With some compromise and some creativity you can make even the biggest “night and day” differences between two kids sharing a space feel celebrated.
I have two stepdaughters. They don’t live with us full time. And this summer they drove me absolutely INSANE. They fought all summer due to lack of personal space and feeling like people view them as a solid unit as opposed to individuals. They’re in that place, developmentally, where they REALLY need to have their own individual identity. And in my fit of insanity I decided we could give that to them. Here’s how we managed to turn one room into two decided separate spaces for two decided separate young women…
… An approximately 11×13 foot bedroom in our home with two windows, two heat registers, and a closet
What it needed to be:
… A shared bedroom for my two teen/tweens (who do not live with us full time or we’d have just found a way for them to each have their own room)… Which translates to TWO bedrooms that happen to occupy the same 11×13 foot space.
When discussing possible arrangements/solutions with them, they vetoed anything with a bunk or loftbed and sleeping under a window (to be fair, they did have someone break into their room at an apartment complex via their bedroom window when they were younger so this particular fear is not unfounded). Additionally they each wanted to be able to see the door, *not* see each other, have their way with the decor (they have conflicting ideas of beauty, practicality, and convenience), and have a place for “just my stuff”… plus all the basics.
I made paper mock ups of their room (and the existing dressers, plus two single beds) & showed them every possible configuration of furnishings to demonstrate that EITHER there has to be a bunk/loftbed situation OR one or both would have to sleep next to a window. After reassuring them that they were safe at our house and that if need be I’d make it even more difficult to access their windows from the outside, they agreed that an L shaped bed configuration where both girls are sleeping under different windows was the best possible solution.
Since they like to drive each other crazy with their individual obsessions, we established that anything “boy related” (the eldest’s obsession) or “cat related” (the youngest’s obsession) had to be approved by me.
Next, we brainstormed FIVE general interests/favorite things for each child (excluding cats and boys) and they were not allowed to copy each other’s answer. That may seem counter intuitive but A) my youngest copycats as a way of avoiding conflict and I wanted her to have her own space to be herself not just a place where she was bowing to her sister’s wishes and B) I knew if left to their true preferences many of the things would be similar but not duplicated, which worked into my plan nicely.
The eldest’s answers:
evil faeries, night/the stars, Asian stuff (kanji, Asian art etc), music, & the tree in our front yard (she loves to climb it).
The youngest’s answers:
GOOD faeries (see conflicting but similar….), snuggly/warm stuff “And lots of pillows”, rain, rainbows, and music… “but NOT the kind Sissy listens to… I like my OWN music”.
I added mutual likes (collecting gemstones… collecting jewelry) & needs (space for clothes – hanging AND folded, laundry& waste bins, storage, a way to feel like you have some privacy). From there I tapped into my drawing/interior design skills and sketched out what the room could look like, checked with their father to make sure he could do the “custom building” it would require & showed it to The Girls for their approval.
They loved it! Next I found several bed-in-a-bag options for each child but let each child ultimately choose their own. I highly recommend doing this in August or September as all the “college/dorm” gear is usually on clearance. I scored a reversible set in a riot of color for my youngest. And a set for my eldest that looks like a trees branches and leaves set against a bright blue (her favorite color) sky.
To play off the “different sides of the same coin” idea in the room we painted the walls a medium grey, the eldest child’s furniture went black & the youngest’s went white (we left the dressers as they to tie in the wood trim & doors & floor of the room). Their father kindly constructed them each a bookcase headboard (for general storage & to house alarm clocks, jewelry boxes, nightly water bottles, etc) & a 25 inch high (more storage!) platform bed. We tested the carpentry work thoroughly while anchoring them together to form the L shaped arrangement & hanging curtain rods for each window. We figured that if he (250lbs) and I (165lbs) could stand in the center of the platform at the same time…. The Girls could have a couple of friends sitting on the beds gossiping about boys and school, no problem! We picked up mattresses but decided to forgo the boxsprings.
Since they don’t live with us full time there is no need for either of them to have a full closet worth of hanging space. So we placed the eldest daughter’s dresser in the center of the closet leaving hanging space on each side (one side for each child). The top shelf of the closet houses all the “shared property” joint Christmas gifts, art sets, etc. And on the eldest daughter’s side of the closet I (begrudgingly) rehung her Jonas Brothers poster. Bubblegum pop… Ugh.
In addition to the (existing) rolling shades each Girl has curtains made from matching fabric in different colors. The eldest has black sheers smattered with glitters to emulate the night sky, while the youngest has the same glitter smattered fabric in light grey/purple to call up images of rain. The curtain rod for each is different. The Tree Themed bedset has a bronze colored “branch” (recycled from our old apartment). It is too long for the window but it adds to the look and provides a place to hang the “evil faerie” ornament we bought. The Rainbow Themed bedset has a silver rod (recycled from my old room at my parent’s house). It also hangs an ornament (this one hugging several kittens).
To provide a sense of separation & privacy (two things teenage girls greatly value) we hung bed curtains made from the same fabric as their window curtains from reinforced eyehooks (mounted to the ceiling) and coated wire. They attach to the ends with keychain clips so they can be taken down & washed as needed
To honor The Youngest’s request for “lots of pillows and blankets and stuff” to keep her warm and cozy (She builds nests to sleep in, no exaggeration) I found a super soft/fuzzy “throw and I started perusing clearance racks (and raiding my scrap fabric stash) for anything/everything that could be made into a pillow. She has three HUGE square pillows I made from oversized handkerchiefs. Two smaller oddly shaped pillows from scrap fabric. Two medium rectangular pillows I made by stuffing fabric placemats (yes… placemats) that I found on a discount rack. Plus oodles of hand me down pillows that always seemed to meander back to her bed from my sofa anyway…. So that The Eldest wouldn’t feel shorted I made her a star shaped pillow stuffed with plastic bags (isn’t novelty great?!). All the pillows are reversible.
Starting from near scratch, we made the equivalent of TWO rooms. The Girls (each) love it & enjoy spending time hanging out there now as opposed to just begrudgingly going to bed when The Pumpkin Hour arrives. Most importantly they feel like they have been given their own individual spaces, that they have been seen as individuals, that their father and I took the time to get to know them each personally and make something that was expressly theirs & that they are welcome. They now feel like they belong as opposed to “being a visitor” at their Dad’s House.
Victory is mine.