study table


Your room says a lot about you, and I couldn’t agree more. But when you’re decorating a room from scratch, it can be a huge challenge to stay true to yourself and not alienate yourself from your own space. Believe me—I recently experienced it for myself!

Along with my parents, I moved into a brand-new house last year. After all the architectural and construction-related decisions I made, decorating was the next big hurdle to overcome. Preparations started way before the new house was done, but the day we moved in my room was still a shell with bare walls and boxes waiting to be unpacked. I only had one piece of furniture the first night—my grandfather’s that I brought from our old house.

Sleeping in an empty room was a strange feeling, one I was determined not to experience for too long. So the day after we moved I set out to make my room much more like a home and much less of the empty shell it was. True enough, this process put me face-to-face with my personality and needs. It was as much a learning experience about myself as it was a decorating spree!

Three Main Spaces In My Bedroom

I divided my room into three main spaces, based on the three things I plan to do in my room: a bed and resting area, study space, and a vanity. I also chose a general look and feel for my furniture and decor: everything was either light wood finish, white, or a pastel shade. That helped me narrow down my choices, and made my room a lot more cohesive!

My vanity

The first area that came together was my vanity. When we had just started building the house my mom and I began looking around for furniture, but I couldn’t find a dresser I liked and could imagine in my new room. Since my mom was having a few pieces of furniture custom-made, I decided to have my dresser made as well. I knew what I wanted: a big mirror, drawers for extra storage, and a clean, white finish. Having it custom-made gave me the freedom and flexibility to get exactly what I want! Then I found this light wood chair at Home Depot (that matched the shade of my floor!) to give my vanity area some contrast. A few weeks later, I added a bright blue throw pillow to make the space cozier.

My study table
Cork board with my essentials

Once I fixed the vanity area, my study was up next. We ordered work tables with matching drawers and chairs for my room as well as our second floor den, and those were delivered soon after we moved in. As a writer, I spend a lot time at my desk so I needed a big, functional workspace. I added a cork board, all sorts of organizers, and filled the space with my essentials. I also have 6 electrical outlets to the left and right (and a ready phone connection!) which is perfect. For extra space, I installed 2 floating shelves.

Of course, as a literature grad I had a lot of books with me when we moved. I had a lot of fun arranging and decorating some of my go-to books and magazines on the floating shelves! While other people don’t like mixing work (or studies) and personal things, I feel the need to do just that. I’m a workaholic, so most of my time is spent reading, writing, and just being productive. If I don’t mix fun and personal things into my work I might go crazy! So while my floating shelves have a lot more stuff now, the sentiment is still the same—one shelf is for books, and the other for photos and touches of decor. I kept everything clean though, plain white frames and letters as decor, and cherry wood to match my floor and other wood furniture.

Floating shelves
More books

Speaking of books, of course I needed more than just floating shelves to store my books. While most of them are in storage, I keep my favorites out in my room for easy access. Reading remains my main de-stressor, and working in a stressful industry means I need to read a lot! So in my rest area, I have a small 2-level shelf. One level is for my bags and everyday utilities, and the other is for more of my go-to books. It’s at the foot of my bed, so sometimes I don’t even have to stand up to reach for a book!

Bedside table

I also have a bedside table which is simple and clean white like my vanity. It’s a lot messier now with medicine and all sorts of lotions, but when I was decorating it I made sure to make my dresser pleasing to the eye. It’s the first thing I see in the morning, and I want to wake up looking at nice things! As usual, I have more books on my night table. I also have a family photo (in the same white frame as the ones I used on the floating shelves) and a faux flower arrangement. I love the blue hydrangeas! They give my pink, lavender, and white room a pop of color, without being too loud.

It’s been almost a year since we moved in, but only a few months since I stopped decorating my space. I think my room will evolve more as time passes, so I’m never completely done with decorating! My walls are still a bit bare, especially the ones without windows. I might hang a painting in the future but I’ll have to find the right one first. My room will always be a work in progress, and I like it that way.

After every school day, when my ten-year old son comes home from school, I greet him with a chirpy, “How was school today?” He smilingly greets me back with a kiss, “It was ok,” he cheerfully answers. Then I reply with something like, “Have something to eat, rest a bit, then we’ll study.”  And just like that, as if on cue, a monster of a wail is heard within the walls of our entire house. The message is clear: I’m not in the mood to study. Rewind, playback. This scene is all too familiar for most moms or dads who take on the tutor role for their child.

The Pout makes a special appearance when it’s study time.

It has always been a struggle between my son and me to go through our daily task of studying for quizzes, answering homework, and doing projects, and to finish it without resorting to what is seemingly like the makings of the next civil war. Sometimes, we’d finish late at night, which would mean that going to school wide awake the next day would be a struggle.

Sleepless in the city

Admittedly, my patience for tutoring my youngest is more finite now compared to then when I taught my two other older sons in their younger years. But hey, if you’ve been tutoring for the past 15 years, you’re entitled to get cranky during study time too, right? Well, right or wrong, the fact is study time had become a point of conflict between the two of us, and we both weren’t happy about that.

Since I didn’t want anymore squabbles of any kind, I devised ways to make our study landscape more cheerful and friendly. Here are 5 tips:

1.  Room color affects your mood.

Interior design books always discuss how there is a direct correlation between colors and moods, and the color of one’s room is no exception.  One can’t undervalue the importance of choosing the right color scheme to have a more conducive place to study.  For example, green walls make for a restful place and a calm green pastel may be good to quiet down a kid and get him into a study mode. For our part, we opted to color the kids’ room in neutral tones of beiges and off-whites, which the kids found very comfortable.

2.  Proper lighting is equally important.

My eldest son kept on wondering why he felt sleepy when reading in at the study table in his room. On closer inspection, we realized that the room didn’t have ample lighting, which contributed to his feeling of being lulled to sleep. We made provisions and added more pin lights, and lo and behold…we finally saw the light! No more drowsy spells.

3.  Provide your child with a ‘study headquarters’.

If Batman has a bat cave, by all means give your kid a study cave. When we were filling up my son’s information sheet for his new school, we got stumped with this question. “Does your child have an appropriate, properly lighted and organized study area in your house?” or something to that effect. A study headquarters is an important prerequisite for a more productive study period because once your child goes to his study area, he would have already psyched himself up for study time and is therefore more prepared to focus. It is of course par for the course that any presence of a gadget on his study cave should only be for the purpose of research or as a study tool.

Not exactly the most organized study table, but it helps to have a properly designated study area.

4.  Provide distractions.

Yes, distractions can be a good thing. It keeps the study session from getting boring, and serves as a bridge when assignments are especially tedious and lengthy. My son loves to hang out in the nipa huts scattered around our village park, and in one particular moody afternoon that he was having, he wanted to go to the park but had yet to finish his school work. Problem, right? Later on, I realized that the whining to go to the park was actually a solution. We headed off to the park, brought along his school stuff, and spent the rest of our tutor period studying inside the nipa hut. Cool! Some kids also concentrate better with relaxing music playing in the background. Easy, play some music.

Productive Distraction

5.  When you talk about studying, use the right tone.

I belatedly noticed that since our study time was becoming stressful for me, I’d usually summon my stern mommy voice when it was study time, thinking that this will get the message across quicker. Rather than helping, the result was counterproductive. My son started feeling the stress in my voice, and would automatically proceed to grumpy mode. I made the necessary adjustments, started sounding more cheerful about the whole thing, and he started responding positively as well. No more grouchy face, his and mine.

There are more ways that we could help our children develop a love and habit for studying. But first, we also have to explore what works for them. Once a child’s study area is established, the learning process will be much easier.