before and after

Before & After: A Sophisticated, Modern Take on A Boy’s Bedroom

by Maxwell Tielman

One of the decorating traps I often see parents run into when creating their childrens’ bedrooms is making them childish. While this might appear slightly counterintuitive—after all, these rooms are, in fact, intended for children— it seems that homeowners often lose sight of the fact that children have a tendency to grow up. Fast. This is why it’s so refreshing to see children’s rooms that are age-appropriate, but still designed to evolve over time—ones that can cater to a child’s curiosity and still provide an open canvas on which he or she can grow and change. When transforming her son’s future room from the previous inhabitant’s stuffy bedroom, Emily Cureton was sure to keep this in mind. “We just bought this house and I had the challenge of turning what was a middle aged woman’s bedroom in to a fun and playful space fit for my two year old son, Oren,” she writes. ” I tried to pick items for the room that could grow with him in the coming years. Nothing too babyish or cutesy. And for the items which were on the younger side, I definitely tried not to go overboard on the price, like the $20.00 kids table and chair set for IKEA. Even if he only uses it for another couple years, it will have been money well spent. I think the space turned out exactly as I had hoped. It feels, young, fun and bright instead of cramped, gloomy and outdated like it did before. ” The end result, a combination of beautifully simple items and a clean, white paint job, is bright, open, and the perfect clean slate for a growing child’s tastes. Check out all of the photos, plus Emily’s full budget breakdown after the jump! —Max


beforeafter_orensroom_1 beforeafter_orensroom_2 beforeafter_orensroom_3 beforeafter_orensroom_4 beforeafter_orensroom_5 beforeafter_orensroom_6 beforeafter_orensroom_7 beforeafter_orensroom_8 beforeafter_orensroom_9 beforeafter_orensroom_10 beforeafter_orensroom_11 beforeafter_orensroom_12 beforeafter_orensroom_13 beforeafter_orensroom_14 beforeafter_orensroom_15

Budget Breakdown:

  • Benjamin Moore White Dove Paint — $60
  • Custom bed frame from OneMoreMushroom —$790
  • Birch OrganicBedding Fabric from Fabric Worm — $100
  • Duvet Insert — $50
  • Handmade Pillow from Gingiber — $32
  • Handmade Pillow from Juniper Wilde — $29
  • IKEA Hemnes Dresser (already owned) — $250
  • IKEA Latt Children’s Table and Chairs — $20
  • Six IKEA Spice Racks (for books) — $24
  • Area Rug from Rugs USA — $282 (on sale from $1128!)
  • Viking Mobile — $30
  • Ferm Living Half Moon Storage Basket — $80
  • Dresser Lamp — $40
  • Prop Airplane — $15
  • Alphabet Print from On Paper — $10
  • Nightstand/Picture Frame/Bedside lamp purchased on clearance at Target — $32
  • Bear Print from Scoutmob — $28
  • Pendant light from Lowes — $60

Total: $1682

Suggested For You


  • It’s really beautiful but what drives me crazy with a lot of the children’s rooms featured here – and elsewhere – is that they are almost completely devoid of STUFF! It’s as if all the (messy) toys just don’t exist. I have never been in a child’s room that is as uncluttered as this. Don’t get me wrong, this place is gorgeous and tranquil but it just doesn’t seem like a realistic representation of a child’s room, irrespective of age.

    • Sara

      We’ve addressed this a number of times. Most home owners clean up (ie: put toys away) for a photoshoot that will be seen by people online. Not because they’re trying to dupe anyone, but because it’s the same as tidying up before a guest. We’ve run more “realistic” home tours with toys, etc. out and the comments can be vicious about how people should clean before taking pictures. So it’s a tough line to walk between real and too sterile. Though I don’t think this feels sterile at all.


  • So lovely and serene! A little sad about painting over the gorgeous original oak window trim, but I do see how dark and broody it was…

  • What is wrong with people? We all know the room will have toys and things strewn about, when the room is in use. For the design aficionados, we need to see it devoid of these visual distractions. That is the way to really see the design!

  • Pretty and light! I love the bedding. To me, the windows seem to be calling for bold, solid colored drapes to warm it up a bit (kelly green?). Lovely, though!

  • also a little sad about the original trim but I love the look of this. And in all honestly kids have waaaaaay too many toys to begin with. It’s an endless cycle. Perhaps a simple life with minimal toy purchasing is a better one?

  • What a happy and bright room. I adore the bedding and the mobile. As for the lack of “stuff”, sometimes I think our children can have way too much “stuff”. If I had it to do over again, I’d put my 3 (two girls and a boy) in the same room for sleeping and another for a playroom. They loved sharing rooms, and nighttime stories and deep conversations. And over the years Oren will likely be adding his own personal touches, clutter and all.

  • Fantastic makeover. As to people wondering where the toys are…maybe there is a playroom? Or, maybe they cleaned up for the photos. You know, like pretty much anyone would before having their home on an (internationally-read) design blog. In any case, what a nice room for a young boy to grow up in. :)

  • I feel bad for the previous owner – I’d be super bummed to have pictures of my unstaged home put on the internet for all to see, up against professional, perfectly styled photos. I don’t mind the old room if I could rearrange it, remove the ceiling fan, all the tchochkes, the too-big bed, the carpeting…

  • I have 2 boys and each have their own room (spoiled) and I try my best to keep their rooms with OUT toys. And I don’t have a playroom. I keep the toys in big bins or a few land of nod “cubbies” that work great. If they want to play with toys they can take the bins in there, play, have the room messy for a few days and then is time to pick everything up. I’m realistic that children and perfectly sterile bedrooms is a fantasy BUT I think this make over is just beautiful. modern and keeping things simple. I LOVE the way the books are arranged. That is the one thing I keep in big amounts in my boys’ rooms, books! LOVELY make over. I’m in love the white paint by Benjamin Moore and the nautical style rug.

  • I love this room! I decorated my son’s room with a similar formula – stripes, cute bedding, and loads of books. In response to Sara’s comment — some parents don’t keep toys in their kids bedrooms. We’ve intentionally left toys out of my son’s room so that he can rest at naptime and bedtime. It’s worked for us and if you have the space to keep the toys out of the room, I’d highly recommend it. Thanks for the great post DS.

  • agree! I don’t think it’s fair to post “before” pics if the room wasn’t “yours”…it’s one thing if it’s a kitchen or bathroom real estate shot…but someone’s bedroom? i feel so bad for the previous owner. BUT, I must say, this is a beautiful room. I love the little table in the bay window! What a great use of space. I’m guessing there are plans to add curtains/blinds down the road…I imagine that with so many windows it feels like a fishbowl at night time. Would love to see a follow up with what they pick! So pretty :)

  • I like it — and I am a maximalist! I adore the bedding and mobile especially! But I, too, lament the clear finished wood. Not only did it survive 100 years, give or take, it added some much-needed warmth to the room.

  • The before shots are very informative because we’ve all seen rooms like this and wondered how to fix them. (Step One always seems to be to pull up the wall-to-wall carpet, though.) Plus, it’s not like Emily broke in to take these pictures – presumably this is how the room was being shown to prospective buyers. What is the Birch Organic fabric used for the duvet? I can’t find it on the Fabric Worm website.

  • Both my children have toy-free bedrooms because I believe bedrooms are for sleeping, not playing. My kids’ bedrooms are “gorgeous and tranquil,” not sterile.

  • Quick reality check-you really ARE going to have to have some kind of window covering eventually-I see neighbors very close and the room faces the street. I like the lightened up room, but was there really no way to work with the beautiful woodwork? My boys use to run their trucks all over and that white paint would have been chipped and nicked in no time!

  • Love this room. Love how it allows for the child to express his/her interests/whims of the moment without destroying the esthetics of the room. So many criticisms of the neatness of the room. Growing up the only thing I kept in my room were my personal books and a couple stuffed animals I slept with. All others were stashed in a walk in closet that had once been a kitchen in our old old house. We played with them in the living room or formal dining room that was rarely used. There is a growing trend away from buying plastic crap for kids to play with. Perhaps these home owners are part of that trend. As for the before pics…what are the odds the woman who used to sleep there would see this post.

  • IKEA spice racks for book display! What an idea. I would love to display vinyl or art books this way.

  • I love this room, it is so bright and cheery. And it seems very spacious – perfect for spreading out and being creative (when a photo shoot is not about to occur). However, as the mom of 2 kids, ages 1 and 3, I see two issues. One is, I don’t agree with putting those book shelves so high up – at least the top one. There should be one room in the house where kids can safely and easily access everything without the aid of a parent. Low shelves and low bins, and lots of storage so kids can easily take things out and put them back. If I had this room in my house, I would have installed the shelves in two rows of three rather than three rows of two; and included a little step stool to reach the second shelf. And secondly, this room lacks soft spaces; rather I see lots of hard edges, surfaces, and corners. Maybe there are other rooms in this house for settling in and getting comfy with this room reserved just for sleeping. If not, I suggest a small nook with a comfy chair or a rug and pillows for the child to curl up and read those books on his own or with his mom or dad. Overall though, a huge success.

  • The room looks lovely! I particularly like the blue and white rug – very classic.

    The mini bookshelves are cute. I’ve seen them a lot on Pinterest, but have wondered how well they stand up to wear. They look like they’d be tempting for little ones to swing or tug on. Do hefty enough screws mean that they’re stable enough not to pull away from the wall? Just wondering, as I do like the way they display lovely book covers and would maybe use them myself one day.

  • I am NOT one of those “don’t paint over wood” people, but holy moly, that was beautiful wood trim. And the doors! I have been searching high and low for doors like that! I’m glad she didn’t show a photo of them painted white.

    Also, not to pile on, but not only are the befores of someone’s private bedroom but there are also visible photos of them and their children. I don’t know, it’s just not that nice.

  • I love this room, I think it looks great. Very Scandinavian. Not sure why people are mad that the room isn’t messy. First of all, it’s a design blog—how many of you would enjoy looking at a room with crap strewn all over? Maybe your next makeover should just be a room with toys thrown all over the floor. Sheesh.

  • Make the bed a little bigger, and I’ll move right in (although I’d need more bookcases).
    I think this room would work great for a girl, too. I remember growing up (70s-80s) when things were for kids without things being gendered.

  • Well said Renee – in the interests of helping us visualise how spaces can change, the before shots are key. It’s not a personal dig against the old owner’s style.
    One thing that is best practice for me is not putting beds against windows – a view to the outside, even in a crappy neighbourhood is better than any picture in my opinion.
    So partly, the success of the after comes down to circumstance: unlike the previous owner, this kid only needs a little bed which can fit on the back wall and this gives the rest of the room space to shine!

  • Any way you can provide a direct link to the rug? I can’t find this exact one. And I LOVE it! I don’t live near an Ikea so this is a good option for me. Thanks!

  • Love the use of the spice racks for books! Will definitely pinch that idea. I have to agree with a comment about window coverings… Were they just removed for the shoot? In the summer that little boy must wake up at 5:30!

  • Love the this room. My only issue – no curtains or blinds on the windows. This room faces the street and belongs to a child who will be using it with the lights on at night. Some means of privacy definitely needed here…

  • I was also wondering about window treatments – out of curiosity of course! Great bright space. I get what some people say about lowering the higher book shelf but honestly there are some books that you don’t want your wee ones to get there hands on!
    I don’t get the attitude of bedrooms are just for sleeping. It is the one room where whoever sleeps in the room owns it – as in when we want our quiet time we have a place to get away to and do whatever we please to do…take a nap, read a book or dump out our Lego that yes your mother will expect you to clean up so she can take a picture!

  • A bit late to the party but I do love this room. I will say, I’m another confused one about the lack of window treatments. Let’s assume that her 2 year-old doesn’t nap (most do, but I have a not-yet-3 year-old who doesn’t either so..), but I think I’d feel very weird not having blinds in her room.. which faces our backyard and NOT the street, as this one does.

    Beautiful job though.

  • You did a great job, I like the lighter feel. It’s sad to see all that beautiful woodwork covered. I am always interested in ways to create a lighter feel without changing the glorious, original woodwork. Such a difficult design challenge.
    Again, great job!