refining a room for two kids.

August 14, 2018

It’s a vulnerable, if decidedly lucky, exercise to photograph a room in the place you call home and share it with perfect strangers. Especially when the room belongs to your kids. Especially when you want the photos to show the room as you yourself see it, but more than that, how you feel in it, which is peaceful and cozy and safe. How to convey in pictures, the particular sense of a weight being lifted when, at the end of the day, you ease onto the bed with your four-year-old to read one last bedtime story?

Green trees outside our attic apartment throw heavy shadows in this time of year, and I tend to focus my lens on small details, but I hope I’ve captured at least the sense of the place in these shots. Over the past year I’ve been strategizing ways to make Faye and Silas’s shared room feel a bit more intentional, a bit more homey, and a bit more functional. It’s a privilege to be able to put any thought at all into this sort of thing and even though moving out of our apartment, and immediately back into it this spring was decidedly not something I’d call fun, it did provide us with a good opportunity to assess our things and our space and finally implement a few of the little changes I’d had turning around in my brain. I’ve tried to make a space that feels peaceful, but not austere; childlike, but not cloying.

Here are details, in case they’re useful to anyone who’s curious. This little room is such a joy to be in these days.

Bedding: 

+ We choose simple white sheets as the base for our kids’ beds. Silas sleeps very hot and so he’s still sleeping on his crib with just a crib sheet and his baby blanket—but we recently added a pillow and a mattress pad to try to cozy up the bed a bit and—hopefully—encourage him to sleep comfortably in it for a while longer until we decide what to do about a bigger kid bed in this space.
+ On Faye’s bed, we traded a feather duvet for a simple cotton blanket. For now, she’s sleeping without a top sheet—we just wash the blanket every other week or so and switch out the fitted sheet for a clean one weekly. The blanket makes for clean lines, easy bed making, and a cool kid in a small space that’s always a bit on the warm side.

+ On each bed, we added a bit of color in the form of cheery linen pillowcases from local shop, Collyer’s Mansion. (The bolster pillows on Faye’s bed are several years old from Muji. The small walnut-dyed pillow on Silas’s bed was one of my very first Etsy purchases, from the since-closed shop of Liane Tyrrel.)

Storage: 

+ The new-to-us tall gray wardrobe has proved incredibly helpful in terms of creating storage in this skinny room. (Lots more about it this way.) We made the little rack below before Silas was born, using a found piece of one-by-four and three iron hooks from Rejuvenation. 

+ We keep toys in a combination of baskets, and found wooden crates (with felt pads on the bottom to help them slide noiselessly across the floor), and drawstring pouches. We also have a few baskets from Acorn Toy Shop and Indego Africa.
+ The tall lidded basket was a gift from Misha & Puff. The blocks were all gifts: colorful alphabet blocks are available from Acorn Toy Shop; the painted gray set were a collaboration between Wilson and Willy’s and Beka Blocks; the natural maple set are from Maple Landmark

Rugs: 

The most impactful change in the room visually has been swapping out two bright navy striped rugs for rugs that are brighter and softer. My internet friend, Kim Woods, of Willaby, works with Amish rug makers near her Ohio hometown to weave upcycled and zero-waste rag rugs. She sent along a few for us to try in our space. We chose the striped Oyster rug for this room and the subtle grey stripe is exactly what I’d hoped for in this room.

Art: 

+ Taking everything down from our walls gave us a nice opportunity to start fresh. Lots of the art in our apartment falls into this graphic, black, and white category and when we had everything lined up against a blank wall during our move, it occurred to me that it might be nice to have it all live together for a while. I was nervous about a gallery wall overwhelming a small space, but it actually makes the room—and Faye’s bed in particular—feel cozy but not crowded.

+ Print details for the curious: Peace Print; There is an Alternative; HomesteadOutside No. 2: Yard Birds; Outside No. 3: Gingko Leaves; Moon Calendar (2014 edition). All of our framed prints have custom frames. We’ve used local shop Make A Frame as well as Framebridge and Simply Framed. Unframed prints are hung up using small metal clamps.

Other things:

+ Kids’ books live behind a small curtain on our crate-turned-bookshelf.  

+ We still use our homemade blackout curtain!

+ We changed the ceiling lamp in this room a few years ago; this is the Large Alabax in white from Schoolhouse Electric.

+ Above Faye’s bed is a mobile that I made with seashells and driftwood and two prisms from ABJ Glassworks. Above Silas’s bed is a Haptic Lab Swallow Kite that we found locally at Acorn Toy Shop.

+ Our wooden music ball and Faye’s piggy bank are no longer in stock, but both came from Over The Ocean.

Special thanks to Coyuchi, Collyer’s Mansion, and Willaby for providing the recent bedding and rug updates in this space. I’ve made use of affiliate links in this post, which means Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links. 

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35 Comments

  • Reply Millie Wamsted August 14, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    The space looks so lovely, and I can just imagine a couple of kids in there having a grand time!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 14, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      so glad!

  • Reply laura August 14, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    lovely space – designed for dreamers!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 14, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      thank you!!!

  • Reply Amanda August 14, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    The pillowcase in the crib looks like it’s seen better days! lol I’m sure there’s quite a story associated with it though.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 14, 2018 at 3:26 pm

      Well, not sure if it’s seen *better* days, but it’s seen lots of them! It’s made from an antique grain sack that was dyed with black walnut hulls. The vintage fabric is worn and patched in places. I mentioned above, it was one of the very first items I ever bought from someone’s personal shop on Etsy. A little treasure for sure.

  • Reply Mackenzie @organicbutterflyblog August 14, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Lovely! My girls will be sharing a room eventually and you have given me some great ideas 🙂

  • Reply Maria August 14, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    What a beautiful, intentional space! I feel my blood pressure dropping just looking at the pictures. Thank you for sharing such inspiration.

  • Reply Ann August 14, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    The great motto of the day over the hanger I would like to see it every morning as a child.

  • Reply Stacy Hyatt August 14, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    So beautiful, Erin! Thank you for sharing!

    Question: Where did you get the round-handled ribbon toy hanging from the small rack near the door? Looks like they wouldn’t be too challenging to make, but if I can buy them already made by someone with more skills than I have — all the better! 🙂

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 14, 2018 at 3:28 pm

      My aunt gave them to my kids! They’re called hand kites! Not sure if she found them from this shop, but I know she got them on Etsy!

  • Reply Kate August 14, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    It’s charming and sweet.

  • Reply Whitney August 14, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    May I ask about the twin bed frame? We just bought our littlest a twin and I want a very understated/unobtrusive frame that is of natural materials.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 14, 2018 at 4:25 pm

      Sure! It’s this one. James and I have the same one for our Queen bed.

      • Reply Whitney Olson August 14, 2018 at 5:46 pm

        Oh wow, it’s actually metal. Thank you!

  • Reply Pat August 14, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Hi, Erin. I’ve entered my second childhood (65yo). May I book an overnight in this room? I promise not to wake the occupants with my snoring! Seriously– this is THE best kid’s room I’ve ever seen! Well done. VERY well done.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 14, 2018 at 7:15 pm

      Ha! All booked up 😉 (Thank you! Thank you!)

  • Reply Sonja August 14, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    It is a privilege to get to ponder the best use of space as is the resources and ability to create a warm and safe space for your children. It’s been the greatest gift of my life to get to create a home for ourselves and child. Thanks for leading a charge on doing so simply and sustainably. There are certainly more primary colors in my son’s room and toy selection but I am confident I’d feel right at home in this simple and welcoming space.

  • Reply Pam August 14, 2018 at 6:45 pm

    After seeing this, I wish I could hit the delete button with my son’s room. Too many plastic and battery-driven toys. And he keeps pestering me for more. Do you have strategies for countering the onslaught of toys everywhere? Whether it be gifts or just populating the shelves of the local drug store.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 14, 2018 at 7:17 pm

      Oh man, I know it’s a challenge! I have a few past posts on the subject of toys, but my basic advice is to lead by example and to make my wishes as clear as possible! Love to you!

  • Reply Reba August 14, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    Very relevant to my interests, since I’ve recently started amassing materials for a foster care program…room must be suitable for boys or girls, for a variety of ages, for kids who come with everything they own and kids who come with nothing! Fun but functional, cheerful but not overwhelming. It’s a hard balancing act! Nice to see so many items repurposed or reused from elsewhere in the house.

  • Reply Laura August 15, 2018 at 2:16 am

    Ah, this is beautiful, peaceful and inspiring. Thank you! I love how you can create a welcoming and creative atmosphere for all ages with your simple aestethics.

  • Reply Anita August 15, 2018 at 6:12 am

    I never comment, but I thought it was about time. I’m so in awe of your photography skills, and since this post reflected a bit on picture-taking I felt it was a suitable time to comment. I love how your pictures seems to capture these simple details of your living space and everyday life in such a picturesque manner. I don’t know how you do it, but you take pictures of the most mundane objects in unexpected angles and turn it in to art. The vibe you hope to catch definitely transfers.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 15, 2018 at 8:34 am

      Oh, thanks! That’s such a kind thing to say! Here I am thinking I never quite capture it!

  • Reply Charlot August 15, 2018 at 8:09 am

    Do you let ;your children watch television? I don’t see one in your apartment. Just wondering about your TV guidelines.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 15, 2018 at 8:36 am

      We don’t have a TV! We just started introducing movies to Faye when she turned 3.5, and we’ll probably do the same for Silas! No real guidelines right now—except that we mostly reserve movies for rainy days while we’re all stuck in the apartment while Silas naps!

  • Reply Melina August 15, 2018 at 2:26 pm

    Such a lovely, peaceful space! My little one (she’s about Silas’s age) still sleeps in a corner of our bedroom when she hasn’t made her way into our bed. Your earlier posts helped me reframe my need (and desire) to keep her close. This post is encouraging as we consider whether to one day add another person into the mix. Thank you!

  • Reply Meredith August 17, 2018 at 4:43 am

    Lovely space, perfect canvas for kids to create. I’d like to know where you sourced the sweet black girl doll. I’m wanting to find dolls and toys for my daughter reflecting more diversity than the blonde hair, blue eyed dolls we see everywhere. I’ve appreciated your posts on books for children showcasing diversity, but would love some play-things! Thanks x

  • Reply Sarah August 19, 2018 at 12:47 am

    Are you saving any outgrown clothing/ items of Faye’s for Silas? That’s my current storage conundrum!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 20, 2018 at 9:16 am

      We keep a zipped bag on a shelf of our linen closet full of clothes Faye has outgrown (plus a small selection of our most loved tiny baby things that I’m saving for posterity!).

  • Reply Meredith Bay Tyack August 19, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    An inviting space! A canvas on which to throw around the vibrancy of childhood. I hope it’s also a canvas for good sleep 🙂

    Also, I’m grateful that you mentioned how vulnerable it can be to share these spaces with the world. I think too often we all – as constant consumers of media – forget the real people and real lives behind beautiful photos. You may know my daughters also share a room and I’ve been hesitant to share too much about their space. I might be bold and brave enough to share, now. <3

  • Reply Sara August 27, 2018 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks for all your great resources and inspiration.
    I was wondering if you could write an article about the quantity of the toys you have and how you manage it.
    I have a 18 months old daughter and a little boy on is way for winter and I wonder how you manage toys with baby and toddler.
    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE August 27, 2018 at 4:45 pm

      Sure! There are a few posts in the archives but I could try to revisit and update!

  • Reply Evie Squadrille October 3, 2018 at 1:30 am

    Lovely room…are you planning on getting a larger apartment when your children are older and desire their own/private space?

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE October 3, 2018 at 8:56 am

      It’s so hard to read those tea leaves, isn’t it? I imagine we probably will, but we’re taking things one day at a time.

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