Friday, June 29, 2012

Graduation Keepsakes - A Parents Gift of a Suitcase of Memories

It's interesting how the mind of a senior, in high school and a parent can be on two totally different wavelengths, during the graduation season.  For the past several months, my son has been looking long and hard into the future with excitement.  My wife, Angela and I, on the other hand, have been emotionally spent. It's not that we are not excited for him.  It's all the "behind the scenes" stuff a parent has to do to celebrate their big achievement that has been toying with our emotions for months.

Secret notes come home from the school about supplying baby pictures, creating "through the years" slideshows.  You know the list....

To top it all off, the piece de' resistance, the icing on the cake, we get a top secret request from the school to assemble a packet of photos of us as a family, from birth to graduation.  They'd like us to write letters talking about our wishes for him and how they've evolved from birth to now and into the future.  We're to assemble mementos of his journey, with notes as to why they are special and to be sure to include some new items, for him to carry into the future.  This is to be his "suitcase" that he carries away with them as he moves forward in life (code phrase meaning "leaving you.., goodbye, see-ya".  What the heck, is this project sponsored by Kleenex and the antidepressant pharmaceutical companies?

So... we put on our big people pants, went down to the basement and started digging through his life in boxes.  Here's what we came up with.

graduation, keepsakes, mementos, gift, ideas

We took the "suitcase" idea and went literal by altering a photo storage box.  I turned it on its side, cut the lid's bottom side and added hinges.  Angela found a purse handle and some corner protectors at the craft store.  To mimic old travel stickers, I went on my trusty graphics program and created some stickers reflecting his accomplishments, activities and schools including his college choice.  I was wanting to find an old clasp to be the lock, but couldn't find one in the time restrictions we had.

Inside we tucked away all of the requested items.  There's several of his old toys with tags on them.  One one side we wrote about the memories the toy evokes.  And on the other side wrote about his personal characteristics and how it related to the toy.  We enclosed a compass and a flashlight so he can always find his way "home".

graduation, keepsakes, ideas

His suitcase was given to him, by the school, at a senior retreat.  He loved it and was anxious to get home and thank us for it.

It is heartwarming to know that it will carry forward with him.  Someday, as a grown man, maybe with a family of his own,  he can explore and share it.  He might even find a few dried up tear stains.  Ahhh....who am I kidding, he'll find more than a few!

The whole suitcase idea served as inspiration for his post-graduation party.  I'm excited to share with you some of the pictures and the decor ideas we came up with in a future post.   

Until then...hug your kids!  Because they're "moving forward in life" and time with them is precious.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Genius Boy's Bedroom - The Theory of Decorativity

Science and Science fiction themed room by

Sitting criss-crossed legged on Kade's floor, his mother and I stare at the room, back at each other and then down to my tablet.  What if, what about this, what about that and whoa, what about those is asked?  I'm rapidly sketching away at some ideas to cover the vastness of Kade's interests.  We're making headway with ideas but how do we tie them together.  Finally, the word to summarize him comes to mind.   It's genius, rather...he's a genius.

6 year old Kade has an inquisitive mind.  Within his quaintly small room are blooming amaryllis bulbs, crystals, plant seeds, disassembled toy pieces, works of personal art and an array of THINGS that I'm sure juggled around in his pockets before finding their rightful place in his room.  He loves Star Wars, reading, cooking and finding answers to his burning questions about biology, chemistry, dinosaurs and magic tricks.

My quest was to tie everything together in a room design fit for a genius.

His loft bed was Kade's dream piece of furniture.  It's one of those light maple kit units with the primary colored panels to play fort in.  Not exactly what I'd like to work with.  As a matter of fact, its monstrous footprint prevented the petite room from having a functioning arrangement.  So, it needed to go away or be reinvented.  Kade's mom raised her eyebrow inquiring "what do you mean, reinvented?"
Customized bed from faux reclaimed wood.  Makeover ideas.
Reconfiguring the loft bed made room for a retro steel desk and chair.

As a sucker for an artistic challenge, I proposed rebuilding Kade's loft bed by adding a facade of faux reclaimed wood, rethinking the crayon colored canvas, replacing it with burlap and reorienting the slide and re-facing it with galvanized sheet metal for an old school look.  Changing the bright maple required some sanding and re-finishing with a wood toned lacquer.  That's a lot of re's...whew.  

before and after boys bedroom makeover loft bed and slide
Before and After alteration of Kade's loft bed and slide.
A collage of mounted magazine clippings, science themed art, a "K" for Kade and a piece from my superhero wall art collection speak to the science theme.

The slide being refaced in galvanized sheet metal gives it a retro, old school feel.
His white walled room had a niche with a built in dresser and a sad little shelve.  With a few sawcuts and some trim I altered his floor standing bookcase and transformed it into an upper cabinet, above the set of drawers.  This made the new niche the perfect home for a fish tank.  

Vintage flash cards act as a decorative border.

Now that his bookcase became an upper cabinet we freed up room for a vintage steel desk and chair.  Topping it of with some painted shelving, the corner became the perfect spot to house organizational vintage locker bins, reclaimed tin can storage and glass mason jars to display his collections.  A little nod to his love of science, Star Wars and classical music was brought together by plaster casts of Einstein, Chopin and a faux plaster bust of Darth Vader, I created from a halloween mask.  A hollowed out and spray painted dinosaur became the perfect container for an aloe plant, which Kade remarked is used for burns.
Darth Vader Statue, bust with Einstein and Chopin
A Darth Vader halloween mask altered into a faux classic bust finds a home next
to plaster Einstein and Chopin.

I've been on a hexagon craze lately and with its sciencey shape, I found it to be the perfect solution to store some of his fabulous finds.  The hex cube unit, I built features decoupaged pages from an old dictionary, where key words like nucleic acid can be found.  Kade quickly filled it with his precious rock collection.
hexagon shelves by Aaron Christensen for a boy's room
Created in my studio, the unassembled hexagon shelve pieces looked like a
colorful game of Jenga.

Applying a sheet metal veneer over the awkward looking
colonial raised panel bifold doors turned them into modern magnet boards.
The family's home is built in a modern style which was compromised by the old fashioned raised panel bifold doors the builder had installed.  My laminating a sheet metal covering over the colonial looking bi-folds created a fun, modern looking usable magnetic and dry erase board surface for Kade. 

The addition of a vintage school map to the angular entrance of his room creates a focal point, a tribute to geography and acts as a reminder that a long, long time ago Navigation was best learned on a really big map with a sharp pointy stick.

I sent Kade's mom shopping for a retro Edison style light fixture.  What's more genius than Edison?  She was pleased to find out she could have one custom built at a local architectural salvage house.  The glowing filaments of the Edison bulbs look terrific.

Kade's feathers, melted crayon sculptures, pint size biospheres and his scientific notes are all safe, sound and organized in his genius boy room.  It's now a room that reflects his intellectual passions and feeds this playful young boy's needs for whimsy and fun.

Kade and his mom couldn't be happier.  The petite room is more user friendly, it has personality and it's a one-of-a-kind built just for him.  Kade's mom whispers...."he can also organize his collections", which was code words for clean his room.  Sorry Kade, even Einstein had to keep his room clean.

I'm no scientist, but I think the theory of decorativity comes into play here- for every aesthetic action there's an unequaled enthusiastic reaction!


Pictures of the Genius Boy Room are posted on my Pinterest page, if you are a pinning machine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Superhero Worship- Decor Ideas and Character Study Part 3

Let's just assume that Peter Parker came into some cash peddling his Spiderman action shots and decided to upgrade his spidey pad, which is a 10 x 12 room at Aunt Mays or a tiny off campus apartment.  There's not enough room for splendid couches or cash for spendy art but he selects furnishings that speak to him and make his Spidey decorating senses tingle (ewww, I know).

Well,"Spidey goes to Ikea and Home Goods"  Issue-1 would make for a boring comic book read.  So I've decided to do it for him.  Here are my picks for the upgraded web digs.

In my series of Superhero Man Cave storyboards for Superman, Batman and now Spidey, I've selected a collection of goods that I think speak to their dual-identity personalities. 

Here in Spiderman's young man cave, the look is eclectic.  A combination of what could be hand-me-downs, some arty stuff created by his college art major buddies and maybe a few things he had crafted out of webbing during his time as Venom.  The posters, tacked to the wall, explore his own persona and the enemies that want to squish him.  The one piece of art that Spidey sprang for is a portrait of his beloved red-headed love interest.

Spiderman / Peter Parker bedroom and room decor ideas storyboard by Aaron Christensen
Spiderman's college apartment or Aunt May's extra room
is fit for the eternal on-again-off-again bachelor.

 I was hoping to find a Spidey inspired mini fridge and microwave, but no such luck.  Every college student has to have them.  Keep your eye out for me.

Want to share these...visit my Pinterest board at

Batman's is up at

Superman's is up at

Monday, June 18, 2012

Superhero Worship- Decor Ideas and Character Study Part 2

I went digging around the internet looking for inspiring products for a boy's superhero room and came away with a collection of things that would be perfect for an adult's room or man cave.  So for fun, I've compiled three story or mood boards exploring the imaginary interiors of a few favorite superheroes.

Number two, of the series of three, is a design for whom is probably the most revered and loved superhero of all time, Superman.

Superman / Clark Kent room decor ideas for his man cave.
Superman might have a fortress of solitude but I'm sure he'd prefer to hang his cape in a suped up man cave.

Throughout the Superman genre of comics,  movies and cartoons, you never quite get a glimpse of him taking time off, sitting back in his apartment Skyping Ma and Pa Kent, napping with Krypto the Super Dog or having the Justice League over for a potluck and poker game.   Even the Man of Steel needs to some down time.  So, to outfit his urban Metropolis bachelor pad, I've assembled a few components that I think speak to him as a supehero, mild mannered reporter, alien with advanced powers and conservative farm boy, at heart.

With his well tailored, classic look as Clark Kent, I felt he'd gravitate toward a neo-classic and art deco style befitting his metropolitan persona.  This style also gave room to explore, through decor, his origins as a cross universe, rocket sent orphan.  With his x-ray capable vision, how would he see the world?  Would he switch back and forth and see the inner workings of things and come to embrace that revealed vantage point?  I thinks so, so I've included an amazing x-ray couch with a transparent covering, a "see-through" chair and a couple art posters which may reveal his view of everyday humans when his powers are kicked in.

Some of the items may be a bit spendy, for a reporter's salary, but as a faster than a speeding bullet kinda guy, he could be the ultimate in Craigslist shoppers, searching bargains and being the first to show up worldwide within seconds.  Lifting a concrete and steel chair up to his twelfth floor apartment wouldn't be issue either.  The American flag is an art piece made from melted plastic army men, which I thought might have some kind of psychological meaning to him with regard to his powers, balance of intervention and his allegiance.

Unlike his Justice League partner, Batman's pad featured on the storyboard Post #1 , Superman's man has a slight bit of whimsy and "boy scout" optimism to it.

With the new Superman movie reboot coming and its likely conforming to the less-cartoon, more real-life approach to heroes trend, will we catch a glimpse of his bachelor pad?  Time will tell.  In the meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed my exploration in Supe's decor.  Next up is Spiderman and his Peter Parker persona.

Now back to designed a boy's room....

Batman's is up at

Friday, June 15, 2012

Superhero Worship- Decor Ideas and Character Study Part 1

Burning up the box offices are all things Superhero.  With both Marvel's and DC's super smash of movies the trend isn't going to end soon.  We've seen the dark knight Batman reboot his way to the top, Spiderman and Superman's versions are underway.  The Avenger's movie, with it's amazing cgi make heroes like the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor and Captain America believable and enjoyable to watch.

This got me thinking.  While working on a client's son's room, which will be superhero in theme, I went searching for products on the internet.  Frankly, I've seen it all and most of it is too literal for me with logos, faces and the mighty corporate branding all over it.  What if I took a different approach?  What if, like I tend to, explored the theme in a less than literal way?

So while I dug into the personalities and characteristics behind the heroes, I started taking note of some really amazing products that speak to whom the superheroes are by inference.  So after hours of gathering product picks for the boy's room, I ended up with a ton of ideas saved for a less than little boy version of a superhero room.  While there might not be a demand for grown up rooms decorated in superhero, I though this would be a fun exploration.

I'd like to start by introducing you to my first of three storyboards.  This first one explores, from a design aspect, a brooding, angry man, whose night life hiding behind a mask interferes with his relationships, compromising his shallow persona as a gregarious, millionaire playboy.  You guessed it.  Bruce Wayne a.ka. Batman, the Dark Knight.

I've chosen art, furniture and decor items that, in my opinion, reflect his life as a tortured soul, man and larger than life superhero.
Batman Bruce Wayne interior decor exploration and ideas
What if Batman / Bruce Wayne wanted a man cave instead of a bat cave?
Other than his butler and future sidekick, his closest relationships are those with his enemies.  Therefore, I would imagine he'd find a twisted kind of comfort in having reminders of his arch nemesis' around.   His style would be eclectic, and expensive opting for fine art collectables and one of a kinds, reminding him that he has the net worth to be lavish.  Of course his color palette would be dark.  He'd find interest in the textural variances of materials in black instead of appreciating color.  His fondness for high tech would push him towards a more contemporary style with a few select "high brow"accessories thrown in.

I had to throw in the shakespeare bust as a tribute to the campy old Batman series from the 60's.

What do you think, did I take it the direction you would have gone?  There's the whole other universe of tongue-in-cheek, bat-table, bat-couch, yellow and blue that could be explored too.

I'm wrapping up my Superman and Spiderman versions for posts 2 and 3.  Wait until you see the x-ray vision twist on the Supe's man cave.

Superman's is up at

Spiderman's is up at