The trials of decorating for an 8-year-old boy

Marian ParsonsBoy's Bedroom, Decorating, My House, Room Makeovers39 Comments

Decorating for kids is hard.  I’m learning that as I’m working with my eight-year-old on transforming the guest room into his room.  We have conversations about it that go something like this…

“So, let’s talk about your room, bud, and how you would like it to look.”


“What colors would you like?”

“Ummm… Red, green, black, gray, orange, blue.  And some yellow.”

“Hmm.  Okay.  How about a theme?”

“Oh!  Broncos and Star Wars and Ninja Turtles.”

“Um.  Okay.  Which is your favorite?”

“I want to paint the walls and have you paint a big Mikey over there and a light saber over there…”

And it just deteriorated from there.

Now, I’m all for letting him have a say in his room.  I want him to love it.  But, I also know that most eight year old boys lack a design sense or the concept that when they are twelve, they might not want cartoon characters splattered all over the wall.  Or the fact that this room will double as a guest room and has to have some level of taste!

So, I’m doing what I do as a designer.  I’m taking ideas, filtering them, and then putting together a design plan that I know will work and I think he’ll love.

This is what I’ve come up with…

Calvin's Room



I’ve already shared about the Star Wars watercolors I painted for him.  This was to appease his request for characters on the wall.  I know they aren’t large murals, but they are much easier to switch out when/if his tastes change.  And he loves them.  He loves them so much, he asked me to paint more and he has even been painting some, too.

mms-0061 mms-0064

I bought some black frames with black mats from Michael’s, so they would pop against the creamy walls.

And just about everything looks important when it’s framed and matted well.


We just have a small cotton rug in the room right now and it’s not quite big enough to be a comfy place to stretch out and draw or set up a Lego battle, so I’m getting a rug that is a softer wool/cotton blend.  And also one that fits with the blue, gray, black, and white color scheme I went with.  Yes, he asked for more colors than that, but I decided to stick with my typical palette of blue & white, with some gray and black thrown in to enforce the masculine vibe and Star Wars theme.  Keeping the color palette simple will make the pieces I select for the room more versatile down the road and it means I can move them into other rooms if that ever arises.

If he’s really insistent about adding more color, we can add some pops with artwork, accessories or a couple throw pillows.


Again, I’m keeping things simple with a solid blue quilt.  It’s masculine, but neutral.


I already miss my raspberry buffalo check curtains in the room, so I decided to replace them with navy and cream buffalo check!  I had some of the fabric already, so I was able to clip it up to see if it looked nice and to see how Calvin felt about it.  Both mom and boy were happy with the results, so I bought a few more yards, so I can make two panels for the window behind the bed and a valance for the dormer window.

I wouldn’t usually pick full-length drapes for a boy’s room, but since this will double as a guest room, it makes the room feel a little more grown up.


That’s just fabric clipped up there right now, but I’ll hem and iron it and it’ll look really sharp.  I’m also going to swap out the curtain rod for a simple black one.


I originally planned on keeping the white metal bed frame, but once I stripped the room of the “guest room” decor and started adding in some of the boyish elements, the bed frame looked girly and out of place.  It’s a bit of a challenge for me to pick something that is so masculine, but it is for a boy’s room and, with this being such a small room, the bed frame is a main focal point.  The frame is masculine, but it still feels neutral and a little rustic, with a modern edge.  I think it’ll work well in the space.


We don’t have room for a full on reading nook, but I love the idea of a bean bag chair, so Calvin can easily move it around wherever he wants to lounge.  I liked that this one had a playful look with its faux fur, but the color is neutral.  In reference to the Star Wars theme, it feels like having a wookiee or ewok in the space.


I have also been shopping for a very small desk and chair as well as some wall storage options, like floating shelves or a narrow bookcase.  It’s a small, awkward room, so I have to be crafty to make every inch count!

We’re moving his dresser from his old room and I’ll be selling the pretty old dresser from the guest room.  His dresser will get a coat of MMS Milk Paint in either Artissimo or Trophy.  Or maybe a combination of both!  I need to get the other elements in the room and then decide.

I’ll share more on the sources as I get the elements in the room…

The trials of decorating for an 8-year-old boy

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39 Comments on “The trials of decorating for an 8-year-old boy”

  1. Wow! Those water colors are an awesome addition to the room! I really think you hit the nail on the head with that customization and it’s something he can keep for years! When I was married my now ex husband insisted in keeping a poster of young Anakin with the shadow of Vader on the wall. I said no but THIS would have been ok!

  2. Looks awesome as expected.

    With two kiddos as well, I’m curious if you have a “command center” of sorts for school papers, monthly calendar of events etc. I would love to see that in your signature style.

  3. Love the choices you are making for this room, and I am intrigued with the water colors, what technique did you use to paint them? How did you manage the areas that aren’t painted (the light saber!!) you need to post a video showing us how it’s done! Love them!

  4. As a Star Wars fan, I can say this is coming out AWESOME. I’d love to have it for my own room (though I’m sure the wife wouldn’t appreciate it). 😉

    This might sound a little odd, but if you’re going to paint the dresser anyway, why not do one of your mural dressers and paint something Star Wars-ish on it? Maybe the Death Star in the top left corner with an X-Wing or TIE fighter in the foreground? If he doesn’t like it in a couple of years, it’d be easy enough to paint over.

    Just a thought…and it’d be a fun project.

    1. I think that’s a great idea! Unless you eradicate all traces of little-boy from the room it’s going to be obvious to guests that it’s his room anyhow, just make him happy!

  5. Your “Star Wars” watercolors remind me so much of the posters for the original movie back in ’77, and the designs on the commemorative Burger King glasses. They are classically ethereal.

  6. Looking good! You are going to have one happy little boy. That furry beanbag!!! So fun! If you want a pillow in similar fabric Target carries a rectangular fur throw pillow which is super cozy and very realistic looking.

  7. Did I miss something? Where is the beautiful white metal bed going? I love what you are doing for his room! They will appreciate later when grown and they realize love went into it too:)

  8. I just ordered a pair of Buffalo Check curtains for my son’s room before reading this post! Although kids rooms can be hard, I really enjoy to opportunity to take a few chances and make it fun. I love the watercolors and the beanbag wookie/ewok is the perfect compliment. Looking forward to your final results!

  9. What has been your experience with ordering AND returning rugs online? It is so difficult to know for sure a rug will work and I am wondering if the return expense is great. Thanks for any input you can give. I have struck out with the rugs ordered from Home Depot, Pier One and Bed Bath and Beyond BUT I was able to return to them to the store with no shipping cost.

    1. I order almost all of my rugs online and I have returned a couple of them without a problem. Usually the company will send a return label and schedule the pick-up, so it’s pretty low hassle.

  10. How in the whole wide world do you do it? I mean, come up with the PERFECT solution every time for challenging decorating/design issues. Your vision is brilliant. It’s almost scary the amount of talent you have. I cant wait to see more!

  11. I love everything you’ve selected! The whole thing is adorable, still fits your style, but reflects his tastes and hobbies! Those watercolors are amazing too! Can’t wait to see the finished room! He will love having this room all to himself.

  12. You are so fortunate to hane these trials – it builds character and I know you will work your magic. As a great grandmother, you will have to compromise along the way. Just remember you are not a BH&G home but a home with a family and they leave home much too soon. Love your inspiration so far. JudyC

  13. Hi! Where did you find the bed? I’m looking to redesign my 16 year old son’s room and we are stuck on what kind of bed he wants. I think he would like the rustic look of the one in your pics!

  14. I love this! I second the idea of painting the dresser with a Star Wars Mural… Brilliant! My next thought was paint the Iron bed too! That’s what you do. 😀 Perhaps, in something like Silver, Navy, Gray or Black. You have the beautiful bed, and we already know it looks great in this room. Simply changing the color will really add to the wow factor and it may even make a little guy feel like he’s actually in a Space Ship and/or on the metal bridges/crosswalks in the movies!

  15. OH MY GOSH! I feel like that is the same exact conversation that I have been having with my, soon to be 13yr old son! He wants a RED, yes I said RED wall in his room….uh.mmm….NO…I said.
    We are having a house built and I swore that I was going to have cohesive interior design styles in every room… This is going to be a challenge…

    But you NAILED it!! I will have to see if I can bring him over to the ‘dark’ side Ha! Ha!

    1. Red can look really cool on just one wall. Not too overpowering, especially if it a wall with a window or door to break it up.

  16. A modest table may be a better choice than an actual small desk. A tiny kneehole is absolutely miserable if you are actually going to do any form of work at said desk. And I have had my then-seven year old son as a client, and it hurt my feelings terribly. The next time I redecorated, I had a decorator (who was already helping me stage a different house for resale) negotiate paint color with both sons, and it was so, so worth the trifling amount I paid for that. Not what I would have picked, but they were happy and I didn’t cry.

  17. I had a similar conversation with my six-year-old son recently. He likes beach things, fishing, his globe, has a huge rock collection, and dinosaur skeletons. I finally decided to do an “Outdoor Adventure” theme. He liked it, but then asked if Star Wars can be included. He likes red and blue so I’m using those colors. I bought three old printer trays and I’m turning them into a desk that can also showcase his rock collection. Can’t wait to get started on that project!

  18. Your navy and white check looks so crisp and perfect. Would you please share the source as you mentioned you bought additional yardage?

  19. As a future guest we’ll buy the old metal bed. Make me an offer, taking into consideration that I will be bunking with Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi. Fire up the HyperDrive, Han, and let’s roll! And many future thanks to Cal Wan Vinobi for letting us use his room when we come up in October.

  20. I have 4 children and at one point let them choose their bedding and how they wanted the walls painted. We’ve had bright orange, bright yellow, Army green, purple, and burgundy. When it was time to move, I had to prime the walls before I repainted them a neutral color. It was lots of work. Moving into our farmhouse, I informed them that there would be no more loud colors and they had to help paint (since they are now teenagers). I wanted them to experience the labor involved. It’s been a good experience – both when they chose colors and when I did.

  21. Looks like it’s coming together well. A challenge, for sure! I only decorated for girls so I would have absolutely no clue how to begin with the boys. Looks like your process is working. Is Calvin happy so far?

    Marian, I also would like to know where you buy that buffalo checked fabric. I’ve not seen any in the area where I live. Of course, the only fabric sources we have are JoAnn Fabrics. It’s a monopoly and has driven any privately-owned fabric stores out of business.

  22. I went through the same thing with my daughter (6 years old). She got a room makeover for Christmas. I treated her like a design client and gave her a selection of room designs to choose from. She thought it was fun making the decision and I had fun, instead of stress, putting it together. My only rule was NO trendy themes (disney princess, tv characters, etc). I wanted something she could grow with and not get tired of. She has accents of her favorite things without a whole bedding set with Elsa that she will want to replace when she moves on to some other character.

  23. Looking good! Grown-up enough for guests, but with a touch of boyhood thrown in on the wall art. Perhaps a plaid quilt/coverlet with some more of his color choices could be thrown on the bed for when he’s the only occupant, then put away to make room for a “guest” quilt? That bean bag chair is fun!

  24. i am a designer also. For my children’s rooms I always planned the “foundation” of the room and then let them add their treusures for a personal touch. Boys , I don’t think are inclined to pay attention to paint colors fabrics etc.

  25. Love, love, love it. 🙂 My 10 and 4 year old share a room- and so we have a similar set up- Star Wars and all! We have ‘star tours’ travel posters as our art though, and Star Wars sheets from pottery barn- though the rest of their bedding is very similar- to grow with them!!

  26. Love your choices but what I would REALLY love is to rehomed those raspberry check curtains.♡ Let me know if they’re for sale.

  27. Love everthing in the room! My boys would have loved this room when they were growing up. Both of them Star Wars and Broncos fans even though they’re grown and gone. Maybe you’ve said this before but what is the wall color?

  28. My 8 year old son LOVES this room. Can I ask where you bought the bed and if you would be willing to paint and sell some star wars watercolors??

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