When I was pregnant with each of my children, I meticulously designed their nurseries, carefully curating and handmaking everything. I dreamed of who they will be and tried to reflect that in their rooms as if sleeping under an abacus for five years would make him a math whiz.
It was a little ridiculous but making things is my love language and during those months of pregnancy when nothing was quite tangible yet, it was cathartic.
For my son’s nursery, I chose a math theme to reflect me and my husband’s mutual love of math. We picked a dark handsome blue to grow with him and made art, mobiles, and linens to match.
It was handsome and perfect. And it did grow with him. When his sister came along, all the nursery furniture was refinished to match her room and big brother got my husband’s old childhood furniture refinished.
And then the room continued to grow with the necessity of a desk and we finally added the top bunk. The room was growing up just like him.
But the paint on the walls looked like it had lived through 20 years of boyhood and not 6.
It was bubbling and peeling – a consequence of using poor quality no-VOC paint. The walls showed wear from moving anchored furniture and wall décor as he grew. The walls also bore evidence of some epic toddler tantrums.
It needed paint. And if I am going to take the effort to paint a room, I want the payoff of a new color.
I don’t want to paint this room again and I want him to love it, so I asked his opinion. And thus began the art of the compromise…with a 6-year-old.
4 Steps to Compromise on Design with a 6-year-old
1. Pick a color, not any color
He knew exactly what color he wanted. He has been eyeing it every time we go to the paint store for over a year. Obstinate orange. It practically glows.
That wasn’t happening so we compromised. I promised him that we would paint something in the room obstinate orange but that the walls needed to be something less bright. Next choice – black. Well, that’s definitely less bright but also harsh and depressing.
We compromised on charcoal gray (Sherwin-Williams Peppercorn). It’s perfect – “like staring into deep space,” he said.
2. Make any themed items easily changeable
His greatest joys in life right now are Legos, Star Wars, and playing Star Wars Legos with his sister. That will probably change in the next 5-10 years, but it doesn’t mean I can’t include it now. I found these fun and colorful Star Wars prints on Etsy. I love how they bring a splash of color to the dark slate of the walls. And they can easily be swapped out when interests change.
3. Require sweat equity
I want him to know that re-doing his room requires effort. I want him to be invested in it and appreciate the outcome. So he helped with all the tedious prep work and I taught him to paint (disclaimer – we are planning to get new carpet soon-ish so I wasn’t particularly stressed about drips, but he did great).
4. Include favorites when possible
So back to Obstinate Orange. He really loves it. A lot. I really hate it. A lot. So I painted the back of his door with it. It’s the first thing he sees when he closes the door to his room and the last thing he sees before he leaves his room. Laying in bed, he has a straight view of it. And I never have to see it.
I also swapped his “baby” valances and blackout roller shades for orange Roman shades with a blackout liner. I made them with pulleys and locks so that they are easy enough for a 6-year-old to raise and lower independently (I used a tutorial from the Online Fabric Store).
I left his desk and shelves clear for Lego building and display and a chair in the corner for reading.
I love his new room and, more importantly, he does too. I think 6 or 7 is a good age for a room re-do. With the start of elementary school, interests change and everything “preschool” seems like another life. His room reflects who he is right now with plenty of room to grow and change. We used the good paint this time so hopefully it will hold up well.
Meanwhile, across the hall, the 4-year-old is already planning her room re-do when she turns 6. I’m going to start thinking now about what a good compromise for “glitter neon rainbow” is.