Our Niece’s Bedroom Makeover

If you follow us on Instagram, over Thanksgiving you probably saw us on Stories, as we were working on our niece’s bedroom makeover. But just in case you don’t know what I’m talking about, let me back up for just a second. Our niece, Penelope, is currently in the third grade and her dad (our brother, Doren) had told her that after she read 10 chapter books she could paint her room. Doren is SUCH a great dad and I loved his idea with this. I personally struggled with reading as a kid at first, but it’s such an important skill and I loved how he was encouraging her with positive rewards to read more. I asked Doren if Elsie and I could basically kind of insert ourselves into his goal (ha—gotta love big sisters, right?) and when she read all her books we wanted to give her an ENTIRE ROOM MAKEOVER!

Doren said yes. Penny finished all her books in November. So the time had come for a massive room makeover! Here’s what her room looked like before we started.

I had been over to their house quite a few times already so I had already taken some measurements for wallpaper and other things. We also noted that we need to include plenty of storage for her clothes, toys, and other things. We didn’t really want to take away anything she loved, we just wanted to update the room with colors and features we knew she’d enjoy. We had asked her to give us a few ideas, and she said: pink, teal, white, eyeballs, cactus, Sailor Moon, maybe a pink door … she had quite a few ideas. 🙂

We also were hoping to create a space that she would love for years into the future. As much as we hate to admit it, she will be a tween before we know it (ahhhh!!!!). So we wanted the space to feel both whimsical and fun, but also something that doesn’t feel too young so that she grows out of it super fast, if that makes any sense. Here’s a little before and after of the space—so fun, right? I think the wallpaper and the bed frame really steal the show. 🙂

We filmed her reaction to the room the first time she saw it. Elsie worked on the room with me while she was in town for Thanksgiving, but she wasn’t able to stay until Monday when Penny returned to actually see the room. So Doren and I filmed it so Elsie could see how she responded. 🙂 Her little squeal kind of melts my heart.

We painted the walls, inside the closet, and the door. We also added wallpaper to two walls, and we updated most of her furniture. It seriously took us basically a full two days to do all that, so I don’t know how those HGTV shows do entire houses and stuff in a week or whatever. I was pretty tired after—but obviously it was totally worth it.

I want to share a little bit more about the room, so here’s a mini tour of some of the features we added.

We added a small bookshelf to one wall. She had been storing her books in a drawer before and I think having them on a shelf just makes it easier to grab a book and read for a little while. To encourage her on her reading journey, we also bought her a few new books. As I was picking out books, I realized she’s at an age (9 years old) where I am a little unsure of books and the reading level they may present. So if any of you have kiddos around this age who like to read, let me know your recommendations in the comments! I’d like to get her a few more books for Christmas and I’d love some ideas.

We also got her this cute little vanity set for storage and a place to get ready or play with makeup. 🙂 We got her a caboodle and filled it with extra or random natural makeup we had around just because it’s fun, and she’s at an age where she likes to play with that stuff some.

We painted and organized her closet, adding more storage with baskets and using the upper shelves as a display for larger toys. We also bought two of these storage bins (similar here) on wheels that fit under her bed for extra clothing and toy storage. I kind of want to get some of these for my room now. They are pretty awesome!

We had a light up globe like this at summer camp this year, so we got Penny her own (and it’s pink). I showed her how it lights up, changes colors, and will rotate when I gave her a little tour of her room and she was really into it. I don’t care what age you are, pretty twinkle lights in a bedroom are always a good bet. You can see a full list of resources below. Thanks for letting us share our niece’s bedroom makeover! It was seriously one of the most fun things I’ve worked on in a while. We love you, Penny!!! xo. Aunt Emma + Aunt Elsie

Sources: Wall Paint/Whisper White from The Home Decorators Collection at The Home Depot (HDC-MD-08), Door Paint/Energetic Pink from Behr (P150-2), Door Wreath/Target, Wallpaper/Icons from Chasing Paper, Bed Frame/Amazon, Vanity/Amazon, Bookshelf/The Home Depot, Similar Side Table/Amazon, Similar Under The Bed Storage Bins/Wayfair, Closet baskets/Amazon, Gold Wire Basket/Target, Light Up Star Globe/Amazon, Caboodle/Walmart.

And the books we gave her are: The Adventures of Nanny Piggins, The Great Cake Mystery, Whatever After Book 1, The Haunted Library #1, and The Phantom Toll Booth.

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman and Elsie Larson. Project Assistants: Ethan Randolph and Covergirl Wall Hangings. Photography: Emma Chapman Video: Doren Chapman. Music: Jeremy Larson. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • Such a darling and sweet reaction to her new room!! AND it’s so cool that you tied that in with her reading 10 chapter books! Way to go! Thanks for sharing! Love this site!

  • The Penderwicks Series (5 books) is charming, whimsical, and SO fun. I just read it as an adult this year and only wish it’d been around when I was a kid as I know I would have loved it then. Maybe you could read a series or book with Penny as a book club? That would have been really fun as a kid to talk about my favorites with someone older. (I REALLY tried to get my parents to read HP and neither were interested.) https://www.amazon.com/The-Penderwicks-4-Book-Series/dp/B00WTJU8OS

    The Betsy-Tacy books were ones I loved when I was young, and where the series grows in difficulty/length so you can continue it as you age. (Not a great one for binge reading 🙂 necessarily.) The author, Maud-Heart Lovelace, is from MN – my home state – and actually has book awards for childrens lit. I used to read all of the nominees in my age range as a kid. Great place to go for book ideas! http://www.myrahome.org/mhl-nominees-2018-19.html

  • Such a cute bedroom makeover and a super sweet reward for your niece! She is super lucky! Thanks for sharing 😀

  • My 9-year-old boy loves the Alvin Ho series. We got them on cd from the library for a road trip over the summer and the whole family enjoyed them (2 adults, and 5 kids ages 11-2). They are really funny and have enough illustrations for even my graphic novel reading kids.

  • High school English teacher here, so I’m a bit older, but a book that I love giving friends with kids around her age are The Wild Robot books. THEY’RE SO GOOD! The art is beautiful and it’s so wonderful.

  • It’s so true that the wallpaper and bed frame steal the show. Maybe when she gets a little older she’ll want to paint the bed frame. And it will be fine because the wallpaper is a neutral color. The room looks great!

  • Elementary School Librarian here! A great series for her when she has the stamina to read longer books is the Wildwood Chronicles, a nature/animal fantasy that takes place in the woods outside of Portland, Oregon. The illustrations by Carson Ellis are awesome and the books are written by Colin Meloy of the Decemberists. I really loved reading these and am sharing them with my daughter who is also 9.


  • I like the concept and the outcome.
    Less is more! 🙂

    http://lifestyleandberries.com I A lifestyle blog by Vana Verouti

  • i forgot to mention—mary pope osborne (best known for the magic tree house, which is also a recommendation) did a book called “favorite medieval tales” which is really beautifully illustrated and not only does arthurian stories and robin hood but also has some lesser-known (to anglophones) ones like bisclavret and finn mccool. she’s also done collections of greek and norse mythology; on a more general note, penelope might like some mythology/folktale collections? donna jo napoli’s got some greek/norse/egyptian/persian ones published through national geographic with great illustrations, but there are a lot out there.

  • when i was that age i was mad into the warrior cats series. depends on her tolerance for fantasy violence because warriors can get kinda dark for a kids’ series, but it’s at about the right reading level and i slurped that series up with a spoon until my parents refused to keep buying me them (which, a warning: if she gets into warriors there are A LOT of those books). the wonderful wizard of oz and its sequels were also super formative. if she’s got a good tolerance for kinda scary stuff nine-ish was also when i got into the animorphs series, which i think is recently coming back in print? you might have to get the later ones second-hand. the series deals a lot with issues of war and ethics in a pretty complex way for kids’ books.

    anyway this room looks really nice, i like how adaptable the color scheme looks—it’s a room that definitely will grow with her

  • Okay I have no idea what it’s like to be a 9 year old nowadays, but I wish I was as cool as Penny when I was her age! You guys are seriously cool aunts as well 🙂 I was a pretty avid reader as a kid but I started reading the Harry Potter books when I was 8 (I think only the first 2 or 3 were out at that point). A lot of the classics people have mentioned already, and Phantom Tollbooth is still one of my all-time faves! I also loved chapter book series like The Magic Treehouse, The Boxcar Children, Junie B. Jones, and The Babysitter’s Club. Not sure what age this is appropriate for, but Nancy Drew as well (I wonder if there’s an updated version of the series?). I bet there are a lot more empowering and socially aware options for young girls these days!

  • This is such a great project , love the concept and outcome . She is adorable, best client ever!

  • Love the room! And now am obsessed with a patter from Chasing Paper for a spot in my home! Would you be able to estimate how much it cost to cover that wall?

  • It’s so cute! The black and white with the pink is so pretty…and the eyeball wallpaper! ????

  • Get her Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories series. My daughter inhaled those! If anyone is road tripping, I highly recommend the audiobooks- they are amazing and the whole family had driveway moments.

  • Get her Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories series. My daughter inhaled those books! And I agree with her. If anyone is planning a road trip, get the audiobooks- they are amazing and the whole family was having driveway moments!

  • Growing up my favourite books were by Astrid Lindgren (Ronia the robbers daughter, The brothers lionheart, Mio my son – these were my favourites), Michael Ende (Momo, Neverending Story, Night of wishes), Erich Kästner (available in English: Dot and Anton, Emil and the detectives) – these books are wonderful for all ages, (some of them have been made into beautiful and touching movies!) and I cannot wait to read them with my daughter one day. They all have deeper meanings while telling engaging, fun and exciting stories and I consider them all classics.

    The room looks so fun! What a great surprise for Penny.

    Greetings from Vienna, Austria from this booklover 🙂

  • I started reading the Redwall books at that age, and I loved them. I mean, I’m only an expert in the sense that I was once a kid who loved reading, but Redwall is what I would get for her if she were my niece.

  • Many of the popular short chapter book series are around levels l-n (F&P), then the popular higher level books seem to be r and s. for this age group at least. Look into her reading level and use scholastic as a resource. You can search by level! Happy to see a kiddo interested in books. Looking at those covers I can imagine the fun worlds to be discovered.

  • Such a brilliant room! As for books I’d recommend Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss, Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman and if she likes things that are creepy and funny – Last Kids on Earth by Max Brallier

  • A bunch of great books have already been mentioned! These books might be a year early but I also loved Walm Two Moons a d Chasing Red Bird by Sharon Creech. I still reread the occasionaly as an adult. Two other classics are Anne of Green Gables and Little Women.

  • My girls loved Judy Blume (who doesnt love Fudge in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing or Super Fudge). The Junie B. Jones series is also great for girls Penelope’s age. Love the room….and her reaction! Thanks for sharing.

  • A couple of book recommendations: we’ve been enjoying The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series by Maryrose Wood and The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall (in fact, I’m reading the last in the series now).

  • children’s bookseller here 🙂
    i loooove david walliams (the new roald dahl in my humble opinion) : funny, witty
    in a more “realistic” way : jacqueline wilson
    he she loves adventures and fantasy : the spiderwick chronicles
    the goosebumps series (there are a lot) for a good scare!

  • Librarian here. Graphic novels are fantastic for reluctant readers and anything written by Raina Telgemeier are huge hits for girls in the 9-12 age range at my library. I would suggest Smile and The Babysitter’s Club (her remake is so fun!).

  • Kate DiCamillo’s books are wonderful, I would start with The Tale of Despereaux. The list of Newberry Medal winning books is a great resource, they really outstanding pieces of literature for children so she can go through it for the next several years. I’m in my 30s and still working on completing the list, it dates back to 1922!

  • My 8-year-old daughter would go ga-ga over this room. Nicely done incorporating her dreams with what she already had.
    As far as 3rd-grade chapter books go, we like the Hilde Cracks the Case series (written by a young girl), A-Z Mysteries, Louise Trapeze, Cakes in Space series, and Daisy Dreamer series. So fun!

  • Love what you did for her!! I have one little niece and one nephew and it’s the absolute best to plan little surprises for them. ❤️ One of my favorite books when I was that age was “Gone-Away Lake”! I also liked Follow My Leader which is about a seeing eye dog. And when she’s just a teeny bit older, I would TOTALLY recommend The Mysterious Benedict Society! It’s still one of my very favorites. Probably about a fifth grade reading level?

  • Some book Recs:

    -the baby mouse comics series
    -goodnight stories for rebel girls
    -they anti-defamation league’s list of books on social justice topics: https://www.adl.org/education-and-resources/resources-for-educators-parents-families/childrens-literature

    • Thought of a few more books! There are all graphic novels, which are great for this age group!

      -Zita the Space Girl (series)
      -El Deafo
      -the new Baby Sitter’s Club graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier (series)
      -Jane, The Fox, and Me
      -Fashion Kitty (series)
      -Lunch Lady (series)

      My best tip is also to check with your local librarian for suggestions, or, if you are from a smaller town that doesn’t have a robust library system, check with larger libraries like New York Public Library, who post tons of books recommendation lists online.

  • I love this! Seeing her happy reaction was the best part 🙂 You guys are such great aunts!

  • soooo FUN! Great work on the room you two!

    Also that Caboodle filled with makeup is something I would have loved as a 9-yr-old. I remember getting a huge rainbow pack of panty hose (the kind that’s knee-high) for xmas when I was 9 and it was THE BEST gift, ha ha!

  • Not 100% sure on reading level, but as a parent of a child who can read at about a third grade level, these are the books I like to read with my kid and that I like my kid reading on his own because I know the content is not superficial. (For example, my son likes the Geronimo Stilton books but I just want to groan anytime I see him bring one home from the library. I think the book characters act pretty boorish and they seem to have pretty blatant gender stereotypes. And the storylines are nothing an adult could get into.) Anything by Kate DiCamillo in the deckawoo drive series. I believe Mercy Watson is the first in the series. These books are so funny and clever. The entire Amulet series is a comic book series with strong female characters and and is my kids’ current obsession. I typically don’t like fantasy and comic books but this one is good. And with the little house on the prairie books, I find Farmer boy to have the most engrossing stories. Some of the later little house books are best to read with a parent because they have content that refers to race and a couple other concepts like adoption in an outdated way, best to have a parent with to express a more current viewpoint. But they are really good books and worth the read.

  • Another teacher here. I teach a 6-9 year old Montessori class and reading is my favorite thing to share with my class. I read aloud everyday and here are some titles that students have loved: Harriet the Spy, James and the Giant Peach, the Shiloh series, my father’s dragon, anything from the Ramona and Beezus series… I could go on and on. I’m a fan of classic books that I remember from my childhood or can remember teachers reading out loud to classes I was in. Buying books for kids is the greatest, have fun and good luck. Merry Christmas!

  • I grew up right next door to the library and spent basically all my time reading. I still have a bunch of my favourite books on my shelves! I’ll second Little House on The Prairie and A Little Princess if she’s intrigued by “the olden times” (as we obsessively referred to them when I was 8). I loved Ballet Shoes (the whole series is great, but I’d start there), The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, The Famous Five books by Enid Blyton and RT, Margaret And The Rats of Nimh.

    And if she’s going to be doing any reading with a parent, Kit Pearson is in my heart the greatest childrens’ writer of all time — (The Sky Is Falling trilogy is INCREDIBLE about WW2, or Mama’s Gonna Buy You A Mockingbird is about losing a parent, Awake and Dreaming is a little girl living with her dream family — but really any of them are so so worth it!) — they tend to be addressing some bigger issues so might be worth reading together because they can spark some really amazing conversation.

    • I 2nd The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler. A classic and great for parents/teachers to read with children.

  • That video made me tear up!!! So sweet! I work for a company that has an entire imprint dedicated to books for kids at that age. Check them out! – http://jollyfishpress.com/

  • Oh my gosh, her room turned out soooo cute! I knew it would though, you two are amazing:) I have a 3rd grade girl and she loves the Dork Diary series of books so much.

  • My oldest is about to turn 10 (sniff!) and is a huge reader. She loves the Harry Potter, Lemoncello Library, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Mysterious Benedict Society, Little House on the Prairie, and According to Humphrey series. We got her the Book Scavenger series for the holidays which I think she’ll really like. She also likes The Secret Garden and The Little Princess (classics). I love when her cool aunts give her new books to read, especially ones they loved as kids!

  • You guys are the best aunts! I love how you incorporated so much of what she likes (eyeballs!) in such cute ways.

  • Any of the Edward Eager ‘magic series’ books would make great gifts for her age group. Such a fun and engaging little series.


  • A really great resource for choosing books/movies that are age appropriate is commonsensemedia.org. They tell you recommended age range, and give you a review of what components lead them to the age range they decided on. I’ve found it really helpful!

  • Grade 3 teacher here! There are a few recommendations for that age: Ronald Dahl’s kids books, Geronimo Stilton and the Beverly Clearly books are grade 3 accessible and ones I loved to read with my students. As she gets more confident then The Series of Unfortunate Events, and Little House on the Prairie are great.
    I saw the Phantom Tollbooth in the pictures which is my absolute favourite chapter book!
    Fantastic room and it’s great to see a loving family supporting a child’s reading journey!

    • Thank you! Much appreciated. I think teaching 3rd grade sounds like the best! I was a substitute teacher at the very end of college and I always loved subbing for that grade the most. 🙂

  • Your room makeovers are incredible! I’m always amazed by your talent. 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

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