Tips for a Shared Kids' Room

Shared Room TipsOur oldest son has had to share his room with his little sister ever since she arrived on the scene almost five years and two houses ago. We have had a few different furniture arrangements between cribs, twin beds, and now a bunkbed as their needs and room sizes have changed. We have also switched their room decor from vintage-inspired to something more modern, but have always managed to make it a fun space that reflects each of their personalities whilst feeling as cohesive as possible.

It's a little tricky making one space work for both a boy and a girl, but I love a good design challenge. Below I've shared a few things I've learned along the way.

Gender Neutral Shared Boy Girl Room1. Design with each of them in mind.

I've already shared how I won my battle with the dark built-ins in a tutorial here. I wanted to use this space as a way to display their stuff without it turning into an eyesore. One of the ways I was able to keep it both interesting and gender neutral was by using pattern and color instead of relying on a theme.

I repeated the same geometric-style theme and colors elsewhere in the room in strong amounts but left the rest in smaller doses. You'll notice a lot of black, white, and yellow tones. However, Ruby's handmade quilt also has plenty of pink, red, aqua, and green in it. I also chose to display items that belonged to each of them that fit within the black, white, and yellowish color scheme. Sebastian's black Darth Vader clock is displayed alongside Ruby's yellow stuffed elephant. Decorating with belongings within your chosen color palette allows the room to be both personal and cohesive.

Wall Decor in Kids' Shared RoomOrganize and Stash2. Aesthetically pleasing storage is important.

The loud and proud pink princess accessories are contained in the coordinating yellow bins in the bookshelf, and Sebastian's primary color lego pieces are neatly stashed in clear plastic tubs hidden under the bottom bunk. Stuffed animals live in a large coiled basket and larger toys are stashed in their shared closet. Their possessions each have a home where they can be easily accessed and that look lovely when their room is picked up. I can make no promises for an aesthetically pleasing space halfway through a play date though. 

Special TouchesSave Space When You Can3. Give them their own special spaces.

Ruby spends a lot more time in their shared room because Sebastian's in school, so it's usually just her stuff spread all over the floor at the end of the day. I knew Sebastian needed a place to put his lego creations once he was done building them with the peace of mind that his little sister wouldn't break them apart during a feisty round of pet shop.

I moved all of the out-of-season linens and board games out of the built-ins in their closet and stored them elsewhere so that Sebastian would have a place to display his many creations. It's a little dark in there, so I also added a battery powered LED light from Ikea so he can see even with the door closed. He said it feels like a secret fort and loves knowing they won't be smashed. Ruby and I love that we aren't stepping on legos all day. 

Shared Kids' Room4. Utilize furniture that is multifunctional.

Put your stuff to work! Not only is the furniture in the kids' room appropriate for their age, it'll still be useful a few years down the road barring it's still in good condition. The shared dresser used to belong in our bedroom but is now split between the two kids. The Ikea shelving unit holds toys and books but might also one day hold Sebastian's budding record collection. The bean bag is an easy spot to lay a squirmy baby but also useful for when the kids have friends over. The coiled basket full of stuffed animals will someday hold all of their dirty laundry. The bunk bed will be used in one of their own rooms purely for sleepovers when they no longer share a space. 

The point is, that having multifunctional items will help save you money when you transition spaces. Think about what your kids' needs are at the moment and what they will be in the next two years. They grow so quickly that sometimes it's more practical to save a little on the items that won't stick around long and splurge on those that will. 

Art Wall 5. Involve them in customizing their room.

I like to give my kids controlled choices. I really wanted them to feel like they had a part in decorating their shared room without handing over the reigns completely. Part of this was to keep it from becoming a battle over how much Captain America was too much Captain America and whether or not it was fair to have a pink floral rug in an eight-year-old boy's room.

For example, I asked them to create some art for the art wall but limited their color choices to black, yellow, or shades of blue so that whatever they created would be cohesive with the rest of the room's design. Ruby made a fun abstract painting and Sebastian drew a battle scene of some Star Wars legos. I mixed those in with a photo of all three kids, enlarged a photobooth picture from a few years ago of the older two, and made a fun felt pennant utilizing one of Ruby's favorite sayings. They love to show off their work to any company that come over, and I love that this was a joint(ish) effort.

Personal CollectionsWe're actually moving soon to a house where Sebastian will get his own room and Ruby and Smith will eventually share once he's moved out of our room, so I'll be referring back to my own tips in a few weeks! What have you learned about decorating a shared room? -Rachel

Credits//Author: Rachel Denbow. Photographer: Rachel Denbow and Heather Gray. Most photos edited with The Signature Collection.

Try This: Transform Kiddo Scribbles into Modern Art

Transform your kid's scribbles into modern art— so fun and easy!If you've ever tried your hand at creating abstract art, you may have wished you could just turn off your brain and get your Crayola on like a kid again. Been there! But amidst my frustration, I had a fun idea. Why not actually get some markers and let Lucy do just that?

I'd love some fancy modern art for my walls, and would love it even more if my toddler created it. So I set her loose with some washable markers, and then worked a little copy machine magic to transform her scribbles into modern art.

Transform your kid's scribbles into modern art— so fun and easy!Okay, so here's how the art making process went down. I dragged Lucy's play table into the dining room (where the light is prettier), and she started getting really excited. Something special was going to happen, she just knew it. More like something magical really. Magic markers, you see. Why are these markers magic? Well... I've never thought about it until I started typing it out. Maybe because they're amazingly washable? I basically let Lucy go to town on several pieces of cardstock, black marker getting on herself and the table in the process. She became a little concerned about the marker on her hands and table, but we wiped it all down, and it magically disappeared. So that's why they're called magic markers! Good to know. (First time mom here, obviously.)

Transform your kid's scribbles into modern art— so fun and easy!Transform your kid's scribbles into modern art— so fun and easy!Lucy is two years old and finally interested in making art. When I gave her the paper, she excitedly sat down and then thought about what she was going to do for a second. It was hilarious to watch. She would slowly move her marker, then quickly begin to scribble, then make dotted marks, à la Georges Seurat. She's obviously going to be a famous painter one day.

Transform your kid's scribbles into modern art— so fun and easy!Transform your kid's scribbles into modern art— so fun and easy!Transform your kid's scribbles into modern art— so fun and easy!When Lucy was finished, I chose my favorite of her scribble sheets and did a little copy machine trickery. Using my Canon printer, I blew up the portion of the page I liked most, then took it to a copy shop to have it enlarged to fit an Ikea frame I had on hand. I also inverted the colors for extra drama. The other pink and orange piece was made with some Photoshop layer magic— the orange layer used the "lighten" blend mode over top of the pink layer, which used the "multiply" blend mode. But if you want to do something similar, the look could easily be replicated by using colored markers and cardstock.

Transform your kid's scribbles into modern art— so fun and easy!Transform your kid's scribbles into modern art— so fun and easy!Pretty fun, huh? I might try making more fun colors and giving small prints of them to family for Christmas. Of course, I'll keep the originals because they might be worth lots of money one day. -Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella and Valentine from the Signature Collection and Pearl from the Fresh Collection.

Apple Pecan Pies

Apple pecan pies from A Beautiful Mess  This recipe combines two of my favorite autumn treats: pecan pie and apples. Pecan pie is possibly one of the more decadent pies you can eat, while apples are totally healthy (you know, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," that whole thing). So, it's basically one of those really odd couples you see and think, "Really, those two?" But somehow it makes sense.

Apple pecan pies from A Beautiful MessOh, you never see opposite looking couples and think anything of it? Well, aren't you just a better person than me.

Answer: Yes. Clearly you are.

But hey, I make treats. So... at least I'm contributing to the world via sugar... uh...

Pecan pie fillingApple Pecan Pies, makes 4-5 servings.

2-3 apples (any variety, but firmer apples that hold up well when baked work best)
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

In a pot, combine the butter, sugar, and corn syrup. Stir over medium heat until combined, then increase the heat to bring to a boil. Allow to boil (a low, steady boil) for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the pecans and vanilla extract. Let that cool while you prep the apples.

Easy baked applesI cut the apples in half, then used a melon baller to scoop out the insides. Be sure to leave enough apple so it will keep its shape and serve as a sturdy "crust." What do you do with those apple insides? Up to you, but might I suggest making applesauce

As I was prepping the apples, I would place a finished one in a big bowl of water before starting the next. This helps them not to turn brown while you work.

Once the apples are ready, go back to the filling. It should be cooler now. Stir in the egg and pour into each apple shell. I probably could have filled five shells, but I only did four and had a little filling left over. This will vary based on your apple size. 

Bake at 350°F for 35-38 minutes. Allow to cool before eating.

Apple pecan pies from A Beautiful Mess Serve with ice cream. Eat while sitting in a pile of autumn leaves. Wear a stocking cap. Start thinking about holiday shopping. 

OK, those last three suggestions are optional. But not the ice cream. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions. 

Try This: A Faux Fireplace

Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Hey folks, Christmas is right around the corner. Sarah is already playing Christmas music (she actually started playing it back in May), and I can only stand it from about December 23 through the 26th. But that's a whole other subject/post/story. I want to talk about fireplace mantels, or surrounds, they're also called (which I just learned.) They have a huge (almost instant) nostalgia factor connected to them, which makes them an invaluable piece of furniture. Traditionally, mantels are a part of  a working fireplace. Fireplaces equal warmth, a place to gather with friends and family, and just feel make you feel great about life. We wanted to add some of that goodness to the office living room. Since this house doesn't have a fireplace or mantel, I built a fake one. Even though it doesn't fulfill the same basic function as a real one, it still provides a sense of warmth to the room. Plus, in a couple months we can hang stockings on it (which Emma and Elsie can stuff with goodies for all of us ;)).

I'm not going to get into any measurements or detail on the build since you would basically need to know how to frame and install trim, and I would have to draw a blueprint, and use power tools, etc. This is just to inspire you and show what can be done if you don't have the pleasure of having an actual fireplace in your home. Check out the process below. It was really fun to build (actually took me back to when I used to do finish, that was over 10 years ago.)

Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)One thing about painting this thing: I painted it with semi-gloss first, thinking it would be fine acting as a primer (I thought it would make the green pop a bit more). I don't know if it was the color or what, but the green would not stick (both paints are interior acrylic), and I ended up having to do three or four coats. Even then, it didn't turn out 100%. Anybody have a clue on why it did that? Was it just because I used semi-gloss as primer? If I redid it,  I would just paint a couple coats of the green or use Kilz.

Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)Faux fireplace surround (click to learn more)There you go. It took about a day to build, a couple days to get a decent paint job, and we had ourselves a fireplace surround. It really does add a sense of familiarity to the room, which will last all year long. - Josh

Credits // Author: Joshua Rhodes, Photography: Joshua & Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Stella  of the Signature Collection.

Braided Rope Basket

DSC_0489 copyI've been seeing all these various handmade baskets popping up on blogs lately, and I wanted to try my hand at making my own. With some cording or thick cotton string, you can make a basket to hold some of your favorite things. It's a simple project that will probably take you about an hour to complete. After you discover how easy it is, I guarantee you'll want to make more! 

-16' of 5/32" parachute cord in three different colors (could also use cotton cord)
-coordinating thread

-sewing machine

SuppliesStep One: Braid the entire length of the cord. I wedged one end in a closed drawer as I braided the entire length. In the beginning, you have to keep untangling the ends, but it gets easier as your braid gets longer. Once the entire length is braided, sew the ends together, 3/4" away from the cord end, with a straight stitch. 

Step3Step Two: Set your machine to a zig zag stitch. Start by coiling one end around and start your zig zag stitch there. You want to make sure the machine is sewing the center between the two braids as it wraps around; the zig zag stitch will sew in the middle of both braids joining the two together. Continue going around the center about five times around, winding the braided cord around itself in a clockwise direction. Be sure to keep the center flat as you sew.

Step3 Step Two: After you have done your five rows around, hold the base at a 45° angle, gradually increasing it to a 90° angle as you continue to zig zag stitch the braid around to create the sides of the basket. Continue sewing until you have sewn up the entire length of the braid. When you get to the end, backstitch 3/4" away from the cord end to reinforce. I used small scissors to lightly fray the end of the cording. 

Last shotDSC_0566 copyDSC_0557 copyDSC_0526 copyYou can make these baskets in all sorts of sizes. Use various colors, or paint the basket after it's been sewn together, and you'll have a one-of-a-kind container to display in your home. Make little ones to hold keys and knick-knacks or large ones to hold yarn or books.

I made ours to hold these funny faces wooden blocks we made, and it sits on our coffee table. The black, white, and grey cording looks so great holding the colorful blocks. Ever since I put these out on the coffee table, they get played with everyday, and it's easy to scoop up all the blocks and put them in our homemade basket. -Rubyellen 

Credit // Author and photography: Rubyellen Bratcher. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions

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