For a long time now, I’ve been amazed at how many people feel that they have to have a “theme” in their children’s bedrooms. It starts before babies are even born, with parents picking out a nursery theme, and then it continues with new themes as the children get older. I’m sure that retailers love the fact that parents are so sold on the idea of having a theme. It’s a great way to get us to buy more stuff than we need, and to buy it all in one place. After all, if the theme you love happens to be at Pottery Barn Kids, you’re likely going to buy everything there because it will all match. This is craziness!
Our son has had the same room decor since he was born. He will continue to have a theme-less room until if and when he chooses to paint the room or change it up however he likes when he’s older. I remember my parents letting my brother and me repaint our furniture when we were probably around 11 or 12. I chose pink, my brother chose black. Our rooms were interesting, to say the least. But definitely reflective of our own tastes!
So, what’s in our son’s room?
- The crib that my parents got at a thrift store for $30 and then fixed up to make sure that it conformed to current safety guidelines. We have two crib sheets (they don’t match each other) that my mother found at a thrift store. He has three blankets: a fleece quilt and a heavy winter quilt that were made by a friend, and the retro NFL summer blanket that I made. None of them match anything else in the room. We have a handmade wooden toddler bed that we got on Craigs List a while ago, and we’ll be switching him to that soon. We want to keep him on his organic crib mattress for as long as possible, which is why we’re going to use a toddler bed instead of a bigger bed. The toddler bed is stored in the basement for now.
- A wooden rocking chair that my father made for my brother nearly 30 years ago.
- A small dresser that my husband and I got at a thrift store when we moved into our first apartment in 2001.
- A small shelf for toys.
- A changing pad on the floor. We bought a few used cloth diapers on Craigs List before our son was born, and the lady threw in the changing pad for free. Otherwise, we’d have probably just used a towel. We like having the changing pad on the floor – no possibility of our son rolling off of a changing table, and the pad on the floor takes up a lot less space. Next to the changing pad is a basket where we keep our cloth diaper stash, and a plastic shoebox where we keep wet washcloths that we use as wipes.
- Wall decor: Two original paintings of tractors that were done by an artist friend of ours, a clock, and a Denver Broncos pennant that my husband managed to get signed by just about the entire Broncos team in the mid-80s. It’s nicely framed and a perfect addition to a little boy’s room.
- A thick, light-blocking curtain that I made using old sheets.
That’s it. Nothing matches anything else in the room. Everything is functional, clean and safe, but there’s definitely no theme. The walls are the same off-white color that the previous owners of our house chose. This is mainly because we like light, neutral wall colors, and because we can’t see any sense in painting over perfectly good wall color. We did repaint the walls in our old house, because the paint job was about 15 years old and starting to show its age. In this house, the paint is about two years old.
It’s natural to want to create a nice cozy space for your child. But stop and think for a minute about the whole theme idea. There’s no doubt that it was created by marketers who are trying to sell us on the notion that we have to have a whole set of matching nursery furniture, a set of bedding that matches the changing pad that matches the curtains… and even a lamp to match all of that. We don’t need half the stuff that they market to us, and yet if it matches the theme that we’re using, we’re much more likely to buy it anyway. And if we’re trying to keep everything very matchy-matchy, we’re unlikely to be creative and look around for second-hand furnishings, bedding and decor.
Keeping in mind that reducing consumption of “stuff” is good for the environment, our wallets, and our souls, it makes much more sense to decorate our children’s room using stuff we already have, things we can get used, and things we can make ourselves. Paint is an easy, cheap way to spruce up a room (I highly recommend no-VOC paint. We used in it in our old house, and the difference between that and regular paint was light night and day. We slept in our bedroom just a few hours after we finished painting it, and couldn’t smell a thing). Kids need very little in the way of stuff, including furniture. For the things you do need, Craigs List and thrift stores are overflowing with kid stuff, including every type of furniture you could ever want (but don’t just buy a bunch of stuff because it’s cheap! Clutter is still clutter, even if you get a great deal on it). It’s actually pretty easy to furnish and decorate a child’s room without ever setting foot in a big box children’s retail store. And it’s a good lesson to start teaching our kids early: we don’t have to do things just the way advertisers say we should.