As a textiles enthusiast (I totally could have invented #ihavethisthingwithtextiles), I love to be surrounded by lots of beautiful stitches, yarns, and fabrics. And yet, in the innermost sanctum of my home—my bedroom—there wasn't a single piece of thread worth even a wag of the eyebrows, let alone a swoon.
When we moved into our home earlier this year, I loved (almost) every room in it. The living room? Love at first sight. The pair of sunrooms that look out onto a small pond? I almost burst into tears when I saw them. The sunken lounge upstairs created when a previous owner built a floor across the living room's vaulted ceiling? Genius, and my sons' favorite play space. I even loved our basement, finished as a pool room-slash-bar-slash-guest-bedroom-slash-sexy-jacuzzi-bathroom that, as I found out later, was once a hangout for Gary Busey. These features and more as part of my weird, wonderful '80s home on Tulsa's rural west side filled me with excitement and anticipation every single time I pulled into my driveway.
But that bedroom, though. It was dark. The carpeting is generic and old. The space has none of the quirk, dramatic angles, or curious details that you find in the rest of the home. No one in my family spent any time here that we didn't absolutely have to. In fact, I dreamed of setting up a mattress in the sunroom downstairs.
I knew I wanted to do something special with this space. So, while we settled into the rest of the house, we loaded in our bulky, matchy-matchy big-box-furniture-store furniture, covered the bed with whatever we could find after the move, and told ourselves we would get around to it.
Sadly, every time I walked into our beautiful front door, this scene is one of the first things I would see.
The brass eyeball lamp made the move with us from our last house, and the weaving was a lucky find at a flea market. These are the items I clung to on the days when I felt especially sad about my bedroom.
I knew my husband and I deserved in a space free of clutter, beautiful in both form and function, and reflective of who we are and aspire to be as a family. I knew things could be better for the space where we kiss good morning and good night.
The Ashleys of Retro Den in Tulsa, Oklahoma, agreed.
I poured out my heart to them about how I was feeling about my bedroom. I confessed that I was having trouble finding even a wink of potential in the space. They listened, asked a few questions, and set up a time to show up at my door to spend some time with me in my space.
What began as a quick lunch and some light soul searching ended in a total bedroom shakedown.
The scale of the furniture doesn't suit the space, they said. Bye bye, furniture.
"Why do you have these kinds of pillows and blankets when you make such beautiful things?" they asked. So out went the generic bedding, and in came some vintage pieces I had stuffed into a closet. As they layered quilts and a wool coverlet over the bed, they gave me some homework: weave and knit blankets for my new space. Because c'mon.
"So...can we look around?" they asked. Into my dresser drawers, hall closets, and spare bedrooms they went, shopping my home for pieces to pull together for a new start for my bedroom. In the absence of all that bloated furniture, we finally had room to play.
This is what the Ashleys did. And they did it in under 45 minutes.
A family heirloom stored in a dresser drawer for safekeeping went onto the wall (temporarily—more about this in a minute). A vintage rug too small for my dining room went under the bed. Rattan stools, a gift from a dear friend, were brought in from upstairs as possible nightstands. The Ashleys styled my walls and dresser using what they found in my garage and guest bedroom and various pockets of storage around the house.
Suddenly, I get to come home to this.
It is such a relief to feel some hope about a space I had begun to believe was a lost cause. Now that I have had some help letting go of what wasn't working and to gather pieces for this space that are meaningful to my family and me, the room doesn't feel dark or uninteresting. Rather, it feels cozy, like a cocoon.
My boys lost their minds. "This looks like a princess's room, or like a bedroom on TV!" my 9-year-old son said. They spend lots of time in the bedroom with me now that the Ashleys have visited. I love all the snuggling we have been doing in the layers of vintage and handmade quilts.
Granted, this view from my bedroom into my textiles studio/sunroom was the same before the Ashleys made the impossible, possible. But now, the studio feels like a continuation of the bedroom, and the bedroom feels like a continuation of the studio—even the living room feels pulled in to what now feels like a conversation. These spaces finally feel like parts of a whole.
As much progress as we were able to make, the room isn't finished. A few of my homework assignments include wrangling my various picture frames, investing in more indoor plants, making some furniture choices for the space, searching for the right vanity mirror, and coming up with a way to hang a quilt as a headboard piece without putting the textile at risk for damage.
As much as I hate painting—the prep work drives me bonkers—with the Ashleys' help, I'm considering it. My goal is to have paint samples in black, navy, and deep forest green to explore in the space within the next week or so.
If the fact that I'm considering painting doesn't convey my enthusiasm about how far this space has come, then I don't think anything will. Painting is the devil's work.
I know what you're thinking. You think that I should have been able to figure this much out about my own bedroom on my own. Perhaps you're right. I make textiles for a living. Why wouldn't it occur to me to try meaningful coverings in this space? Plus, I come from some formal design education—in architecture, no less—and yet I was confounded by this measly little bedroom project.
Looking back, our sticking point was the furniture. We were afraid to let it go. Do people get rid of furniture just because it isn't "working"? How long will it take for us to find (and agree on) new furniture? Our concerns were based on fear. But once we faced the fear, the possibilities of what the space could be for us and for our family became clear.
The Ashleys came over and told us, as disinterested consultants, that the furniture wasn't working. That's what it took. Once we heard those words, we were able to take the leap. And as we delve into our homework projects, they are still pushing us to be brave and to enjoy the possibilities that unfold as a result.
For what it costs us to go to a nice dinner or for what we paid for our last staycation thing (hint: staycations sound like less fun when you love and invest in your very own home), I had two experts show up at my home, transform the room that sets the tone for every single day of my life, and leave me with specific actions I could take starting immediately to continue to improve the space.
As extra help, the Ashleys write a design blog that is updated with ideas and how-tos. There is more about their design and styling services and their shop at retrodentulsa.com.