5 Lessons My First Bedroom Makeover Taught My Dad and Me

5 Lessons My First Bedroom Makeover Taught My Dad and Me

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Am I the only one who still remembers flipping through their very first PB Teen catalog? I was 14 and had just started to develop my own sense of style when it arrived in the mail. I walked in the back door as I silently questioned my Abercrombie miniskirt — was it really me? — and suddenly saw the catalog on the kitchen island. I tucked it under my arm, brought it straight up to my room, and spent the afternoon circling every item I loved. 

It wasn’t long before my dad, who’s always had a keen understanding of my need for solitude while never missing an opportunity to check in at the perfect time, knocked on my door. I showed him all the pieces of an elegant white bedroom furniture set I was swooning over: a wrought iron bed frame with just enough flair, a sophisticated bedside table, and a desk with a vanity that had the most perfect oval mirror. The set was styled with a flat rug in the catalog, but I preferred the texture of a plush shag option on another page. Did I forget to mention curtains? My bedroom had blinds, so I never needed curtains. The sheer ones in the back of the catalog were whimsical, beautiful, and much chicer than blinds. 

As our conversation continued, my dad decided to give me the ultimate gift: the opportunity to create the bedroom of my dreams. We began with a budget and a color palette, and after a few months, we created a special haven together that I coveted for years — with pieces from that very catalog among other personal touches we still own and love to this day (I’ve since repainted both the bedside table and vanity desk; the latter lives at my parents’ place, and I never miss an opportunity to see it and reminisce whenever I’m visiting). 

My dad has always been a compassionate leader — someone whose wisdom seems like it’s always been part of his DNA. Everyone he’s ever met, known, or been close to respects him not only for who he is but how he’s impacted their life. Despite his inherent wisdom, he’s also someone who, like me, is always curious and learning — and we learned a lot throughout those few months of redecorating. From selecting furniture for my first studio apartment to styling the bedroom I now share with my fiancé (Spoiler alert: It’s far from done!), my father and I learned five important decorating lessons in making over my childhood bedroom together, and these things have helped me immensely with every decorating project I’ve tackled since. In honor of Father’s Day, I’m sharing them here so maybe they can help you, too. 

Start with a color palette.

Color is everything. It has the power to set the entire mood of a space — and in my case, it also served as a guide for achieving a cohesive bedroom environment. I knew I’d be spending a lot of time studying, reading, and reflecting within my childhood bedroom’s four walls, so one of the first steps we took was to select a paint color that felt peaceful and serene, yet fresh and soothing. I opted for a muted mint green hue that’s still just as comforting in my old bedroom today (as pictured here) as the day that we painted it. Find your own version of mint by thinking about what color you’d truly like to be enveloped in as you rest and reset. I still prefer green, but have gone a little darker and more sophisticated in my current bedroom (as pictured at the top of this story and below).

You can’t have everything. Like any self-entitled teen, this was hard for me to accept throughout the process, and I often had to remind myself how grateful I was for this gift and experience with my dad. As an adult who’s now living on her own dime, I’ve become much more logical and know that sticking to a budget’s critical to any successful room makeover. Be realistic with what you can spend responsibly, save more than you think you’ll need for must-have big-ticket items (for me, this was the vanity desk), and plan ahead to feel organized and secure throughout the process.

Select one item to anchor your space.

This was and still is my bed — but your anchor item will depend on your space and how it’s configured. For example, when I moved into my first studio apartment post-college, I had about 350 square feet to work with, so my bed had to be the focal point of the layout. When I moved into the condo I now share with my fiancé, one of the first rooms I started to redecorate was our bedroom, and that process, too, began with our bed. While it is still very much a work in progress, my current bed’s linen down comforter and matching shams are a major improvement from our previous mismatched sheets and blankets (shown here). The bed is a natural choice to take center stage in any bedroom, but you can apply this advice to any room really. Choose one item that’s going to really shine and fill in around it with a cast of supporting pieces.

Yes, PB Teen was the place for furniture, but my dad and I also did our research and scouted out other smaller, local shops for items like throw pillows, lamps, and artwork. As much as I love a good catalog room, these more disparate elements made the finished space feel even more special and personal once complete. I still follow this approach for finding things like frames, textiles, and wall decor. If you aren’t sure where to start, Etsy is a wonderful place to find unique treasures from talented independent artists. You can also browse local flea markets and thrift shops for one-of-a-kind pieces, or pick things up on your travels.

Real life isn’t a 30 minute HGTV episode. From painting and shopping to assembling, finding art and photography for your walls, and enhancing your space through personal touches, accessories, and more, a room makeover can (and should!) be a never-ending process. The best spaces aren’t created overnight. To me, that is the beauty of design — it’s an ongoing process that evolves with us over time — just like me and my dad, our relationship, and memories.

4 Things My Dad, a Retired Plumber, Taught Me About Homeownership

4 Things My Dad, a Retired Plumber, Taught Me About Homeownership

When I discovered water leaking on the floor behind the toilet in my bathroom, I immediately FaceTimed my dad. I knew he’d be able to help — he’s a master plumber, after all. He quickly assessed the situation and sent me to the hardware store for a professional-grade wrench and a replacement part unfortunately called a “ballcock.”

Back on FaceTime, my dad patiently talked me through the installation process — just as I’d heard him do for his customers over the years. When I gave the toilet a test flush and water didn’t leak out, I filled with pride. His tutorial gave me confidence to know I could handle a plumbing repair.

It was good timing, too, because my husband and I were ready to leave condo life. We planned to buy a house a short drive from my parents’ place. And I knew just the guy to help us assess potential homes.

My dad knows homes. In addition to mastering pipes and city water connections, he has worked with home builders and electricians. He can spot the signs of an unhealthy house or one where the builder cut corners from a mile away.

He worked hard to teach me the fine art of home repairs when I was young. He gave me my first saw when I was about 5 — and wasn’t too happy that my friends and I used it to take a piece off the backyard swing set. 

I had less enthusiasm as a teenager when my dad wanted to teach me to drywall. But now I need to make up for lost time. As soon as my husband and I moved into our new house, it was time to enroll in Homeownership 101 as taught by Pat Nelson.

It’s now been a year since we started looking at houses and nine months since we got the keys to our home. My dad’s truck is often in the driveway while he’s inside showing me how to do one thing or another. Here are four important lessons he’s taught me.

Get curious about inconsistencies.

When looking at an online home listing, my dad pointed out new plywood in just one area of the attic. “That could mean the roof is leaking or was recently repaired,” he explained.

A fresh repair job or inconsistencies in building materials could indicate a problem. For example, one newly painted wall in the basement could be concealing water damage or dangerous mold.

At another house, freshly laid sod in the backyard told my dad something was wrong. “All the rainwater from this area is coming right here,” Dad said, pointing out that all the neighboring houses sat at a higher elevation. “They couldn’t keep grass alive. That’s why there’s fresh sod here.”

Sure enough, when we stepped out on the lawn, it was soggy. And it hadn’t rained in a while. “This backyard is going to be a mud pit,” Dad declared.

Don’t be afraid to try.

When I was questioning the right time and procedure to fill in some patches of my own lawn, my dad didn’t overthink it. Just rake up the dead grass, throw the seed down, cover it up, and water it. What’s the worst that could happen?

He was right. Most of the spots filled in. Some didn’t, so we repeated the process in the spring. No big deal.

Everything is not a crisis.

Over breakfast one morning, I saw two drops of water fall from one of the pot lights in the kitchen ceiling. I knew that wasn’t a good sign, so I FaceTimed my dad.

I had recently installed a bidet in the bathroom over the kitchen. It turns out I didn’t tighten the water supply tube enough. Dad instructed me to grab my wrench to tighten it back up.

With that tight and dry, I commenced panicking about water in the ceiling and the possibility of mold. Luckily, before I could grab a sledgehammer and bust open my ceiling, my dad calmed me down.

“Is the ceiling wet or spongy around the light?” he asked.

“Do you see signs of water up there?” he asked.

He reassured me it was fine. The water supply had just started leaking. The light is directly under the toilet, so the water didn’t travel far. It was winter in Minneapolis, so the heat was on in the house, creating a dry environment. Any water still in the ceiling would dry before mold could grow.

You don’t have to do everything at once.

When we moved into our house in September, the home inspector gave us a list of outdoor recommendations, including sealing the deck.

Driven by a fear of having to replace a rotting deck, I bought the sealing supplies and followed my dad’s advice for sanding and pressure washing the deck in preparation. Then I carefully watched the forecast for a rain-free week, but one did not come before temperatures dropped. We’d missed the window for sealing the deck.

“Just pressure wash it again in the spring and seal it then,” my dad said calmly. “It’s fine.”

That’s when I realized that homeownership is a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t have to be done right now — unless, of course, it’s a leaking plumbing fixture.

The Checklist My Dad Gave Me When I Became a Homeowner

The Checklist My Dad Gave Me When I Became a Homeowner

Charli Penn

Executive Lifestyle Director

Charli Penn is the Executive Lifestyle Director at Apartment Therapy and an award-winning journalist, editor and Webby-nominated former podcast host who writes in the name and praise of all things good living (and loving!). She thoroughly enjoys photography, 90s R&B, and all things gold accents. When she’s not curled up at home spending quality time with her husband and their two small dogs, you’ll find her traveling, redecorating (again), perusing a Home Goods aisle or planning an impromptu theme party for family and friends.

7 “Quality Time” Gifts to Give Dads This Father’s Day

7 “Quality Time” Gifts to Give Dads This Father’s Day

Every time a holiday rolls around, my sisters text our group chat with the same question: “What are you getting for dad?” Panic ensues. A book he may already have read? Novelty socks? A … lawnmower? It’s not that we don’t want to get him a present he will love, it’s just that, historically, it’s so hard to know what that is. 

Unlike me, who made a bulleted and categorized wish list each Christmas season growing up (yes, I am the youngest child what makes you ask), my dad will rarely mention some concrete thing he would like to have, let alone write it down. And, just like the way he enthusiastically says, “It’s delicious!!” before he’s even tasted something, his reactions to gifts are so consistently exuberant I can never tell when I’ve actually hit it out of the park. 

And yes, of course, I ask him what he would like. His answer? Just time with you. So this year, I’m listening. After talking with friends and colleagues about ways they would spend quality time with the father figures in their lives, here are some intangible (and, bonus points: last-minute friendly) ideas for “quality time” gifts to give any dad. 

Let them teach you something.

There’s an unspoken checklist of things a dad could teach you: how to change a tire, how to tie a tie, or negotiate a salary. But dads are not a masculine monolith! They know lots of other things. My dad is an avid gardener and I once overwatered a cactus, so I’m hoping to book some time with him in the garden to learn his green thumbed tips and tricks. (That being said, I do also need to learn how to change a tire.) 

Dads and old tales may be kind of a meme, with a vague “don’t get him started” punchline, but dads really have excellent stories. Ever seen “Big Fish”? You may get the same story you’ve heard two dozen times, and even that is a chance to solidify it in your roster of family lore. But if you can, try asking for a tale you’ve never heard before — and then listen closely. 

Visit a familiar place. 

Without fail, every time we drive down a certain road in Massachusetts, my dad will point out a house he once lived in, which is now a Dunkin’ Donuts.  I’m not sure if he realizes he’s said it so many times, but I actually love it. Revisiting places your dad cares about is an endless fountain of possibility: The town where he grew up? His college campus? His old summer camp? His favorite bookstore? Pick a spot and ask him to show you around. 

Watch their favorite movie. 

My dad loves zombie movies. I hate body horror. I will not be traumatizing myself for the sake of a good gift! But he also loves long, old black-and-white films and niche documentaries and slapstick comedies that I likely wouldn’t watch without him. Whether going to the theater to see a movie he’s been talking about, hanging out in the living room and giving him free reign of the remote control, or watching the same film remotely from different places, sharing a movie night is a simple, meaningful way to bond over something he loves. 

Growing up I relished bring-your-kid-to-work day because it meant a) taking the train into the city and b) getting to wear my new back-to-school wardrobe before classes had started back up. If your dad has a job or routine where you can tag along for the day, spend the day by his side and get to know how he spends it. At this point I’m unfortunately past the point of busting out my best back-to-school outfit to join him in the office, but I really enjoy hearing my dad talk about what he does at work — and these days I can (kind of, almost) understand it. 

Take a drive with tunes. 

Cars are often venues for the best conversations and comfortable silences. Whether you opt to take a long, cross-country road trip or simply a scenic drive across town, taking your dad for a drive is a simple way to spend some quality one-on-one time. Looking for a soundtrack? Try the Daily Dad Jokes podcast or turn on that beloved cassette that’s been stuck in the player for years anyway. My dad’s go-to knee-slapper is a CD called “Townie Tunes” which currently has a glowing two-star review entitled “Funny if you are from Boston.”

Laugh at their dad jokes.  

Last year for Father’s Day, my sister and I took my dad out for breakfast at a local diner. But the real present was: Beforehand, we agreed to laugh heartily at every joke he cracked. He is hilarious but he has been working with the same audience of daughters for a few decades, so he may catch a few more groans than he used to. Folks, he ate it up! And we had a great time, too — something about laughing and endorphins and making someone you love happy. The omelet was subpar but the breakfast was excellent. 

22 Last-Minute (But Still Thoughtful) Father’s Day Gifts That They’ll Love

22 Last-Minute (But Still Thoughtful) Father’s Day Gifts That They’ll Love

Apartment Therapy received compensation for this post, which was written and edited independently by our editorial team.

Father’s Day is coming up fast — like June 19th fast — have you thought about what you’re gifting the dad, stepdad, grandpa, uncle, or father figure in your life? If you’re having trouble finding the perfect gift on a deadline, fear not: We rounded up 22 last-minute gifts that are anything but half-baked. From the best subscriptions and must-have tech gadgets to self-care items, he’d never spoil himself with and outdoor finds he’ll put to great use this summer, these gifts will not only show him how much you care, but he’ll actually be excited about them. Plus, all these presents will get here well before Father’s Day. The perfect gift on time? What’s better than that? (P.S. Check out our ultimate Father’s Day gift guide here in case you want more ideas!)

Do you have a fabulous last-minute Father’s Day gift you’ve given or received? Let us know in the comments below. And let’s give a big cheer for all the dads out there!

Sarah M. Vazquez also contributed to reporting.