Readers, would you indulge me a slightly off topic post? I promise there is some fun travel goodness in this post about my bedroom makeover!
This summer I was pretty busy with jaunts to Colorado, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Myrtle Beach, Martha’s Vineyard and more. You might think when I wasn’t on the road I’d be kicking back and taking a break. But as my good friend Michelle pointed out, I just don’t do relaxation. Instead, I decided to redo my bedroom at my childhood home in Albany. I had three goals: to update the room to a semi-sophisticated oasis that I can return to in between trips, to spend as little money as possible, and to not buy anything new. After scouring Pinterest I settled on a loose scheme of dramatic dark gray walls with yellow accents. This is the result:
Please forgive all the weird lighting in these photos. The color of the wall is a beautiful pure dark gray without any hints of blue or red or green or whatever is appearing in these pictures — a real estate photographer I am not. This photo, taken during painting preparation, most accurately shows the beautiful lighting in this room.
But let’s get straight down to the fun part — the transformation!
Before and Afters
This room was just a total mess. It looked okay when I lived here full time in high school, but ever since it was in steady decline into a hodgepodge of remnants from my high school days, overflow furniture that I brought back from my old apartment in Brooklyn, and piles of junk that I was appearantly saving for my Hoarders audition tape. So the first step (and a long one!) was simply to pare down. We had a major garage sale, which was a great motivator to clear out.
I had to get creative with the bed. I don’t have a real bedframe or a headboard, just one of those metal frames the box springs sits on. So I wanted to create a “visual headboard” which I did using old frames that I’ve collected over the years — some of them off the streets of Brooklyn on trash day! I then spruced them up with spray paint.
The bed wall, before….
… and after!
The window was pretty bare, aside from some ugly blinds. I bought a new mega-wide window rod, and layered two sets of drapes I had in my apartment in Brooklyn. The window wall, before…
… and after!
This side of the room is enormous, and it was hard to strike a balance between leaving it too blank and overloading it. I think I might be on the side of overloading it, but I tried to break it into two separate areas, an office and a reading nook. The long wall, before…
… and after!
This wall is a trouble spot in the room, because the wall is angled and a little difficult to use thanks to the built-in vanity. My dad offered to tear it down but I love it so I worked around it! I adore this area of the room, where I show off my vintage camera collection and my favorite books. Before this makeover, I had about twice the books you see now. I only let myself keep what fit on the two shelves, and the rest were donated. The built-in wall, before…
… and after!
The office area of my room really needed some TLC, as I spend a lot of time at that desk with my work-from-home gig. The drawers were overflowing with junk, my bookshelves were bursting, and there was just a lot of visual chaos. So I cleaned things up and this is the office area before…
… and after! Okay, still chaos. I know bulletin boards aren’t everyone’s look and truth be told they don’t really vibe with the minimalism I was going for. But they bring me happy memories and tons of inspiration.
And then there is the double walk in closet. I know, I know… I’m the luckiest girl alive! This was actually the original master bedroom in the house, but I made my parents switch. Just kidding, but points if you got the Mean Girls reference. In reality my parents built an addition onto our house and my spoiled teenage butt got to move into the coolest bedroom imaginable.
There is a downside to having such a massive closet though (I can hear your eyes rolling). I have so much room that I keep triple the amount of stuff I actually need or really like or use on a regular basis because I just think, “Ah well, I have the space.” I mean, I lived out of a backpack for a year, but I can’t throw away a party dress I haven’t worn since high school.
Aside from paint and some hardware (curtain rod, hooks for the closet) this bedspread was the one thing I bought for the room. It was $30 at Target and I sold my old one on Craigslist for the same price… making it free! The two accent pillows are from my old apartment in Brooklyn, and the lamps and side tables (bought from The Christmas Tree Shop in high school!) were in the original room. As I mentioned before, the frames on the wall were free, plus the cost of spray paint. I went a little spray paint happy throughout this makeover and so feel free to attribute any future typos to brain damage caused by the fumes.
As I mentioned, I debated over the visual-clutter-heavy bulletin boards but decided to keep them all. The two black bulletin boards are from my office area in Brooklyn and bring back tons of happy memories from that time, so those had to come in. The big bulletin board was already in the room but I spray painted it and reorganized all my little travel artifacts and it just brings me so much joy to look at it. I also spraypainted a bazillion things yellow and changed the hardware on the drawers to spruce things up.
The yellow accents also worked heavily into my built-in vanity. Spray paint was the key to this makeover. Basically, I refused to buy ANY new accessories for this room when I had so much crap in it already. But lots of it was either old and tired looking or completely no longer my style. For example, the weirdly iridescent green floor vase you see in some of the before photos became the chic yellow vase you see in my office photos, with just half a can of spray paint!
It’s amazing how a coat of paint can take something from tacky to trendy, tired to fresh, out-of-style to of-the-moment!
My closet was looking so, so rough and in need of a can of paint. A serious clean out, a fresh coat of paint, and a cute little shelf to add character made it into a whole new space.
And now, my favorite space in the whole room and where my travel obsession really comes out. My reading nook! The black chair was a $10 purchase off a stoop sale in Brooklyn, the lamp is from my old apartment (originally Target I believe), the pillow was a new gift from my dad via Target, and the green suitcases were pulled off the streets in Brooklyn on trash day.
My love for these suitcases knows no bounds. Who could throw such a thing away? While the green ones came off the street, the black one was my grandfather’s old camera carrying case. Perched on the suitcase along with the lamp is probably my favorite detail in the entire room. As I was cleaning out I found this teeny tiny frame and almost added it to the garage sale pile as I couldn’t imagine what photo would go in it. Then I had the idea to make it into a little reminder of the country that means so much to me — Thailand.
I found a one baht coin and shined it up with some jewelry cleaner. Using leftover yellow scrapbooking paper as a backing, I popped it into the frame and kind of forced the clasps to close (a coin is much thicker than a photo!) I love, love, love this simple and free — minus the baht, of course — DIY project. I smile every time I see it!
The art pieces in my reading nook are some of my most prized possessions. The Scratch Off World Map Poster was a gift from my dad, and I took so much pride in scratching off my seventeen countries! The seahorse print was a letterpress and silkscreening project I did in college, which I featured here. It’s a constant reminder of my love of the ocean and of creating. Last but not least, the final frame is filled by my all time favorite travel souvenir. At the Vespa Market in Bangkok I stumbled on this vintage Rin Tin Tin Comic, in Thai of course, with scuba divers on the cover! I had to have it — and it was all mine for a mere 70 baht (just over two dollars). I love my little ocean and travel wall.
One thing I enjoy about the way this room came together was this trio of flower fabrics. The left is the sheer curtains from my bedroom in my Brooklyn apartment. In the center is the new bedspread from Target, and on the right is the poof that now lives under my vanity. Originally it came from the living room of my Brooklyn apartment. It was another item I pulled off the street and then recovered with a lovely swath of silk from the fabric district. I didn’t plan to have this whole floral thing going on — I didn’t notice until the room was done how beautifully they all go together!
This is a close up shot of the arrangement atop the built-in vanity. A random assortment indeed, and yet it reflects well my loves of art and travel, Coca Cola products and elephants! This is another area where I used yellow spray paint and scraps of yellow paper to bring together pretty random elements with an accent color.
This little vignette, on the shelf over my desk, is one of my favorites in the room. The white object in the background is a letterpress mold that I ordered in order the letterpress my graduation announcements/bon voyage party invitations. In the front is another victim of my yellow spraypaint (and an homage to both my first initial and my love of typography). Rounding things out is a double frame with two of my favorite images of Albany.
For all my talk of striving for minimalism, you’ve obviously figured out by now that I’m a hoarder. I love collecting things, I can’t help it — though I do fight it. One collection that has survived all paring-down campaigns is my vintage camera collection. My two shelves are filled with my first film camera, my first polaroid, vintage cameras that belonged to my grandfather, and even older vintage cameras that were gifts from my mom.
And rounding things out, those darn bulletin boards again. Look closely and you’ll see many of my obsessions hinted at here again — my love for Diet Coke, Martha Stewart and underwater videography, as well as artifacts like my first ever ferry ticket to Koh Tao, a luggage label from Lao Airlines, a coaster from Shoreditch House in London.
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After months of chipping away at this project in between all my trips I am so happy to finally be done and be sharing with you! I joked to my Dad while we were painting that when I retire from travel blogging perhaps I’ll become a home improvement blogger. I am just so, so happy every time I walk into this room, and I had a great time doing it.
Most importantly, I have a home base again in the world, which is a pretty special feeling for a perpetual nomad. And bonus, I did it on a budget — I didn’t keep track of the expenses, but I would say costs were roughly $100 on paint, $40 on the new bedspread and pillow, and $60 on hardware. Two hundred bucks isn’t nothing, but it’s not bad for a makeover so drastic! I love waking up in my new room and looking around at all the memories of my past travels and inspirations for my future ones.
Have you tried to work your passions, like travel or photography or music, into your home decor? How did I do with my makeover? Any favorite details? I’ve been so excited to share this, I can’t wait to hear your feedback!
great job! wanna come do my room in Fort Greene? 🙂
Oh my gosh, if I was still living at my old apartment we would be neighbors! I love Fort Greene so much…
Beautiful, Alex!!!!! Not the same room AT ALL!
Thanks Gram! You’ll have to come see it in person!
I loooooove it! I want to come stay in your room when I need inspiration. 🙂
Thanks Andi! I’m always so curious about where my favorite travel bloggers live when they aren’t traveling… you should do a post about your place 🙂 Based on your fashion sense I’m sure its completely stylish!
I love it! I say mission accomplished in the biggest way possible! Your room is beautiful, and you have such a great design eye. The colors are great, the patterns are great, the feng shui is great, the choices are great.
And I am sooo jealous of your closet. It’s amazing.
Thank you so much Jen! I so appreciate it! I always loved the idea of being an interior designer so it was really fun to play with this 🙂
Beautiful job! I like how you used Pinterest for inspiration. You have a great eye for design. The room looks wonderful!
Thank you SO much Alexa. And yes, I love Pinterest! It’s a great source for interior design inspiration. By the way, I’m so so sorry I haven’t replied to your email yet. I’ve had super limited internet here on The Big Island. I’ll be in Maui soon and getting out of inbox purgatory!
No worries! Hope you are loving Hawaii 🙂
AMAZING. You are so creative! But I guess that comes with the design degree.
And that walk in closet… I’m so jealouss
I know, I know… it’s pretty amazing! No other closet can ever compare though. I’m spoiled for life!
First of all, I second Jen – I am so jealous of your walk-in closet!! Love it! Second, I love that you can’t throw out a dress that you haven’t worn since high school – I am exactly the same. Jess just made me throw out a dress last month that I had since I was 16 (I turn 32 next month, to put it in perspective 😉 )
The make over looks amazing, and I love all the little details. My favorite things are the suitcases (can’t believe someone threw them out!) and the little frame with the Baht on top of them. And I also love the scratch-off world map – how cool is that!!
Well, granted I am not too far out of my schooling years. But check back with me in a decade — I bet those dresses are still in that closet!
All the details you pointed out are my favorite too! I bet you would have a pretty darn impressive map if you ever picked up one of the scratch offs.
I love this post! Kind of like Young House Love meets travel blog. Your room is gorgeous and I might have to steal the bulletin board idea!
Yay! So glad to hear from another YHL fan 🙂 I love them, and maybe I’m being cheeky but I’m planning to submit this to their reader redesign series. Fingers crossed!
Wow, what an incredible transformation! And I think you pretty much nailed the look you were going for. I love how elegant the room looks, and I am even more impressed by all the little DIY projects you used to achieve it! Clearly traveling is not your only strong suit!
Thank you so much Steph! Maybe when I retire from travel blogging I’ll be a DIY blogger instead 🙂
Wow, your room is so big I’m jealous! My parents moved when I was 21 and my new room is tiny. It was good though that they moved while I was in college as it meant I had all my clothes with me at school and didn’t have any storage space at home to hoard 🙂 I am definitely a clothing hoarder too.
Yeah, I sometimes think that if my parents sold the house I would be able to halve my wardrobe without even blinking. But I have the space, so why not hoard 🙂
I love it! Great job! My favorite are the suitcases and the cameras…
You could totally be an interior designer:) Enjoy your new oasis:)
Thanks Stephanie! Maybe I’ll go into business if this whole travel thing doesn’t work out 🙂
I love everything about your new room. That closet? To die for! Great job on the makeover. I think it turned out great.
Thanks Tawny! And congratulations on the CheapOair announcement! We were all rooting for ya 🙂
Looks beautiful Alex!!! You’ve just added a piece to your portfolio as an interior designer 😉
I would love to add that to my resume someday — thanks!
Sorry to totally veer off the point of this post…but Dad’s feet are filthy!!!
Haha — in his defense, so was the room!
Great job on the reno… good to see you make good use of your time when you’re not traveling! lol
I can’t stand to be idle — maybe that’s why I’m happiest as a nomad! Always have to keep busy 🙂
I love it, very sophisticated.
Thank you! That was my goal, glad to hear I achieved it!
I also caught John’s feet. Really, John!!! Certainly have enjoyed your voyage – keep it up. Alex. In Honolulu, were you able to see Warren? Take any pics of his house? I’c certainly like to see what he envisioned after all his years on the move
Actually, I’m staying with Warren right now, but he’s living on the Big Island! I’ll try to remember to grab a pic of the house.
I love it! Our bedroom walls are grey too, I find it really relaxing, and I love the grey and yellow color combo.
I was worried it would be too dark, but the room gets so much light it actually makes it nice and cozy for sleeping!
Your amazing eye for composition in photography really shines again here in your decorating choices! Back when I was touring much more than I am these days, I knew how important time at home between trips was for family and self recharging! Looks like you’ve zeroed in on that as well!
Thank you! After doing a big 10 month trip I’ve enjoyed these shorter ones with breaks between — especially now that I have this lovely room to come back to.
Very cool – and only $200. I like your style!
Gotta keep that bank account healthy for travel purchases! 🙂
So stylish…I like the suitcases as a lamp table!
Thanks! They were such a lucky find and Pinterest showed me just how to use them!
Gorgeous room! 🙂 just looking online at the scratch off map, just wondering did you have to get the frame specially made or is the map a standard size and were suitable frames easy to find?
Sadly, it required custom framing. I don’t know why they did that! I took it to a AC Moore, where they frequently have huge sales on custom framing. Still, it was about $100.
I just got the same map as a graduation present and was able to frame it using a piece of matting, ‘world traveler’ sticker, and 16×20 frame from Micheal’s. I think that ended up being about $15.
Nice! Do you have the medium or large map? I have the bigger one and when I looked I couldn’t find one that would fit the proportions of the larger size. I think the only frames I could find at all at that size were the flimsy plastic ones — but maybe I’m remembering it wrong, it was a while ago.
I think mine is the medium version of it. I think both of them are kind of odd dimensions because I think I tried several frames before I found a set-up I liked. You definitely have a knack for decorating. Alex in Wanderland, Nomadic interior design?
I could offer my services over Skype 🙂
Gorgeous!! And I love the “visual heardboard” … I need to do something like that. All I have is a single dreamcatcher (I’m from New Mexico). It is so plain!
The bed area has got to have some drama! Maybe you just need a whole mess of dreamcatchers 🙂
Wow – lucky to have free rent at home. I wish.
Hey, I never said it was free — maybe my mom is charging me rent! Just kidding, she’s not, but to be honest I haven’t considered myself to live full time in Albany since I graduated high school. Since then I came home and put my bags down in May, but I’ve been traveling 40-50% of the time.
Of course that is now to downplay how very grateful I am to be able to come home to my childhood home in between those trips!
Hey, your feet would have been dirty too if you had been painting in that mess all day…..besides I did not realize I was being photographed and don’t recall signing a release for it’s use. Also, the before pictures are not messy as I remember the room. I think Alex ‘dressed’ the room for the before pictures.
No Dad is really was that bad! I don’t think it was so weird when I actually last lived there, but after shoving all the stuff I brought back from Brooklyn into there it really was a mess.
Just curious, what color and brand of paint did you use? I’m also looking at shades of gray for a room in my house, and I love the way your color came out.
Hey Rachael, I’m in Hawaii right now for another ten days, but when I’m back home I can look! If I don’t get back to you, pop back here and remind me and I’d be so happy to tell you 🙂 I went nuts selecting that color, so I appreciate the compliment!
Love the colors–and the craftiness! I think we’re birds of a feather: While I’m not traveling this fall, I’m renovating an entire 113-year-old house!
I am very eagerly awaiting posts about the house reno! Can’t wait!
Beautiful. Love the greys.
Thanks! You wouldn’t believe how much work went into choosing a simple shade of grey 🙂
Love this, the lemon and grey is great. xx
Thanks Briony! Congrats on starting the new blog… love the title 🙂
What a makeover! Love what you’ve done with the suitcases! And the kitschy bulletin boards add an element of fun to the room!
Thank you so much! I’m really proud of this room makeover 🙂
I LOVE IT! The colours are so fresh and relaxing and i adore that you framed Thai currency as well xo
That’s one of my favorite little details 🙂
I’m just curious….even though this is so old now – but did you ever find out what the paint color was for this?? Maybe you wrote back privately. I love the color!!
So sorry Jillian, I never did. You might be able to show this post to someone at a paint store and I’m sure they will be able to help you out 🙂
You are just so talented!
Thanks Scott! This was a really fun project…