Napoleon Dynamite

May 26, 2010

I keep meaning to tell you about the awesome mural we painted on Ralph’s bedroom wall. I’m so pleased with how it turned out.

The idea actually started as a wall-size poster of a movie still. But when I priced out the poster, it was coming in around $500. More than I wanted to spend. So I started thinking about other possibilities. At some point, I recalled helping my mother decorate bulletin boards in my dad’s classroom when I was a child. We would project images with an overhead projector and then trace them. I thought I could try the same technique with wall paint. So I recruited my mom to do this project with me when she came to visit a few weeks ago.

Why Napoleon Dynamite? Well. Ralph is deeply into all-things-film. He likes making movies, writing scripts, editing footage, directing, watching movies, studying movies, etc. But he’s 12. And many of the movie images out there are highly sexualized or hyper-violent — not something we want on the wall of Ralph’s room. We wanted something fairly asexual, but still iconic and kid-approved. Our first thought was the professor from Back to the Future, but then Ralph found this image of Napoleon Dynamite and we knew it was perfect.

The best thing is, there is absolutely no art skill involved in this project. I mean it. You could take virtually any photo (What? You don’t want a giant Jon Heder in your house? Weird.) and paint it on your wall with this technique. It’s almost like paint by number. For reals. Want to give it a try? This is how it went down:

1) We found an image we liked:

2) We used Photoshop to reduce the image to flat shapes. Basic steps in Photoshop: make the image grayscale, increase the contrast, then make the image bitmap, with a 50% threshhold:

3) Use a projector to shine the image onto the wall. Trace the image with a pencil:

4) Fill in the shapes you traced with wall paint. We used a variety of paint brush sizes. Cheap foam ones to fill in large fields and small, better quality brushes for the details:

And that’s it. Instead of $500, the cost was under $20. Below are a few more pics of the finished room (and there are even more pics here):

Notes:
-The bed we painted in metallic silver (it used to look like this). The paint was super-fume-y. So my mother wouldn’t let my very pregnant self anywhere near it.
-Bedding is from Target.
-We covered the closet doors with chalkboard paint.
-The little metal cube to the left of the bed opens up. It’s a little cubby. Ralph keeps his wallet and watch and ipod in there.
-The nightstand is a metal table with wheels. It has expandable sides. We’ve had it for ages. We freshened it up with a coat of green paint. Ralph’s iPod speaker is on the table.
-The lamp is from HomeGoods.
-Over the window we used Jenny’s technique to build an inexpensive pelmet box.

What do you think? Did we hit the right balance between cool and kid friendly? Would your tween approve? (Ralph gives it two thumbs up.) Would you ever try something like this? What image would you want on your wall?

More images of the room here.

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{ 152 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kim May 26, 2010 at 4:19 am

Oh. My. Goodness. AWESOME! Fantastic idea, thanks for sharing (and what a cool Grandma!)

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2 Tina May 26, 2010 at 5:01 am

That is so SUUHWEET! (Sheesh I am lame). I work with teachers, so when tot had his truck birthday party, they helped me do the projector thing to make a pin the wheel on the dump truck game. I love this idea! I am getting ready to update tot’s room to a big boy room. Trying to think of something that will grow with him is hard.
I bet your little man loves this room. What a cool mix of colors and I love the little silver cubby.
Best,
Tina

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3 Heather May 26, 2010 at 5:20 am

This is the coolest thing ever!! So so clever, I love it!!

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4 Shannon May 26, 2010 at 5:24 am

Totally LOVE this! Though I am not showing my kids – I don’t need one more project on my list. Second thought, I think you’re right it does look easy. They might be able to do it themselves.

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5 KarinS May 26, 2010 at 5:30 am

Can I ask what color you used for the mural? Its a lovely color! What a fun project!

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6 Design Mom May 26, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Hi Karin! The paint color is Hemlock (719) by Benjamin Moore. I actually brought the sheets to the paint store and matched the color to them.

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7 Rachel May 26, 2010 at 5:32 am

That is amazing! You are so creative!

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8 Adventures In Babywearing May 26, 2010 at 5:49 am

Oh my goodness this is genius. I love this idea so much!

Steph

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9 Adventures In Babywearing May 26, 2010 at 5:57 am

P.S. just saw @Tina’s (TEEENA!) comment LOL

Steph

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10 Polly May 26, 2010 at 6:00 am

I love it and I love all the colours you have used – the grey/ blue with the mustard yellow – I love it! I would defo do this.. not sure what I would paint on my wall though! Something girly :) x

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11 domestic extraordinaire May 26, 2010 at 6:00 am

This is simply awesome! Thanks so much for sharing it with us!

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12 kelly May 26, 2010 at 6:00 am

so freaking amazing i love it! now all you need is to get him a pet li-ger and you will be the coolest mom ever. -kb

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13 Deb May 26, 2010 at 6:01 am

Love it!

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14 Beth May 26, 2010 at 6:03 am

Oh my gosh! I LOVE IT!!

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15 Ellie Cutler May 26, 2010 at 6:05 am

OMGOSH!!! You have just saved me $100′s of dollars!!! If you look at this post (http://haphazardlyhappy.blogspot.com/2010/05/our-house-has-dungeon.html) you’ll see what I’m going for and seriously…I’m going to see what I can do using your technique. THANK YOU for sharing!!!

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16 Boston Mamas May 26, 2010 at 6:29 am

OMG I love this. Craziness.

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17 Michele May 26, 2010 at 6:36 am

Wow..that may be the coolest room that I’ve ever seen.

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18 Lotta May 26, 2010 at 6:38 am

Phenom! Looks like something out of a magazine shoot – lucky boy!

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19 beth aka confusedhomemaker May 26, 2010 at 6:38 am

Bowing to your greatness. Can you come over & do our walls?

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20 Brie May 26, 2010 at 6:39 am

I LOVE this. Its such a fantastic idea, and it turned out great. I will definitely try this technique on a wall in the future. I’m sure Ralph will enjoy his awesome room! Napoleon Dynamite is hilarious and destined to be a classic, great choice :)

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21 Alethea Fitzpatrick May 26, 2010 at 6:47 am

Absolutely stunning – I love it! That is one lucky kid… for all kinds of reasons!

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22 Jenny May 26, 2010 at 6:49 am

If that’s not the coolest boy’s room I’ve ever seen then I don’t know what is! What a flippin’ awesome idea!

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23 freebee May 26, 2010 at 6:56 am

You RULE!
I am a fan ( from France) and I read your blog everyday, and I just read your brilliant idea, it’s terrific, really. In fact, I think this technique is awesome and you’re a genius …!

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24 Jessica May 26, 2010 at 7:07 am

This is the coolest room ever! When my daughter is a tween will you come help me decorate?

Pure awesomeness!

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25 Rendy Lemke May 26, 2010 at 7:14 am

What image would we want on my boys’ walls? Nothing less than John Heder himself! This is brilliant. As nerdy as it sounds, we all drop Napoleon Dynamite phrases all the time. . . .

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26 Robyn - Scentsy Candles May 26, 2010 at 7:16 am

You are brilliant. I have not seen the projector on the wall method done in years. So easy.

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27 Margaret May 26, 2010 at 7:17 am

I’ve heard of this technique before…. I once went to a home (occupied by roommates who were both total sci-fi geeks) and they had used the projector method to make their living room a floor-to-ceiling map of Middle Earth from Lord of the Rings. (It was a green-on-green color scheme- gorgeous!) Then in their dining room they had a huge comic panel filling one entire wall- also looking absolutely perfect! That projector method really works! Napoleon looks awesome. :-)

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28 Chelsea May 26, 2010 at 7:29 am

Genius Gabrielle, Genius! I love it so much! If I had a 12 year old daughter I would want to paint Grace Kelly or Audrey Hepburn.

I am loving the whole room! Your mom looks like a great little helper :)

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29 elz May 26, 2010 at 7:38 am

I think that is a great room for a tween boy. I used a projector 3 years ago to paint a mural of birds and a tree branch on my girls’ bedroom wall-about 5 months after that birds and branches started popping up EVERYWHERE. I was so mad since I searched for images high and low before I painted. Once you get the sizing right, it is an easy way to make a big impact.

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30 Jennifer O. May 26, 2010 at 7:42 am

That looks great! Also, there’s a similar tutorial here, on Just a Girl, for a tree mural: http://j-a-girl.blogspot.com/2009/12/tree-mural-tutorial.html

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31 Adrienne May 26, 2010 at 7:44 am

I absolutely LUUUUUV everything about this entire post! Spot on Gabrielle!! Ralph is one lucky kid!!! I love your use of color while keeping it all boy!!! You are just a GENIOUS!!!

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32 naomi May 26, 2010 at 7:44 am

Love this technique – what a great mom you must have! I have to admit, I couldn’t make it through Napoleon Dynamite. I tried, I really tried, but 20 minutes was all I could withstand. At my house, it would probably be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo on the wall. Hmmm, Harrison Ford . . . not a bad idea!

I completely like the color combination of the sheets, accent pillows and side table. And I’m SO glad you mentioned the cube – I noticed it right off and wondered what it was – what a great little space for your stash!

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33 Jan (Family Bites) May 26, 2010 at 7:50 am

Pure brilliance. Your kids room posts are among my favourite – you should write a book!

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34 Robin May 26, 2010 at 7:51 am

I LOVE your room, Ralph!

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35 Lori May 26, 2010 at 7:52 am

Perfect! I love that movie! It was easy/cheap/non-permanent enough that you don’t have to worry if Ralph is over it in a few years.

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36 Kacy Faulconer May 26, 2010 at 7:57 am

It looks great! Very cool.

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37 Anne May 26, 2010 at 7:58 am

Wow – I am blown away. What a fantastic idea!

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38 Erin May 26, 2010 at 8:00 am

As an adult Napolean Dynamite fan, I think this is Suhweet! Course, I ouldn’t do this on my wall, but it would be cool to do a flower, or maybe But yours is FanTasTic!

xo Erin

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39 Kelly May 26, 2010 at 8:05 am

The room looks amazing. I am loving the metallic headboard, so perfect for a boys’s room. I’ve been meaning to send pics, but we followed your toddler bed tutorial and made them for my two and four year olds. They love them and they fit perfect in their tiny tiny bedroom. Thanks for the great inspiration design mom!

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40 Wendy May 26, 2010 at 8:07 am

This brought back memories of helping my 5th grade teacher do something similar on his wall. Thanks for the memory! Yours turned out spectacular!

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41 Bron @ Baby Space May 26, 2010 at 8:09 am

Too cool. Love it. Genius.

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42 sara May 26, 2010 at 8:13 am

The whole room looks great! Makes me realize my son’s needs a makeover :) I love the gray/yellow/blue combo. Although I wouldn’t choose Jon Heder I think that wall mural idea is an amazing one. Maybe for my 9-yr-old son Han Solo or something.

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43 Heather Lilly May 26, 2010 at 8:18 am

This was a fantastic project! :) I think you did a great job – it’s a balance of cool, graphic/mod, and I’m sure he’ll enjoy it as a tween! :)

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44 carolyn May 26, 2010 at 8:23 am

100% awesome! LOVE.

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45 Katie May 26, 2010 at 8:28 am

Gabby, you are the coolest mom on the block. This is so creative. Ralph is so lucky!

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46 CustomToyPortrait May 26, 2010 at 8:37 am

Friggin brilliant!

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47 Bri May 26, 2010 at 8:53 am

That is amazing! Although I, personally, would have preferred Doc Brown. ;o)

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48 Amy @ Living Locurto May 26, 2010 at 8:58 am

This rocks!! I just watched that movie this weekend for the 100th time and cracked up AGAIN. Would be cool to have a photo of Tina the Lama some place. What a fun idea.

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49 beyond May 26, 2010 at 9:05 am

i love this!

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50 Emily J. Ridgway May 26, 2010 at 9:11 am

I LOOOOVE IT!!!! Such a great idea…. This has totally inspired me!!

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51 danika May 26, 2010 at 9:14 am

Yup. Gonna do it. The whole room looks great. Of course.

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52 nikki May 26, 2010 at 9:35 am

Thank you Gabrielle! I am painting my nephews bedroom in a few weeks and he wanted a hockey goalie, large size over his bed. This is perfect and SOOO much easier than my original free hand plan!

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53 Isabel May 26, 2010 at 9:43 am

Oh thanks for this tutorial!

My husband and I having been racking our brains on how to do something like this in our boys room. We have one really high wall that is just too big for one of those cool vinyl decals you can get on etsy. We’ve been thinking about painting a mural, but we only have one of those small “tracer” machines back from my husband’s days in the BYU art department. I’ve used the Tracer before for smaller projects, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t project a large enough image for the wall we’re hoping to use. I imagine you just used a projector with your laptop, or did you use some other type of projector?

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54 veeda May 26, 2010 at 9:52 am

Love, love love this.

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55 Jennifer James May 26, 2010 at 10:04 am

What?!?

Sheer genius.

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56 Amber Cullum May 26, 2010 at 10:05 am

This is flippin’ cool and a great idea. Did you have easy access to the overhead machine? I am not sure where I would get one. The room is AWESOME!!!

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57 ESO May 26, 2010 at 10:18 am

Correct me if I am wrong, but aren’t you guys renting? I just would never invest the time and money in decorating a house that wasn’t mine. You guys…care more than I do, I guess.

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58 Nikki May 26, 2010 at 10:25 am

YEEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!! That is awesome.

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59 Jeanette from Everton Terrace May 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

Have thought about doing something like this for quite some time – did you just happen to have an overhead projector? I don’t have one. My husband and daughter loved Napolen (me not as much). We even refer to each other as “Tina” from the movie. We say “eat the food Tina” when we want each other to do something.

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60 kirsten bingham May 26, 2010 at 10:34 am

such a fabulous idea! i love it!

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61 Brittany May 26, 2010 at 10:38 am

Love this. I used a similar technique to create my own vinyl map of the world on my wall, but South America turned out backwards because of the little lamp I was using made the pattern spin.

Where did you get the projector? Do schools even have these anymore?

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62 Design Mom May 26, 2010 at 10:52 am

Thank you so much for all the kind comments. So glad you like the room. For those who are curious about the projector, it’s the kind you hook up to a laptop — what you might use in an office space to show a powerpoint presentation.

Yes, I happen to have one of these in my home, but if you don’t, ask around. In the past I’ve borrowed or rented them and found it wasn’t difficult to get my hands on one.

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63 Stacey May 26, 2010 at 11:16 am

As a fifth grade teacher, I can undoubtedly say that this is a Coooooool room. I know my students would love it:-). You totally hit the mark!!

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64 Jackie May 26, 2010 at 11:19 am

Completely awesome- I LOVE this idea!! And you made it look so easy!

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65 Julie R May 26, 2010 at 11:26 am

WOW. Love that mural! And the whole room looks fabulous together. Great job!

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66 Catherine at Design Editor May 26, 2010 at 11:30 am

Awesome, awesome, awesome! All hail the overhead projector.

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67 Desiree May 26, 2010 at 11:41 am

Amazing work! Brilliant idea! What a lucky boy to have such a cool Mom! Thanks for sharing and including a tutorial :-)

Congrats on the birth of your baby girl too!

-Desiree

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68 Amanda May 26, 2010 at 11:42 am

Looks wonderful – good job!

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69 Maria Martino May 26, 2010 at 11:54 am

AMAZING!! Wow!

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70 Mom101 May 26, 2010 at 12:14 pm

Design Mom for President!

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71 Liz May 26, 2010 at 12:17 pm

@ESO

Live your life, mama!

Whether you’re renting or buying or subletting, or squatting with hobos they’re still your own walls that you have to look at every minute of every day, right? Might as well enjoy them now.

But then, I’m the type who buys flowers for my hotel rooms too.

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72 Terri May 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

I can’t even tell you how much I love this room! It’s absolutely perfect for a tween. I’m filing this idea away for future reference… it’s brilliant!

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73 julia May 26, 2010 at 1:28 pm

i love this – genious idea and love the easy tutorial and low cost of the project.

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74 Emme May 26, 2010 at 1:56 pm

Completely brilliant.

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75 Martina May 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

WOW! I love everything about this room. I love that it’s not theme-y and doesn’t have a specific color palette. Love the chalkboard door. Love the silver bed frame. Love the yellow lamp. Love the mural. (How long did it take to paint?) I’d love to do something like the mural in our future-kids room. It has paneled walls but I bet this would also work on a big canvas or even paper. I’m a big fan of large-scale, graphic art!

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76 Design Mom May 26, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Thanks for the kind compliments, Martina. The mural didn’t take too long. The tracing was really quick — maybe an hour with both of us working. The painting took longer. Maybe 8-10 hours total between the two of us.

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77 bdaiss May 26, 2010 at 2:23 pm

Um, am I allowed to comment if I’ve never seen Napoleon Dynamite? But it looks fabulous! I did the projector thing on the Boys room before he was born. Pooh characters. Now I keep trying to come up with something for his new room, but he’s just not into any one thing so I’m at a loss. I think I’m just going for a big old chalk board.

Ralph’s room is so grown up and sophisticated. I’m sure he’ll love it well beyond the tweens.

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78 Lonica May 26, 2010 at 2:28 pm

Love the room. I’m curious about the red bookcases that face the bed. I love the way they look. Are they new? Old? Could I purchase some? Thanks!

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79 Design Mom May 26, 2010 at 2:51 pm

Hi Lonica. The red bookcases were in my friend Kathryn’s home in New York. She was getting rid of them right before we moved and knew I would love them. They’re fairly old. I believe she found them at a tag sale.

I’m wondering if I should paint them…

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80 Erin May 26, 2010 at 2:42 pm

I love how digitized the image looks! My aunt used the same technique for my cousin’s room — except he was five, so the subject was Spiderman. I too LOVE Target’s bedding. I have it in every room in my house. I think the room looks pulled together and crisp….sure to last Ralph through going to college!!!

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81 Marian May 26, 2010 at 2:50 pm

I’m imagining Dorthy Gale in a girl’s room. . . (I have 4 girls and only 1 boy), but almost any iconic image would be very fun.

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82 amy smart May 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Freakin’ awesome.

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83 Tanya May 26, 2010 at 3:05 pm

This is SO awesome. My hubs is obsessed with projectors for creating art. I’ll have to show him this one. Too cute!

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84 Jen Byard May 26, 2010 at 3:21 pm

What a creative idea…I was thinking of wall papering a wall in my kitchen but this would be even better!

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85 Rebecca Grace May 26, 2010 at 3:24 pm

This is awesome — thank you so much for sharing this! My older son is only 9, but he will probably be 12 before I get around to redoing his room… :-)

I love this idea because: 1. It’s low commitment, because it’s paint — if we paint something and he gets tired of it in a few years, we just paint something else. 2. It’s a great way to use a vibrant accent color. My son is begging me for an ORANGE room, and I can’t bring myself to do that — it would look wretched transitioning from the color palette of the upstairs hallway, plus I’m pretty sure it’s a scientific fact that anyone who wakes up surrounded by hyper bright, Home Depot Orange walls every morning is guaranteed to grow up to be a psychopath. But I could do a cool gray-blue on the walls and then paint a projected image in orange, and use orange as an accent color in the room. I found some wild Asian dragon tattoo looking fabric awhile ago that I’ve been saving for a quilt for this son, so I might like to do some kind of dragon tattoo type image on the wall or something. Anyway, thanks for the inspiration and for the step-by-step instructions. Your Ralph is a lucky boy!

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86 Scrappin Cheryl May 26, 2010 at 3:28 pm

This is such a great idea! My 15 year old son wants a horror movie room and not much to be found on that except for movie posters! I could totally do this with Dracula – he’d love it!

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87 Sarah Heder May 26, 2010 at 4:38 pm

Jon Heder who plays Napoleon Dynamite is my brother-in-law. I’m going to forward this post to him so he can see it. Looks really cool! I’m sure he’ll be flattered.

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88 Michelle May 26, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Brilliant.

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89 runningmum May 26, 2010 at 5:43 pm

We actually used that same technique to paint a huge white Y on my 8-year-old son’s navy wall (go Cougars!) and he loves it. Not as artsy as yours, but it was super easy.

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90 Jordan May 26, 2010 at 6:36 pm

This is very rad.

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91 Mama Holli May 26, 2010 at 6:50 pm

YESSSS!!! I used that same technique to make all my bulletin boards when I taught Special Ed. My boards looked AWESOME and I am not an artist! I was the talk of the hall! I think we called them Opaque Projectors? Big old Honker machines we rolled around the school! SO FUN!!! I never thought of doing this though!!! YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR and you make pretty babies too!
Happy Day!
Holli

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92 Inha May 26, 2010 at 7:15 pm

super cool room for a super cool kid! (and let’s not forget the super cool mom!)

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93 lo rad May 26, 2010 at 7:50 pm

when your kid turns 15 he is either going to cover it up with posters, paint over it, or kill himself.

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94 Design Mom May 26, 2010 at 8:25 pm

Yikes. If we’re still renting this house when Ralph’s 15, I might be the one contemplating suicide.

One of the nice things about this project, is that when Ralph’s sick of it, it will only take an hour or so to paint over.

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95 Kaila May 26, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Ralph officially has the coolest parents in the world.

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96 Jenny May 26, 2010 at 9:17 pm

HAHA that’s so cool. But I don’t think I’d ever want that ugly freak on my wall xD You did an awesome job tho!

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97 Mama Holli May 26, 2010 at 9:42 pm

You are sooooo sweet to reply to my comments……….I mean really sweet and generous to reply! You are way too busy and have a lot on your plate plus a beautiful new baby girl!! So I am officially giving you permission to just skip over any and all comments from Mama Holli from now on! You are just too sweet! So just skip on over this and go kiss that baby for me!
By the way…..I have posted you up on my blog tonight! Have a wonderful evening and get some needed rest!
P.S. I will be in my P.J.’s tomorrow too and I don’t even have a tiny new baby at home…just big baby angels!
Blessings,
Mama Holli

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98 Susie May 26, 2010 at 9:42 pm

Yes, this is fantastic! Definitely the right balance. Thanks for giving the steps for this great idea.

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99 Chris May 26, 2010 at 9:56 pm

Dang that is awesome! I have to say that is taking it to the next level!

Hopefully he doesn’t get tired of it to quickly…

Good job on a simple innovation to accomplish something nice!

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100 Victoria May 27, 2010 at 4:26 am

Fab-u-lous !!!! What a great job. My son would love to have an enormous Silver Surfer on his wall – might have to get Huzz to try your idea out.

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101 Jenny May 27, 2010 at 6:13 am

omg! this is brilliant! I am so going to try this at home =)

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102 Jennae @ Green Your Decor May 27, 2010 at 8:49 am

This looks absolutely fantastic, and it’s perfect for a tween boy’s room. My stepsons would love something like this!

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103 Suzanne from pretty*swell May 27, 2010 at 9:14 am

Just too awesome! Thanks for the inspiration!!

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104 Beth Dotolo May 27, 2010 at 10:37 am

That is FANTASTIC!!!

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