Decorating for Boomerang Kids Decorating for Boomerang Kids

Aaahhhh. The kids have moved out, you're secure in your career, you've decided to take that class in Italian you've always dreamed about, and best of all, your home once again belongs only to those lovebirds who married and set up housekeeping together all those years ago.

And then, just when you're leafing through the paint chips, dreaming of having a white sofa or a collection of fragile glass figurines, the phone rings, and it's Junior calling to say he's got a great idea, now that he's been laid off and his wife's off fighting the war in Iraq.

The term "boomerang kid" was first used several years ago, when we saw grown children exhibiting a tremendous rate of return. And now that the economy has once again taken a nosedive, layoffs are coming in fast and furious, and new jobs are getting harder to come by, we're seeing a return of that trend. And really, at any point, regardless of the global situation, you could be hearing the jingle of the phone yourself.

Is there any way you can live with your grown children again?

There may be. The first step will be seeing them as adults, and deciding clearly all the ground rules of the arrangement, from who does the laundry (not you) to who gets to put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the bedroom door with the understanding that it is never to be violated (you).

But beyond the psychosocial problems of this situation, which you'll have to work out with a family therapist or at least over a good game of Yahtzee, there is the problem of re-decorating the house.

You don't have to give up the white sofa, unless your boomerang kid is returning with grandkids in tow. So go ahead with your redecorating plans, and make the house into whatever it was you had in mind. This is still the time to be a little selfish and do a makeover to your own liking.

It may help, in terms of decorating and otherwise, to think of the situation as temporary. If you had planned on making Junior's bedroom into a guest room/study, go ahead and do just that. Before you begin, make a pact with Junior that after you move his things to another room for the decorating duration, you will both choose what to keep.

Then, set to. Most people who find they have a new room in the house want to make it into one part a comfortable guest room and one part something else: a study, a sewing room, or a TV room.

Once you decide on the dual purpose of the room, find yourself a nice sleeper sofa. A futon has the advantage of being inexpensive, but the disadvantage of not being very good for the back. A pull-out sofa might run you more money, but if you really invest in it, then it likely won't wreck the back of your guest.

  • Tip: A fresh coat of paint is probably in order for the room. Even if you don't mind the color of "Junior's room," a new paint job will do wonders to make the room feel like a whole new place.

If there was a small dresser in the room, by all means keep it. Again, a fresh coat of paint, and new drawer pulls, can transform it, and you can paint it to harmonize with the wall color and with the new sofa bed.

But you'll need to have room for the other furniture you want as well: a desk, a sewing machine, a circular saw - whatever the furniture is that will make this room take on its new character.

Don't be afraid of making all these changes before Junior moves back in. It will boost your spirits, and will encourage you both to remember that this is a temporary move of his. He'll be comfortable in the room, but he won't feel that he's just taken a giant step backward toward childhood. The more you can encourage the impression that you're all adults sharing a home for a short time, the better you'll get along.

Once you do have the room decorated to your liking, ask Junior to come up with a few things he'd like to keep in the room. It could be an old school banner, a set of encyclopedia, or some of his favorite memorabilia.

The items he chooses to keep need not look just like old clutter. Framing does wonders for anything flat, not just photographs. A school banner, a program to a play, even an old t-shirt can be framed. For items that are not quite that flat, you could try using a box frame, now widely available in the frame departments of houseware and art stores. This is a box, with glass on two sides, and you can mount just about anything inside, so it can be viewed just as you would view a framed photograph.

Of course, you and Junior can decide to keep anything you both agree on in the room; the important thing is to make sure it's something you both consciously choose as a decorative addition to the room.

And then you can sit back and relax with a nice game of Yahtzee, with this new friend of yours: your adult child, who is now doing the laundry and paying rent.

Reprinted with permission from the Sheffield School of Interior Design

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