Feeling snakebit by an out-of-control bedroom? Try this makeover

Do you have a bedroom that looks like this (or worse)? Don’t despair. DIY columnist Traci Arbios offers six tips for managing a makeover.
Do you have a bedroom that looks like this (or worse)? Don’t despair. DIY columnist Traci Arbios offers six tips for managing a makeover. Fort Worth Star-Telegram file

Sometimes we don’t recognize good fortune for what it is.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re hiking alone in a piney forest, enjoying the sights and sounds around you – the fresh clean air, the chatter of crows, the sounds of water cascading downstream – and you’re so absorbed in the surrounding natural wonders that you neglect to notice the giant, venomous snake sunning in your path until – OOPS! – you’ve stepped on its tail. “That is the worst luck!” you might think of the ensuing bite, as the world begins to spin and your throbbing, puffed-up leg goes numb. And now you face a challenge: Do you lay down as the venom slowly takes hold and will it all away, or do you slowly scooch along to the ranger station in the hope that, despite budget cuts, it’s still staffed? What happens next?

The sad truth is you might allow the pervasive perspiration and ensuing nausea to color your experience, even going so far as to judge such a bite “inconvenient.” You now have to stop and try to deal with an incident that, conceivably, could ruin your entire day. It’s not until much, much later – after the emergency evacuation, after the extended hospital stay, after the physical therapy – that you realize how fortunate you were that the snakebite occurred in the first place. Because now that you’ve faced adversity in the most harrowing of circumstances, you’ve learned that you can not only survive, but thrive. And you have a really cool scar.

Moral of the story: A bedroom in need of a makeover is EXACTLY like a bite from a giant venomous snake.

I was walking around my house one afternoon, enjoying the sights of shoes and backpacks laying across my living room floor and the affable sounds of the neighborhood’s barking dogs, when – in the simple act of putting some supplies back in the spare room – I noticed how disgusting virtually everything was. The hand print-covered walls, the stained carpet, the dingy, banged-up office cabinets; I was stunned. “What have I done?” I gasped, realizing I never should have entered the room with my eyes open. But it was too late. I’d been bitten by a horrible, terrible snake. There was no unseeing this disaster and my only choice –beyond banging the image out of my head (which didn’t work) – was to forge on to the ranger station (hardware store) and seek assistance.

The whole room was appalling and the more I looked, the more I realized that every element was facing a makeover: Walls, ceiling, baseboards and door repainted, built-in desk refinished, furniture stripped and redone. Each of these tasks involved a multipart process, and none of them – NONE OF THEM – were particularly enjoyable. It wasn’t until the end, when I stood back and noticed that my work, however kindergarten-esque it felt, was worthy of approval. That’s when I realized that any effort was better than just laying down and hoping someone else would come by and save my room.

Probably the toughest part of this whole job was facing my inner lazy. It wasn’t enough that I decided I wanted to slap some pain on the walls and call it a day; I realized that if I was going to put forth any effort, it might as well be my best. I was the one who was going to have to live with the fruits of my labor, afterall. I might as well do my best to ensure I like it.

If you’ve accidentally stumbled onto a snakebitten room in need of a makeover, here are a few tips to help with the process. Don’t be overwhelmed; given preparation, time and thoughtful execution, know that you’ll end up with a really cool scar (aka new room).

Purge. Knowing you want a change is the easy part. Knowing what that change should be – that takes effort. In my case, I knew I needed to paint the walls. It wasn’t until I started going through the drawers, shelves, under-bed mess and filtering through unused, stashed items that I uncovered several other areas that needed to be addressed. Once the clutter is gone, you can really see the rest of the room and better know the scope of your makeover.

Research. You want a new look, but what kind of new look? My former-little girls’ room-turned-craft room/parttime guest room was a disaster; but what kind of not-disaster was I going for? The Internet was my big go-to for design ideas. There are several great websites dedicated to interior design and makeovers, including and For broader ideas, hit Pinterest’s home decor boards, and

Break it down. Now that you’ve decided on a style and really seen what it is that needs changing, you might find the whole picture a little daunting. There might be (as in my case) weeks of work ahead of you. Don’t be overwhelmed! Make a list of all the changes you’re facing – painting the ceiling, painting the walls, painting the baseboards, stripping furniture,steam cleaning the carpet – and break the project into manageable chunks. Day one: Painting the walls. Then list out all the necessities that one project entails: removing pictures, unscrewing the light plates, washing the walls, taping off the baseboards, etc. It’s easier knowing what you have to do for one specific project, than diving in blindly and noticing the other thousands of things you have to accomplish as you go along.

Get paint chips. I wanted a taupe color for my room. Surprise: There are literally dozens of shades of taupe available in just one brand of paint. Perusing the paint chips (free at the box marts, by the way) not only narrows the scope of, say, “taupe,” but those chips are also a huge help in finding other colors that work with the one you’ve chosen. Additionally, be sure to take the chips home and look at them in the room you want to paint. Tape them to the walls and examine the colors at different times of day. Yes, this takes time. But seeing the hues at all hours will let you know what you’re about to live with for the next umpteen years. Plus, there is nothing worse than committing to two gallons of something that doesn’t match your carpet. (Trust me.)

Talk to an expert. Whether this is your first time or thirty-first time painting, it’s always a good idea to talk to a paint department expert about your project. They’ll be able to clue you in on the kind of paint that might work best for your project. They’ll also be able to help with supply suggestions, from whether to use a primer to the kinds of supplies you’ll need. In the end, a 10-minute conversation with someone with knowledge can save money and hours of frustration. Process questions? There are hundreds of tutorial videos on YouTube that may help, even in a pinch.

Give yourself a break. It’s really easy – overly easy, for some of us – to be highly critical of our work. Unless you remodel rooms on a regular basis, know that you will likely make some mistakes (some of them terrible, most of them livable). The key: Take your time, follow all the steps of the process and walk away from the project now and then. Give yourself the space to get it done.