Here at the Babushka House, we’ve entered that sweet spot of settling in, where our home is now supporting basic life functions. Like the successful colonization of a distant planet – we’ve got oxygen, (grounded) electricity, heat, water, food and the ability to cook it. We can take a hot shower and and use the toilet without fear of falling through the floor. Scott and I are now quite confident in our family’s chances for survival in this strange landscape of gold-flecked wallpaper and off-pink bathrooms.
And just when it seemed safe to start the long climb up Maslow’s Hierarchy of (Domestic) Needs, to start dreaming of art and bookshelves… we got an expensive surprise.
You may recall from our first house tour that the future bedroom of Max (age 14) had an unsettling bulge in the wallpaper:
Like some kind of mutant plaster monster about to be born: At first we ignored it, blamed it on faulty glue or obese wrestling spiders. We let Max pull down all the wallpaper, to reveal two or three additional, very ancient, layers of paper and glue:
But then on the first rainy day, our worst fears came dribbling down the wall – a leaky roof – so old that it needs to be completely torn off and replaced. And worst of all, the work couldn’t start until Spring. There was no sense in repairing that wall before the roof was sealed. So, after making such a big deal of Max FINALLY getting his own room, this is where he slept:
Before you call Child Protective Services on us, know that it was perfectly safe. Just painfully ugly. Max, never one to complain, joked that it was fun… “like sleeping in a crack house from the 1990s.”* Ooof.
But here at Projectophile, we never let rotting infrastructure get in the way of style. My original idea was to create an exotic opium den, with colorful sheets of alternating, dizzying patterns, maybe a few velvety pillows tossed haphazardly on the floor. Upon further reflection, I realized that opium den is just an romantic phrase for crack house, and perhaps not appropriate for a young man on the cusp of adolescence. Using crisp white sheets, I devised a cheap and fun way to to transform Max’s room from Crumbling Crack Den to Airy Bedouin Tent Lounge.
• Flat White Bed Sheets (or a different color, if you’re feeling frisky)
• Staple Gun
• Two-Armed Helper
STEP ONE – SCAVENGE THE FABRIC: Technically, you don’t have to use bedsheets. But you do need yards and yards of fabric. And unless you’ve got a Jo-Ann Fabrics coupon for 97% off, head to the bedding section at your favorite neighborhood thrift store – preferably one where items are least likely to be pockmarked with cigarette burns or… ahem… protein stains.
Grab as many flat white sheets as you can find… the thicker the better. If possible, examine them for stains before you leave. Most of mine were marked as either $1 or $2 a sheet, plus everything with an orange tag was 50% off.
First, pull off the thrift store tags and staples. You don’t want anyone to know your secret.
(OPTIONAL STEP 1.2): If you’re not entirely comfortable with the smell of your thrifted sheets, by all means throw them in the wash. I skipped this step because: 1) my store washes everything first, and 2) we still have no dryer.
(OPTIONAL STEP 1.3): Iron the sheets. I also skipped this step because 1) I’m not sure where my iron is, and 2) I’m lazy. But it would probably look much nicer if I did.
STEP 2 – HANG THE WALLS: Like any project, we start with the easiest step. Find a boring, flat wall. Start at the bottom: hold the sheet so that the bottom edge of the fabric meets the top of the baseboards.
Shoot a staple in about every 3 feet. We found it easier to staple the bottom, then pull the sheet up and staple the top. Don’t worry about getting all the way to the ceiling in this step. But if you found some king-sized sheets, go as far up the ceiling as you can:
PRO-TIP!! Unless your name is Minnie Pearl, cut the tags and washing instructions off the sheets before you hang them:
STEP 3 – HANG THE CEILING: This is the step that, if done correctly, will transform your space from a refugee camp into dreamlike, billowy marshmallow. Starting in the middle of the room, staple the end of one sheet to the wall, a few inches below the ceiling. Drape the sheet across to the parallel wall and staple on the other side.
For an extreme tent-like feel, you could leave the entire sheet drooping across the middle of the room. However, we found that stapling the top sheet to the ceiling every five feet still made the room feel like the underside of a cumulus during a high-pressure system, while still being able to open the door.
You may also have a ceiling-mounted light fixture to deal with, and I strongly suggest that you drape the sheets over the fixture for great light diffusion – like a full moon on an overcast Spring night, or a smoggy sunrise in L.A. Ours was particularly tricky because of an old string pull. After we secured the sheet, I snipped a tiny hole for the string to fall through:
* I’m not sure how a kid born in 2000 knows so much about 1990s crack houses, so as usual, I blame the Internet.