From Crack Den to Dreamy Tent Lounge: A Teen Room Transformation

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:

IMG_5139Like some kind of mutant plaster monster about to be born: IMG_5138At 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:


IMG_5491You can even see the ghost of a playful flower pattern seared into the plaster:

IMG_5494Don’t worry, we told Max, it’s nothing that a weekend of scraping, patching, and priming couldn’t fix. We instructed him to start picking paint colors.

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:


The stuffed puppy makes this scene extra sad.

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
• Ladder
• Scissors
• 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.

IMG_5483Grab 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.

IMG_5572(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.


You gotta love a man who’s got a staple gun on his belt and a staple remover on his t-shirt. And giant rubber boots, for some reason.

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:

IMG_5501You could probably do this project solo, but I highly recommend a duet: One to hang and one to staple. And a small child to take blurry photos of it all:

IMG_5522Continue until all the vertical walls are covered. And of course, be sure to cut and staple around outlets and vents.

PRO-TIP!!  Unless your name is Minnie Pearl, cut the tags and washing instructions off the sheets before you hang them:

IMG_5546STEP 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.

IMG_5605You 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:

IMG_5566IMG_5603We surprised Max with his new room last night. Despite all my globally-inspired metaphors, he declared his room transformed simply from “Crack Den to Modern Loft.” I’ll take it.

IMG_5580IMG_5575IMG_5609View from lying down:

IMG_5597Baby brother photo bomb!


* I’m not sure how a kid born in 2000 knows so much about 1990s crack houses, so as usual, I blame the Internet.


15 thoughts on “From Crack Den to Dreamy Tent Lounge: A Teen Room Transformation

    • This is very timely, because I’ve got a huge jug of Costco* vodka that somebody left at one of our parties, and I can’t get anyone to drink it. Perhaps it’s time to move it from the liquor cabinet to the laundry room.
      * Costco is one of those big warehouse stores where you have to have a membership, and everything comes in 10-gallon containers. Thus the vodka (which isn’t bad) comes in a giant jug with grip handles. Just like laundry detergent!


  1. I did something pretty similar for my 21st birthday party, which was themed a ‘Very Sheikh’ party. I tried for Bedouin tent by pinning sheets, scarves and shawls to the ceiling tiles in the living room to get the tented effect, removing all the furniture and putting mattresses, cushions and lamps on the floor. The guests turned up in more sheets and towels on their heads, except for one try-too-hard female who turned up as a belly dancer (my birthday’s in January!)… Classy, eh? But fun. I think No. 1 son should make maximum use of his extremely cool bedroom; after all, anyone can have paint on the walls, but a tent is a whole lot more interesting.


    • Kate, I wish I was that ambitious at 21. When I was about the same age (maybe 19 or 20), I covered my entire bedroom in aluminum foil. Little artsy-fartsy me thought it was pretty cool, until the first night I opened the windows and had to listen to the foil rattle all night. Friends told me it was like sleeping inside a TV dinner (the old-fashioned oven kind, not the microwave kind!).

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Kids and tents are a natural fit. Our youngest two (3 and 5) share a bunk bed and love to drape a blanket over the side and hide inside their “fort” for hours doing who-knows-what. I love the coziness and warmth… after we did Max’s room I’m tempted to do the same in the adult bedroom, which doesn’t leak but is cursed with nasty wallpaper on walls and ceiling. This is the last thing I see when I go to bed at night and it makes me sad.


      • Oh no!! Don’t do SAD…get down to that thrift store immediately…you have the solution!…or re-paper. NO! I have it…turn your bed into a 4-poster and drape voile all over…your very own cosy FORT!


  2. Not to be That Guy, but you changed the bulb for a non-incandescent first, right? I’ve accidentally touched some blazing hot light fixtures.


    • Mary Ann — you’re absolutely right, and in the original version of this post, I actually wrote a couple of lines about switching the bulbs or putting the cover over the light first (ours has a thick glass cover). Lately, I’ve been trying to write shorter posts and edited this part out. I even had a cool picture of Scott replacing the light cover to go with it — due to high exposure, it looks like he’s playing Enrico Fermi and holding a chunk of plutonium in his hand. Safety first!


  3. A feature, not a bug: When the roof leaks in the future, you can simply remove the affected sheet, throw it in the washer, and air dry it to release humidity into the winter-dry interior air.


  4. Pingback: You Win This Round, Babushka: Get Your Life Back By Painting Over Wallpaper | projectophile

  5. Pingback: The Adult Bedroom Goes Beyond the Pale | projectophile

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