Design Tools


As I mentioned here, here and here, I spent much of last month in LA with my mom and brother (more about our crazy family arrangement in this post). Since being back in Virginia, I have to admit, I totally miss the California weather… and of course, my family. On the plus side, Greg and I just booked our tickets to head back to sunny California in January. (Yay!) While I had a lot of fun scouting out celebrities, seeing the Brady Bunch house, shopping at interesting stores and enjoying Sprinkles cupcakes, with the help of the fine folks at Target, I also managed to sneak in a fun room makeover a few days before I headed back here to Virginia.

While my dad is here in Virginia holding down the fort, my mom and little and only brother (Abram) are temporarily in LA while Abram writes/records (again, more about all of that in this post). While in LA, they are setting up shop home in a cozy apartment in downtown Burbank. My mom (also known as the best mom in the world, FYI) has a crazy talented way of making any space feel like home. So while the rest of the apartment was in tip top shape, Abram’s room was still in need of some TLC. All that was in his room was a bed and a desk. Abram and mom gave me what every interior design enthusiast wants… free reign! Here’s an idea of what the room looked like before…

Yeah. Not much to it. The walls were your typical “builder beige”, but luckily there was a lot of natural light coming in from the large window on the far side of the room. Since the whole reason for Abram being in LA is his music, that seemed like a good place to start. I didn’t want to go too far with a “theme”, though, and I knew Abram wouldn’t like that either (even though he lives and breathes all things music). I decided to put together a room that was borderline “techy” with a fun music vibe – rather than a theme. 

I got an email from Target telling me about their new tool called uStyler. The uStyler is a super fun tool that helps you put together a room using bedding, lamps, and decorative accessories from Target’s college decor line. While it’s mainly geared toward the college crowd going back to school, it’s also a great place to start when decorating a small space or putting together a room for a certain little brother living in LA for music and setting up a temporary home. Perfect!

First of all, I so wish Target had this when I was in college! There are six “zones” on the style board: bedding, lighting, clock/radio, wall accessory, throw pillow, and a furniture accent (floor lamp or chair/bench). You click on the “zone” then they give you a bunch of selections from the college decor line to choose from. A few clicks here,  a few clicks there, bada bing bada boom, you’ve got a completed room! Here’s what I came up with for Abram…

Pretty cool, right? When it came time to name the room on uStyler, we named it “Sound Bytes”. My favorite thing would have to be the colorful chevron bedding! It gave us a really good starting point for the whole design of the room. Oh, and you can click here to view/shop/customize the look online.

Thankfully, the apartment complex said it was okay to paint the walls. So we did! With the pops of color in the Target bedding and Abram’s existing desk, I wanted to paint the walls with something that would really make them stand out. So, I took the plunge… and painted it black. Chalkboard paint to be exact. I’ve always wanted to paint a room with chalkboard paint, and this was the perfect opportunity! Abram loved the idea, and mom was cool with it, so bye, bye builder beige!

We spent about a day and a half priming, painting and watching it dry. At that point, I was leaving for Virginia in 36 hours, so it was time to hustle. 36 hours of shopping, decorating and a little bit of sleep later, here’s what the room looked like…

Totally different, right?! The black chalkboard walls made a woooooorld of difference, and the colorful bedding and accessories we picked out using Target’s uStyler are the icing on the cake! I used Abram’s filing drawer that used to sit with his desk and repurposed it as a side table.

I’m no chalk artist by any means, but I thought this would be a cool way to bring in some DIY “artwork” and fun chalkboard action.

I took 12 of Abram’s favorite albums, put them in album frames and hung them on the wall in a grid pattern about two inches apart from each other. I love how the black frames make the albums look like they’re floating. They bring a lot of color to the black walls that makes them really pop.

On the other side of the room is what we’ve dubbed the “guitar corner”. I hung two of Abram’s favorite guitars using some wall mounts, and also added a floating shelf for a place to put guitar picks, notebooks and such.

I picked up the styrofoam head for $4 at a local craft store and used it as a headphone stand. As long as you don’t look at him right in the eye, it’s not that freaky, promise, haha!

Like with the side table, I love, love, love how the red desk jumps off the chalkboard black walls. Above the desk, I added a bulletin board for Abram to have a place to display his ticket stubs, passes and keepsakes from home. I also added a fun white table lamp for some contrast. Totally unintentional, but I really like how it ended up tying in with the white chalk art.

Speaking of white chalk art, to add some more chalk-related fun, I drew a sound wave across the whole wall behind the desk. It really helps fill up the wall without being too overpowering.

The red wall clock next to the desk and the clock radio both have a bit of a vintage feel (something Abram really likes) which speaks to the Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin album covers over the bed. Oh, and a total bonus, the cover of the Billboard magazine coordinates with the room’s crazy color scheme. Score!

Oh, and I’ve got to highlight one of my favorite things in the room… the mustache pillow (also from Target). It’s the perfect graphic element to round off the bed and ties in perfectly with the black walls. Love it!

My brother’s dog, Packer (named after the Green Bay Packers), quickly claimed his spot in the new room. I think he really likes it, can’t you tell? ; )

A whirlwind of a project, but I’m really happy with how it came out with a little bit of elbow grease. Thanks to Abram for letting me take over his room and our awesome friends at Target!

Keeping it real: For this project, the super nice folks at Target sent me the items we picked out on the uStyler as well as a $100 gift card to help with the cost of the makeover.

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  • Reply
    Lindsey @ arkadian belle woods
    July 25, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Very cool! You and your brother look so much alike! Seems like you too are much like my sibs and I! I love the staggered chalk around the room that is pretty awesome! I know your brother loves it because it feels more like home!

  • Reply
    Ashley {GirlyObsession}
    July 25, 2012 at 9:56 am

    WOW, Ashley, it looks great!!! And it doesn’t look like a whirlwind project! I love love love the chalkboard walls, and the artwork. Doesn’t need to be in quotes, its great ART!!

  • Reply
    Staci @ My Friend Staci
    July 25, 2012 at 10:15 am

    This looks great! I’m obsessed with that comforter. Proof that a boy’s room doesn’t have to be yucky!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 10:44 am

    Wow, you did an amazing job – that room looks absolutely fantastic!

  • Reply
    Carrie @DreamGreenDIY
    July 25, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Great redo (and the photos are fabulous too…) – Well done!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 11:24 am

    what an awesome transformation! i love the bedding!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Love it! I have a chalkboard wall in my kitchen, but I don’t feel like it “works right” it is very tought to write on. any ideas? maybe its the chalk? the wall? the chalkboard paint I used? I almost want to reprime and repaint it to see if that makes a difference. HELP!

    • Reply
      July 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      Hmm… First, I’d try changing out your chalk for another brand. I really like using Crayola sidewalk chalk. If that doesn’t work, it could very well be the paint. We’ve used a few different brands of chalkboard paint in the past on other projects but our favorite so far (and what I used in Abram’s room) is Valspar’s black chalkboard paint. Hope that helps! : )

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Awesome room! You have one lucky brother 🙂

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    This is totally amazing!

  • Reply
    Pamela Croft
    July 25, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Love this room! Job very well done.

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    What a fun room this is! Even with the black walls, you managed to make it a bright, fun and inspirational room! Great work! I’m sure Abram is loving it too! ….he’s a cutie:)

  • Reply
    Caitlin @ Desert Domicile
    July 25, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Wow, what a transformation! I love the black walls paired with the added pops of color and I love how those album frames look like they’re floating! Great job 🙂

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    Love this room! Refreshing!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    This looks great! You’re a great sister! Question for you- were the desk and the file cabinet red already? They both look like they were meant to be with that room!

    • Reply
      July 25, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Thanks! Yep, lucky for me, they were already red! They are from CB2 (though both are now discontinued).

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 4:41 pm


  • Reply
    Tena Hughes
    July 25, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Very cool room! Adorable dog!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 5:53 pm

    I looks great! I have that same red clock in my kitchen, but I love how versatile it is and how it ties in with the vintage records. Very very cool. Good work!

  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm

    I am speechless. You have some major skills my friend. The room looks SO incredible and I love how it is so tailored to your brother and his personality and passion. Thank you for showing that walls can be black and the room can still rock! Love the records and all of the simple pops of red. Seems as though there is a plethora of talent in your fam!


  • Reply
    July 25, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Ashley, I’m sitting here squealing with excitement over this makeover. Seriously amazing, girlfriend. You have some serious skillz!

  • Reply
    Rebecca @ the lil house that could
    July 25, 2012 at 10:04 pm

    I just totally bought that pillow this weekend for our office! Love the chalk art!

  • Reply
    Shaun Gayle
    July 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm

    Very nice renovation and decoration

  • Reply
    July 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Just saw you today on and made my way over here. This room is fantastic! Cannot wait to read more!

  • Reply
    July 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    This is incredible. I really, really wish you would come to NYC and re-do my apartment. Your taste is really awesome and your artistic skills are top notch!!!

  • Reply
    Paige Hurley
    July 26, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    What an great room! I would never have been so brave as to paint an entire room black……and with chalkboard paint!!!! But I love it!!! Very nicely pulled together and the music theme well carried out. Great job!

  • Reply
    Nicole Whitehall
    July 26, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Amazing transformation! You picked a great color and amazing concept! I really want to do this for my brother now!

  • Reply
    Lesley from the Philippines
    July 27, 2012 at 1:17 am

    You did such a good job! I’m pinning this for future inspiration. Love how black walls can totally change the look and feel of a room. Your choice of decor is awesome too – from the Crosley radio to the vintage clock, and even the chalkboard drawings!

    Nice, nice, nice! What a lucky brother 🙂

  • Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Amazing! His temporary home looks so much more finished than my permanent home! May I borrow you? 🙂

  • Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I love before and afters 🙂 You did a great job! Is there a way to get a cost breakdown of everything you did? I love when you can see bargains even better than before and after.

    ps. I was drooling over that pillow on the chair just yesterday at Target! Need to find a place for it.

    • Reply
      July 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Well, the total makeover came in around $375 because Target gifted us what we picked out on the uStyler and Abram already had the bed (from Ikea), desk and side table (both from Target). All of the primer, paint and supplies were about $70 (from Lowe’s). The extra throw pillows were $45 (from Target). The white desk lamp was $40 (from Target). The white floating shelf was $30 (from Ikea). The album frames were $120 (from Target). The accessories and misc (chalk, cork board, guitar hooks, styrofoam head) totaled in at $70. Adding what Target gifted us, the entire makeover was $596. Hope that helps!

  • Reply
    July 27, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Amazing transformation!! It looks awesome!

  • Reply
    Jackie S
    July 27, 2012 at 3:21 pm

    Ashley, you are quite possibly the cutest thing in the blogosphere. Your energy is awesome and it comes right through in your writing & designing. Great job!

    • Reply
      July 27, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Oh my goodness! That is so sweet : ) You made my day, thank you!

  • Reply
    Macie L
    July 27, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    What a transformation! Wow. Love.

  • Reply
    Morgan {Style Oyster}
    July 28, 2012 at 10:37 am

    New follower! My husband’s family had a dog named Packer {also huge Green Bay fans}. Look forward to reading more. Congrats on your iHeart Organizing gig! xoxo

  • Reply
    Kimberley Morris
    August 17, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Oh my gosh, this room literally ROCKS!

  • Reply
    September 20, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Ashley, you did an amazing job on this room!! I also love the new wall colour in Greg’s office! I’m a new follower – found you through IHeart Organizing. Looking forward to seeing more. 🙂

    • Reply
      September 20, 2012 at 1:37 pm

      Thank you! Glad you found us : )

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Ashley (and Greg) – I stumbled upon your site recently and find myself loving pretty much everything you guys do (and secretly wanting to try it all myself starting with the kitchen… all white? Yes, please!). This room looks great and I’m spinning wheels in my brain to find the courage and the space to try it myself. Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Reply
    January 23, 2017 at 9:41 pm

    Love this room! Where did you find the “recording” sign?

    • Reply
      May 9, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      Thank you! I believe it’s from Urban Outfitters a long time ago!

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