Living With Kids: Blair Stoker, Revisited

Do you remember Blair Stocker’s thoughtful, art-filled home? I thought you might. Her family is clearly a creative bunch that surrounds themselves with the treasures they’ve made plus everything else that inspires their artistic leanings. So when it was time to transform her daughter Emma’s room from little girl heaven to teen-approved sanctuary, there was no shortage of brilliant ideas and the DIY-ability to execute them. Welcome back, Blair!

Q: Tell us why you decided to redecorate your daughter’s bedroom.

A: We painted Emma’s room pink when we moved into this house, back in 2002 when she was three. A few years later, we gave it a new coat of paint in her favorite color at the time: purple. A light purple, but purple. A fresh coat of paint, new quilt, and a closet clean-out occurred, and we considered that space good to go for a while.

Very recently I walked past that room one day and saw Emma sitting on the bed. In an instant, I realized she looked completely out of place, truly like a giant living in the little house under the floorboards, straight out of The Borrowers. She was clearly living in a little girl’s room, and she was not a little girl. We are constantly changing the other spaces in our home — it’s one of my favorite things to do! — but we realized her room had been overlooked. She deserved a brand new space.

There was too much stuff, and she was unable to organize herself without some help from us.  It was time to do something, and I understood it was going to be a large project. There was purging, organizing, repainting, and new pieces of furniture needed. And working with a teenager was going to be challenging, because I really wanted her involved in the process from start to finish. My hope was that if she indeed saw all the work that went into making it a newly redone space, she would respect it and at least try to keep it tidy.

Q: Where did you begin?

A: I really have to thank Pinterest at this point. I created a board full of all kinds of ideas, DIY projects, and inspiration just for Emma’s room. We pulled up that board, talked through some of the ideas together, and made some compromises. She printed out pictures from it and created an inspiration board. It became a true collaboration between us, and the ability to have these visual conversations really made it easy to work together.

We knew certain things needed to happen. Everything needed a fresh coat of paint, and Emma ultimately chose Whispering Spring in a low VOC. Such a beautiful color!

Her room is big, but she had no room to grow and add things, so we needed to clear out a lot of things. Organizing her various collections and keepsakes was very important, too, and there was no system in place.

She definitely needed a dressing table area with space to store earrings, hair bits, and things like that. We haven’t ventured into makeup, but there is lots of fun nail polish!

So we decided that, although I love her sleigh bed frame, we had room to store it and we had the idea to create an upholstered headboard.  I also wanted to do something with her overhead light for a little added interest, and add some sort of nightlight…even though teenagers DO NOT need nightlights! There would be a new quilt and bedding, too. And all this on a zero budget! Well, maybe a little more than zero but I wasn’t at all worried, because that’s where this family works its magic!

Q: What were your favorite projects in Emma’s room?

A: The headboard was made from a sheet of MDF board that we bought for $20, then shaped, covered with foam  for another $50, upholstered with hop-sack linen and tufted with buttons covered in peacock blue corduroy, all from my fabric stash, following some great tutorials online here and here. We also created a high wall installation in the corner above Emma’s bed, based on an inspiration image on our Pinterest board. I explain how we did ours in this post.

I didn’t want to pay an electrician to come in and redo the overhead light, but I really love love love this light fixture. I decided instead of replacing the whole thing, I could wrap chicken wire around the light as it is, and add in the twigs and flocked birds underneath the light. It turned out to be simple and so darling (wait…I mean so cool!). The chicken wire was $12, and I already had the birds from other projects.

A thrift store desk and chair that we repainted in a slightly darker shade than the walls created a new dressing table area. We painted the base color, then had a lot of fun doing a faux pearl inlay-ish type of look. Emma loves dragons, and there are a few small dragons mixed in here and there, which I thought was sweet. My faux inlay patterns tended to go a little folksy, so it’s good we both worked on it together. There are paper pom poms hanging from above for an added bit of color.

And the nightlight! It’s simply a craft store canvas with a little neon paint and fairy lights punched through from behind to create some extra light for a darker side of the room. It turns on and off via a timer, and it’s so fun to see it twinkle at night.

Q: Were there any struggles over creative control at any point? How did you resolve them?

A: Most definitely. For example, Emma loves dragons: drawing, collecting, reading about them, all of it. Displaying extensive dragon collections on the wall didn’t really fit in my ideal design plan. I wanted a fresh, light, happy feel in her room, and dragons just don’t feel that way to me. But I realized they were that and more to her. In Emma’s eyes, a room redo was the perfect moment to really showcase these collections.

I also had plans to move the bed and reconfigure all the furniture to function better. The nook where her desk sits fits a single bed perfectly, and I thought Emma would love her desk much better if it was placed in front of the big window. Emma, on the other hand, really liked exactly where everything was and didn’t want to change much at all.

She won both of these mini-battles, but it was a great exercise for us to talk through them. Going back to the original inspiration poster Emma made for her room, and to the Pinterest board we’d created together helped tremendously. I’m convinced us both seeing the same visuals made all the difference in how it came together. I also think having Emma involved in the entire process, from the purging, sorting, reorganizing, and all the painting and DIY projects, really helped keep our goals clear. And as we worked on the room, we both learned to compromise more and more. She’s a teenager, she has opinions, and this is her space. I hope I respected that.

Q: What do you miss most about Emma’s old room?

A: I got very weepy when we were gathering her stuffed animals to donate and give away, although I wouldn’t let Emma see me. It was hard for me. We both knew they had to go. They had long sat untouched, but they represented so many happy days of Emma’s early life. For her, it was never dolls; it was always stuffies. The ones we did keep are even more precious to us now, no longer shoved behind a chair.

Redoing her room at this stage of her childhood was perfect timing for everyone. We were in the right mindset for a big change. I was so excited at the idea of purging and reorganizing, but the process opened a lot of memories for me. Beautiful ones, but the feeling that my kids are growing up was heavy. Oh, I’m getting weepy…

Q: What is your favorite part of living with your own kids? What do you already miss?

A: They represent the life force of this house. Their energy makes this a happy place to be. Our home is not complete if one of them is not here.

Our family room has been a mess all summer. Although it makes me a little nuts, I try to remember it’s that way because we are hanging out in there and enjoying being together. I realize that my time of making a home with and for my kids is limited. I feel honored to be able to create a safe, comfortable, and happy home for them and us.

And now I’m actually crying! I need to go hug Emma.

Q: Please finish the sentence: I wish I had known…

A: …that teenagers love you one minute and are rolling their eyes at you the next, but they still love and probably need you even more than ever. I was told this, but there’s nothing like experiencing it to truly understand it.


Thank you once again, Blair, for adding your beauty to Design Mom. It’s no surprise to me that you pulled off this very special project with such grace and flair. I love how you and Emma communicated so well visually through this process, removing any ambiguity and confusion from your plans and her own. Her room is wonderful, and so are you.

Friends, have you tackled a teen room yet? I’d love to hear your plans and see how it turned out! Please share!

P.S. — You can find all the homes in my Living With Kids series here. And if you’d like to share your own home with us, just send me a note! It’s a lot of fun…I promise!

17 thoughts on “Living With Kids: Blair Stoker, Revisited”

  1. Wow – this profile of Emma’s room makes me sooo happy! Firstly, for the “before” photos which look remarkably like my daughter’s room — lots and lots of clutter and creative remnants. And secondly, because my daughter is also in love with dragons and I have not yet met another girl her age who shares the same affection so it warmed my heart to see Emma’s collection given a place of honor in the room. Thanks for sharing this!

  2. love that headboard – and she made it herself! bookmarking this one for when diplo-baby gets a bit older – believe it or not, she’s jettisoned the crib already and we’ve put her in a twin and this would be perfect for the next place.

  3. i really like that little blue trinket cabinet hanging above the light switch. any way to let me know how i might be able to make one?

  4. It looks great–and in some ways very similar to the room we just set up for Miss A. upon moving to NC; her room is so calm and lovely now it makes me want to hang out in there. So far she’s letting me. :-)

  5. wow, i love every bit of this. my 8 year old daughter loves loves loves dragons. can you please share your source of the dragon shelf with trinket boxes and the dragon figures in the window. my sweetie has a birthday coming up and would love these things.

    1. Thank you Emily! Emma found that dragon shelf through a company called The Bradford Exchange. They had a set of 5 music boxes and a shelf that holds them all, and she went nuts. Saved her money, and the music boxes come every month (and the shelf arrived to hold them). Definitely not my thing at all, but it is truly her favorite thing in the world.

  6. I LOVE that you included Before pictures! It’s great to see what you were really working with.
    You guys did such a fabulous job! I love the pop of blue in the headboard, and the birds around the light fixture, and the fact that she’s into dragons is just too cool.

  7. This is a beautiful room makeover! It feels so welcoming and warm – I can imagine my teenage self just loving a room like this.
    I really like the DIY headboard – I am just in the process of thinking through a redesign for a new toddler bed for my son and want to do a some kind of headboard or maybe even sideboard. The nightlight idea is also a great one, I definitely have to give that one a try soon.
    I also notice that “trinket” cabinet from you daughter old room, I have a couple old printer drawers that I’ve been saving for the right use – now I’m thinking they may be perfect for my sons room.
    This is lovely, thanx!

  8. What a great re-do! My daughter is turning 11 in October and starting 6th grade next month. She’s already begun imagining the room she’d like as a teen and has commited her first round of ideas to a list we can all review. I like the idea of using Pinterest to gather inspiration. We may do that, too. I also love how you involved Emma in every stage of the process; I feel like we’re off to a good start in that respect.

  9. What a great makeover! love the color blue on the walls, very pretty. And I can totally relate about the stuffies, my daughter was never into dolls only stuffies. She treated them like little babies!

  10. WOW! I’m going through the same process right now, it’s a lot of work and exciting but the hardest part is compromising. We still have a l0t of purging to do but we’ll get there. Thank you for the advice and inspiration. My daughter’s room looks just like your daughter’s before pictures.

  11. everything looks amazing! i adore that little bird chandelier/light. did you make that yourself? any tips? i remember something very similar (and hundreds of dollars) over at anthropologie a few years ago. i would love to make my own

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