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The transition from middle school to high school — and from tween to teenager — often calls for a little bit of bedroom redecorating. For Texas-based designer Sara Johnson of Sara Johnson Interiors, a full makeover was actually in order. Her 14-year-old client (and her parents, of course) was looking for a more grown-up sleep space equally equipped for studying solo and hanging with friends. The challenges were mostly architectural ones, namely the size and shape of the space. “This room has unique angles, as it is a second-floor attic conversion,” says Johnson of the project, located in a historic Highland Park, Dallas-area home. “There were some awkward areas that we felt we could capture to add additional storage and useful spaces. It also lacked a cohesive look and feel.”
The design process started like any other. Johnson gave her client a questionnaire, and they kicked off the work by sourcing a Gray Malin photograph together. That artwork then became the springboard for a poolside-meets-preppy look that would pack plenty of utility with built-in storage throughout the space and zones for different activities. Color would come through a handful of bespoke furnishings and special design details, which Johnson worked to source locally where possible. “We love using local vendors,” she says. “This allows us creative control, and honestly, it often allows for a shortened lead time and less room for error.”
To ready the room for all the newness to come, the walls got a fresh coat of Sherwin-Williams’ Intimate White (SW-6322), a whisper-light pink. Maximizing the function of the space would be an art of fitting things into its compact layout and interesting roofline, so Johnson decided to work the perimeter of the room to make the most of its footprint. She added a custom pink daybed that mimics the room’s A-frame shape; that way, she could nestle it right up against one of the room’s shorter walls horizontally, where it projects less into space. This also gives the room more of a hangout vibe, since, to guests, it has the appearance of a sofa versus a traditional bed. Additional space was saved here with wall-mounted sconces for reading and recessed niches that serve as makeshift nightstands. Paired with Wayfair slipper chairs — reupholstered in inexpensive, room-coordinating fabric — a mirrored side table makes for a glamorous little reading area.
While the room has a closet (the doors were just changed from a generic shuttered style to the millwork-forward design pictured here), Johnson knew keeping the space super-streamlined visually would make it appear larger. So she commissioned a built-in wardrobe, which runs along one of the room’s long walls. “We designed a beautiful custom wardrobe with lovely glass doors featuring gathered textiles behind the glass and brass hardware, topped off with simple sconces flanking the sides,” says Johnson. “This design allowed us to offer the client much-needed space without taking up the much-needed square footage. A client/designer win-win!”
Opposite of those built-in cabinets and drawers, a new homework nook takes advantage of a niche in the wall where sunlight streams in through two side-by-side windows. A custom desk and pretty chair fits into this recess like a glove and provides a space not only for studying but also getting ready. One of Johnson’s best budget tips can be seen at work here, too. When you’re trying to stretch your dollars, she suggests saving splashy patterned wallpaper and fabric for smaller accent spots like this one, where she covered the walls in a leafy floral material to allow her client to use them like a bulletin board. “It’s smart to think where to use it versus where paint looks just as inviting,” she says. Another one of her design secrets for a more custom look on the cheap? “A trick of the trade is to add a percentage of white into any paint color to soften the shade and achieve a color matched look with your textiles or wallpaper,” she says. This hack doesn’t cost any extra at most paint or hardware stores.
With the layout firmly established and the custom pieces in place, Johnson put the finishing touches on the space to really tie the whole room together. Additional artwork was purchased on Etsy, and framed and matted with Amazon product. “We used many of the same textiles in multiple areas and pulled the stripe from the wardrobe as trim for the bulletin board and pillows,” says Johnson. She also added a fun LED name light over the bed that glows just the right amount after hours.
From the start of construction to the finished install, the bedroom took about three months to totally complete. But for how long the sophisticated design will last, the wait was well worth it. Johnson’s best piece of advice? “Talk to your teenager and listen to what they want,” she says. “You can mix their vision with your own to achieve a look that makes everyone happy for years to come.”