Friday, January 16, 2015

Bedroom transformations with literary themes

HALLIE EPHRON: I loved Susan's post last week on transforming her son's bedroom into a Harry Potter room. 

Here, with my kids grown and gone, we've had our own bedroom transformation. My husband's "office" had filled up with piles of yard sale finds, including on and beneath a massive oak desk where he was supposed to work. The room could only be navigated with great care, tiptoeing between the piles.

Finally he agreed (aka caved) to get the mess under control and transform the room into a comfy bedroom for a visiting daughter.

 The process took from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The desk, by the way, could not even be give away on Craigslist so it got carted away in the trash. For some of us (me watching; him doing and saying NO DON'T HELP ME!) it was painful. But with a little help from IKEA (bookcases) and West Elm (bed), look how nice it turned out! 

In the end, he only threw out about six box-loads of stuff) because the bed is a magic storage bed that lifts up to reveal... junk. Out of sight at least.

Said daughter was gobsmacked when she saw the room.  She may even have cried.

I know, it's not a Harry Potter room, but if I were making a themed bedroom I might follow the lead of the spectacularly situated Sylvia Beach Hotel where I spent a weekend with the Oregon Writer's Colony on the coast in Nye Beach, Oregon. Its rooms honor authors.

Here's the J. K. Rowling room.

And there's an Agatha Christie Room with a shelf of her books and  a clue from each mystery hidden somewhere in the room. Also rooms for Alice Walker, Amy Tan, Dr. Seuss, Mark Twain, Hemingway... and more. 

I always thought the hotel was named for a place, but it turns out Sylvia Beach was a person. She opened the bookshop Shakespeare and Company on the Left Bank on Paris shortly after WWI and kept it open until the Nazi occupation in WWII, and helped many writers escape fro Paris. She was passionate about books, and became friends with writers like Hemingway, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, James Joyce, and many more. 

According to Goody Cable, who co-owns the Sylvia Beach hotel, Ms. Beach's unsung claim to literary history is that she edited and published Joyce’s "Ulysses."  With the help of her sisters, Joyce's benefactor, Harriet Weaver, and various authors, she smuggled the book into the US, Canada, and England to bookstores and private buyers. It was considered erotica and banned.  She saw little or no monies for her efforts and got little credit.

How appropriate that a whole hotel whose bedrooms honor writers is named for her!

So today's question: What about your room makeovers. Done in a day, a week, a month? Painful,  gratifying, expensive, fraught with potholes?? 


  1. An Agatha Christie room sounds so perfect!
    No room makeovers here . . . if I had a room I could actually make over, I would turn it into a library. But for now the two extra rooms stay bedrooms for the grandbabies so that they know they always have their own space here. The candles stay lit in the windows and they look for them whenever they come. All that is far too special to consider any sort of change . . . .

  2. That's just where I am, Joan. I want comfy guest rooms so the kids and their kids WANT to stay with us. Too special, and going by too fast.

  3. Same here--it's why I wanted a home of my own--to make a place for family and friends to come.

    But the decorating--sometimes took years and still in progress. Live with something for awhile, then see how it could be changed to better suit my vision--the windows stayed curtainless for 2 years until I spotted a fabric that was meant for me on ebay--. Every color, everything hung on the walls has meaning--and my home is a place where you can sit down, put your feet up, and relax.

  4. Beautiful, Hallie. And I'd love the Agatha Christie room, of course, but I think Dr. Seuss would be cool too!

    I think we've redone every room in our house at least once since we moved in (1998). I am not kidding. Latest project was turning the downstairs back closet into a powder room. My daughter did the paint job. Was going to do fish, but they didn't turn out so she did stars. Cost of materials: $2,000 or so. Having a bathroom on every floor of the house? Priceless.

    Our next makeover will be turning my son's room back into an office for me. You know, once he's out of it, of course.

  5. Oh Mary, my life changed when I converted my kids playroom into MY office... up to then I'd been 'working' in a corner of our bedroom. A writer really does need a room of her own.

  6. It's a beautiful room, Hallie, and I would have cried also. so sweet.

    I have been fascinated by the history and stories about Sylvia Beach and all she did, including Shakespeare and Company. There are several books about her and the "lost generation," if you're interested in reading more about her.

    I love the idea of a literary theme room and am in awe of what Susan and Noel did for Mattie. It would be hard to choose a favorite author for me to theme a room around, but I'm thinking I'd be happiest in a children's magical room, maybe Peter Pan.

  7. Terrific. Looks wonderful--and I applaud your IKEA prowess!

    And think how many kids come home to see their parents have turned their empty-nest rooms into NOT their rooms. SO this is a wonderful switch.

  8. That's a great transformation, Hallie. For our oldest daughter's 12th birthday, my husband and I completely redecorated her room in one day while she was at school. We had planned it for several weeks, bought everything we needed and kept it hidden. Then on her birthday we took her to school and went to work. Our house has been a work in progress as my husband is a contractor. As is usual, the contractor's house is never finished. So, he hung closet doors for her, we painted the walls, he trimmed out the windows and we hung new curtains to match her new bedding. We weren't quite finished when it was time to pick up the girls from school, so I had to "run a couple of errands" with our daughters while he finished up, but we got it done! And it was a major success. She cried and was thrilled with the updated room that was all for her.

  9. I find that the most difficult part is getting rid of the "junk" that tends to pile up so you can actually start transforming. For me that can take years. I turned one daughter's bedroom into an office. If I didn't have to share a bedroom with a husband, I'd love to do an Edith Wharton room.

  10. Hallie, love the transformation!!! Very clever, especially the bed.

    As for makeovers, oh, golly, we've "made over" most of our old house over the last twenty years. In fact, we could have qualified for an episode of The Old House.

    But favorites: turning my d

    aughter's bedroom into MY office. That was more than ten years ago and I still love it.

    And the kitchen. We gutted it, moved walls and windows, threw out everything except for the beautiful cobalt blue porcelain sink we'd bought soon after we moved it. I love love love my kitchen, and it's been almost eight years since the big remodel.

    Next big project: the joint downstairs office. This room is the blight on my existence, and I just can't pull myself together to tackle at least my half of it. This year I'm doing it!

  11. Bev, I'm guessing it's a moment she won't ever forget. Talk about a tangible expression of LOVE.

    Grananne: So what's in an Edith Wharton room besides fresh flowers?

  12. I love that bed that lifts up. I could really use that in my life

  13. My office had been in serious need of a sprucing up, including paint and new carpet, but I'd put it off because I couldn't face moving several bookcases of books and a full credenza.

    Last spring while I was in Arizona my son-in-law and my son did a complete make-over so that I came back to a fabulous room--lovely new lamps, butter yellow walls, new carpet... perfect.
    I still love it.

  14. I love that storage space under the bed!

    I SHALL be gratified and have fun making over my office in 2015. :-) That's my official affirmation on the endeavor. I have a feeling it will take most of the year -- I plan to go through everything I own and do some major purging.

    I LOVE the Sylvia Beach Hotel, Hallie. Cara Black will be the guest instructor at the writing conference this year.

  15. Our house has 3 bedrooms: one for husband and me, one designated junk room, and one guest room. The junk room is full of my husband's exercise equipment and guns. The guest room is full of my grown son who is living with us while working on a college degree. My office is a corner of the kitchen. I should have followed my instincts when we moved here: one small house for hubbie and one small house for me!

  16. Hallie, love your makeover and especially that storage bed.

    I always kept a bed and dresser for any of my kids who visited in one half of Ben's huge home office and took the other extra bedroom for my office and fiber studio. Then, my youngest had to move back home when he couldn't find a permanent job after getting his Ph.D. (Turned out to be a blessing since I wound up having multiple cancer surgeries and he was a huge help.) But when he moved all his belongings from a large two-bedroom apartment with storage room in the basement into our house, he piled most of them in my office and so many on my desk that it broke in half. With a permanent faculty job now, he's getting ready to move out in a couple of months and promises that he will have my office and studio looking beautiful and useful before Mother's Day. I'm looking forward to that.

    I now have all my kids living here after many years of having them scattered around the country. So I'm rethinking that guest-room half of Ben's office, too.

  17. What we do for our kids! ... and what they do for us. My husband's office makeover wouldn't have happened without our son-in-law and my daughter--encouragement AND muscle.

  18. My computer has been giving me fits, and I lost my comments that I had carefully typed out. So, here is a condensed version.

    Hallie, I would love to stay in the Sylvia Beach Hotel. Came across her and Shakespeare & Company a while back.

    You did a great job on the redo of the room, and what a perfect bed! I'm working toward a nice guest bedroom space, too.

    I am still in the middle of redoing a large part of our house. Living room, foyer, and small library/office painted and refloored. Now, I have to get furniture back in and decide what pictures to use on walls. I do know that my large framed Canterbury Tales print will finally have a home in the library/office. I would like to make a reading corner in there also, to go with the built-in bookshelves.

    Work on bedrooms commences in February. More furniture moving, etc. It does seem that most of my decorating or room arranging revolves around my books, which ties in nicely with my favorite quote from Anna Quindlen. “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.”

  19. There are wonderful books about Sylvia Beach. Americans in Paris by Charles Glass is about American expats in Paris during WWII, including Sylvia Beach, Letters of Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare and Company by Sylvia Beach and Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation by Noel Fitch. They are available from B&N, most probably Powell Bookstore in Portland and probably Amazon. And, of course, your neighborhood library might very well have some or all.

  20. Ah, the books. Sigh. Yes, that IS what it's about.

    Mary Pat, thanks for the titles.

  21. Looks so lovely! Thanks for sharing! I love your blog! Greetings, Storage New Addington Ltd.