For much of my adult life, I’ve had the same recurring dream; I’m in a big house and I discover a secret passage or a secret room. It’s always quite thrilling and I always wake up feeling vaguely disappointed that there is absolutely no chance that my 1970s brick 3 x 2 in Perth suburbia will have a secret passage. Once I looked up what it means and apparently discovering a secret room symbolises your neglected, unfulfilled potential or an undiscovered part of yourself, which sounds about right.
During one of my DIY projects in the joke that has been the year 2020, I learned that my almost five-year-old son has been literally LIVING MY DREAM. Earlier this year, Dulux asked me if I would like to collaborate on some content with them by painting a room or project in my house to share the word about their new limited edition colouring-in book by Kylie Howarth, and I said yes, but asked if I could make over the guest room of my mum and dad’s house instead. I took Little Nerd with me to my parents’ house and we went upstairs so I could get his opinion on paint colours. We got to the top of the staircase and I said to him that I was going to use the toilet first.
My son, as I believe all children under the age of seven are wont to do, followed me into the upstairs bathroom and looked around him in wonderment. “This house has THREE toilets?!” he said in amazement.
I blinked at him (while sitting on the toilet, let’s be honest). “Did you not know there is a bathroom up here? You’ve been coming to this house since you were a baby.”
“No!” he cried happily, beaming at the vanity like it was made of chocolate (actually old, 90s white laminate). “I did not even KNOW there was a bathroom here! This is amazing.” He was literally living my cool recurring dream and he was so excited I actually felt a pang of jealousy. (Half an hour later he let me know, “Mummy, I’m just going to go do a wee in that awesome bathroom. Ok?”)
So, in this post I’m going to share with you the makeover of the bedroom that belongs to this awesome secret bathroom – my mum and dad’s main guest bedroom. Let me give you a ‘before’ photo of what the bedroom was looking like (not quite awesome yet) and give you a little house history.
My mum and dad extended their old 1950s house back in the 90s with a second-storey addition, with the aim of having guest rooms for my mother’s family from Germany to visit. Our German relatives spent a lovely lazy summer here that I still fondly remember as a kid, but after that we had guests so infrequently that these upstairs extension rooms mostly didn’t get used.
No-one ever went to the second floor, except my dad sometimes to get books from his new study. In fact my sisters and I were terrified of going upstairs when we were little. The staircase is dark jarrah with wood panelled walls, which is handsome but also gives serious Cluedo vibes. I always felt like there was a Freddy Krueger-style murderer waiting at the top of the stairs for me. So real was the fear that every time one of my sisters or I had to go upstairs on our own for something at night-time, like to use the computer in the study for our homework, we got in the habit of letting the whole house know. “I’M GOING UPSTAAAAIRS,” you’d shout bravely from the foot of the stairs so everyone would hear. Just in case you never came down again.
Then I became a teenager, and when I was 15, I cottoned onto the fact that one of the guest bedrooms upstairs was really the biggest and nicest bedroom in the whole house (apparently I’m a slow learner) and I got over my fear of The Upstairs (mostly) and moved all my stuff in. It was the early 2000s. I had a double bed and a big bedroom in the trees and I felt so cool. I put my gymkhana ribbons on the wall and my stuffed animals above the bed. I loved to play Backstreet Boys and Five while standing in front of that huge mirrored wardrobe, plucking away my eyebrows into the shape of sperms.
With time, my younger sisters also cottoned onto the fact that I had the biggest, best bedroom in the house (like myself, also slow learners, possibly genetics) and started to drop little, subtle, narky hints about how they couldn’t wait for me to move out of home, mostly by saying things like, “I can’t wait until you move out of home.” They had this plan where Tash would take my bedroom, and Simone would take Tash’s bedroom (next to her own) and turn it into her private music room/hangout space. But it was YEARS until I moved out, when I was 24.
The night before the Great Move Out, I’d spent hours packing all my clothes, books and things into about 25 boxes, bags and chests that sat in my parents’ hallway, ready to be shifted into our cars for the move. I woke up bleary-eyed and thought of all the stuff I had to move. The hallway was empty. “I’ve already moved everything into all the cars,” announced Tash. “What time are you leaving?” Lust for my giant bedroom disguised as sisterly benevolence. By the end of the day Tash had not only driven stuff to my new house but had visited Bunnings, bought paint and painted my once soft blue room; sloshing up one coat of white on the ceiling (the ceiling had been blue too) beige on the walls with a vibrant burgundy-eggplant feature wall (it was 2009, after all – that colour was everywhere!) she had also moved all her furniture in (including her double bed up the stairs) and fully decorated. Real eager beaver, staking her territory with fairy lights and candles from Dusk.
It was her bedroom until she moved out too, and then it became a guest room again… but it was never really nicely styled; more a place where a whole bunch of bits and pieces in my parents’ house came to amalgamate. And this is what it had been looking like for several years. Mum had been talking about wanting to repaint it and do it up it for so long, so when Dulux asked if there was a DIY project I wanted to tackle that they could supply their Wash & Wear paint for, this was what came to mind. My mum is so nice, and does so much for everyone, but especially me. Mr Nerd is away for work frequently, and my mum steps in to help me with the kids A LOT. I would lose my sanity without her support.
My mum loves colour and was happy to trust me with picking something. Initially I was actually looking at a deep yellow, ochre kind of colour. I’ve been itching to use this colour on a project somewhere but upon thinking about it more, I realise it wouldn’t have worked. Too close in colour to the floorboards (which are pine, with quite strong orange tones).
In the end we settled on Dulux Duck Egg Blue in half-strength, which felt like a nice complement to the floorboards, the rug (from Early Settler) and furniture, like the oatmeal-coloured bedhead. And after much painting and some restyling, here’s what it looks like now!
I’ve already shared this room makeover on my Instagram, and one of the questions I got on there the most was, ‘What does half-strength paint mean?’ It basically just means the depth of the colour. Full strength paint will be a deeper colour; half-strength means less strong or lighter (you can also get a paint shade in quarter-strength). Half-strength doesn’t necessarily mean a better choice for your particular room. It just means the colour will be less intense. With the Dulux Duck Egg paint we picked, a little bit more white was added into the tin so the hue is not as strong. Because paint often comes across as more dark and rich on the walls than it does on the swatch (especially in a big room, like this one) half-strength felt like a safe option to me. I’m often surprised to see that paint translates as being darker once it’s up on the wall. This room looks nicer in real life than in my photos! Now, I totally regret not taking these photos in the morning when the room gets more sun, but I was so knackered by the end of this and just in that “I just want it DONE” mode!
My sisters helped paint as well and so did Little Nerd, in between ‘awesome bathroom’ breaks. I did the skirting boards and doorframes as well which made a big difference. I know there will be some of you who are very anti-painting timber, but in this room I think it was the right choice. I do like timber skirtings and doorframes in a lot of interiors, but in this room white skirting boards kind of extends the space and makes the room seem bigger and brighter.
I also got a lot of questions about painting this old pine sideboard, which my parents had owned since the 80s. I felt like one big piece of furniture in here would work better in this room than lots of smaller random pieces so we moved it up the stairs. But with the floorboards and the little bookcase – and the door is a dark, strong wood as well – it was too much orange-y pine so it got a bit of white paint to break it up.
The pine bookcase we shifted in here also got a lick of chalk paint (Annie Sloan Svenska Blue) too.
Loads of people asked me if I had to sand down the wooden sideboard, or any kind of timber furniture, before paint. The short answer is no – IF you use a chalk paint. That’s the most wonderful thing about chalk paint – most can be applied to metal, wood, even melamine and you don’t have to sand and prime! This is why I love chalk paint so much. Who wants to strip, sand, prime and paint when they don’t have to?
I did this room makeover during that weird kind of pre-lockdown limbo we had in Perth where cases of coronavirus had just started being reported over east, but there were no reported cases or restrictions in Perth yet. So all the shops were still open, and you could still go, but if you did you just felt sort of grimy and edgy. Did anyone else go grocery shopping and feel like their palms were itching with germs?
So it seemed a good time to try a different approach to styling and decorating this room – rather than shopping, I didn’t buy a thing. My parents would call my approach, “Using what we have” however I prefer the slightly less dull millennial phrase, “Shopping your home.” I shopped my home and my parents’ to style the room using furniture, art and pieces we already had. I thought it would be a fun challenge. An iso challenge, if you will. Does it look a little mish-mash? Yes. Are there style ‘rules’ that have certainly been broken, like the bedside lamps being different heights and the rug-to-bed placement? Yes. Would it go viral on Pinterest? No. But if you were a guest staying there; would you feel like this was a welcoming, pleasant room? I would.
Most importantly, my mum LOVES her new guest room. She sent photos to all her family in Germany so they can see their quarters next time they visit (when that happens!)
I used some of her German art in the gallery wall, which she loved – she has already asked numerous times if I can do her own bedroom next and do another crazy gallery wall. I’m beginning to think that crazy gallery walls are becoming my signature.
Thanks to Dulux for providing their fantastic Wash & Wear paint for this story. I’ve been using this paint for both indoor and outdoor use for AGES and love it. Maya x