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in which the room fairy transforms a little girl's room with magic

The Fabulous Miss M turned four late last summer, and it was officially time to graduate from a toddler's room to a little girl's room. But this is the Fabulous Miss M, and we are her godparents, and so this was not to be just any room because she is not just any little girl. I am her Fairy Godmother, after all, and so there had to be magic and treasure and copious quantities of pixie dust.

the 'before"Her room was a bright, deep jungle green with pale green on the ceiling and in the alcove created by the bay window. Fantastic colors for her nursery, which was decorated with a mixture of the bright colors of Kenya (where her mother spent part of her childhood) and the lush green of Ireland (where her mother and father spent a very formative 6 months together), reflective of their love for travel and world cultures.

But it was time to make the room reflective of her, and Miss M has very decided opinions about what she likes. Which meant pink. And purple. And sea turtles. And stuffed animals that include a rhino and a seal and monkeys and a frog and Pooh and of course, the requisite teddy bears. And books. And dragonflies. And yellow. And ladybugs. And all of those wonderful decorations that had adorned her walls before -- the handpainted sun and moon from Mexico, and the cloth doll from Africa and the vibrant metal gecko from South America. There was the antique doll in a silk-covered egg from her grandma and the big pink piggy bank wearing a tutu and tiara and the origami crane folded from rainbow paper from her father. And the artwork from Uncle Sal and Aunt Bitty commissioned on the occasion of her baptism and commemorative of our solemn vow to become her godparents.

I was gifting the bedroom furniture (bed, dresser, desk, and bookcase) that was mine when I was little, which is kind of a cream color with yellow details and canopy, along with a full set of bright yellow curtains to match (a pair of princess curtains, another pair of full length curtains, and a shorter pair for a smaller window, all with tiebacks and ruffles), which meant yellow also needed to be incorporated (a color she likes, thankfully). Yellow, pink, and purple can go together quite well, so I felt pretty confident about coming up with a design that would work. And I added a fourth color into the mix -- the mint green on her ceiling and in the bay window -- to finish out the palette and give it a nice balance to keep it from being too cutesy.

The key would be finding bedding that would incorporate at least three of the colors. Luckily, we found not one, but two great options pretty quickly: each of them incorporating three of the four colors. We took Maddie with us to help us narrow it down -- and of course, she loved them both. Nice to have options! Sister picked the one with ladybugs and flowers with pinks and greens and yellows, and it arrived as a surprise from Santa on Christmas morning. (The bonus was that it was a full bed-in-a-bag set, so it had the comforter (reversible, even!) and sham, along with the most adorable pink polka-dotted sheets and pillowcase ever. AND there was a collapsible pink laundry hamper with a flower "lid" as a matching accessory! How cute is that, I ask you?)

When we were there for Christmas, we broke out the paint color wheel and decided on wall colors. I narrowed down the pinks and purples and let Miss M pick her favorites of each; we settled on a pale pink for the walls, with a medium pink and medium purple and the mint green leftover from the ceiling as accent colors. (The yellow would all be coming in on the fabrics and furniture.)

color blocks in progressI'd also proposed a simple color block design for the walls, both because it's easy to execute and it's not too young, so it should grow with her for awhile. Update the bedding and change out some of the accent decorations, and it can still fit her well into grade school.

Sister and Guy did the work of getting the room cleared out the weekend before we were scheduled to come, along with getting the walls painted with the pale pink base color. I'd also asked Sister to get me detailed measurements for the room so I could figure out the room's layout. Or more precisely, so I could mock it up in Google Sketch up and try out furniture configurations.

You're laughing at me right now, aren't you? Mock me if you must, but aside from being super nerdy, it has the advantage of letting other people see what I picture in my mind.

So we arrived on a cold and wet Saturday with a moving truck full of furniture, armed with paint brushes and blue tape and ready to get down to business. We got all the color block areas masked and with the four of us painting, managed to knock the painting out that day. While we waited for paint to dry, we settled on the final room arrangement -- having the 3-D model of it made it easy for me to show them different configurations and the pros and cons of each.

color blocks finished!Part of the room makeover wasn't just to make it look pretty, but to make it work better for Miss M (and by extension, Sister and Guy) in terms of storage and space. They have a nice organizer for her toys but weren't using the closet because the bifold doors were too bothersome for Miss M to open so the organizer was just pushed up against the closet doors. They had a really nice bookcase, as well, and a dresser, but both were packed to the gills, so they clearly needed more.

I suggested removing the closet doors and using one pair of the curtains to cover it, which would be much easier (and prettier) for Miss M to access. Then we could put the toy organizer in the closet, along with plenty of room leftover for an inexpensive closet organizer system for more storage. I also incorporated a couple of large underbed storage drawers to move puzzles and games out of the bookcase but still keep them accessible. The desk could hold all of her art supplies (previously stored in the computer room and kitchen), the bookcase could hold more books and tchotchkes since it's taller than the one they were using, and the dresser has three huge drawers that could hold all of her clothes with room to spare.

I'd come up with an idea early on in my planning to turn the alcove in the bay window into a secret little nook for reading books and playing pretend and hiding out from mom and dad. Thanks to all the curtains I had, I could use the shorter pair for the windows themselves and the princess pair over the opening, since they swag low. I didn't say anything about it to Sister and Guy until we arrived to start painting because I had to be sure the curtains would be wide enough to cover the opening. They loved the concept so they were really excited once we got started hanging curtains.

I hadn't decided yet on cushions for the nook by the time we got started, figuring I could get some inexpensive throw pillows if I didn't come up with a better idea. But when we'd opened up the closet to see if the organizer would fit inside, I noticed two body pillows on the shelf inside and asked if I could use them. Sister was only too glad to put them to use, and we scored a great pair of inexpensive body pillow-sized cases with zippers at Fred Meyer. Instant cushions! (With washable covers!)

i know, right? how could we not have that rug???Also at Fred Meyer: the underbed storage drawers, a drawer organizer for the top desk drawer, an adjustable desk lamp in purple, a small white ceramic table lamp with plain white shade, inexpensive "jewel" earrings (figured I could poke holes in the lamp shade and bejewel it with star-shaped "gems"), and an impulse buy that was a must-have...a hot pink shag rug with silver sparkles. (When I showed Sister that it was both machine wash and machine dry, she agreed it was a must-have, as well.) Along with the paint and the truck rental for moving the furniture from our house to theirs, that was the entirety of the expense for redecorating the room.

Curtains hung, it was time to clear out all the tools and miscellaneous paint supplies so we could move in the furniture. By that point it was after midnight, so the plan was to get the furniture in place, the canopy up, then get some rest and finish the room in the morning.

But what kind of Fairy Godmother would I be if Miss M didn't wake to a room completely transformed? I couldn't very well have her get up in the morning and find her room partially put together, which none of the finishing details that actually pull it all together. We promised room fairy magic, by god, and there was going to be room fairy magic, dammit.

gem encrusted lamp, fit for a princessSo I sent Sal, Sister, and Guy to bed, and then I stayed up to finish the room. Organized and merchandised the bookcase, made the bed, hung pictures and decorations and small wooden shelves, created a reading nook, and just generally pulled it all together. (I bejeweled the lamp shade the next morning.)

Miss M was very good about not sneaking a peek in the morning before we were all up to see it with her. (And actually, I was more impressed that Sister didn't peek, since she was at least as excited as Miss M, if not moreso. But she said she feared my wrath if she did, so clearly I have her properly trained.)

Once we were all up, we traipsed down the hall together for the unveiling, urging Miss M to open the door and see what the room fairy had done to her room. She went in...and promptly shut the door behind her! Oh my god, that kid. Cracked us the hell up. She wanted to see it by herself first, dammit! We laughingly pleaded through the door for her to let us in so we could see, but she was having none of it. The room fairy came for her, not for us plebes.

Eventually, I was allowed to come in. She was just all grins and barely-contained excitement. We walked around the room to see all the "magic". "Aunt Bitty, it's my bed from your house!" she told me. "I know!" I said. "The room fairy came to my house and brought it down here so you could sleep in your bed all the time!" She showed me her desk, and all of her books in her new bookcase, and the dragonfly garland that used to hang over her bed. And then I showed her the nook, which she hadn't yet realized was there until I lifted the curtains a bit and helped her climb up. I'm betting there'll be many hours spent in that cozy little spot.

Finally everyone else was allowed in, and the looks on Sister's and Guy's faces were nearly as priceless as Miss M's reaction. I suspect Sister kinda wished it could be her room there for a minute. To be honest, I kinda wished the same thing.

see the full transformation

I love how the room turned out. I love that Miss M loves it. I love that Sister and Guy are happy with it, and that Sal is always game for these adventures in interior decorating with me, and that our Smiley family allows us to come into their house and slap paint on their walls and rearrange their furniture and turn it all into an episode from a TV design show.

But most of all, I love how much fun we had together doing this, and all the good memories we made that weekend, and that Miss M believes in Fairy Godmother magic, and basically, that we are an amazing and wonderful little family.

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Reader Comments (5)

So awesome! You are the best Godparents ever! I love that you balanced the very feminine color scheme with some green too, which also made her gecko look more at home. I want the lamp for myself.

Jan 24, 2012 at 12:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeva

Thanks, Neva!

I'm really glad about the green, too. Funnily enough, when they got done with the base wall color and brought Miss M in to show her her new pink room, the first thing she wanted to know was if they were going to get rid of the green in the alcove and on the ceiling. She hated the green! Even though it had been in her room all that time. She was so adamant about it that Sister started to wonder if we shouldn't use it for the color blocks.

But I reassured her it would be fine so she trusted me that it would work out okay. I'm pretty sure Miss M didn't even realize that the much-hated green was all over her walls or that the alcove remained the same color it had been before. Maybe she will later, but I don't think it'll be an issue.

Oh and that lamp was so super easy. Inexpensive lamp, basic shade, cheap earrings. Poke some holes in the shade randomly with a needle or pin, push earrings through the holes, put the backs on, and voila! Magic lamp!

Jan 24, 2012 at 12:44 PM | Registered CommenterBitty

So awesome! What a lucky little girl! I told S we would "update" her room this summer--you may have to be in on the planning!

Jan 30, 2012 at 1:30 PM | Unregistered CommenterTammy

Oooooo that would be totally great! I could send you paint samples and we could discuss theme ideas and you could send me pictures and dimensions so I could do a 3D layout and....

...you do realize you may regret ever saying that, right? ;)

(And thanks. I had so much fun doing this project that I almost want to change it every year. Almost)

Feb 1, 2012 at 10:51 PM | Registered CommenterBitty

No regrets! I would welcome the help if you're up for satisfying your inner "little girl." I will have to get you pictures of how the room is now. YOU may actually be the one to have regrets. S changes her mind like crazy sometimes--maybe she would be a little more consistent with someone else and I wouldn't feel like I would have to talk her in to or out of anything. Hey, this is sounding more and more like a plan to me....

Feb 7, 2012 at 5:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterTammy

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