Marcus & Cooper's Vintage Military Room

Kids Room Tour

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Name: Marcus and Cooper
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Room Size: approx 10' x 10'

With seven children, you could imagine that Joy Dolan doesn't even have time to breathe, let alone decorate this fantastic vintage military room for two of her boys. In fact, she had started priming the walls when the family got a call that their new baby was ready for adoption, and that put an eighteen month delay on the project. But, true to her original vision, Joy got back to work as soon as she could and created this unique and special space for her kids.

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Vintage military works great as a theme because it allows a lot of leeway in decorating choices. We love the poster Joy found at a local surplus store, and simply painting some elements with stenciled numbers gave them a mid-century military feel. Dress up clothes are cleverly stored in a trunk DIY-ed to look like a retro foot locker. We asked Joy where she got her inspiration and how she pulled together this great room.

How would you describe the look and feel of this room?
This room is one of my favorite projects to date. It manages to feel fun and relaxing all at once. It is very "boy-like," but not juvenile. I find myself drawn to spend time in there, even by myself.

How did you decide on the vintage military theme?
That's kind of a funny story and I wrote about that process in more detail on my blog. Actually, since the time we adopted, my boys had been waiting their turn for a room re-do. I first did the babies' room and they were next in line. It was such an internal tug of war between the part of me as "mama" that wants to let her children express themselves without adult interference, and the part of me as "decorator" who wants to obsess on every detail, paying special care to a classic, stylish design, shunning any cheesy-themed items. We toyed around with different ideas and finally landed on "army." I did some soul searching and then some inspiration searching was able to come up with a plan which would make both sides of myself and, more importantly, my sweet boys, very happy. We adjusted the "army" theme to "military," and then took it a step further to "vintage military." This way I could steer clear of camouflage comforters and matching valances and play around with industrial, weathered items. The boys LOVED it. PHEW!

What is your favorite piece or element?
That's a hard call. I love the wood wall because it adds warmth and something special to the space. I love the faux industrial pendant because of the bargain it was. And I love the rug because it brings a bright, playfulness to the room.

What was the biggest challenge decorating this room?
Without a doubt, space. It is not a large room and needs to house two 9 year old boys, their sports gear, as well as an obscene amount of LEGOs. The closet is tiny but we were able to build shelves to keep all their clothing out of the way and eliminate the need for a dresser (which would take up precious wall space). The layout of the room and window placement doesn't allow many options when using a bunk bed. Unless I wanted to block windows or take away any remaining floor space, the bed had to go on the wall closest to the entry door. I wasn't thrilled about it being the first thing you see when walking in, but I actually don't mind it now that it's there. It created almost a walkway effect into the main "play space" if that makes sense.

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What do your friends say about the room?
People always comment on how great it turned out— that makes me very happy. It also surprises friends how much space we were able to create for the boys to be able to play. It is a small room but doesn't feel like it. They also enjoy all the vintage elements, which add a lot of character. I get a lot of positive feedback about the wood wall and the black wall. People will sometimes express their shock that they "actually like" the black wall! That always makes me laugh. I LOVE it.

The wood paneled wall is a great focal point. Was it difficult to install?
Thank you! It wasn't hard; it only took a few hours. We purchased some wood flooring and just nailed the tongue part of the "tongue and groove" pieces directly to the wall. Cutting the pieces to size was the most tedious part (my husband would tell you). I didn't want it to overwhelm the room and only took it up around 2/3 of the wall intentionally.

You have a lot of vintage-looking elements in the room. Where did you find them, and did you DIY any of them?
The industrial pendant over the reading chair was a DIY I did using a Home Depot clamp light. The 2 smaller lamps on the bunk beds were made from similar, smaller clamp lights as well. The trunk, small gold stool, and small dresser were all hacked using spray paint and new hardware.

I also hit up a surplus store in L.A. and found the reproduction posters. I scored some vintage-looking baskets, boxes, and accessories at HomeGoods.

If money were no object, what's your dream source?
All Modern, DwellStudio, Restoration Hardware, Blue Dot, Room and Board, Rejuvenation, Jayson, HUSET, Land of Nod, Etsy, Pepe's Thrift, Craigslist (money or not, I LOVE a bargain.)

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Source List:

  • Bunkbed: IKEA (discontinued)
  • Dresser: IKEA Rast, painted, new hardware added [linked when possible]
  • Stool: IKEA Marius stool, painted brass
  • Lamps: DIY (Home Depot), instructions here
  • Chair: Target Threshold "Herringbone"
  • Rug: Safavieh "Chelsea"
  • Trunk: DIY spray painted and added numbers
  • Clock: IKEA Pugg Clock
  • Blinds: Home Depot
  • Shelving: Salvaged wood, Home Depot brackets
  • Accessories/Art: HomeGoods, IKEA, Surplus store, Target, vintage
  • Wood wall: Home Depot
  • Bedding: IKEA, HomeGoods
  • Paint: white: Martha Stewart "Popcorn," black: "Universal Black"

Thanks, Joy!

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(Image credits: Joy Dolan)

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Beth is a writer, crafter, DIYer and design enthusiast, living in L.A. with her husband, 2 young boys, and a large mutt named Caesar. She loves fonts, yoga, matcha lattes, and home-grown tomatoes and is not shy about being a consummate nerd.