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The Kids Are Gone: Taking Back Your Space

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Adults and parents have this strange tendency to leave their kids’ childhood bedrooms intact when they leave the nest and head off to college, or travel the world. While the emotional attachment we have for our kids is eternally unbreakable, the uses of our spaces doesn’t have to be.

Parents, reclaim your space!

Wait... we may have gotten carried away there. Before you go and throw out everything in the house, pump the brakes. There are many ways of re-decorating that can transform our kids’ rooms into guest spaces that will still accommodate their occasional returns, and can add value to your home - both financially and emotionally.

Your New Life

The spare space doesn’t mean you’re obligated to do anything crazy - like install a hot tub (but you can if you want) - instead consider what types of new spare rooms provide the most value for you as a homeowner.

Build out a stunning new guest room to accommodate your in-laws, friends and family from out of town, or even list your new creation on home-stay marketplace networks like AirBnB or HomeAway to generate funds for a bigger project you’ve been planning for down the road. Further, a newly imagined spare guest room invites a fresh and invigorating energy into your home.

Consider redecorating old bedrooms into hobbyist rooms where you can spend some extra time to de-stress and relax. Maybe you’re into fly-tying, scrap-booking, family genealogy, or personal fitness. Building an in-house gym, a hobby room, or a pseudo reading room/library/lounge is a great way to invest in yourself after the kids have left.

Remember, nothing is set in stone. Maybe your kids’ departure means you have the means to extend and renovate your master bedroom/bathroom. Get wild and knock a few walls down to give yourself a pat on the back for saving for those tuition fees for the last 18 years.

Colour Themes & Lighting

There’s a delicate balance involved in painting your kids’ room. Do it slowly. A huge incremental - or immediate - change can spark feelings of animosity or neglect from your kids, and you’re going to want them to visit you. The changeover can be done in incremental stages. In many cases, a refresh of an existing room colour can be just the ticket for getting that much needed urge to clean and spruce up a newly available room.

Colour themes go beyond paint colour as well. Consider the impact of a new set of crisp off-white or navy sheets on the guest bed, or a textured accent wall to create some depth and drama. Utilize complimentary colours to bring harmony into the space and help to bridge feelings of monumental change with colours that work together. Further, you can boost the hue of your new colours by adding new trim, or crown molding to make the crisp lines of your new paint choices really pop.

Lighting is another great way to breathe new life into a freshly vacated space. If you’re decorating an old children’s room, the Hot Wheels or Care Bears lampshade has got to go. Consider replacing old lighting fixtures with sleek and tall postmodern lamps for end tables to frame the new guest bed, or reading lights for your hobby room or reading nook. Replace the old school bulbs with new energy efficient bulbs to give the room a boost in clean, brighter white light, as opposed to the yellow hued tinge of some older lighting fixtures.

Patterned wallpaper coverings are great ways to usher in a new feel to a room, and come in a multitude of colours, textures and patterns. Paintable textured wallpaper is a great way to add a hint of maturity and prestige to a basic children’s room revamp as well.

Rugs & Furniture

Kids rooms can be chalked full of stains, sustained damage to furniture over the years and can showcase the deterioration to flooring, drywall, etc. If a total renovation isn’t in the cards for you just yet, there are many ways to update and streamline the aesthetic appeal of the room without breaking the bank.

Instead of refinishing original hardwood floors or tearing up and replacing wall-to-wall carpet, consider investing some thought in a great new area rug. They cover stains, water damage and scratches in hardwood and tile, and eliminate the need to potentially spend thousands on labour and new materials. A Persian-style throw rug, or a Dhurrie is a great way to mature and accentuate style within an existing room.

This goes for walls and window coverings as well. Try long drapes or shades to help cover ugly and tired windows, or replace dark shutters with a light airy curtain to allow more light to enter the space. A new couch or loveseat may be the perfect cover for any miniscule drywall damage in your new reading or hobby room, and a good hearty chair is never out of style.

Replacing the existing bed frame, dresser, chest of drawers and desk in the room is another great way to add a feeling of vigor and clarity to an old space. If you’re determined to keep your child's room as a bedroom for weekend visits and overnight guests, replacing the dated headboard with a new postmodern and inexpensive wood piece can add style and chic design to any space in a snap.

Keepsakes and Collectibles

Do yourself a favour and do not throw everything out. Reworking your children's spaces within your home is guaranteed to stir up a plethora of emotion, and ridding yourself of these material objects or visual cues is really no different than voluntarily throwing away memories of their childhoods - both for them, and especially of you.

There’s going to be a period of mourning the loss of your little ones to the big broad world out there, and some simple, elegant reminders of the life you’ve built and the independent people you’ve raised is a great way to maintain a sense of identity and familial structure.

Take some of those old kindergarten drawings and doodles and frame them in a crisp gallery-style frame for the living room, rather than the guest room. Remind yourself in a new way that your children are massive parts of your life, even though they’re not living down the hall from you now. Take a high-quality digital photograph of the height markings on their old doorway to keep forever, or literally remove and replace the frame itself and have it transformed into a great record of your family home and life together.

Take old plush animals and a few staple toys and put them in a few totes for safe-keeping. Who knows, you could be pulling them out of storage from your grandkids sooner than you think - and the sentimentality of these objects is irreplaceable, and priceless.


Your kids leaving home is a good - nay great - thing. It not only signals the beginning of their exciting new lives as young adults (who will always come to you for advise and help, by the way) but you get to reclaim a bit of your identity and character from before you were a perma-parent.

Most parents have trouble packing up and painting over old memories, but remember to whistle while you work. Your kids will always be your kids, but in the long run a room is just a room. Go ahead, remodel until your heart’s content. It’s good for the soul; and resale value. 

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