ULFPORT — Eleven-year-old Caitlin Maselli spent a good part of Tuesday lost, confused and a little terrified. • The first day of middle school can be that way. • But when the sixth-grader returned home from Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School, she walked into an oasis of calm, her newly redecorated bedroom. • The weekend before school started, Caitlin and her mom, Kristin — with help from sister, Olivia, 7, and dad, Rich — set about transforming a glamorous pink girl's room into a more sophisticated place to hang out with friends, do homework and escape. • The result is a cool mix of blues and greens spread across two separate areas: one for entertaining, another for sleep and study.
"I thought it was like an apartment at first," says Sarah Jane Sanders, 11, also a Thurgood sixth-grader.
"I call this my den and that my room," Caitlin says, sitting on a green sofa bed just steps inside the doorway. "I love this room."
Opposite the couch are two low bookshelves filled with books and knickknacks and topped with a television and DVD player. The walls are a deep turquoise, with soft white shag carpeting underfoot. A charging station at one end keeps cell phone and iPod within reach, and a clear dry erase board is an update on the bulletin board (and a perfect place for test reminders once school gets into gear).
On the wall behind the couch is a creation of Caitlin's design: her name spelled out, each letter in a separate frame and printed in coordinating colors. (She used a throw pillow for inspiration, making colors to match on the computer, then choosing the typefaces she liked best.)
Below the letters are four flat circular lights that add a soft touch of color. The lights were a last-minute addition to the shopping cart at Ikea ("Ikea was our best friend in all this," Caitlin says).
Letting your tween have input is key for a room makeover, according to her mom. "Honestly, she's been doing her new room for over a year. She kind of had in her mind how it would be," Kristin says.
"She wanted to have a hang-out place, a sleeping place and a computer place. She had zones all set."
A heavy striped curtain partitions off the bedroom, which has a twin bed and built-in bookshelves, plus an expansive window that lets in light and offers a view of the canal. In the corner opposite the shelves is a cushy chair for reading and a white metal pull-down desk that houses Caitlin's laptop.
Caitlin hit on the blue and green color scheme for the two rooms after flipping through old magazines.
"I was basically just looking and looking," she says, "and I found this matched this and this goes perfect with this and that most of them were blues and greens."
Because of her color combination, she was able to find pieces to fill out her room from a variety of sources and make some compromises along the way. The oh-so-perfect quilt from Pottery Barn that Caitlin found online gave way to a JCPenney comforter once she added up the price of the quilt and the shipping costs.
"It pays to redo a room at back-to-school time," Kristin says. "Dorm stuff is usually pretty inexpensive."
Another way to save money is by doing it yourself — or, better yet, by directing your teen or tween to do the work. The Maselli family pulled off their transformation in just three days by setting a goal for each day, Kristin says. Friday was for painting, Saturday was for furniture assembly and placement (and last-minute runs to the store) and Sunday was for the finishing touches of placing tchotchkes, books and photos, as well as cleanup. The time schedule was tight, but "with a couple Cokes, we pulled it off," says Caitlin.
The only reminder of her black and pink poodles and Paris theme, which she chose when she was entering kindergarten, is a framed piece of art of the Eiffel Tower. "It was sad" to change the room, Kristin says. "It was the end of the little girl."
Gone are the fleur-de-lis and striped awning and the wall mural of the Parisian woman strolling past a sidewalk cafe, now painted over with a soft shade of green.
"It's very interesting to think she's under that," Caitlin said to her mom when they had covered the mural. "She's still there."
And so is the little girl, no matter how grownup her surroundings.
B Buckberry Joyce is the Times' Lifestyles news editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8113.