Our IKEA Kids' Room Makeover: The Big Reveal

i'm beside myself (as in, like, having an out of body experience) to finally be able to invite you all into the kids room for a playdate and tour. obviously, no, you may not touch anything because the room will never look this good again, and who knows where those paws of yours have been, ya filthy animals.

doing this kids room makeover with IKEA was an absolute dream come true. they were my #1 pick in all the universe to work with and it actually happened!(that has never happened to me before except for in terms of marriage). 

IKEA was awesome. but full disclosure, if i am going to accurately tell the story of this room: my dream turned into a bit of a nightmare when i done went and got myself all pregnanted smack in the middle of it all. and so morning sickness threatened to turn the whole thing into a vomitorium instead of a children's sanctuary.

it happens to me every pregnancy: i will eat a food or a certain meal right at the onset of the sickness period. from then on, until the sickness has passed sometime near the 2nd trimester, any thoughts or reminders of that meal or that food become HARDCORE triggers of nausea. it's like the morning sickness (which is mostly afternoon/evening sickness for this gal) needs to clamp on and associate with a specific memory--and it is usually a memory of food.

well, in the grandest sense of really hateful irony, the "meal" that became strictly associated with miserable morning sickness this go-round was: IKEA. that's right, my most beloved store, apple of my eye and sponsor of this entire undertaking. anything to do with them and therefore the kids room in general became a no no for mi estómago. it was hilariously awful. just seeing the colors blue and yellow next to each other made me queasy. WHY, GOD, WHY?! (except maybe not really actually beseeching the heavens...perspective).

so this project was accomplished mostly guerilla-style. i would wait for a time when all was quiet on the GI front and then spring into action; working or shopping or planning, before my body realized i was knee-deep in barf-trigger. 

thankfully, the association started to weaken towards the very end of the makeover and i was able to fully enjoy and appreciate the magic of this fantasy-project.

so let's get biz-ay, in my hizzy huh? 

let's swing by BEFOREsville aka SNORESville (#winning) to see where the room was prior to the magic descending from on high. and to remind us where everything was when we first went ahead with the plan to combine the kids bedrooms and the playroom alllllll into one room of 110 square feet

*all AFTER photos are the work of Caroline Kilgore, the photo editor of Atlanta Magazine. she is a wizard princess.

BEFORE: this was the view upon walking into the room

BEFORE:and a straight on view of that same wall (oh that bookshelf makes me itch now! such blatant, showy disarray! THIS IS EGREGIOUS!)

and here is what thine eyes behold now. is there disarray on those shelves? maybe! but YOU'D NEVER KNOW IT and i sure as shoot aint telling (actually i probably will post about the inside of these units and how we maximize the space later on)

BEFORE: part of that same wall (opposite corner) and the kids built in bunk nook. (not pictured: how nasty the walls were by their beds from their little handprints and lord only knows what else...ebola.)


BEFORE: back towards the door (and pay no mind, that's just the moon collapsing on itself like a dying star. your tides shouldnt be affected).

unused no more! hidden art nook. huzzah

BEFORE: straight on view of the wall that the door opens against (oh the wasted vertical space. woe betide me!)

um yeah, thats one way to grab up that vaulted ceiling and make it do my bidding! and oh, how i bid.

BEFORE: ground level happenings on that same wall/corner

the new corner couch bench and toy storage juggernaut

so yeah. that's the basics of the room BEFORE/AFTER style wall by wall! i'm gonna hit on the biggest features of the room as they come in these next photos that give even more detail of exactly what all is going on. brace yourselves for commentary.

okay: the biggest investment, change, and HELP in this room were these white STUVA units. words cannot express how instrumental this system was. the individual units (each vertical rectangle pod) became wall to wall "built ins," an entertainment center to frame the TV, wardrobes for all of both kids' clothing, and storage for books, games, and other toys that arent constantly played with. a beautiful catch-all that fits perfectly, and keeps my darkest secrets (like that i dont throw out my daughter's leggings when she rips huge crotch holes in them).

each frame of cabinets is totally customizable with doors and two different-sized drawers. inside the doors you can also customize how many and what height shelves you want or you can opt for sliding wire baskets. and of course a clothes hanger bar will hold all your fancy clothing things (we have 7 fancies total..not counting crotch holes). you can browse all the options are in one place and they are all very affordable. in fact, it's IKEA, so everything is affordable. this entire wall's worth of cabinets, doors, drawers, inserts, and baskets was only $916 total. i just dont think you are beating that and having them look this good anywhere else, and i'm ready to fight you on that.

maximizing the vertical space of the two vaulted walls was important to me so there weren't these yucky boring gaps of empty just hovering (as were endemic in the BEFORE room). so we gathered tall and pretty toys and decor items to personalize the room and to stretch it and fill it and give it some spunk.

the mirror at the tip top was another height-filler. we also chose this to help with the light in the room. with only the one rectangular window already in the room, i would ideally add a round window where the mirror is for more light, but since that wasnt an option (because we are not oil barons), adding the mirror helps bounce the light around, adds some pretty way up high AND is fun for layla to check herself out in as she plays in the loft.

the lighting was another reason we went with mostly white on all the walls with one accent wall of blue (which i didnt realize until afterward was the exact same blue i painted over in our kitchen! i love it so much more in this room...but am amazed by my ability to pick the same color chip out of ten million twice). the white walls really do open up the space and make the light more vibrant and clean than the navy paint was ever doing.

a little DIY art installation. 

the DIY instructions on this are pretty self explanatory: wood blocks (michaels), a tube of mini animals, spray paint and heavy duty craft glue. i decided to use sticky velcro to put these on the wall in case i (or an OCD child) wants to rearrange the order. the options here are endless. my favorite it the martian from Toy Story that managed to sneak in.

pallet wood and bulldog clips quickly became a little artsy brag station for the kids

you'll notice we swapped out the nasty old carpet for laminate flooring. IKEA provided the flooring and we did the DIY (sadly they dont carry this same material any longer but i think they have some cool new options in stores). this made the room SO much classier and modern and less itchy and "ew, whats that stain?!"

a deep-pile comfy 5x7 rug provides the major play space in the middle of the room, which is wide open and available for maximum shenanigans.

the fold-away desk behind the door is a dining table meant for small kitchens. it stows and sets up so easily that both kids can do it by themselves. art supplies are within reach hanging from the kitchen utensil rack. 

i had a hard time once all the big stuff was in deciding on what "theme" i wanted the decor to be. i dont even like the word "theme" when talking about a room. i didnt want someone to be able to walk in and go, "oh this is a circus room" or something (well, for several reasons there). 

but i did want it to be cohesive, relative to my kids interests and something we adults wouldn't hate. in the end i settled on EXPLORE! as the kind of common thread. thus the moonwalk newspaper (that is legit from the AJC the day after it happened. i found it at my parents house...so cool!), the pirate ship cross stitch, the spy glass, and other such knick knacks encouraging the kids to  go and do and live and adventure!

i loved using the huge map as wallpaper and decor and learning tool. 

secret: we didnt paint behind there the map because of sneaky lazy. another thing i discovered about the map is that it isnt paper. it's made out of an almost fabric-like material and coated with a little bit of plastic so it's pretty indestructible. you can also write on it (even with sharpie! i tried) and it will wash right off (or rubbing alcohol off for the sharpie). i see educational opportunities ahead.

the step stool is painted only on the side frames and acts as the seat for the art desk and as as stool (duh) for reaching higher-up things around the room.

our DIY sectional!

figuring out a seating element for this room was TOUGH. the room really is small and every couch and chair i tried under the loft just dwarfed the entire space. so i got tricksy and channelled my inner IKEA designer who can do anything in like 6 square feet.

we took three of the TROFAST pine toy storage units and wedged them in the corner. then i got IKEA fabric and some foam to make bench seat cushions to go atop the L-shaped unit. presto, blammo, i'm calling it a sectional sofa and dont try to stop me.

seriously though, it's perfect and my most proud problem-solve of the entire room. not only is it perfect child-sized seating (that jesse and i actually both fit comfortably upon, FYI) but it is doing TRIPLE duty with all the bin storage underneath for much-played with toys AND as a play top surface for them to act out their weirdo kid games on with dolls and ninjas and whomever else.

almost all the throw cushions were DIY with IKEA fabric or were ready-made in their cushion section.

seriously yall, this room is so efficiently organized that there are EMPTY bins and drawers in places. that has NEVER occurred before in my house.

ok this little wooden shape was actually a part of  the packaging in shipment of stools we ordered last summer to go in the studio/office. it was such a cool shape that i held onto it. smart move since the compass figure was perfection for the explore room. a coat of red spraypaint and some sharpie'd love later and it's a priceless heirloom. i'm so upcycly!

bought it in soft blue, spray painted yellow.

someone lookup these coordinates. 

my favorite DIY project of the whole room. and the secret hidden theme, of course.

this one was just a stick (from god's nature) two packs of wood rounds from michaels (like $2) and a woodburning tool that i already had to write in the letters (after tracing them onto the wood in the pretty font this way). drilled holes and tied with twine and hung it far out of reach so it can remain pretty. 

oh baby. the loft.

first things first. judah still will not go up here. someone (ahem, looking at you, paul rudd) taught him the phrase "afraid of heights" and he is singing that little tune like a canary. this child is NOT afraid of heights and at 4 years old rocked some of the scarier and highest Disney roller coasters. but alas, he wont go up there and we arent forcing it.  so welcome to layla's personal reading/snuggle loft!

we sanded and stained the wood to make it more finished (though its a tad shinier than i had planned since we used a poly/stain combo, lemme tell ya). she's got ledges for pretty books, a comfy mattress pad, lots of pillows and a DIY'd dumbwaiter bucket to receive goodies from those of us on planet earth below. that little addition blew their little minds and they LOVE using it for good and evil.

we took down the way dated and ugly ceiling fan/light fixture and instead put up a huge sculptural pendant light (you can see it in the corner above) and two sets of track spotlights. the room is SO much better lit with these than with the 80's monster before (and the fan had stopped working anyway, so no loss there).

we will continue to not discuss the g\horrid stippled popcorn ceilings. i'm expecting IKEA to come up with a spray that completely flattens these in minutes. but until then: WE SAY NOTHING.

ya dumb ol' waiter.

the sleeping nook was way fun and easy to completely transform. it was also a great place in the room to let each kid have their very own unshared space and to decorate each bunk with just one child in mind. at first i looked into wallpaper, but that junk is EXPENSIVE, and adhesive like that makes me nervous...especially after being on the removal end of wallpaper, thanks a NOT our home's previous owners.

so i decided to try fabric as wall covering. i think the victorians did this all the time, so why not me too? i just cut out the correct size and shape, leaving a margin around the outside to neatly iron under the raw edges, and staple-gunned around the perimeter and into the corners. it worked shockingly well and took about an hour total for both sections, start to finish. 

i love that since it was so cheap and easy to install, we could completely change our the fabrics for a new look if we wanted a fresh new feel, or if one got ripped or stained.

reading lamps for each kid. (damn, should have painted the underside of the beds!)

and pictured here is the answer to the inevitable follow up question of "where will the new baby go?" (that's a j/k, we wont put it under there. the real answer is WE DONT KNOW OMG WE HAVE NO PLAN FOR THIS)

ok so thats the room. if there's anything i missed, or needs more details, fire away. i'd be happy to talk about this project all the live long day.

a huge thanks to IKEA for sponsoring this makeover and for partnering with me. and a very special smoochy thank you to my husband for being willing to take on any part of this project that i threw his way, and for making lots of concessions to his sick, irrational wife. XOXO and long live the Swedish Empire.


SOURCES LIST:  note- this is everything that i received from IKEA. since they are sponsoring this project and post i wont link directly to products that i found elsewhere, but if you ask me in the comments i will be happy to tell you where anything else came from.

simulated "built-ins: STUVA system (our combination of frames, doors, and inserts was a total of $916) // TV mount : UPPLEVA // mirror: STOCKHOLM  // TREES poster: BILD // frames: JALLVIK // track lighting CENTIGRAD // oversized pendant light: FILLSTA // rug: GASER // plant pot: SOCKER

 abacus: MULA

stool: BEKVAM // desktop: BJURSTA // storage bins & rail : GRUNDTAL // art supplies: MALA

lantern: MORKT // world map: PREMIAR // bin storage system: TROFAST (our combination $271) //
yellow circle fabric // GPS coordinates pillow: LISEL // wood cuts fabric // green fern fabric // map pillow: BENZY LAND // floral fabric // bench pad fabric: BLAVINGE

mattress top: SULTAN  // blanket: EIVOR //  book ledges: RIBBA

clock: BONDIS // judah's bedding: seems to be out of stock online // layla's bedding: STENKLOVER (really, swedish?)

reading lamp: RANARP


  1. this is remarkable! But I must admit I'm exhausted after just reading about all the work that went into it.

  2. LOVE! LOVE!! LOVE! LOVE!! It's absolutely amazing!! Y'all rocked it to say the very least :) COULD baby go in a crib under the loft once sleeping habits are establish? I know that requires removal of some/all the sofa. If not, a big kid sleeps in the loft, and the baby on the bottom bed (in the closet) with a rail installed? Looks amazing!!!!

  3. I've been waiting for the fully detailed post here since we came to the talk at IKEA! This is amazing. I especially love the little "explore" piece, which I missed during the talk. Unbelievable. I'm still not settled on our playroom solutions yet, but I found much inspiration in your room. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Love! I would still enjoy a nook for a bed.

  5. Love! I would still like a nook like that to sleep in at almost 31 years old.

  6. Omg that was soooooo much work! It's phenomenal! You are so creative. Now your kids will leave you alone when you need to take care of the new BABY! Which btw similar due date to your bday? Anniv? No?

  7. This is effing insane!!!!! What a big job!! I'm sure your kids are so grateful. I think the dumb waiter might actually be my favorite detail.

  8. This. Is. Gorgeous. Your children. Are lucky. Hope you're starting to feel better!!!

  9. So good!! Favorite/most WOWZA shot? The vertical on of the door with the ladder in the foreground. Well done friend - lemme tell ya.

  10. Phenom, Keight! Truly magical place of refuge!! Love your imagination and DIY try anthingness!

  11. Phenom, Keight! Truly magical place of refuge!! Love your imagination and DIY try anthingness!

  12. Umm- you don't know me- but I had a dream about you last night. You're new baby was a girl, and y'all named her Laine (short 'e' sound). Sorry for being a creeper!

  13. WOW!!! L.O.V.E it!!!! So many great creative ideas! I have three boys and we realised we will have to be super creative with our space, but after feeling a bit hopeless I am now hopeful!! Hope you are feeling better soon! I had terrible nausea with all boys as well. I had to tell them early on in the pregnancy as they got a bit worried as they could tell I felt awful (and they didn't buy the excuses I had either..."no can't jump on the trampoline, Mummy's hurt her back.." " Mummy has eaten lots of pizza thats' why my tummy is so big - visible big bump already in week 8..). Anyway! Take care and thanks for all the inspiration! x

  14. Love the room. Love IKEA. Wish we had one closer to us. Downside of moving to Oklahoma. Your coordinates though belong to Mollusund Sweden on the western coast. :) Wikipedia says its a small fishing village but since IKEA was founded in Sweden I'd guess it has some hidden meaning.