I’m sorry. I don’t have any “befores”

Cathy ZielskeCZ Life76 Comments


It was just too spur of the moment to have had the foresight to take "before" shots. I wasn’t planning on doing much more than tossing out some toys while the kid was on a camping trip. But what started out as a "I’ll just rearrange a few things" turned into a 24-hour, caffeine and IKEA-fueled marathon of productivity. Let me take you back, to last weekend…

(enter blurred, wavy lines as we go back in time together)

So it was last weekend and as I was going through some of Cole’s stuff in his closet, taking advantage of the fact that he was on a camping trip with his Dad and nowhere in the vicinity to say, "BUT YOU CAN’T THROW THAAAAAAT AWAY!", and I realized this: you live 20 minutes from IKEA and no one is here to stop you from going.

A little back story is in order… For a long time now, I’ve yearned to re-do Cole’s room, mostly to give it a semblance of order and to make it look as if there is a small, creative boy who sleeps there. Long since gone are the Pottery Barn dreams of nautical themed rooms which would have put us in debt on par with our vacation to Disney. (Remember: I am married to a Minnesotan. They are PRACTICAL.) No. I just wanted a little bit of order, and the possibility that he could open and close his own chest of drawers without the drawers falling out onto the floor, and crushing his size 3 feet. That, and maybe a dedicated place to store his $2,000 Lego Collection. (Okay, maybe Minnesotans aren’t that practical all the time.)

So there I am, in his room, toying with the idea of rearranging the furniture when it hit me: now is the time to go to IKEA and get this boy some furniture because there is no one here talk you out of it.

Dan isn’t super huge on IKEA because I think he thinks it’s a bit cheap. Me? I ADORE that store. A few years back, I redid my entire office in IKEA. The results? FABULOUS. Every day I’m in the office (which is, oddly enough, every day) I am happy. Happy and not in debt, because I spent less than $600 to redo an entire room, complete with lighting and chachki’s. IKEA = good.

So, risking a possible backlash of discontent from my better half, and throwing caution to the wind, I headed out. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for, but I knew I wasn’t going to labor over the choice: I needed a chest of drawers and a night stand for starters. Maybe toss in a few lamps and some frames, and boom—instant room upgrade.

Here’s what I got:
A 4-drawer Malm chest in birch.

The matching 2-drawer chest.

A couple lamp bases and a couple of shades and a frame.

When all was said and done, my bill came to $204 bucks. I headed home and began the arduous assemblage process, as well as the way more arduous cleaning and sorting process.

It was the cleaning and sorting that led me to realize I needed more stuff, and so… I decided to head to Target to pick up some under bed boxes for storage of Cole’s artwork when I came across these cool Itso bins (perfect for all those Legos). So I added four to my basket, along with some other storage bins, a bulletin board, an alarm clock and a few frames, then returned home to keep working.

24 hours later, his room, while not a PB showroom in any way shape or form, now looks a bit like this:


(The shelf was there before, but never looked quite this organized. The pictures are in new Target frames.)


I even spent time in the closet, hanging some of the gazillion ball caps that pepper my home.


The verdict? The boy thought it rocked.


I also hung stuff on the walls, like some of his random instruments, or cool momentos, like his autographed Saints’ stadium cushion, which prompted the following phrase: "It’s like I live in a museum."


And now, with the new lighting scenario in place, it’s SUPER cozy at night.


The bottom line? The boy LOVED it. The bulletin board was definitely his favorite part, I think. He immediately added photos of Stevie Ray Vaughn and Weird Al to put his finishing touches on it.


And the bottom line for me? A room that has order, and a little more peacefulness, and gives the kid a hope in hell when i say, "Go clean your room."

To sum up:

Trip to IKEA: $204
More stuff from Target: $85
A kid who can FINALLY put his own laundry away because he has smoothly sliding and spacious drawers? Priceless.


Cathy ZielskeI’m sorry. I don’t have any “befores”

76 Comments on “I’m sorry. I don’t have any “befores””

  1. #1

    Love the room and admire all of your hard work. I’m still a bit stuck at cleaning the room while he’s gone – I’m not sure my kids would have loved it!! It’s beautiful and you did an amazing job!

  2. #2

    Oh, by ‘love it’ – I meant that I’m not sure my kids would have been happy that I went through their rooms – not that they wouldn’t have loved what you did!! (sorry – realized that didn’t sound nice).

  3. #6

    The room looks fantastic. It may inspire me to work on my younger son’s room, which is always spilling over books from a narrow bookcase and also has a really cheesy chest of drawers. I am excited about your upcoming class at BPS. It sounds great. I have never uploaded anything to a gallery though, so I have to practice that and text boxes!

  4. #7

    Glad to know we’re not the only ones with a $2,000 Lego collection, LOL. Might have to check out those bins for Legos because what we’re doing now isn’t working. Great job on the room too!!

  5. #9
    Katie Scott

    Wow he is getting so BIG! He’s a couple years older than my boy so following yours is kind of like a pre-view for me. I’m itching to re-do both of my kids rooms, I just need a day alone in my house. I’m not sure how I’m going to finagle that. We’re getting an IKEA in the Tampa area soon, I can’t wait!

  6. #10

    Love IKEA…wish we had one closer (whine, whine, more whine)…I have to tackle my girls room now…as an aside, isn’t it great when the kids aren’t around to remind you that you are getting rid of their “memories”?? My son’t quote every time I clean out his room.

  7. #14
    Missus Wookie

    Only $2000? Ah yeah – he’s only ten…. The room looks great but will be so much more “lived in” with a floor covered in lego pieces. Glad he liked your work more than the last time a room redo was suggested!

  8. #15
    stephanie t.

    NIce job chica! The new IKEA catalog came witht the Sunday paper…gettin’ the organizing twitch here!

  9. #17

    Thanks for sharing! You’ve given me the courage to do a similar re-do of my 10 year old daughter’s room. She actually WANTS us to do it while she’s away, because she says that it’s too hard for her to get rid of things. IKEA here we come!

  10. #19

    That looks amazing! You’ve inspired me to get off my rear and get my kid’s room in order. He has an IKEA bunkbed, but the top bunk is a storage area at the moment. Not so good.
    BTW — I have that Night Scotsman posted and have used it for color inspiration for years! 🙂

  11. #20

    all you kids heading to camp…
    NEVER underestimate the power of a Mom with $289, access to IKEA and Target and free range of your room.
    Amen .

    (hehehehe..MINE will be away for the next week… BWAHAHAHAHA!)

  12. #21
    sue Treiber

    I love the photos you framed-my faves!YOu did a great job on the room, and I should know because I own every one of those IKEA pieces.

  13. #22

    what a lucky kid! I love ikea too btw and my studio is also done in ikea. another thing WE have in common! hee hee! still looking for that fab lug bag you had at the airport. SO want one! are you going to be at inspired 2009? could we do coffee?

  14. #23

    Good choice with the Malm furniture – we have the 4 drawer and the 5 drawer slim for DD’s nursery. Way cheaper than PB or other baby goods, and they have held up very well to the 10x a day opening/closing to change a newborn/crawler/walker/toddler. 🙂

    And that is a sweeeeeeeet room for Mr. Cole.

  15. #24
    Lori S.

    Cathy, I know you don’t know me, but I read your blog all the time, obviously for inspiration. I just want to tell you that I took the summer off of work to spend with my 4 children. I ALWAYS work but thought this better cuz they’re growin up & stuff. Anyway, I have been doing that very same thing!! Going to find something then ending up cleaning out an entire closet/junk drawer/scrap space…Love the feeling when its done and even better cuz it was on accident! 2 thumbs up 4 u & I wish we had an IKEA so bad!! Take care!

  16. #26

    Oh man, now I want to redecorate everything in my house! (It takes so little to give me the bug…)

    I was always a “messy room kid” but when I would go through and get everything organized I remember loving sitting in bed at night with the lamp on thinking, “I’m going to keep it this clean ALL THE TIME.”

    It usually lasted about three days. 🙂


  17. #27

    room looks awesome–and can I add–where does one get a count chocula bobblehead??!! too cool!!!

  18. #28
    Sarah Jane

    I, too, {heart} IKEA! In fact, after seeing the new commercial on TV, immediately went online to request the new 2009 catalog. Can’t wait to take a peek inside that one!

    Have the same MALM dressers in my bedroom. In fact, Cole can grow with them… eventually, when he needs more space, you can get another dresser of the same size and put them side-by-side/touching to create the appearance of an even larger dresser. (That’s what we did after seeing it done in one of the catalogs a few years ago.)

    You forgot to mention the great pride of ownership after the assembly process. (AFTER ASEMBLY = BIG SMILE ON FACE and sense of accomplishment.)

    COLE’S ROOM LOOKS GREAT! (Lucky little guy!)

  19. #29
    Lyndsay Neumann

    You have given me hope for my 8 year old daughter’s room! She’s with her father every other weekend … might just have to take advantage of the next one! I like the way you think. 😉

    I *heart* IKEA!

  20. #32

    I concur w/Cole…the room rocks! So, my practicality comes with being Minnesotan, eh? That makes everything much more clear 🙂 LOL And, re: IKEA…we have one here where I live (UT) but I have yet to go check it out. I hear it’s fantastic. That and Tai Pan Trading Co. I must venture out one day.

    Thanks for sharing all that IKEA & Target goodness in Cole’s revamped room. Again, it looks so nice! 🙂

  21. #34

    I think it must be a universal thing. All the women I know love Ikea, all the men loathe it (and I’m way over at the other side of the Atlantic…). When you say “Ikea” out loud in my apartment, just about everything falls apart. I think only my bed is from another store 😉 Great stuff for organizing in general and scrapbooking stuff in particular!

  22. #37
    NotSoccer Mom

    the problem with my 9yo is that the $2000 lego collection keeps expanding!!! just when i think i have a storage solution… btw, my son also has the malm collection, in blue. i look at your son’s room and i have come to the conclusion that my son just has too much stuff!

  23. #39

    I am just finishing up a kitchen redo with Ikea cabinets, and can I just say, those designers are geniuses. And no one will believe how much it cost to get an amazing kitchen. Now I know YOU don’t need a new one, but if anyone ever asks your advice, you can tell them on good authority that they are completely worth the little bit of sweat equity. Perhaps they need to send some freebies your way for the great advertising!

  24. #42
    Sheri Gerrow

    This looks awesomw, if I promise to go shopping at IKEA with you, will you come and help me do that to all of my boys rooms 🙂

  25. #43

    I also redid my son’s room this weekend. I wasn’t able to buy any new furniture for him, but I did rearrange things and it looks great. Gabe loves his new reading area that we created by moving the furniture. I also agree that now my son has a chance when I say “Go clean your room.”

  26. #44

    He’s one lucky little person, is Cole, with a mum that gives up a whole weekend to make his life better for him :). Gosh, isn’t he looking grown up with those new front teeth!

  27. #45

    Yeah for Ikea!!! I spent some time there this weekend too — my husband too wasn’t too keen on Ikea — but it’s what gets used when you’re waiting to save up for the Pottery Barn room, and by that time your kids are in college! Have a great day 🙂

  28. #47

    So cool! I can’t do this any more, cos the girl is 18 in a couple of weeks, but I did it when she was little and she loved it, so I know how you feel! I love that Cole has a Union Jack on his bulletin board 😉 (yes, I’m British….)

  29. #48
    Tammy B

    Can you come and do my kids rooms now?! So clean and looks awesome. The more I try to organize, the more they seem to get disorganized! Currently in the painting frame of mind and that might help get some cleaning done!

  30. #49
    Laura McG

    Love the room makeover but can I just comment on how grown up Cole looks?! Must have had a growth spirt on that camping trip!

  31. #52
    mary's cottage quilts

    Very cool room. All that’s missing is a quilt on the bed 🙂
    It looks nice!

  32. #53

    Hi Cathy – it looks great. I, too, love IKEA.

    What is that print that says, “The Night Scotsman”?? I collect Scottish litho prints. I’ve never seen that one. Can you give me any info on it??


  33. #54

    I did this today…but I don’t have an IKEA nearby. Bane of my existence. 😉 Guess I’ll have to road-trip to Utah. LOL! Cole’s room looks considerably better than my son’s. I’ll just keep pining away for an IKEA to come to Denver. 😉

  34. #56

    I agree that we can all imagine the before photos!
    I adore IKEA as does my husband. He even likes the assembly process – yes I am very lucky!
    The room looks great and you can’t beat Cole’s smile – and the one I imagine was on your face!
    You seem to have real closets in your home. We don’t. So our favorite things from IKEA are the PAX closet systems. They changed our lives and no I’m not exaggerating!
    – Lee

  35. #57

    LOVE this room. My son’s space needs an equal overhaul. Thanks for sharing what to do and how to do it on a budget.

  36. #58

    I have never been to an IKEA, but I have a feeling that my Virgo tendencies to ORGANIZE would scream for joy (as my wallet screams for mercy)!!!

    The room looks fab by the way!!

  37. #59

    Now that I’m inspired I need a Target and an Ikea – fat chance being on the other side of the world. My 7yr old daughter’s been waiting to have her room done for months. So far we’re still at the wallpaper stripping stage. Cole’s room totally rocks!

  38. #60
    All Moments Remembered

    WOW I just did my 6 yr old daughters room this weekend. Of course today she is asking where is this or that????? I have a huge box for Good Will thinking ohhh she will never notice it gone, wrong!! But her room like your sons looks fantastic!! Love the pic of your son looking to happy with the job you did!

  39. #61

    you are my inspiration! my 10 yr old went to grandma’s this summer, and i cleaned his room. he came home and said it was great, but he still has problems with putting away his laundry. why? because he can’t get the drawers to open and close easy, he says. this weekend, ikea here i come!! i thank you cathy! (i’m not so sure about my husband though!!)

  40. #62
    Stephanie Carty

    Love the room! And I do the same thing, decluttering while they are gone somewhere. It saves a lot of hassle when they want to keep that toy from when they were 2, or that scrap of paper with nothing important on it.
    I am getting ready to declutter as we speak because we are moving. If I am not out in a week, please send in the rescue team. I’ll be under the 1 million legos pile, or the 3000 dinosaur pile.

  41. #63

    I love when that voice of reason, the deep male one, is not there to disturb my cleaning and decorating frenzies! It’s a great room!

  42. #64

    Wow! I am so impressed that you put that furniture together yourself…hauled the boxes, etc. I have zilch spatial relationship skills – maybe that will change after I take your class this fall!

  43. #65

    Looks great but I must warn you Cathy not to get too comfortable with the idea of rearranging and heading to IKEA/Target while they are out. Made that mistake a few years back and my son loved it so much he now sees no reason to ever leave. He’s 25! Well at least he’s a great cook and dinner is on the table every night when I get home!

  44. #67
    stacey r

    Cole’s room looks very cool. It really suits him (or seems to from what you’ve posted about him).

    You’ve inspired me to finally do something with my 4YO Cole’s room. Thanks. 🙂

  45. #68

    I just found a COOL website-wordle.net. I think I might make one with my kids names and personally traits/likes and print one for their bedroom wall. Could be used for scrapbooking too. You can change the font, color etc. Have fun playing.

    Connie C.

  46. #70
    Phx Paula

    Pottery Barn, Schmottery-barn. (Okay, I really love everything they design, but…) Six years ago, I was decorating my soon-to-arrive son’s nautical-themed nursery, when I penciled this them in on my PBKids baby registry. Funny, PB had NOTHING nautically-related at that time. I guess I was hoping my loved ones would use their imagination to help me create this vision. Since then, I’ve drooled over their “new” nautical collection for boys. Is that bed cool, or what? Well… maybe not so cool, since I believe it has been recalled after findings that the “bow” toy-compartment can unexpectedly close on a child. Maybe my do-it-myself nautical-themed nursery wasn’t so bad after all. (Incidentally, I too, love my nearby IKEA… and have a cheap husband.)

  47. #72

    Love IKEA! I just bought the same dressers for my 11 YO DS a few weeks ago. He finally has room for his vast T shirt collection. And I no longer have to pick said collection off the floor as it spills from of his outgrown baby dresser drawers. Enjoy your new space Cole!

  48. #73

    hehehe! I can’t believe you used the “priceless” quote. I bet the whole time you were typing you were thinking, “I can’t believe I’m using the mastercard logo. Every other scrapbooker uses it.”
    Although, the quote does fit perfectly. I hope you know I’m jokin’ ya. Not being mean or whatever.

    Anyways, I wanted to ask you a question about your printer. Here’s my email address
    “Nora” you met 2 years ago in Alabama.

  49. #74

    I LOVE IT! I just did the same thing in my daughter’s room! Can I ask how it’s possible I have NO clothes that fit properly and yet I took two big black bags to Good Will of hers…and she still has such a full closet nothing else can go in?! Maybe you can come reorganize my organization attempts…I’m free Monday through Sunday all day long 🙂

  50. #75
    Cynthia B.

    Hooray for you!! Of COURSE he likes his room – so organized. So impressed at your organizational skills (and practical side too…IKEA and Target rock)!

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