before and after

before & after: bedroom makeover for three kids

by Kate Pruitt

This might be the first kid’s room I’ve seen that I would actually love to live in myself. I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that Meg Spaeth would design a room that is equally suited to kids and adults. As the creator of Elsie Marley, a line of kids’ clothing, toys and accessories, Meg is an expert at blending modern designs and sophisticated color palettes with just the right touch of whimsy. Three kids sharing one room sounds like a recipe for massive clutter, but with Meg’s addition of under-bed storage, a custom cloud loft bed and plenty of bright, fresh white with pops of color, this room manages to pull of a minimalist Scandinavian vibe. I love the wall art, the vintage accessories and the fun mix of textiles. I’ll definitely be taking some design cues from this room for my own living space. Awesome job, Meg! — Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full post after the jump!

Time: From start to finish, the redo took 9 months, but had the children been shipped off to grandma’s house, it would have taken a week at most.

Cost: $250

Basic Steps: Mostly I wanted the room to look big, even though it’s small and looks sparse, while still full of my kids’ stuff. To make this happen, I painted the room white — ceiling and all (I have yet to do the trim, but it’s on my list). My brother built a loft bed, and then I cut out clouds to act as a guard rail for the bed. After the clouds were painted the same white as the walls, they all but disappeared into the background. For the dresser, I took all the drawers outside (in the summer) and spray painted them different colors. Then applied a top coat of shellac to each.

The little office was made by my brother when he built the bed. All the supplies came from scrap wood from our basement or were leftover from the loft bed. The wall of art supplies was a super easy project. I went to a local sheet metal shop and asked if they could cut a piece of metal to size. They made the edges all nice, drilled some holes for easy hanging, took all of 15 minutes and charged me 20 bucks. Then I glued super strong magnets to the back of tin cans and filled them up with all of our art supplies. I wanted a really big piece of art for the room, but also wanted it to have some meaning for my kids. So I painted a map of our neighborhood on an old quilting cutting mat. I used an overhead projector to project an accurate map on the wall, traced it, painted it and then outlined everything again to make it a bit crisper. There are still some things I would like to add to the map, but I think it will be a work in progress for a long time to come.

Figuring out how to fit three kids in a room is a challenge. After you know where they will be sleeping, the rest of the project is designing storage: hidden storage, attractive storage, storage that does double duty (our ottoman is also a toy box). Kids have a lot of stuff. Because of our small house, there is a natural limit on how many toys our kids can have. I say edit what you can and find pretty boxes to put the rest in. Good luck! — Meg

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    • hi guys

      i wanted to apologize for a few comments slipping through i wouldn’t have published. they slipped through the cracks and allowed negativity and criticism at a level i’m not comfortable with on here. sorry about that :(

      *those comments have been removed and the commenters contacted to explain why.


  • Whoa there Tany, D+ for your attitude. If you don’t like the room, try to give some more constructive criticism.

    In any case, I really like it, I think the cloud bed is especially nice, such a great idea!

  • funny—i read these before and afters from all over the world, and browsing this one i was like, “huh, that map looks like my neighborhood too.” Hello fellow Madisonian!

  • Tany: Why the need to be unkind?
    That cloud bed is fantastic. Wow.
    I love the awesome ottoman–what a great piece! That metal art storage idea is fabulous. The rag rug and plants add so much charm and really ground the space.
    Great work, Meg.

  • Three kids (one of which is a baby)!!! Don’t think there will be good sleep. It’d better to find end re-do some other space in the house.

  • How is this a D+?? The room itself is fully functional as a living and sleeping area, and beyond that, it’s just beautiful. ‘A’ for the tree picture alone. I want it!

  • How cute is this room? Love it and I love sleeping in the clouds. Hard to believe how big the room looks.

  • oh, this is wonderful! both recycling and creating pieces that you love into a cohesive whole… what more can you ask for?
    i’m wondering, too… where did you get the tree picture?
    lessini, i loved shared a room with my baby brother. i got plenty of sleep and it was a great bonding experience. sometimes a big sister’s voice is enough to calm a fussy baby before they start crying hard enough for parents to hear in another room.

  • Love the cloud bed and how it gets a portion of the window to share. Great use of space!

  • a. If you don’t like this, don’t just say you don’t like it – give some construction criticism, or a reason.

    b. I think the office is in the closet – you can see a sliver of it in the 2nd after picture.

    c. I know lots of families that have more than one kid in a room. Newsflash, you don’t need a gigantic house, or a room for each child. I think it was the McMansion builders who perpetuated such myths as these.

  • I don’t understand what’s not to get. There’s a creative use of a small space. The loft bed is great, the art supply storage is an inexpensive and creative solution to the problem that I have of art supplies everywhere! Glad to see it.
    Not every before and after has to be by a professional or a shocking transformation – some are great just because they better utilize a space and manage to be good-looking at the same time.
    I know more than one family who has 3 kids in the same room. Not only does it save room in a tiny home, it also fosters closeness amongst the kids. Not all families have room for everyone to have their own room. And in my experience, once a kid is asleep it’s hard to wake them up. My son shared a room with his baby sister and was never woken up by her wailing right next to him!
    I really like this one. Thanks for sharing.

  • The cloud siderail was a good way to design around the divided window–it’s cute and visually makes sense, if you know what I mean. Love the tree pic, too, and the bumper fabric. Oh, and the dresser drawers are a very fun pop of color. Impressive use of space to fit three kids stylishly without looking cramped!

  • This is so lovely and just so, well, human. Sounds weird, I guess, but what I mean is that so many kids room makeovers, particularly those by people who make a living designing, end up looking sterile and controlling, and so often it seems like neither money nor space were a constraint — “don’t touch the panton chair in the corner, honey, you might scratch it!” But it’s so easy to imagine kids playing in this room — it’s got so many thoughtful loving touches without being over the top and fussy. I usually don’t post on these things but the asinine negativos up there make me want to share my appreciation.

  • I see the potential but I really didnt get why this was posted on this site. The Christmas lights on the bed? Why? Everything looks like it was slapped together, not cohesive. I love the effort though!

    • Miranda

      This is a room for kids- and I remember as a kid wanting nothing more than silly string lights on my dresser but not being allowed to have them. It may be that the kids wanted those lights :) they seem fun and age-appropriate to me.


  • What I actually love best about this, although it is a nice makeover, is that three kids get to share a room and the family obviously enjoys living in a small house.

    It drives me crazy that parents think kids all need their own rooms all the time and move to bigger, supposedly “better” houses, often also to more isolated areas – are they mad?! The last thing a mom needs is more to clean, more to drive to get anywhere and for her kids to socialise and generally more to do. These kids often grow up with unrealistic expectations, sadly.

    Personally, if I had my time again, I would have my kids sharing a bedroom and make any other bedrooms (if I had them) into a playroom with their own niches/corners. And if they only had the one room, what better idea than to divide it up like this?! All three of our girls shared at some point and they didn’t always love it (they are 7 and 5 years apart) but I still think it was good for them.

  • Well I didn’t realize the cloud thing was actually a loft bed, which is cool. I like how it’s eclectic, but for my personal opinion, I find this room looking a bit disorganized and bland for my taste. I really can’t find the right words to give “constructive criticism” I’m just not a fan.

  • This is such a sweet room with many thoughtful details and I agree with Mike W. – it is so human and kid friendly. I love the idea of having many children share a room, whether you have extra bedrooms or not. My sister and I shared a bedroom for a while as children and when we got our own rooms I dearly missed sharing a room!

  • The cloud bed is lovely, I am sure the kid sleeping in it will have sweet dreams! I also love the creative use of materials. I’m going to try the tin can art storage magnet board. I think it’s great that your kids are sharing, we don’t all need our own room!

  • I am a parent and I love this room. I have stolen some ideas!

    A lot of ‘beautiful’ nursery/ rooms you see on blogs are made by parents BEFORE the babies come and they are designed for the parents not the practicalities of kids. This room is not only wonderful for the kids who sleep in it but it has fulfilled the tough brief of storage in tiny spaces and creating room that will cover a broad age spectrum. There is no way that you could create a room like this before your kids are born. You have to know them.

    One comment here about 3 children in the same room….well not everyone can have a room each and this room is marvellous.

  • Ok C – how abut thinking of the brief – what would YOU do if you were commissioned to design a room for 3 children, different ages (and gender?). Make use of all space for storage. A space for everything. budget $250? (not sure about sg footage here or genders of kids…)

    (Oh and a mum of 3 has like 5 mins a day spare too so you cannot spend too long thinking about it!)

  • great use of the space! I feel sure that as I child I would have fought tooth and nail for use of that adorable cloud loft bed ;)

  • I love the ottoman and I love the underbed storage. What exactly is the teal piece?

    You know, I don’t have children, but my partner and I share a very small space. I appreciate not “needing” whole rooms dedicated to one person or thing.

  • I don’t just like, I LOOOOOVE, that cloud bed. Awesome.

    I also like the casual/relaxed and eclectic look. Everyone has their own style; but I don’t understand how anyone could fail to at least appreciate this on some level. Really well done.

  • meg, your children’s bedroom is lovely. Creating “space, open-ness and light” in a small room takes vision. i especially love the found objects containers. this room is inviting and “on-limits”. any child would be honored, and welcomed, to play with most everything in that room. you have done a wonderful job keeping the midwestern feel of useful practicality, while interjecting bits of whimsy (and while i don’t really like that word, i can’t think of another that is befitting).
    ahem… to the unkind, critical, and just plain rude… (please note: where i’m from, if you can’t say something nice, you should just keep it to yourself). it seems to me that meg is a real person who lives in and inhabits her house, with children. that said, her house seems to be more of a “home” in which there is life, love, meaning and history. to me, it doesn’t look like a thing came from target or a magazine. this is all her, her family, her nest.

  • Beautiful room! So creative. How has no one ever come up with the idea of cloud guardrails on a loft bed before???? Oh, maybe because you are a genius :-D. And Tany, seriously? Your comments are neither constructive or interesting – just rude.

  • meg i left comments on your blog but had to here too – i LOVE what you did with this room. you are definitely maximizing your available space in a small house, and the cloud bed, art closet, christmas lights, and “secret” storage are all things i would have LOVED as a kid. i shared a room with two sisters growing up, and even though we had “regular” unstylish bunk beds, we were always turning them into forts and obstacle courses. bravo, it looks great and i bet your kids love it! :)

  • The room is lovely with lots of sweet and creative touches and remarkable organization for three kids! How does a parent of three have the time to do anything so well?!? Cheers to a family living in a little house. Please everyone be careful of chippy old paint on baseboards and door frames. I hope I’m not the only paranoid parent who worries about the issue of lead paint but I see many kids rooms with old painted dressers and chairs flaking paint and I never comment. But maybe this is a newer house and there’s nothing to worry about…

  • I guess I’m feeling like, if we’re doing “before and after” the room should look a little more finished in the “after” shots than in the “before” shots. The trim, for example, should really have been painted before the photos were submitted. The junked up, chipped trim really brings me down.

  • I totally agree with Rinna and Mike Wad above. Living on a budget, with space constrictions and a swag of kids – it’s not always easy to make a space work. This looks like a real kid’s room and not some wankified boutique-baby space. The design solutions are simple and effective. If you had an extra grand or two of course you could polish it up – but I think what she achieved for the price is just great. That’s a big two thumbs up from me.

  • I’m not trying to be rude, but I really don’t understand this room. If I were a kid I don’t think I would like or care for a city map hanging in my bedroom. The cloud bed and the animal heads are adorable, but the rest of the room just looks a bit too thrown together. Maybe I just don’t get it?

  • I agree with Mike W, as well. So many room makeovers strive to emulate the vanilla pages from Crate & Barrell or Pottery Barn. In fact, a friend, who is an interior designer, just redid her growing son’s room, which had a budget well into the thousands. My (internal) reaction: Yuck! It looks like a 2009 Pottery Barn photo shoot. This is much quirkier and individualistic. You wouldn’t have to worry about dropping a crayon into the cream carpeting here!

  • Love the cloud bed and the tins as art storage. Also love the tree picture although I really don’t like the yellow tape! I totally agree that there exists a weird myth about the need to suddenly “upgrade” to an enormous house and giant people carrier as soon as kids come along. This is a great example of how three kids in a room can work really well, and benefit everyone.

  • Love it! I’d be scared to paint the walls white in my kids room (I have two toddlers myself) but it makes a HUGE difference and totally brightens and opens the space up. It’s a fun space, as a kids’ room should be. :) Great job!

  • For me, the problem is that it just looks sort of messy and thrown together. The chipping paint on the baseboards and the mismatched, junky looks of everything just looks too ordinary for my taste. The use of the “cloud bed” is original, but I still think it looks a little junky. Its a fine makeover for 3 kids in one room on a small budget, but it just doesn’t do it for me…

    Rinna- it is not the job of those who don’t care for the room to virtually redesign it on the same budget with a limited time frame. This is featured on Design Sponge… it is OK that some people do not like it (and it is also OK that lots of people seem to love the room). Discussion boards are for discussing, not getting snippy when people disagree.

    • K

      yes, discussion boards are for discussing. they are not for judging the families who are featured. many, many comments have crossed over that line for this post and i’m stepping in to moderate. i’m really disappointed at some of the people who’ve decided to make comments about the family rather than the design.


  • I love it – I love that your kids all share a room. My son and daughter share because they want to. Truth of the matter is kids sleep in their rooms and play all over the house! Houses are meant to be lived in and if I were a child I would feel pretty darn special knowing my Uncle helped in making my room so special! This is what working and living as a family means.
    Painting the inside of the drawers is not only fun when they are opened but also a great learning tool; as in your pants are in the blue drawer! The trim isn’t done – oh welcome to the world of parenthood. I bet these kids have more time with their parents who are spending the time with them instead of worrying about the tiny details in life!

  • You have to remember that this room isn’t supposed to be picture perfect. It is a kids room. I love the fact that there is three kids in one room but i can imagine the mess so I love the helpful storage areas all around. I love the cloud bed (the window makes me nervous but I am one of those moms that always thinks the worst) You did an awesome job with making the most of your space. To those who don’t get this room or don’t like how is seems thrown together there is 3 people in this room with very different things that are important to them. sometimes things just don’t mesh well. I think the map would be really cute with landmarks added to it, like their school and other favorite places in the neighborhood. You did awesome with the money, the time, and the space you had.

  • I don’t get all of the commenters saying that they don’t get this room. It’s lovely and REAL. I was raised in an apartment in a large city, and my family as well as many of my friends’ families made do with small and/or improvised spaces. This room reminds me of the best of those spaces.

    I really love the map, BTW. It’s nice to look at, gives the room a sweet sense of place, and, I imagine, serves the functional purpose of teaching the kids how to read a map!

  • 3 kids, 1 teeny room?!? Impressed at that alone!

    The cloud bed is heavenly :)

    I adore the pompom garland as well as the animal heads and the tree {the tape finishes it perfectly}

    The neighborhood map is such a fun idea, adding on to that as the family matures will be great! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

  • I think it’s fabulous. I love things that are an eclectic mish-mosh of people and what they like. You did a neat job and I think it’s great. I especially love the beds. Each is unique and special. I especially love the white iron bed under the cloud loft.
    And I actually kinda like the chipped base boards. They are a complement to the crisp clean white walls.

  • I am in LOVE with the cloud bed! What an adorable and fun idea that is chic too! I also love the repurposed coffee can organizers for the craft supplies. Bravo!

  • Can this room get any cuter!? So brilliant! I love the look of your crib and now I have thoughts to get a similar bumper for my little man. Hm. Hm. Hm. Thanks for sharing your lovely room!

  • unbelievable how controversial this project has become – it’s rare to see a children’s room done with such thoughtfulness and purpose. there’s so much here for children to enjoy and to truly grow with. no child wants a stringent, immaculate, untouchable room. how boring! personally, i find this room to be super charming, perfectly curated and is probably my favorite children’s room ever.

  • It is a little odd, Kimberly,but than again not everyone has to like it. We do and that’s what matters!

    I wanted to pop in an answer a few questions:

    -The animal heads are actually masks the kids use for dress up. I got them at our local art store, but I’m pretty sure you can get similar ones on amazon. The masks are made of some sort of foam and are indestructible!

    -I made the bumper with fabric from Ikea.

    -The map on the wall is a map of our neighborhood. The kids love it and it helps them learn their way around.

    -We made the closet into a little art studio and that’s where the tin can storage is and also the ladder to the cloud bed. You can see the art studio here: http://www.elsiemarley.com/three-kids-in-a-room-part-two.html

    -Yes, I could have styled the room up a bit more. And yes I am thoroughly embarrassed that the whole internet has now seen our chippy baseboards. But it was a rare morning where the room was clean, the light was good and the kids were gone, so I had to take pictures!

  • I think that this is just lovely! I would have treasured this room as a kid, and very much like it now. So the baseboards aren’t perfect – they are just going to get chipped by toys crashing into them anyway! This strikes me as a fun, creative, and practical room. I may be stealing the drawer idea…Awesome!

  • i love it, and i’d have loved to have had a room like this when i was a kid. offbeat and livable, not all “put together” and museum-like. it’s lovely.

  • Oh Meg – these photos are going to make me cry! I LOVE and adore this post. I am a mother of 3 kids ages 8, 6, & 4. And guess what? They all share 1 of our 2 small bedrooms.

    I love the loft bed with the clouds, the art space (go to her blog for loads more photos!), and the colors used.

    Eeeeep! Is it horrible that I want to go start painting my kids’ room right now at 10:22 p.m.?! :) My kids’ room is in desperate need of a makeover, and this post has inspired me to get started. Thank you Design Sponge for posting this!

  • Thank god for showing a small room for three kids makeover!! We live in a 2 Bedroom flat with two children and get a lot of bad vibes because our kids will soon have to share a room – which is the biggest of the flat by the way – and why we don’t move. Well frankly in this economy and the place we live (expensive city) we simply can’t afford a spacious 4 bedroom flat or house. End of story. Get over it people – not everybody is living in mansions.

  • I love this room! So inspiring. My daughter has a tiny closet-size bedroom. So i’m always looking for space saving ideas and I love sparse white spaces. I love the feel of this room. And with three kids worth of stuff in there too?! Very impressive. Lovely job, thank you for the post.

  • Live simply that others may simply live.

    Love the room, concept of sharing, fiscal caution, & overall adorable attitude/creativity projected. Glad that every space on D.S. Isn’t totally polished.

  • We did the same thing our baby boy was born. We put the girls bunk bed and he crib and all sorts of fun ikea-like storage for toys and stuff and now that they have been together for 6 months in one room I can say that they play better and the girls are very considerate(as much as 4 and 2 yr olds can b) I applaude this project. I also really love the clouds!!!

  • Well all I can say is Bravo!! I think it’s kinda funky! I too have 3 kids and are busy preparing to put 2 of the elder kids in 1 room(yes they have their own rooms)! I know people think we may be mad but all they want for Christmas is a bunkbed and to share a room!?? I think youv’e done a fab job in what precious little free time you have and I bet those kids will have some really fond memories!!

  • I think the room is adorable and I know from experience that spending hours getting a room perfect for some pictures is wasted time with three children. My only concern is the baby crib next to the radiator. Don’t they get very hot? Curious fingers could get burned couldn’t they?

    I think this room shows just how much fun and love are in this family.

  • Can I just say that when I saw the chippy baseboards I SMILED because HELLO as a mom with 3 and one on the way WHO has TIME to worry about baseboards!? Kudos, Meg for taking all of the negative comments in stride. I admire your creativity and I may “steal” some of your ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  • I don’t have kids of my own yet but I just wanted to say that I would be so lucky to be your kids. I think this entire room just oozes with the innovation and creativity of Madison (which I assume that is where you are from with the map of Monona and Mendota lakes) that has obviously inspired you. I get all my furniture from St. Vinny’s Dig and Save and Craigslist.

  • There are many innovative ideas used here to make this small space more functional. I’m sorry to say I was surprised that some ‘after’ parts didn’t seem much different than the before shots. I definitely prefer realistic lived-in spaces, but have to admit that the designer in me (who has resurrected some very needy spaces with almost no money) was surprised that this room was selected. BUT, here’s to works in progress! Design comes in stages. And yay for a mom who cares enough to redo her kids’ room for function and fun ;)

  • I’am really excited after seeing such an exciting bedroom collection for children,specially the area where there is pens,pencils and other stationery items are remarkably great.Really a breath taking post for me.