Before and After: I Helped My Parents Give Their Decades-Old Bedroom a Modern New Look

published Aug 7, 2022
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Before: bedroom with green loveseat in front of a bed. The bed has no headboard and a white duvet cover.
Credit: Kelly Dawson

A simple question started it all. When I entered my parents’ bedroom last summer, I asked them to answer these few words: “What’s going on in here?” They’d probably asked this of my bedroom years ago, long before I realized that a side chair didn’t have to be accessorized with a pile of laundry. But the tables had turned! It’s funny how that happens.

Credit: Kelly Dawson

I’m lucky to have the type of parents who always put the needs of their kids ahead of their own. But in the case of their bedroom, their comfort had been kicked down the family priority list for far too long. They hadn’t updated their furniture for decades — I won’t say exactly when, but Duran Duran was still a fixture on the pop charts — and the accessories surrounding them hadn’t moved in ages. The paint was dull, the mattress was lumpy, and the linens were… actually, thankfully, the Parachute linens were new.

Credit: Kelly Dawson

In response to my question, my mom probably said something like, “I know, I know, we’re working on it.” Little did she know this would not be the end of the conversation.

I don’t think my parents’ situation is that uncommon. Like many in the Baby Boomer generation, my parents raised three kids, worked full-time jobs, and maintained social lives with a tight group of friends-turned-family, so I understood that their time-capsule of a bedroom was something that they probably always wanted to tackle but never found time to do. Any resources that they had went to other concerns.

Credit: Kelly Dawson

It wasn’t until the pandemic forced them to spend much more time in their bedroom (and their persistent daughter did a little needling) that they realized the best answer to “What’s going on in here?” is “Who knows, but let’s change it.”

No one talks about this aspect of overhauls much, but there’s a whole prep phase that happens before you can even move old furniture out. My parents and I spent many weekends just clearing full drawers and shelves of things to either keep, donate, recycle, or trash. It was helpful to have a running playlist of their favorite songs to choose from during this process, from Motown to classic rock, since we had to keep our spirits high during “No, you don’t actually need that thing you haven’t seen in years” discussions. It wasn’t easy for my parents to part with certain items at first, and then we got into a groove. Strategically recommending shows featuring The Home Edit and Marie Kondo helped, too!

Credit: Kelly Dawson

By the time we were ready to bring in new furniture, I got in touch with Living Spaces to take advantage of their free design services. My mom is a big fan of Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, and since this purge-and-refresh process wasn’t exactly her idea of a good time, I wanted her to find some excitement wherever we could. I also knew that having a designer step in and share their thoughts on new furniture would be easier than if I did it alone. After all, everyone knows that imparting advice as an adult to your parents is tricky business, and having a team of pros as backup kept the project in motion. 

Credit: Kelly Dawson

Living Spaces’ production designer Channa Alvarez worked with us on figuring out my mom’s preferred style over a few online consultations — which was neutral, bright, and coastal — and then recommended pieces based on her preferences. We needed a pair of matching nightstands and dressers, and when Alvarez picked out these white ones with black hardware from Nate and Jeremiah’s collection, they were the perfect look and scale for the space. (Living Spaces was kind enough to gift them to us.) Alvarez also shared the accessories and paint colors she’d recommend buying to complement those pieces so that we had everything we needed to wrap things up and give my mom’s traditional tastes a more contemporary spin.

Credit: Kelly Dawson

My mom and I bought an upholstered headboard from One Kings Lane on sale that matched the nightstands perfectly, and then purchased a Living Spaces loveseat for the foot of my parents’ bed.

We found the bedside lights at Lamps Plus, after quite a while of looking for a lamp that had an extra bendable light for reading — my mom’s main request. My brother came over when the new mattress my parents bought was delivered to help us install it, and a friend introduced us to available painters when it seemed like everyone was booked for the foreseeable future. They painted the ceiling in “Pure White” and the walls in “Natural Linen,” both from Sherwin-Williams. 

Credit: Kelly Dawson

When it was time for art and accessories, my parents and I cruised the selection at Homegoods and Target, where my dad said something that still makes me laugh: “I had no idea that these stores have everything! You can have an empty home and fill it up here, no problem!”

Dad: Welcome to the fan club.

We found the new duvet, tufted ottoman, tray, clear vase, and most of the pillows at Homegoods, and I got the multicolored loveseat pillow at World Market. My dad mounted the mirror from Bed Bath & Beyond between their closet and bathroom, and my mom took on a formidable task as the final touch: She hemmed and sewed all of the linen window treatments herself.

We didn’t change the years-old carpets because that is a big, expensive job and my parents decided to wait and replace all of the flooring in every bedroom of the house at a later date. We didn’t mount the television, mainly because my dad previously brought it into the backyard to watch the Super Bowl with his buddies and wanted the option of doing that again without buying another TV. But we did accomplish the main goal of updating their bedroom after about a year of on-and-off progress, of which the total cost (not including the gifted furniture) came in at around $7,000. 

Credit: Kelly Dawson

I’m happy that my parents have an updated bedroom, since they deserve a calming retreat to watch Dateline in. And since we’ve started this project, they’ve become more open to the idea of doing even more upgrades throughout the house. I’m particularly proud of the fact that they’re decluttering masters now — there’s quite a ruthlessness to the way my mom tosses my childhood artwork away these days!

“It’s a comfortable and really relaxing room,” my mom says. “I had some sticker shock, since we basically didn’t buy anything for this room for many years, and it was hard for me to change. But I’m glad we did this together.”

And after many years of my parents putting their kids first, I’m glad I got to help them put a little time and effort into their own space.