Toys, muddy boots, and jackets that simply never find their way to a hanger – kids are practically the arch nemeses of a clean, well-organized house … but they don’t have to be. Design guru and former Extreme Makeover: Home Edition host Ty Pennington knows that even small tweaks to your living environment can transform your home. In his new ABC daytime series, The Revolution, Pennington teams up with style icon Tim Gunn and a team of mental and physical health experts to transform the lives of viewers from the inside out. Fortunately, you don’t need to appear on national TV to get Ty’s tips. Here are 10 kid-friendly ways to revitalize your home.
Coming up with an organization strategy before you redo a room serves two purposes, says Pennington. It gives you an idea for the space you’ll be designing and offers some fast-acting motivation for getting started. “Getting organized gives you a sense of satisfaction, because you can see the effect of your efforts right away,” he says.
Pennington adds that families can start with holiday items: “Throw away any seasonal items you haven’t put out in more than two years,” he says. “Yes, I understand that you want to keep every single ornament that your child made since age 2, but do you really need that felt Santa hat with missing eyes and four specks of glitter that you’ve had in a box since 1985?”
You may need to invest, too. Clearly labeled bins, shelf organizers, and separated storage systems can turn clutter-filled rooms into well-oiled machines.
Now that you know how much space you’ve got to work with, it’s time to make more of it.
“One easy way to create an entirely new vibe in a room that doesn’t cost a single cent is to remove a third or even half of the crap you’ve collected in there over time,” Ty says. “From the floor to the ceiling, on all the tables and shelves, and hanging on the walls – whatever you can’t remember, remove. If you don’t realize it’s there, then it doesn’t need to be.”
Removing the things you don’t use or want creates more space for new accessories you’re dying to have.
“If you’re already pretty neat and organized, then I applaud you. But if you are so neat and organized that your house looks sterile and uninviting, then you need to back up a couple of steps and bring in some cool accessories that will give your space personality,” Ty says.
Before tackling big projects like walls, ceilings, and floors, moms can start small by shopping for accessories that capture their personal aesthetic and can be easily replaced if Junior spills juice on a throw pillow or knocks over a knick-knack.
“The easiest place to start is with textiles,” Ty says. “Throw pillows, a lap blanket, drapery panels, throw rugs, table cloths, runners – whether you buy them or sew them yourself, look for cool fabrics that have a little punch, but don’t veer too far away from the clean colors you’re already using in the room. But don’t overdo it, or you’ll be moving backwards,” he cautions. To keep a clean look, less often means more.
Add Some Color
Cheap, easy, and perfect for moms on a budget, color can revive a room without a major time or money investment. Plus paint can be an inexpensive way to experiment with design without breaking the bank.
“Even if you only paint one wall – or a section of a wall – you’ll be making a statement,” Ty explains. “Don’t forget the trim. Sometimes a room seems dull because the paint and trim are faded, marred, and dirty. A fresh coat of paint is the answer to that.”
Get a Handle on Things
Ty means that literally. If selected and coordinated correctly, knobs, handles, and pulls on dresser drawers and doors can tie a room together and express individuality in a subtle way. An extra bonus is that, if installed correctly, fancy handles can withstand little hands in a way that most high-priced furniture can’t.
“Antique door knobs have become such a huge decorator’s find that there are now plenty of places you can find cheaper knockoffs,” Pennington says. ” … Changing them out only requires a screwdriver. I recently saw someone use eight glass doorknobs above a window from which she hung a tab-topped drapery panel. Very cool.”
Of course you want a billion pictures of your little ones on display, but there’s a neat, design-forward way to do it and one that’s … well … not.
“Think outside the box about what might make a cool frame. Is your family into golf? How about gluing a bunch of tees around a plain wood frame? Really into music? Decoupage some concert tickets and frame them,” Ty says. “Another cool idea for frames is to find a bunch of different frames at a flea market or in your basement and then spray paint all of them the same color, then do a big collection of frames on the wall with your favorite photos reprinted in black and white.”
Find the Picasso in You (and Your Kids)
Of course you want to give your princess the Disney dream room she’s always wanted or your son the living homage to dinosaurs he’s been whining about for months. Instead of buying themed accessories your kid won’t be interested in a year from now, Ty says to turn that obsession into a fun family project.
“Kids love theme rooms, but parents don’t always have the skill to make the kind of murals or large art pieces that help bring a theme to life,” he says. ” … Borrow an overhead projector from your local library or school to project a transparency image to the wall. Trace the image onto the wall using chalk or a watercolor pencil. Carefully mark what colors each part of the image should be painted, and then get to work. Your kids can do this with you – and might be better at it since they’ve probably spent more time tracing and drawing lately than you have!”
To make a boring room a little more eye-catching, Ty suggests that parents (and kids, if they’re old enough) create their own graphic images.
It’s easy enough to tape off big squares and paint those, but circles are sometimes more fun,” he says. “There are plenty of objects you can use, from a CD/DVD for small circles, a paint can for medium circles, and a trash can cover for big circles … As you make the circle patterns, do some that overlap and others that are separate. Outline the circle first, then paint the interior … For a more subtle effect or something less whimsical, paint the circles in a shade darker than what you painted the wall or in clear poly. That way they’re not so bold, but the wall gains texture and visual interest.”
“The most overlooked space in the home when it comes to d’cor is the ceiling,” Ty says. “Great ways to help a room include painting the ceiling a specific color, adding molding around the ceiling, changing out the light fixture, adding recessed or track lighting, or even adding wallpaper to the ceiling.”
Even if you don’t change a thing, dusting off ceiling fan and clearing cobwebs can be an instant, cost-free improvement.
Build a Fort
“If it’s cold and wet outside, that means the kids are stuck inside. These days that often means plopping down in front of video games for hours,” says Ty. “Encourage more imaginative play by giving them a cool fort right on their bed.”
Building a makeshift enclosure, even if it’s a temporary one, can transform an ordinary room into an imaginary tent, cave, underground bunker, reading nook, secret fortress, or clubhouse. The possibilities are endless, and constructing one is simple – even for novices.
“If you’re super handy, then you can probably handle making two sides of a boat out of plywood and using a large dowel, curtain rod, or pvc to create a mast with a fabric sail,” Ty says. “… Even if you’re not handy, building a fort isn’t terribly difficult. With butcher paper to draw the outline and the bed frame to mount it, you have the start of a very cool space. Remember: With kids it’s not so much about it being magazine-perfect, but more about it being enough to spark imagination.”