A theme-decorated room isn’t just for little kids! Toned down a tad, perhaps, or given a sophisticated color palette, any room that’s intended for adults (or the use of the whole family) can be decorated successfully with a chosen theme in mind.
We see a recurring motif or theme decor used most often in the less formal rooms — a kitchen done with a strawberry motif, a sunroom in a tropical safari theme, or a family media room decorated with a big nod to Hollywood style. That’s most likely because many of us are a little insecure or uncertain when it comes to indulging our personal sense of whimsy in a semi-public place, such as a formal living room where we might want to entertain and impress some important guests.
However, if nothing more than uncertainty or caution is all that’s holding you back from decorating your living room with your dazzling collection of penguin collectibles or paperclip sculpture, why not start small to build your confidence? There’s not a thing wrong with testing your taste on a smaller, low-stress decorating job like a powder room before branching out to put your personal stamp on the rest of the home.
Here’s an example of how you might approach decorating a main room with grown-up style, on a very specific theme… in this case, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.
Middle-Aged-Crazy for The Boss
About four years ago, I had the pleasure of decorating one of those spaces that realtors call a “bonus room” — a huge space with loads of potential, over the attached three-car garage of a modern “executive” home. The thirty-something owners wanted a room where they could throw parties, or just enjoy a movie night with friends, without waking their kids whose rooms were in the adjacent wing on the same floor.
Okay, yes, these people had ridiculous amounts of money to spend on their home. And most of us do have to live with a somewhat more down-to-earth budget! But the decorating ideas that we put to work for their “playroom” are easily adapted to any budget: that’s one of the real beauties of creating a theme room. Yes, it’s dandy if you’ve got moola for the top-end designer furniture and accessories… but a theme room is all about creativity and personal style, so you can do it cheaply and still get a great effect.
One reason why I had so much fun with this rich-kid-all-grown-up play room is that the guy was a major Springsteen fan, and that gave us an immediate theme around which to decorate the room.
Of course we incorporated some of the homeowner’svintage own band swag — concert posters and reproductions of concert posters, a collection of concert tickets in a shadow box arrangement, an LP cover from the old E Street era and an 8-by-10 glossy (both autographed!), that kind of thing… There was a great deal of wall space, so we also used some souvenir T-shirts over canvas stretchers to create some custom fabric art, and hung those pieces in several groups.
The floors were covered with a hard-wearing broadloom, with slate-colored cork tile in the bar area. We didn’t want to use ceramic tile because it’s hard on the legs if someone’s standing at the bar in heels for half the night — this was a party room, after all. Also, you’ve got a decent chance of a bounce when a bottle’s dropped on a good cork floor, whereas glass is sure to shatter if it hits ceramic.
To keep the room a little more affluent-thirty-something than superannuated-teen in its look, we used a lot of brushed stainless steel for lighting and bar fixtures, gray-blues on the walls, black leather couches, with club-style armchairs and bar stool upholstered in a really cool abstract fabric that reminded us all of a city skyline as seen by a stoner. I used an overhead projector to blow up a sample of the fabric and sketch it out roughly on the long wall behind the pool table, then painted in the various shapes to reflect the upholstery fabric.
I sponge-painted the wall behind the bar in a faux concrete finish, then broke a giant unframed mirror into about seven large pieces and reassembled it (with a strong but low-VOC adhesive) on the wall, leaving just a hair’s-breadth of space between the pieces. The adjacent washroom got the same treatment with a smaller mirror and a touch of graffiti, sort of the urban bar restroom look…
The homeowners had intended to keep the decor for just two years, and then re-do the room and turn it over to the kids when their oldest child hit puberty. I was talking to the wife last week, however, and they still aren’t ready to make a change. In fact, they’re planning to keep the Springsteen room intact for another few years at least — so I guess that theme was a success!