Before and After: A $36 Project Turns a Plain Bedroom into a Colorful Wonderland

updated May 27, 2020
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Glow in the dark stars used to be the marker of an ultra cool kid’s room, but nowadays these spaces have gotten even cooler—especially when your mom is an artist, like Julia Whitney Barnes. Julia typically works on wall and floor paintings for public and private venues, but this time Julia put her talents to use on her daughter’s bedroom using only materials she already had. 

Previously, Julia and her family had been living in Brooklyn, but the need for two art studios and enough space to parent and raise kids led them to head to the Hudson Valley. There, they found a charming 1917 home. They removed the carpet, refinished the wood floors, and painted over the “split pea green” walls. But other than furnishing, they didn’t do much to their young daughter’s room. “Our son was born almost two years ago and they pretty happily share the room now. It is the smallest room in our house, yet so often we find the whole family (including our dog piled) in here,” Julia says. The magnetism of the room was one of a few reasons that it became the perfect candidate for a little makeover. 

Because of the pandemic, there was plenty of extra time for art, and an idea that sprung from these creative periods ended up developing into the initial inspiration for the mural. “The walls are all original plaster in here and have a strange texture from their 100 years of life and I wanted to disguise the irregular surface and make the rather small room appear larger by accentuating the high ceilings,” Julia says. “Since the days were all starting to blur together, I was motivated to do something that would have an impact on our daily lives and bring joy to a somber time.”

The project took a week from beginning to end. Julia first did a small collage to plot out the colors and shapes for her mural, then made the painting come to life all on her own. All of the paint came from Julia’s existing inventory, so the only money she spent was on a fresh can of polyurethane sealer—just $36.

Julia used a mix of bold pinks, blues, purples, greens, and yellows from brands like Farrow and Ball, Benjamin Moore, Behr, and Glidden Paints. Following the color, she painted on the polyurethane as a matte top coat to ensure the mural would stay vibrant and last longer. In the closet area, Julia incorporated a chest of drawers with colors that matched those in the mural. A cozy little bed from Sprout Kids in one corner of the room feels like it’s in the middle of a magical garden.

Julia’s mural project totally transformed the basic room, turning the walls into art. “I love how the painting brings new life to the room and our whole family’s life,” Julia says. “It is also really satisfying that it was made with materials just laying around,” says Julia.

Inspired? Submit your own project here.