Commercial meets classic.

Kate over at Centsational Girl (fab interior design blog) just redid her little boy’s bedroom, and I have to say I’m totally impressed. For a few reasons: She did a great job with color, but even more impressive to me: she solved a problem that I think a lot of mom’s like me deal with: how to make action figures/commercially popular icon characters fit into your idea of a nice/simple space for your child.

Let me just say this first: I don’t mind having commercially popular things in our home on occasion. But when it comes to “play” spaces, I am just really big on having spaces that foster creativity and imagination play with many things to do…and not dominated by just the commercial stuff. I’ve come to find that (for my kids at least) having too many “commercially popular” things around gets in the way of that kind of play. I guess what I am saying is, even for me….who has really strong opinions about good old fashioned play….still has to battle the ever stronger force of commercialism.

But the truth of it is…kids love those things. We don’t even have TV (we watch movies…just not television) nor do we have video games. We’re not Amish or anything….I just know how incredibly attractive and addicting those are, and I’ve seen how they can easily win the place over good books, educational play and imagination play. Nothing wrong at all with TV characters and toys….it’s just that it gets harder to keep those things in check the older they get.  So how do  you incorporate what your child ‘likes’ and what you know they will ‘like more?’

Enter Kate from Censational Girl.

She bought one of my prints (Whale Dreams) and I knew she was redecorating her son’s room, and I was so interested to see how she was going to put the room together.

And I’m so impressed! She made a collage of all the fun things her son loves: Star Wars, Legos, Motercycles, Water, Boating all while keeping it classic and eclectic at the same time.  But this is how she did it: She chose everything to come together in blues. So Smart! It actually looks rather classic and nostalgic with the colors all working together.

And I must say the Whale Dreams print works so well. I never would have though that Sarah Jane art could look so good next to Lego Star Wars Figures.

And like I said: We’re big star wars fans here, and lego fans…nothing wrong there. It’s just how much the commercial aspect of it is around that I’ve put a lot of thought to.

Well, I may be walking a fine line here by saying what I would and would not hang up in my kids room…but tell me…have you had the same discussions with your children? Have you ever had to say things like, “No…I will not let you get a Mega Mind Bedspread. Sorry!”

I’d love to know your thoughts: How have you kept that balance between letting your children bring home all the “commercial stuff” while maintaining the kind of environment you envision for your kids? Am I the only one here who is constantly trying to keep the world out just a little bit longer?

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  • Beth

    I totally know where you are coming from. We don’t have a TV, either, but watch movies. My daughter has wanted a Tinkerbell comforter, but I’ve resisted…she has quilts that make her room look like a little girl’s, not commercial.

    I admit, my son has a “Superhero” room, but we’ve gotten some vintage metal signs that bother me less, for some reason. He does have a couple of other pictues in his room from Belle and Boo. I love your boy pictures, too, and would LOVE to do a boy’s room in them.

    My girls have some of your pictures hanging on their wall…above their beds are your large month pictures, a July and April. I bought the postcards with the months and am going to hang all 12 in frames on their wall.

    It’s a tough balance these days. We let the kids play computer games, but now handheld devices. I want a balance, don’t want them to be “weird,” but also love that they still build houses out of blankets, make mummies out of old adding machine paper, and most of the time are entertained by their imaginations and good books, not media.

    I agree, though, I like their bedrooms to be timeless. Of course, I’ve sort of lost that battle with my son, but I’m trying!

  • heather from arizona

    we have TV, but not cable. My kids can only watch PBS and Qubo. It is a fine line and you have to know your kids to know where to draw that line.

    I hate disney princess crap. There, I said it! I don’t buy it, my daughter turns to grandma for that kind of stuff. I won’t buy barbies either, and my daughter knows it so she doesn’t ask (thankfully no one else has bought it for her either). However, I indulge her in things like a Hello Kitty back pack and lunch box. I know what its like to want to fit in with the other kids at school and while I try to keep a lot of commercial stuff out of our house, I don’t want to do it at the risk of my daughter feeling like a social alien against all the other girls. There is a happy medium.

    My 8yo son on the other hand, has a world map and the periodic table hanging on his walls, I’m totally ok with that!! Maybe its because he is a boy, but the commercial stuff seems less important to him than it is to my daughter. He happily plays with legos and draws maps (and he loves to read the dictionary?!!!) and that’s fine with me.

  • Rae

    I am so happy to read about you not having a TV. We do not either, but honestly, it is not because of the “stuff”, but more because of the values on TV. My girls are 5 and 3 and while Dora is fine for now, I totally get how fast they can propel into shows that just depict and encourage things I am not into.
    It is also nice for me to control what they are seeing. For example, I know I can’t prevent them from watching disney videos forever, but I really am not ready for them to enter the world of romance and love that Disney depicts in their movies.
    We like to keep it simple for as long as we can!

  • Nicole FollowtheWhitebunny

    My kids hardly have any overly commercial stuff on their walls or as bedding etc. They are just as happy (or happier?) with my quilts and illustrations/kids art on their wall. There are so many alternatives to mass produces/commercial stuff. My oldest daughter has a lovely vintage school poster of animals in her room for example and for my youngest I made ‘art’ by attaching an aunty cookie fabric abc-panel to a wooden frame. They do watch tv and have hand held games etc but both usually are very good at finding a balance between passive and active play.

  • Centsational Girl

    I’m with you! I do believe the kids would choose to surround themselves with all the commercialism, but it’s our job to set up environments where they create their own universe and immaginative play!

    You say the kindest things about the space, so delighted to have your ‘Whale Dreams’ print among his gallery of inspirational images.


  • Sarah Jane

    Oh thanks you guys… glad to know I’m not alone in this:) I’m in the process of planning up how to do the kids room (we just moved in last year, and I still haven’t turned it into their own space yet) and so this topic has been on my mind. I agree that as you set the tone of your home, so your children will follow. So we really haven’t ever had any issues really….I’m just so curious to see how you feel about that too!

    But I agree as well that it’s so important for you to support what your children love, and to make that happen however you can. For instance, we don’t do the barbie thing either, but we found a great alternative that is much more appropriate for young children (Only Hearts Club Dolls). We also try and “make” as many things as we can. So, instead of buying a poster, we’d make it ourselves. Stuff like that.

    Keep the comments coming! I love hearing how you’ve asked yourselves the same questions and how you’ve made it work!

  • the emily

    my son wants one of those life-size transformer stickers on his wall. and Transformers bedding, and posters. I told him I’m fine with him having transformer toys, but there is no chance he’s having that on his wall. If he wants it when he’s an adult, he’s welcome to it, but not in my house! He has his big expensive transformers on display on his bookshelf and other shelves in the room, but I draw the line at bedding and life-size anything.

  • Rebecca

    It’s funny, I’m starting to look at schooling options for my 4y.o. boy, and I wish there was a “Non-TV-Viewers” school out there…

    I think if every parent who hates letting their child watch (excessive) TV stood their ground, we’d have a lot more kids innocent to what’s out there, and less worry that they will pick it all up from other kids anyway. I have no interest in teaching my 4y.o. what “kill” means! (yes, we are dealing with this right now. can you tell?)

    Yes there is a balance, but there is a difference between toys to play with, and furnishings in your home. Why oh why should they ever be one and the same?

    Thanks for showing these parenting issues in such a positive light. Let’s find more examples of beautiful, character-free spaces for our kids! :)

  • Hannah Stevenson

    Love this discussion and all of these comments! Sarah, you are constantly introducing me to so many great things. The Only Hearts Dolls is just another one! I’ve never even heard of these dolls and now I find myself planning to get all of them! So great!

    We are like you, we try to create, play and discover and I try to limit what they watch. I agree with one of the other commentors that we are so lucky to have SO many other options out there (thanks to the world wide web) and so many resources and support to find others who are trying to do the same.

    I just want my kids to know how rich and bountiful the world is around them with beauty and wonder…I hope I can!

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  • Sarah Jane

    Thanks kate for posting about this topic on your site too! If you are interested, you can visit here:

    I totally agree with all of you here! It doesn’t seem to be much of a topic when your children are young, but when they get older, and you really want then to feel like they ‘own’ their space, it’s so important to let them feel that it’s theirs.

    I’m a huge fan of soul mama and her lifestyle (don’t we all wish we could live like she does?) But I absolutely love that even in a farmhouse in maine with all her children home schooled….and even though she lives in almost a different time and age….her son has a lady gaga poster in his room.

    I love that! To me it says: Let them love what they love…cause that’s who they are…but keep your home filled with enough things that do encourage the family life that you want to keep it all in balance.

  • ashley g

    It is so refreshing to see others out there who don’t watch television either. We are also just a movie family. I can’t imagine getting anything done around the house or in my life if I involved television too. I admit, I am out of place when others talk about what they watched last night, but I really don’t care. Instead I talk about the book I read or the games I played with my three little bobbins. It is amazing how much television has degraded over the past nine years — and it will only continue to do so.

  • Kori@midesignmoxie

    I felt the same way about Kate’s room and glad you took the time to post about it! I am in the same boat as my seven year old son is ready to have his room redone to a big boy room and he wants star wars and monster trucks. I love how Kate incorporated his loves but left lots of room for change and her own son’t creativity to shine through. I love her space and may end up with lots of the same elements in my son’s room! Thanks again for sharing!

  • sally

    If you start young (I’m talking good old brain washing at it’s finest) and pick your battles wisely, I think you can keep the commercialism at bay. We don’t have a tv either, which I think is a big help. I also never bought anything that would make my kids a walking advertisement from the time they were a baby. As for toys, as long as I’m spending the money I get to pick more or less. As they get older and it’s their money, I try to gently persuade and so far it’s worked. That being said, each of my boys has their own small cork board above their bed that they get to hang ‘their’ things on. That’s where there are pictures of pokemon that they drew (or printed from the computer) and their favorite star wars character. But it also has their drawings of birds and boats and pictures they took on a walk in the woods, so I think they’ve grown up pretty balanced.

  • Rebecca

    Just a follow-up to my earlier rantings…
    It’s wonderful to see here that boys (especially) can grow up loving Star Wars and all the rest of it, and still be loving, wonderful creatures instead of violent maniacs… it gives me so much hope! It seems the key is moderation and plenty of counterbalance on the part of their families. Will do.

  • artfulife

    We also have chosen to give up cable & don’t miss it one bit. When I was in middle school my parents got rid of cable so living without it really seems pretty normal. Plus if there is something we really want to watch we are able to without commercials on Netflix or with limited commercials on Hulu. With the whole commercialized stuff for kids…. I usually say no for the very fact that most of the items are so tacky! Example::Tinkerbell dolls are so cute & my girls love playing with them but have you ever looked at how lame the designs are for towels/bedspreads/t-shirts? I’m with you on this one. We have an amazing array of wooden toys mixed in with legos & yes Barbies (I have 3 girls). In my defense, the older girls will play hours with the Barbies rather than turning on the tv. That’s okay by me :)