring, we can see that this room was originally divided into two. With the two closets and two windows in separate areas, we had assumed this, but it was fun to see the proof in the excavation.

girls room sketches1

At first, we were thinking a floor plan like this. 4 beds against the left wall, and as I mentioned, the (formerly) existing closet split into 4.

girls room sketches2

But our latest plan is to use free-standing closets, 1 for each girl, and bring both the closets and the beds toward the center of the room — the closets acting as headboards for the beds. This would create a privacy wall and a dressing area that could make sense. It’s one of those things where the idea sounds good in my head, and maybe even looks good to me on paper, but I can’t tell what it’s really like until I see it in person.

So that’s where we are at the moment. Very exciting! I will definitely keep you updated.

Now it’s your turn. Have you ever encountered a remodeling surprise? I feel like we’ve had them in every room! Also, I know when I talked about all four girls sharing a room in a post last year, that there were strong opinions on whether that was good or bad. Our girls have been sharing for over a year now, and it seems to be working well for us. Where are you on the room-sharing topic? And lastly, do you enjoy sketching out room possibilities, or does this sort of thing drive you nuts? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — I try hard to show very polished posts with gorgeous pictures, so I’m feeling very uneasy about sharing low-quality images and rough sketches. My apologies if the lack of polish is bothersome. For more posts about our work in The Treehouse, see here.

78 thoughts on “The Treehouse: Girls Room Remodel”

  1. While I understand your wish for higher quality images to accompany your posts, I think the fact that these aren’t great is spot-on for this. It demonstrates that, just like your readers’, your remodeling adventures aren’t picture perfect and encounter their share of obstacles – makes you very relatable!

    I’m excited to see how the girls’ room turns out. And yes to a post about Olive and Ralph in France! Can’t wait to hear how they’re doing, although I’m sure they’re having a ball.

  2. I really enjoyed this post for multiple reasons. First, I like that the girls share a room and that their bedroom is just that. Not a super -decorated-insular space to hide from the family. Second, I like that you are highlighting the problem issues as they occur, not glossed over as a footnote of the beautiful finished area. And third, I don’t mind the pics, in fact I think they emphasise the unfinished aspect of the room. Just think how great the after pics will look. Looking forward to seeing more progress pics and of course the final product. Ps: love the Fall front door

  3. As someone who is buying a house (and planning some makeovers in the near future), I want to say THANK YOU for sharing the very-unfinished/in-progress photos of the room. Though I love seeing your styled, finished, beautiful rooms, it’s a wonderful tool to see the blank slate as you work.

  4. So excited to see how this shapes up! Do you have any pictures of what the room looked like with all 4 girls in it? The scale is hard to get w/o seeing beds in place.
    And where are they living now that their room is under construction?

    1. Good questions, Rachel! Not sure if I have a photo with the beds. We cleared out the room over the weekend, and I didn’t think to snap one first! But I’ll look through our photo files and see if maybe the kids snapped something.

      As for where the 4 girls are staying during the remodel:
      – Olive is in France.
      – Betty is sharing a room with Oscar (Ralph’s bed is free while he’s in France).
      – June is also in Oscar’s room. She’s sleeping on a Japanese roll-up futon.
      – Maude is sleeping in the guest bed which is in the loft in the office/studio.

    1. I don’t actually know the specifics, but a contractor mentioned to us that electrical panels aren’t up to code if they’re in a closet. Or maybe it’s that the closet is so small? Not sure.

      As far as moving it, I don’t think so. But we may replace it. When you’re up close to it, it’s easy to see the installation is wonky and I’m not sure how old it is. We’re having an electrician come over to check it out (and move/update some outlets as well).

  5. I am so excited to see how this turns out. Especially the free standing closets and dressing area. I think it’s great you’re willing to give it a try while acknowledging it may not work. I really hope it does work, though!

    I didn’t notice anything amiss with your photos. They looked completely appropriate to me.

    1. I’m actually super excited about the free-standing closets, too! I think they could really solve some logistics problems for us. And also make the room more flexible overall. We’ll see!

  6. I’ve got a different suggestion for use of the space, if you don’t mind.

    1) What about putting the closets back where they were on the boys’ room wall.

    2) Put all 4 beds on the wall where the other closets were. You can disguise the electrical panel with some art or cute canopy or something.

    3) Put vanity tables on window wall at the end of the beds.

    A set up will SEEM more spacious when you walk in the room because the first line of sight will be space at the end of the beds. The closets will be tucked away on the right wall, and it will be better than running right into beds as soon as you enter the room. I’m always a fan of having a bed or beds on the farthest wall from the door for privacy and because it makes the room seem larger.

    Also, are you or the kids not a fan of bunk beds? I noticed you didn’t consider them for the boys room either. They definitely free up floor space for playing/hanging out.

    Just some ideas to consider if you haven’t already.

    1. We actually had a set of bunkbeds when we moved here, and we put it in the boys’ room. We used it in both New York and Colorado and loved it. But we’ve found once our kids hit age 11 or 12, bunks are not a great fit — the top bunk seems to lose any appeal, and the bottom one isn’t great for big kids to sit up in.

      We also ended up nixing bunkbeds for the boys’ room because the set completely took over the space. The proportions were way off in such a small room.

      1. Also, bunk beds were designed by Satan himself as far as making them up is concerned! I can’t wait for my 9-year old to be done with his! :)

      2. You’re totally right about them becoming more problematic as kids get older. We’re considering getting rid of ours because our now 13-yr-old is rapidly getting too tall to sit up in the lower bunk.

  7. Susan in Peckham

    Thank you for sharing your renovation ‘in progress’!

    I shared a room and bunk beds until my next elder sister went to University – I have good memories and bad but I reckon it helped me learned a lot from the experience. I have three sisters and the other two shared a room with a double bed.

    I love seeing your pen drawings, I do this and I also make mock ups using cardboard or masking tape on the floor. I have to hope this is enough for my brain to merge my imagination with the spacial reality. I’m intrigued by your freestanding closet idea but wonder whether found two by two back to back might be an option, turning your beds to be head to head (two each side of an island of closets). Somehow the four beds in a row make me think of the Madeleine books… i.e. Lovely caring school rather than home setting…which might be why I suggest this other option for dividing up the room.

    1. It’s true, the four beds in a row can conjure an almost “clinical” image, but oh my goodness, I can’t believe how cute it is in real life (and I know that’s dumb to say when I have no images to share). It brings such a grin to every visitor (and to our family as well). We didn’t know that we would, but we really love it!

  8. Our house is an 86 year old home builder by a guy that did it himself. But nothing is done “right”. Nothing is code. Every project beings new exciting things– toilets that attach to pipes that cone out of the wrong height on the walk ( so THaT is why there was a platform. Making it a literal throne), electrical craziness. A false ceiling on the kitchen. Mercy. We finished the kitchen and two bathrooms. Turned a basement I to two bedrooms and are currently doing the deck. Slowly!! Before long I will be ready to show my living with kids tour !! Good luck.

    Do you and Ben do most of the work yourselves?

    1. I need to come see your house, Bek!

      As for Ben and I working on the house, we’ve done a ton. But for this room, we have two artists/sculptors working on it. You may remember I mentioned Alex — he built the crate shelves in the reading loft. He, and his studio mate, Nick, are tackling the work. Neither are contractors, but like to tackle projects like this in between art installations.

  9. I have a friend who did the free stanxing closet in their master bedroom. She was also unsure about it but it turned out to be great. It hids the clutter of clothes draped here and there and makes a nice headboard. The rest of the room was freed up to be really simple and uncluttered. Looking forward to seeing more updates.

  10. I love your pictures because you realy get to see the ‘bones’ and structure of the room. Can’t wait to see how it turns out…good luck with the whole process!

    Personally, I’ve always preferred a bed against the wall (I was a scaredy kid and often didn’t feel safe in bed…ghouls in closets…you know the drill) so I’m curious how your kids react to a bed in the middle of a room. I suppose it makes a big difference having three sisters next to you ;-). I like the idea of a dressing area though, and the fact that you will have seperated areas, to my mind, creates a sense of space.

    As a sidenote: how do you make it work with all the different bedtimes? Our children get to read for half an hour in bed and when they have sleepovers in each others rooms the eldest use a flashlight so that the youngest gets to sleep in time. I’m curious how you make it work with your children.

    1. Bedtimes haven’t really been a problem. The younger kids go to bed at the same time, and they’re typically asleep when the older kids finish up homework and head to bed. The older kids generally do homework in our home office, so luckily, needing lights on in the bedroom for homework while the little kids try and sleep isn’t an issue for us.

  11. Thanks for sharing your room renovation! I think you are so brave to gut a room like that. My biggest fear is always starting and then getting stuck and never finishing for some reason or another. Love that you just jump right in!

    I just had one thought as I was reading through your notes. Not sure if this is just in the state of Washington or if it’s a nationwide thing, but to be officially called a “bedroom”, a room needs to have a built-in closet (a door and a window are also part of the requirements). I’m wondering if taking the closet completely out would change the legal description of the house from a 3 bedroom to a 2 bedroom which could significantly devalue the home and limit the number of searches. Just wanted to throw that out there in case it was important to you… or you might already know this and our making your current design choices with that knowledge in mind. Either way, best of luck!

    1. You know, it’s interesting, because we’re not sure how this home would be classified at all because it was never officially “listed”, and was instead sold privately. When we moved in, there were only two rooms that qualified as bedrooms.

      And we have talked about the fact that if the house had been publically listed, we wouldn’t have found it in our searches because we only searched for house with lots of bedrooms.

      But our real estate agent found out about the house, and he saw it and thought we would like it — and he raised 7 kids, so he knew we could make the space work for a big family.

      All that is to say, it may affect resale value — we haven’t even looked into it — but we’re not concerned at the moment.

  12. I’m so excited about this! I can’t wait to see the reveal! You have inspired me to repaint the boys room and I keep looking at that post! It’s finally happening. I had the electrician in and now comes paint. The boys picked their colors and off we go!
    That electrical panel may be sealed shut from one side and put on the other side of the wall. What is on the other side of that closet? That is what they had to do in our ancient basement bathroom.

    1. Yay! So glad to hear about your boys room. Sounds like it’s going to be fantastic.

      As for the electrical panel, it’s actually on an outside wall. I don’t mind it staying put as long as the installation looks neat and clean. We’ll see what the electrician recommends.

  13. i’m curious if your girls would do bunkbeds… seems like you could do two sets along that back wall to free up lots of space (maybe like this). I love your idea with the changing area and middle of the room. Just adding to the brainstorm…

    1. Bunkbeds are major hassle to make, but they sure do use space wisely. Wonder if there’s space for two beds end to end? Hmmm. . . .

      What if you did beds like this along the back and side wall?

      That would leave the area around the door more open and spacious making the room seems less cramped and give you room for closets on the same wall as the door. Vanities/desks/tables could then be under the windows (?)

      I’m certain that whatever you do will be lovely! Good luck!

      1. I love those built-ins, Robyn! I don’t think our ceilings would accommodate something similar, but they sure are fun to look at. And I agree about bunkbeds being a hassle to make. : )

    2. Hi Jo. We have considered bunkbeds, but decided against them for this space. (I was explaining why to Alecia above if you’re curious.) Though I have to say, when I see a wall of bunkbeds on pinterest I can’t help but repin! I love the look. Especially with really high ceilings (which alas, we do not have).

  14. I am very excited about the progress of this room…and coming off of our three year adventure – I still see a gutted room and get really excited! Best of luck!

  15. Hey – something you need to consider regarding the freestanding closets — earthquakes!!!

    All heavy furniture should be secured to the walls. You wouldn’t want one of them to fall on your sleeping girls, no? Especially little June.

      1. What if you secured the closets to the actual bed – like a headboard would be. That might help the earthquake issues?

  16. I had the same thought as the person above me. Earthquakes! I’m also curious why no bunk beds. Also, did you consider re-making it into two rooms and putting two in each room? Love hearing about your process!

  17. Sounds great, but one thing to consider is that in just a few short years Maude may not be living at home anymore. My parents remodeled our house when we were teenagers and then around the time everything was finished we were mostly on our way out. Just something to keep in mind

    1. I think that’s why I like the free-standing closets. We can always get rid of one or two as the kids age out of the house, or rearrange them as needed. Eventually, we could even turn the room into a Master Bedroom again — I’m thinking of retirement years when we may not want to use the stairs as much.

  18. Love the free standing closet idea (though earthquakes are a large concern here in california)…what if you kept the two beds/closets on the left where they are, but flipped the two beds/closets on the right around so they faced the window on the other wall? that may allow each of the girls to get some good natural light and a nice view from their beds.
    Anyway…looking forward to the final outcome!

  19. Oh my gosh I love this project so much I can’t even tell you! I have always wanted a room like this in my home! It is kind of like a bunk room without the bunks; I not a fan of bunks either! Perhaps someday when my boys are older I will have them all share one big space just for my own personal pleasure ;) I just think of the sense of closeness that will exist between your girls because they are all tucked away together; feel the love! I am sure there will be moments, but just think of the memories that they will have to look back on all because they shared this space. I know no matter how the finished product turns out it will be just perfect!!! PS Do you think that you will put little besdie tables between each bed? Maybe you have already considered beside lighting; but if not you may want to before you meet with an electrician just incase you want to add some floor plugs for lighting. Something to think about if you do end up floating things in the middle of the room. For me there is nothing worse then having a beautiful space and having electrical cords running through it!

  20. I think 4 girls sharing a room is great! They will have such great memories. I shared a room with two sisters even though our home had 5 bedrooms. We loved it.

  21. I remember sharing a room with my 3 sisters. We had a bunk for the little girls and a double bed for the big sisters. There was much whispering and giggling and general goofiness at bedtime until my dad came and yelled at us. We would always convince the top bunk sis to come down and play and she would always be the one caught as the rest of us feigned sleep when dad came in.

  22. Absolutely love the closets as headboards….reminds me of an old hgtv show where Christopher Lowell (sp?) used an upholstered hollow core door as a headboard, and placed a desk behind it, and put a port hole in the door for natural light to filter through. Sounds cheesy but it was soooo chic!

  23. Have your girls ever read Cynthia Rylant’s cobblestone cousins series? The four girls share one room and they divide it up creatively so that each one has privacy but save the center space for group creativity. These are wonderful stories(4) and feature a great deal of description of this magical space. Your girls will have wonderful adventures in their share space!

  24. I’ve always loved the photos on your website and appreciate the quality and style of them…..but it’s fun to see works in progress and ‘low-light’ pictures too…..I even liked seeing the sketches. Thanks for sharing both the beautiful and the real on your blog.

  25. Ours four girls shared a room when we lived in VA. I loved hearing them giggling together every night, and talking too late. Sweet memories.

  26. I can’t wait to see what your girls’ room turns out like. I’m sure it will look wonderful. My three girls share a room but we don’t have space for separate beds. Instead my two big girls have bunk beds and my little one has her crib. Bunk beds certainly are a great space saver (and my kids think they’re fantastic) but they aren’t the easiest to make. Making the top bunk was especially hard when I was pregnant! I made sure to buy bunks that separate so that down the track when we have more space, the girls can have regular twin beds instead.

    I totally understand feeling uneasy about posting photos that aren’t up to scratch. There’s an expectation that life in “blogland” is perfect but obviously that’s not always the case. It’s nice to see a little bit of reality.

    Oh, and every time I see that picture of Olive and June I’m reminded of when I bumped into you at Gap when you were buying Olive’s dress. I wish I hadn’t been to shy to say hello :)

  27. With regard to the freestanding wardrobes, have you thought of pushing them all together and adding a fifth, and then enclosing them in some type of floor to ceiling shell? It could add stability and increase usable space within and above, as well as give you an opportunity to create a pop of color through wallpaper, paint, or even a lovely reclaimed wood. If someone is building them for you, you could even have an inset shelf for books, etc on the bed side, and then shelves/pullout drawers etc. on the dressing side. And it would be simple to remove someday were you to convert this back into a master bedroom. I love the beds in a row; very Bemelman’s Madeline. And a a long-time NYC resident, I love small space solutions even more. Looking forward to seeing what you do with the space. Good luck!

    1. Oooh. Darcy I love your idea. I was actually thinking something similar–and a solid wall unit could add stability too. Another idea could be to brace the individual closets to the ceiling. Leaving an open shelf on top of each one. I do think that, being in the bay area, you may want to look into how to bracket the closet systems to as many secure points as possible. (Floor, ceiling, even the beds.) Also, having lived with floating furniture in a few spaces, you may find it starts to float around–especially with 8 different knees and arms bumping into them constantly. Actually bracing each bed to each closet and then to the floor could make it more stable. Just a thought!

  28. I’ve always wanted beams in my house so I could hang a swing. Your room is probably too small for such a thing, but it sounds fun to me! Maybe a hanging chair (or 4?)…

  29. Ditto on the photos here too! I appreciate that you can share real life with your readers. Usually your images are spot on amazing and I love that you can trust your readers with reno pics that aren’t perfect. It is one of the things that makes your blog somewhere I come back to again and again. I get the nervousness about it though…I have had the same feeling when I have done it on my blog, or if I am unsure about quality/image selection on one of the blogs I manage. Eep! Good to mention it and see what we’re all thinking! x

  30. I think the dressing area is a fabulous idea! In college, I shared a small apartment with two friends and we all three slept in the same room. We turned a walk-in closet into a dressing zone- put all 3 dressers in there and hung a curtain over the entry. It was nice to have a little spot for privacy in such a shared space!

  31. We got freestanding closets (PAX wardrobes from IKEA) to replace the tiny closets in our victorian home and I LOVE them – they are so functional and easy to see, I find all our “regular” closets very annoying now.

  32. What about making the freestanding closets one long unit, instead of 4 individual units? The Ikea Pax system is affordable and customizable like this. It would give each girl a lot more storage space (utilizing the space that is now “wasted” between the beds/closets), and it would give the feeling of a wall there (I like having beds against a wall, just feels more grounded to me), and it would make the dressing area feel more like its own separate space.

    We have used Pax a couple times now, and really, really like it.

  33. The Ikea PAX are awesome. We divided a large bedroom into an office and smaller bedroom for my daughter when she was small. They are strong and have great options with drawers and hanging rods and mirrored doors. I’m sure you have already looked into them but I can so see the layout working!
    Of course, custom with a reading shelf/light on the other side would be ideal.
    I love the before photos….they look clear enough to me!

  34. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it is done. I always admire your style so much! When we redid our hall I stole one of your ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    I remember way back when you discussed the topic of the girls sharing one room and the boys having another to share, although they all are so different in age. I then wondered if you would every change this setting and go for rooms shared by younger siblings of the same age, regardless which sex they had, and if you would ever try to find space for private rooms for the older kids (like 13 or above).

    Here in Germany families wouldn’t put kids with such different ages in a room, if there was any chance of creating an alternative.

    My own girls are 10 and 15, my son just turned 9. The two younger ones, only being apart by 17 months, always shared a room. Last summer we divided their large room into two tiny spaces. I never considered putting the two girls together, due to their difference in age.

    Kind thoughts from Buxtehude near Hamburg!

  35. No thoughts specifically on the remodel, but I love that your four girls will be sharing a room! As one of five girls in a nine child family I shared a room with at least one or more of my sisters up until I was 16 when I was finally given my own room after older siblings left for college. Some of my best and most precious memories growing up come from the late night talks confiding in one another, singing songs, and silliness, as well as the lessons of sharing, and honesty that came as a direct result of sharing the space with my sisters.

  36. I don’t think I would’ve thought that those were “bad pictures” if you hadn’t of mentioned it! Good luck with the remodel and can’t wait to see the outcome!

  37. Just a thought on all of the earthquake comments. It would not be too hard to attach the closets to the beds themselves which will add a lot of structure. You could also attach them to the floor or ceiling (if you attached them to the ceiling you could incorporate lighting into the structure, not my favorite idea, but a thought just the same). Love the shared room by the way! Growing up I wouldn’t have traded sharing a room with my sisters for anything!

  38. It’s so fun to see your thought and design process with this project. I have to say I’m a fan of the four beds idea. I had a friend growing up that shared a room with her three sisters and it was always such an exciting and magical room to visit. I’ve also had four kids in one room before and they have great fun together. I can’t quite visualize the closet concept but it sounds like a good idea too. How tall are you thinking for the closets. (We’ve created fake walls with a sheet and some 2x2s when trying to get a feel for changing a room in a remodel.)

  39. Love this post and the note at the end. I visit your blog to get ideas about living with multiple kids at a wide age range (I have seven, six still at home between pre-school and 12th grade). It is great to see that your process – sketching it out, changing it up, changing your mind – is just like mine. Your doubts about what you post being make you human. Perfect is all relative and this post is perfect for what it is, pictures and all. Thanks for showing the processs. (And P.S. good for you on the creative room sharing. It is tough to give them the space and privacy they need in a smaller space while still learning to live together. Love the idea of the closets as headboards.) Thanks as always for sharing!

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