How This Single Mom Created a Small, Stylish Kid’s Room in Her Living Room
Name: Ari, 9 years old
Room type: Kid’s bedroom area in the corner of the living room of a one-bedroom apartment
Size: 75 square feet
DIY or professional project: All DIY except for the living room divider, which was designed by mom but built by someone else.
As told by: Mom, Breeana Dunbar
Photographer and single mom Breeana Dunbar didn’t have the easiest time trying to buy a home for herself and her son, 9-year-old Ari. “I saved for a home deposit for years and was finally ready to start applying for a home loan in February 2020,” Breeana told us. “Poor timing. I had to shelve my search when COVID-19 kicked off, and by the time I could start up the process again a year later, the pandemic had impacted my business so negatively that it slashed my borrowing power.”
With a new, tighter budget and a fantastic mortgage broker, Breeana finally managed to secure a small loan and bought a decent-sized one-bedroom apartment in Melbourne’s Central Business District. (Otherwise known as “downtown” for U.S. readers.)
Determined to make the 560-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment work for herself AND Ari, she came up with a number of clever solutions to house two people in a home with only one official bedroom.
She created a “bedroom” in the living room.
How do you turn a one-bedroom apartment into a two-bedroom apartment? Carve out some sleep space in one corner of the living room, like Breeana did. No, she didn’t build four new walls. Instead, she used smart furniture purchases and placements to make Ari’s bedroom area. A small daybed is perfect for a small child to sleep in, but can also be used for other purposes in the home when the kid ages out.
She designed a highly functional and stylish custom room divider.
The most important piece of furniture Breeana used to carve out a bedroom in their living room was the ingenious room divider.
“I knew the room divider was going to be a significant piece of furniture in the living room, providing needed storage but also taking up a lot of visual space, so I wanted it to be beautiful,” Breeana explains. “I came up with a simple design, similar to the IKEA KALLAX unit, that included open storage for books and decor pieces and closed storage with doors that open on both sides of the unit to hide Ari’s toys.”
“My friend, furniture maker Joel Elliot, made the final piece. Joel put the unit on big castor wheels because castor wheels always look cool, and it’s heavy so the castor wheels allow me to move it around for vacuuming. Even though it’s a big piece I didn’t want it to look too heavy in the room, so Joel painted it a washed white — light enough that you can still see the lovely wood grain.”
She made sure there was a lot of storage.
The closed storage in the custom room divider and the storage locker aren’t the only hidden storage spots in Ari’s little bedroom area. Tucked neatly away under the daybed are several vintage suitcases which house more of Ari’s toys out of sight.
She personalized the space.
Because the custom room divider acts as a wall for the living room as much as it does Ari’s bedroom, the open shelves contain a mix of accessories that reflect Breeana’s personal style facing out to the living room, as well as a mix of toys and other decor elements that work for Ari’s style, too! Especially adorable are some of Ari’s LEGO creations sitting pride of place atop the divider.
She made it feel like a real bedroom.
Despite there being no door, Ari’s small space still feels like its own separate bedroom, thanks to the small side table-turned-nightstand, the cute cloud light hanging above the bed, and to all the thoughtful pieces of art. “I commissioned Min Pin to make this illustration for Ari’s third birthday,” Breeana says of the print framed above the nightstand. “I gave her a list of his favorite things as a 3-year-old (dinosaurs, books, ice cream, etc.) and she created this original painting.”
She made sure this solution worked for them both!
To accommodate the unusual situation of having your kid’s room in the living room, Breeana incorporated small but smart design tweaks around the apartment. As a photographer who does a lot of work from home, Breeana chose to add a small office area in the apartment’s only actual bedroom, turning it into both her serene place to sleep as well as place to get work done. “I use a small vintage wood desk that’s a similar shade to my bedside table, so the desk doesn’t look out of place in the bedroom,” she explained in her full house tour.
Another brilliant addition? “The kitchen is separate from the living room (most small apartments have kitchen/living in the same room), so I installed a heavy velvet curtain, which blocks sound and light, between the kitchen and the living room. That way I can get up early in the morning, use the bathroom, and make my breakfast without disturbing Ari,” she wrote. “Eventually, we’ll have to upgrade to a larger space, but it all works well for now.”
Ari’s thoughts on his room:
“Ari loves his room, he thinks it’s ‘really cosy.’ He thinks his LEGO sculptures are the coolest design feature of his room, and I have to agree! He also loves living in the city because ‘there’s always something new to do.’ His favorite activity is ‘dog happy hour.’ The local dog owners gather in Flagstaff Gardens to watch the sunset each night; we often visit so we can have a play with our favourite dogs.”
- Byron wicker day bed — Early Settler
- Bed linen — Sheet Society
- Custom-made room divider — By my friend Joel Elliott Furniture
- Vintage wood bedside table — eBay
- Vintage clock radio — eBay
- UPPLYST LED wall cloud lamp — IKEA
- Colorful painting — I commissioned Min Pin to make this illustration for Ari’s third birthday. I gave her a list of his favorite things as a 3-year-old (dinosaurs, books, ice cream, etc.) and she created this original painting.
- PC Portable Light — Hay
- Olive wardrobe locker — Mustard Made
- Large vintage lamp with pleated shade — The Niche Room
- Vintage suitcase — eBay and Facebook Marketplace, used for toy storage.
- Vintage Melbourne oil painting — Facebook Marketplace, framed by Frames Ready Made.
- Lego sculptures on top of the room divider — Made by Ari. He’s very creative!
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