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posted: 9/10/2017 6:00 AM

Empty-nesters repurposing kids' rooms

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  • Peel-and-stick decals can be used to complement colors of the bedding, window treatments and decorative items.

    Peel-and-stick decals can be used to complement colors of the bedding, window treatments and decorative items.
    Courtesy of Wall Pops


There is sorrow in the home when one of your chicks goes away to college. A young adult's transition away from the nest is one of the parents' proudest moments, an accomplishment and a sign of momentous change in everyone's lives.

My husband wept for months every time he passed by our son's doorway.

Most experts advise keeping your child's room exactly as he or she left if for a while, so that when they return home, they are not made to feel as if their place in the family has been erased. However, for those who live with the reality of a small home and could desperately use the bedroom for another child or another purpose, that "a while" might be condensed.

I had a friend who joked that no sooner had one son pulled away from the curb than a younger sibling began moving his treasures into his room!

One of the easiest transitions for both parent and child might be to set up the bedroom as a part-time guest room or home office while keeping intact pieces of the original room. For example, you could repaint a child's bedroom in white or off-white as a base. You could also keep all woodwork and trim white, and paint the walls in a soft neutral color. Try a tan, soft gray or a khaki tone. These are gender neutral and will help to expand space.

Select one wall for items that belong to your child: photos, awards, banners, posters or even some framed childhood artwork. Mount something over the bed or headboard that has to do with the entire family. For example, if you are a family of mountain bikers, a shot of your family on a trail or a photo of a mountain backdrop would suffice. If you are passionate travelers, perhaps an enlarged photo of your entire family on a trip could inspire the rest of the decor.

The example in this photograph uses peel-and-stick elements on a side wall as the decor foundation. As you can see, the colors of the bedding and window treatment are pulled from the color scheme of the decorative items. What's appealing about easily removable decals is you can remove them when your adult child comes back home for visits, if you are so inclined.

The truth is that as a few semesters pass, your child will become accustomed to the idea that their home base will begin to shift. Eventually, they may return to your city but move into an apartment with friends instead of claiming their room in your home.

When your college freshman's room has been repurposed for a younger sibling, try negotiating a corner of the room where things belonging to the older one could be kept. This might be a bookshelf with trophies, personal belongings and photos. It could be a tack surface for photos that is easily amended when the older child visits.

You could make a floor-to-ceiling tack area easily: Buy some commercial-grade textured vinyl wall covering, and hang it floor to ceiling. Trim the edges with a piece of small wood or medium-density fiberboard moulding. Pinholes do not show, and you can rearrange photos forever!

Another option is to buy a few yards of Tretford carpet squares or rolled carpet goods. The company has 49 vibrant carpet colors and 35 carpet tile colors to choose from. Install the carpet as a type of headboard wall. You will gain both a rich anchor of inspiration for the color scheme and a flexible tack surface.

• Christine Brun is a San Diego-based interior designer and the author of "Small Space Living." Send questions and comments to her by email at

© 2017, Creators Syndicate

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