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The Full Suburban: As a child asserts her vision, mom remembers a decorating disaster

Jane Ditto is giving her bedroom a makeover.  (Julia Ditto)
Jane Ditto is giving her bedroom a makeover. (Julia Ditto)

I have never met a bedroom makeover I didn’t like. Actually, scratch that. There is one notable exception: the white-box-of-a-bedroom in the apartment Logan and I lived in during his first year at the University of Washington. That year, some nefarious force got it into my head that what our bedroom walls were really crying out for were stripes. Horizontal stripes. Yellow horizontal stripes.

This thought – this need – for stripes could not be shaken from my brain, and so one Saturday, my long-suffering husband and I used a laser level to trace and tape off wide stripes all along our walls. Then we painstakingly painted alternating colors of yellow – one bright, the other more muted – all the way from floor to ceiling. Halfway through, it wasn’t looking great.“Paint jobs always look bad before you take off the painter’s tape,” I said, holding out hope that my grand vision wasn’t a flop.

We pressed on. It was late at night when we finally put down our rollers and took off the painter’s tape.

“I feel like I’m standing inside a pineapple,” I said.

“Same,” Logan replied.

We decided to sleep on it and see how it looked in the morning light.

“It might just be great!” I said.

It wasn’t. We woke up the next morning and immediately knew that we couldn’t live with yellow stripes for a minute longer. Logan repainted the whole thing white shortly thereafter, and has questioned my design judgement ever since.

But that experience was an anomaly. Usually, I have a pretty good track record with making over bedrooms, bathrooms, and even kitchens. Fresh paint, new curtains, and fun artwork are all it takes.

And that’s why, when 15-year-old Jane announced a few months ago that she wanted to make over her bedroom, I was all for it.

Jane is an aberration in our house: she is the only child to have a room completely to herself. Single-occupant rooms have always been reserved for newborn babies and stubborn toddlers; once my kids get old enough to figure out how to sleep in the same room at the same time as someone else, they are sharing with a sibling.

So when Lucy left for college a few months ago, Jane immediately started making plans.

“I want to paint the walls a light purple,” she told me, “Not so light that it looks white, but not so purple that it looks like a 5-year-old girl lives there. And I want a queen-size bed, no more twins.”

“What about Lucy’s bed?” I asked. “What will she do when she comes home for the summer?”

“I don’t know, I guess she can sleep on the floor,” she said, only half joking.

“That sounds reasonable,” I replied. “Anything else, little princess?”

“Yes,” she replied. “Bookshelves in the corner. And new curtains. New lamps. New sheets.”

I told her to go for it, and that the minute she finished prepping her walls for paint I would take her to the store to get whatever color she wanted. It took her an entire Saturday, but by early evening, Jane’s room was bare-walled and painter-taped to within an inch of its life.

We went to the paint store and returned home with the light-purple color of her choice, a sweet lavender optimistically named “Peace and Happiness.”

That was five days ago. The walls have been painted and the twin beds removed, but not much else has progressed. The queen bed frame we thought we had in our workshop turned out to be a double, so our newly purchased queen-size mattress is resting on the floor until we can find a new bed. The curtains that matched so well with her previous minty-green bedroom look utterly hideous next to the lavender walls, but our sewing machine is on the fritz and I can’t sew the new ones. The bookshelves won’t arrive for four more days, so her books are all over the floor. Suffice it to say, there is very little “peace and happiness” going on in her room right now.

But, baby steps! I keep reminding her that, within a week or two, we will get everything squared away and she will be living her tidy, color-coordinated, candle-scented, book-fueled best life. And, no matter how bad it gets, at least she won’t feel like she’s living inside a pineapple.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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