Theme rooms can be a lot of fun but when done poorly they can come across as campy and overdone. A stylish motif can add charm and a personal touch to any room. Decorating around a central theme of choice is simple when you follow these 5 rules. Soon you'll have the chic and subtle theme room of your dreams.
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We Shane sisters grew up in southern California, going to the beach often. As much as I enjoy living in Utah now, I will always miss California and the ocean. My kids have learned to love California and the beach as well from our visits.
Recently, I was trying to decide what to do with our loft in our new home. It's a hang out space for all of us, so I wanted it to be comfortable and not fussy. I decided to do a California/beach theme. I knew I wanted it to feel like a lazy day in Cali, not like the ocean had thrown up in my house, so how do you find that balance?
Decorating a themed room can get tricky so I decided to share the things I learned while decorating the loft, and the nearby boys/guest bathroom in a beach theme. I'll review the rules at the end of the post with my son's theme room so you can see the rules using a different decor motif.
Rule #1 for Decorating a Themed Room
Figure out what you want the room to feel like, instead of what you want it to look like.
I wanted our loft to feel carefree, not stuffy. The loft should be a place where I can comfortably watch a movie, or my boys could hang out playing video games. I wanted it to be stylish without being hands-off.
The feel of the loft was figured out before shopping. This way I could make sure the items I buy fit the mood of the room. Some questions you might ask yourself before shopping could be; Who will be using this room? Do you have a purpose for this room? How will it be used most? Do you want it to be formal or more lighthearted? Asking these questions before you shop should help you not make expensive mistakes, and will help your theme feel more natural. You don't ever want a theme to feel forced.
Rule #2 for Decorating a Themed Room
Clean lines help themed spaces look less of a mess. If you are doing a themed room, or just decorating in general, clean lines make things look more high class. Stuffing every inch of a space with "things" makes it look messy and cluttered, forced and unnatural.
For example, on my bookcases, I make sure there's space for some items of function, and also a little blank space in between. Display items need the space to shine and be noticed. If you pack your shelves with too much stuff the eye won't know what to focus on giving the arrangement a crowded, messy impression.
I would also recommend not having more than 30% of your room be themed stuff. Again this is a room in your home, not a gift shop with items galore on display. Keeping a cap on the number of themed items helps the room keep it's chic feel.
Also, try to find ways to hide clutter so your display items take center stage. The loft is a place where my boys often play video games. These video games come with a lot of controllers, cords, and pieces. I have multiple baskets on the bookshelves that hold all of these things, so all you see is a pretty basket instead of a mess.
Bonus tip - It also makes it easier for my boys to clean up after themselves when there's a specific place their stuff goes. A clean room is always in style.
Rule #3 for Decorating a Themed Room
Mix non-themed, and personal items in with your themed items. When decorating the loft and bath, I don't want visitors to feel like they are on a ship or at a hotel. The feeling I want them to have is a relaxing, lazy day in the sun and sand in Cali.
While there are some "beachy" decor items in the room, there are also lots of items that have nothing to do with the beach on display. You still have to live in your room, they aren't shrines to your theme. Make sure they are livable and have a nice feel. As stated above, no more than 30% of your room should be theme specific items. I would also recommend keeping new items to a minimum. This will keep the room livable and decorating costs down.
Adding personal items is also a great way to make your rooms feel more comfortable and less like a museum. A room with only new items always feels off, so make sure you mix in those personal items to make it feel like a home and not just a house.
In our loft there are pictures of each of us (including our cat). Most of these pictures where not taken at the beach. The only beach photo on display is a picture of Noah and my dad having a ball in the ocean. It was a very happy memory that has a genuine feeling attached to it. It's not just a picture of a random sunset (as pretty as those can be). Those personal items bring on feelings that give a room character and warmth.
Rule #4 for Decorating a Themed Room
Use color to achieve your themes feeling, not just items. When I was adding personal or non-themed items, I made sure they fit within the color scheme. This keeps the non-themed items from sticking out too much, reaching an overall look with out it being theme overkill.
Pick a main color and then some accent colors. The "old photo" beach canvas picture above the TV was the inspiration for my accent colors. I made sure my main color was not in the photo to avoid a "matchy-matchy" look. I decided on the dark blue of the ocean as my main color for the loft and bathroom. It's true to the beach, yet not as common among "beachy merchandise".
I used the typical beach colors of turquoise and coral with touches of gold as my accents in the loft. Silver is my accent in the bath to match the hardware. In the loft, when I posted a regular non-beach picture of my husband and I on our 20th anniversary, I made sure it had the gold frame and a navy vase in it's grouping. It's totally not beachy, but it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. You can of course stray from these color rules here and there, but keep with them enough to carry the vibe of your room's theme without items looking out of place.
Rule #5 for Decorating a Themed Room
When picking out themed decor, try to go stylized rather than obvious. When I did add a "beachy" item, I made sure it didn't look like I snatched it out of the sand and stuck it to my wall. For example, in the boys bath, I chose a framed sea plant art piece. Instead of it being in it's raw form, it was sprayed silver. This added drama without taking away from the beach theme. It also followed the rule of staying within my color scheme for that room since silver is the color of the bathroom hardware.
For the pillows in the loft I went with ones that had a casual look in the right color scheme, without being too campy, like seahorses or a shell print. When we where picking out the main art piece to go above the TV, my son and I picked a beach picture that was older and overexposed. This adds to the casual style because the print doesn't look "too new" and typical.
Your goal with this rule is to get things that are chic without being obvious. You want to find pieces that will be interesting to friends and family using the room, instead of having the same, obvious knick-knacks in every other person's themed room.
Rules for Decorating a Themed Room Review
Now that we've gone over all the rules in our beach themed loft and attached bath, let's review the rules using Noah's bedroom makeover we just finished.
Rule #1 We figured out Noah's goals for his room. First, Noah wanted spaces to display his stuff. Second, he wanted to pay tribute to Japan, Anime, and Asian culture, yet he didn't want his room to feel too modern. We needed to keep these ideas in mind as we acquired new items for his room. This give us a focus and kept us from buying items that would be a mistake.
Rule #2 Two new items were purchased for the makeover. We bought Noah a new headboard in a traditional style, and a poster of Tokyo. A bookcase was added to his room, but it was a piece he inherited from his aunt Julie. We painted it in chalk paint to give it a vintage, yet neutral look.
Rule #3 We made sure Noah had a place to display all of his collectibles even if they didn't fit in with the theme. He also has a cork board for displaying personal photos, and some art work that has nothing to do with Japan, like the rest of his art work does. While we wanted his room to have style, we still want it to be a place where Noah can express himself.
Rules #4 and 5 collided a lot in Noah's room. He picked out his bedding and we decided to pull colors from that for his room. We used these colors when his fan died and we needed to replace it. We found one that was not only the right color, but has a vintage feel so it looks more stylized instead of "matchy".
Both color and style were taken into account when looking for the final piece of art for Noah's room. There was a desire to have a picture of Tokyo on his wall, but we didn't want it to be the same "Tokyo lit up at night" stock photograph that everyone has. We searched and searched until we found this vintage travel poster off of Amazon. It not only elevates the style in Noah's room, but it's in his room colors. Win-win!
Love this look? Just click on any photo to get the details and buy an item.
So, now that you know the rules for decorating a themed room, do you think you would give it a try? Do you already have a themed room in your house? What are your tips for keeping them chic instead of camp? Please share with us your themed room successes and failures in the comments.
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