A Smartstyle Design Journey: A Tweenager’s Bedroom in Tunbridge Wells

Posted by Phoebe Oldrey in Smartstyle Design Journeys

teenagers bedroom after image

“Kids, they grow up so fast!” This is a phrase that gets said to you so often when you have children that when you’re getting on with the day-to-day of raising them it can become very annoying indeed. However, the saying is true and before you know it that small bundle you were handed in the hospital is a strapping, very witting and slightly sulky tweenager, that ever-fun stage that sits between being a child and a fully-fledged teenager. I have one of those!

Before: This youthful bedroom was in need of an update that would suit the tweenager that now occupied it and the teenager he would soon become. Photograph by David Merewether

As I walked into my eldest son’s bedroom early last year, I realised how little the décor suited him as he was moving into the next phase of his life. His bedroom, pictured above, was very much a kid’s room, and I knew it was time for a change. He needed a room that could grow with him for the next seven years of his life, and I selfishly wanted to have some fun designing, so I got to planning…


This is a remarkably large room and I found myself drawn to very dark colours with zinging accents as I started my design. If any room could take it, it was this one, and if any member of my family was going to allow me to do it, it was this one! I wanted there to be seating for chilling out, storage for his Lego collection (both assembled and not), a desk for homework, a double bed to see him through, and a bit of an industrial vibe for a masculine feel.


Children’s rooms need to adapt with the changing phases of growing up but they’re also rooms you want a high impact from but don’t want to blow a huge budget on. To do this room cost-effectively, I chose a few key elements that I spent a little more money on, including a decent mattress, the blind (I can’t stand badly made window treatments, I just can’t!) and the custom-made Lucas neon sign above the bed. The rest, I cleverly sourced second-hand. A few choice pieces, including the bed frame, were found on ebay and the fab sofa is from fellow-blogger Katy Orme of Apartment Apothecary. I created the design before purchasing anything or decorating the room so I could work out the overall cost of the design and gather my key pieces over a few months to spread out the cost. The final thing I did to make money go as far as possible was to sell old items of furniture that were no longer needed and use that money towards new items.


Two elements to this updated bedroom became mini-projects of their own. The first was the Lego display case and the second was the upcycled vintage bedside tables. To display my son’s Lego collection, we purchased a Victorian display case on ebay for £50.00 (below left) and DIY-ed it by stripping the inside shelves and the back to raw wood and then painting it in Designers Guild’s Greengage. Display cases like this one pop up all over the place and it’s always fun to turn something quite traditional into something fun and modern. I finished it off with a Lego key ring for the key tassel on the door.

When I found these Polish hospital tables from the 1950s from a dealer on ebay, I knew they were perfect for the industrial vibe we were going for. I knew I wanted to upcycle them so I negotiated a good price on this rather shabby looking pair (seen below left). To get the finish I was looking for, I had them sandblasted to remove the old paint and then sprayed. Though this may sound like a cheap way of updating the look of these tables, the total cost per table from start-to-finish was about £100.00. However, I know that I wouldn’t be able to buy anything as unique or as bright for that price if I were buying brand new.


By having everything sorted in advance, we managed to strip the room out, prep, paint, and return everything to the room over the course of three days. This large room was able to handle the beautiful dark colour, which is Paint and Paper Library’s Teal. We used the Architects Eggshell finish on the doors and bookcases and the Architects Matt finish on the walls for a more durable finish.


The personality of a room is in the attention to detail and the art. We hung artwork made by my son on the walls and by framing the pieces we made them super special original prints. We also hung movie posters and an original 1960s Psychedelic poster my mother owned as a teenager in San Francisco. Just because someone is young doesn’t mean the art on their walls needs to be blue tacked up and shabby. You can find inexpensive frames from places like Ikea, Homesense, and The Range and by using them in a child’s room, you will allow them to express their story on their walls in style.

The big splash item in this room was the custom-made neon name sign from Love Inc that hangs above the bed. It isn’t just super cool but it also fills an awkward space between the top of the bed and the bottom of the ceiling.

To represent the fact that a child still lives in this room, I used beetle cushions and beetle hooks from H&M Home, a vintage Poole Pottery owl bedside light, and a playful paint detail around the wardrobe doors to add a little surprise when opened. Toys are in Ikea storage units inside a second built-in wardrobe and there is plenty of floor space for playing on. The desk sits waiting for that mountain of Secondary School homework that is sure to be arriving.


Though it could feel that I’ve imposed my decorating will on my son, he has been involved in the entire design process– even painting the odd wall or two. The things that matter to him are all in this room and there’s space for more things to come as he gets older. In many ways, this is quite a grown-up room for an 11 year-old boy, but I always like to think ahead when designing for children. After all, “they grow up so fast!”

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