How to Make Over a Room in 1 Day
Earlier this month, I revealed Henry’s newly made over Star Wars bedroom. This was a project that had been hanging over my head for years (years!); and after getting inspired by one of my good blogger friends who had updated her daughter’s room in a single day, I decided…somewhat on a whim…that I was finally going to do this makeover right away and as a surprise! After some planning, ordering, and doing a few DIY projects ahead of time, I transformed Henry’s bedroom in a single day and surprised him after he got home from his last day of summer camp. While I certainly advocate building a room you love over time, having this deadline and super tight time frame forced me to make decisions, keep things practical, and “just do it” already. I honestly love how the whole room came together; and I love even more that it’s finally off my To Do List! Today I want to show you how to make over a room in 1 day in case you too have a space you’ve been wanting to update and just can’t find the time!
The time between deciding to do this makeover and Henry walking into his finished room was exactly one week. While 6 of those 7 days were focused on planning, ordering, shopping and creating a few projects ahead of time, it was just one day…8 hours while he was at day camp…to take the room from this:
All of those before photos were taken right after he walked out the door in the morning, and the after photos (while taken a few days later ) were exactly what he saw when he came home. This makeover was quick and truly easy, and the results (and his reaction) were more than worth putting other things on hold for the week to get it done. Here’s how I did it:
DECIDE TO DO IT & SCHEDULE IT
I had been promising Henry a “new” bedroom practically since we moved in two years earlier. I kept giving excuses, stalling out on ideas, and being totally, completely indecisive. But after watching my friend Karen change the look of her daughter’s room in just a day with some really simple but impactful updates, I knew her no-fuss/get-it-done approach was exactly what I needed for Henry’s room. I decided, literally then and there, that I had the ability to pull this room makeover off before he started the new school year; and if I did everything just right, I could change his room, on a very specific day, as a surprise. I immediately put other projects on hold and shifted my focus entirely. I told my husband my plan and got right to work.
A fast room makeover is NOT going to happen if you continue to procrastinate. Pick a day, mark it on your calendar, get your family on board (if necessary), and make it a priority to actually get it done.
MAKE A (REALISTIC) PLAN
I am certainly not one to shy away from big, dramatic makeovers. But unless you have a crew of people to help you a la Trading Spaces, you have to be really realistic about what you can accomplish in a single day. I would have loved to paint the walls and/or the built-in bookcases, as well as wallpaper the back of the closet and make him all new pillows. But such big changes would require either more people or more time. I decided pursuing those bigger changes wasn’t worth not getting the room done, so I created a plan for what I could realistically accomplish in a week (to get ready) and within a day (to actually install the room).
Henry wanted the walls to look different, so I chose to do a mini feature wall with peel-and-stick wallpaper. He wanted a reading light over his bed, so I looked for a plug-in version that required hardly any installation. I also wanted to make a few more updates like better organization and a window treatment, so I decided which details I would make (bulletin board, throw pillow, valance) versus buy (pillow sham, pom pom garland). While the time constraint in some cases might feel frustrating, in this situation it actually forced me to sharply focus on what needed to be done against the backdrop of what I could realistically do.
In order to keep yourself and your ideas in check, it helps to make a plan a week or so before your makeover day. Think about what changes you want to make and which ones are most necessary. Think about how much you want to spend, how accessible certain products are, and if/how you can access what you need in time. Ultimately, determine what exactly you can and will accomplish and how!
Once I had a loose design plan in place, I knew which items I needed to source or DIY. I ordered items from Amazon and Target; I visited local stores such as JoAnns and World Market to avoid delivery wait times; and I rummaged through our garage looking for items I could use. Since I wasn’t going to be able to add one element to the room at at time to see how it looked, I did the next best thing. As I gathered items, I constantly put everything side-by-side to make sure it would all ultimately work together. If a pattern or color was too much or not quite right, I was able to fix it before I started installing everything in the room.
In order to install a room in a single day, you will need to have everything ready to go. As such, spend the week or so ahead of your install day collecting everything (including tools, hardware, etc). Don’t keep items in bags and boxes until install day; pull everything out and look at it together to avoid unexpected surprises!
Although I knew the window valance would only take me about 30 minutes, I didn’t want to risk messing it up or running out of time on my install day. The same held true for the throw pillow, the bulletin board, and the art. I didn’t truly have a good sense for how long the entire room clean out and fix up would take me, so I tried to get as much done ahead of time as possible. As such, I tackled one small project each night (after Henry was in bed) in the week leading up to the makeover. This meant that on install day, I was doing just that: installing finished projects instead of just getting started!
Unless you have a team of people to help you (which I didn’t), the day of your install is NOT the day to be making lots of projects. Complete anything you can ahead of time to make installation as stress-free and surprise-free as possible!
GO FOR BIG IMPACT WITH MINIMAL WORK
While you do need to be realistic, you also want to have good results for your efforts…otherwise, what’s the point of the room makeover in the first place? Both Henry and I wanted the walls to look different, but painting was out of the question. The next best option was to add a bold pattern in an inexpensive product. For $10 and in about an hour, I was able to add the impactful black-and-white stripes behind his bed, and it changed the entire room. Instead of stressing over small details, it was the bigger projects (e.g., the stripes, the artwork and the curtain) that made the room really look and feel different.
If you want to make a big difference in a short amount of time, plan for easy projects that will create a huge visual difference. Large scale changes such as a feature wall (either with paint or wallpaper), window treatments, large art, and textiles (bedding if it’s a bedroom, pillows if it’s a living space) will make the biggest impact for the least amount of effort.
HIRE A BABYSITTER
Sam is very much at an age where I can’t get much of anything done with him awake. I only had 8 hours to pull off this makeover, and I knew it would only be possible if he was out of my hair for most of it. I hired a babysitter to be with him all morning, and I finished up the room during his long afternoon nap. I can say, for a fact, I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off if Sam was running around “helping,” so getting a sitter was a very important element of the room’s overall completion.
If you have kids at your feet and need to get the room done by a certain time, get some help!
If you planned, shopped and DIYd ahead of time, hopefully your installation day will be smooth sailing! On the day I actually made over Henry’s room, I knew exactly what was going to get done in which order because I had planned it all out…it was simply “go time.” I’m not gonna lie: I felt a little bit like I was Joanna getting ready for the house reveal on Fixer Upper or the Trading Spaces teams running around like crazy people. And while it was a tiny bit stressful and I worried I wasn’t going to finish, it was SO MUCH FUN to see everything come together all at once.
Here’s a quick run down of how my one-day makeover went:
After snapping before photos, I first turned toward the biggest problem in the room: the mess and organization. While I hadn’t touched anything in the room until the very hour Henry left, I already knew what needed to come out and where everything was going to go. I hauled in our large laundry baskets and some empty boxes from the garage to serve as holding spots for trash, relocated items, donation items, and things that would eventually be put back into the room. I emptied and trashed and emptied and trashed some more until most of the mess was cleaned up. By using these holding baskets, I was able to focus on getting the right things into and out of the room, without wasting time running around the house putting stuff away, in the trash, or out to the car.
Next, I focused on getting everything…his clothes and books and toys…all put away in new and better spots. If he came home to a room without a curtain or throw pillow, no big deal. But I wanted and needed him to come home to a room that was clean and functional.
At this point, I only had about 30 minutes left with my babysitter, so I focused on small projects that I could knock out in just a few minutes. I hung the curtain (the rod was already there), replaced all the art in the gallery wall, and hung a few more frames. By the time Sam and I had lunch and he was tucked into bed for the afternoon, all that remained were the more time intensive DIY projects I couldn’t do ahead of time: installation of the wallpaper, light fixture, and the bulletin board.
I’ve done enough of these kinds of projects to know how long each would take. And since I had pre-assembled and staged all of my tools, supplies and hardware, each one came together without a hitch. About 90 minutes before Henry was due home, I was making the bed, hanging the garland and vacuuming the carpet. I was done with time to spare and even managed to tie a bow across the bedroom door and chit chat with my sister on the phone before the camp van pulled up.
The only thing better than (finally) pulling this room together in a such a quick, no fuss way was Henry’s reaction to it. He was truly beaming when he walked into the room, and took it all in. He noticed every detail, even things I didn’t think he would, and couldn’t wait to go get his best friend to show him his “new room.” He has kept it so well maintained, and still frequently thanks me for doing it for him.
Henry’s new room isn’t filled with jaw-dropping projects or dramatic changes. But Henry loved it more than I ever expected he would. As a person who tends to make things bigger than they need to be and take waaaay too long to make simple decisions, this project taught me a lot. I’m all about taking your time to fill your home with things you truly love. But I also think dragging your heels in order to make the “just right” decision shouldn’t keep you from ever making meaningful updates you’ll love. Little changes can have big impacts, and forward progress is better than no progress. Friends…there can be so much happiness when you simply love the things around you…so get put them there already!
Admittedly, I’m a little addicted to this “let’s just do it” mentality to getting rooms done…especially since we are now well under the one year mark left in our current home. I’m thinking both my office and the playroom will need this one day blitz approach to finally finish them off! I’ll keep you posted!