My daughter wants to paint a wall in her bedroom...uh oh
July 15, 2021 3:12 PM   Subscribe

We're moving into a new house, and my 12-yr-old daughter will finally have her own bedroom. She wants to turn one of the walls into a big painting canvas. I love to encourage her artistic side but...I have reservations.

She's thinking about something ongoing, redone on occasion/whim, not a one-time thing.

My concerns are twofold:

1. The room is carpeted
2. She's very messy. Like, borderline-oblivious leave-a-trail messy
3. Anything she does could be hard to paint over if and when we eventually sell the house

She assures me that we can put down a drop cloth and tape the edges and she'll be "careful." I envision carpet scrubbing, orange footprints out the door, Jackson Pollock ceilings and waaaay more hassle than I want to bite off. I'm trying to figure out some kind of middle ground.

We could make it a one-time thing, or an infrequent parental-supervision thing.

I've considered buying large canvases that she can work on *outside*. This can get expensive quick. Although cheaper than new carpet. Maybe some kind of big hanging canvas thing?

Are there types of paints that come out of carpets more easily?

Any other options?

Am I just being too paranoid?
posted by gottabefunky to Grab Bag (65 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Would she be into Sharpie wall art (Google it, it is a Thing), and then she has to prime and paint when you sell the house, with you supervising the taping/drop cloth process at that point? Anything can be painted over with enough coats of primer- when I moved into my first house I had horrifying deep magenta and forest green walls. Two coats of quality primer + one of quality topcoat and you’d never have known.
posted by charmedimsure at 3:19 PM on July 15 [11 favorites]

1. Create a drop cloth by using adhesive-backed velcro and large sheets of actual drop cloth. If you do not want a true cloth, The Clymb sells tent footprints (search engine: "footprint") separately (very large/long or small), at a very accessible price. It's possible to buy a few to rotate, to keep the space intact.

3. Paint the wall matte white, let her use children's/student watercolors. The bonding isn't that intense. If you can section off the area very clearly, hopefully she'll begin to learn the perimeters and process of a very large canvas.

If you have any time to work with her and teach her clean-up is part of the process, your small Pollock will bloom.

Let her do it!
posted by firstdaffodils at 3:19 PM on July 15 [8 favorites]

Odds are if you sold your house after having a teenager live in it you'd probably want to replace the carpet in her room anyway before you sold. Is it brand-new high-end carpet or something? You could tell her that she only has permission to do it if she's responsible about it - ruining other items/parts of the house due to messiness will end the privilege of painting in her room.
posted by stowaway at 3:21 PM on July 15 [35 favorites]

My parents didn't even let me hang up posters for fear that the poster tac would leave a grease stain and ruin the resale value of the house. They're both still living there 35 years later. Resale my ass. It was miserable.

Today's primer can cover anything.

Paint the wall a flat matte white and then let her paint with something washable, but obviously still set the expectation that she use a drop cloth and tape.

Live your life.
posted by phunniemee at 3:22 PM on July 15 [119 favorites]

I'm not trying to be an asshole here but how large can one teenager's room be, and thus how expensive to replace the carpet? It's her room, please just let it be her space. There's honestly nothing she can paint on that wall that cannot be primed and painted over.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:28 PM on July 15 [35 favorites]

I wouldn't count on getting any paints out of carpet. Maybe if you used preschool poster paint, but that won't be great to paint with and will also wash right off the wall with any moisture. Student watercolors would probably mostly wash out, but some colors are still likely to stain. I also don't think they'd work well on even matte house paint, but coat of watercolor ground to prepare the surface would help. The most obvious choice for type of paint, based on availability and ease-of-use would be acrylic, but it will turn into plastic once it's dry and will not come out of carpet unless it happens very quickly.

What if you started with a drop-cloth as an initially supervised project, and perhaps once she's got a process down for doing it neatly, you could start letting her do more unsupervised updates.

I agree with stowaway that, unless you have a reason to believe you'll be moving again pretty soon, new owners would be likely to want to replace the carpet anyway, so I wouldn't worry about it too much as long as there's a system to make sure the mess never makes it outside her room. As a kid, I spilled a bottle of India ink on the carpet in my room, and I just had to live with a gross weird stain (I tried to clean it myself and only made it worse, so it was about 3 feet across). But it was in my room, so nobody else really had to deal with it or think about it. Having no more unsupervised painting as a consequence of paint on the carpet seems like another reasonable way to go, and might be motivation for her to develop some better habits, but I also think that minor paint on the carpet is probably not as big a deal as you're thinking.

For addressing the potential for footprint trails, she could work barefoot on the drop-cloth and then keep a cheap pair of flip-flops or shower shoes at the edge that she then must use to step off of it.
posted by duien at 3:37 PM on July 15

You could...
Cut her carpet at the threshhold and pull it up and store it, and put in an inexpensive vinyl.
Use shoe booties when she's working.
Get that carpet saran wrap film and do the edges on the room and then dropcloth over it.
Install a mid-height chair rail to act as a sort of drip catcher/pen rest.
Get a biiiig roll of butcher paper and put it on one side and install clips on the other to hold it.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:39 PM on July 15 [6 favorites]

Carpet replacement is covered.

Different paints can be dissolved by different solvents. For example, you could paint the wall with oil-based paint and have her only use latex paints, then a latex paint remover should mostly remove her layers (even if she makes it gloppy or textured) relatively easily.
posted by flimflam at 3:40 PM on July 15

I mean, it's paint. As long as she's not taking a sledgehammer to the walls, it's hard to imagine something easier to mediate at some point? If you're really worried, maybe get some plastic over the top of the rug, under a drop cloth that you tape to the trim. Put a drop cloth in the hall, too. Start off with the less paranoid parent (if there's one available) doing regular check ins or see if you can paint with her without being too directive about it all.

It's truly hard to imagine something that will mean so much to her that will have fewer long-term consequences for you all. Don't make this a thing. Let her do it. A bit of paint on a carpet is truly not the end of the world. Painting your walls as you want is a great way to have some autonomy and freedom.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:42 PM on July 15 [15 favorites]

Whatever you decide, do look at inspiration together because it's just as much *what* she wants to do that will inform the messiness and extent. My favorite muralist right now is Rachael Jackson @banyanbridges who does these fantastic and fun interior murals and also shares loads of tips. In fact, if you click on "tips" in her stories, you'll see the first one is how to clean up paint from a carpet. What I like about her stuff is if you take it as inspiration can choose the scope and breadth of the design. It doesn't have to be all the way to the floor or the edge of the wall. She uses samples containers from Sherwin Williams. Pretty inexpensive. Your kid's room is not going to be perfect. One suggestion I have for you is...if you are worried that it's going to look totally atrocious is give her a wall that isn't immediately viewable from the hall from a partially open door. Then it's more for her and you won't have to think about it as much.
posted by amanda at 3:45 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]

Buy a cheap rug to go under the paintable wall.
posted by five_cents at 3:45 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]

My personal take would be let her go for it. Maybe have her use acrylic paints they do clean up easier, pretty easily when wet and sometimes with water, but I've used denatured alcohol when dry old paint and it came up, Acrylic paint an be bought in a range of sizes and even in spray cans not just the small tubes at pretty reasonable prices depending on brand.
posted by wwax at 3:46 PM on July 15

I just want to add to the chorus of people above saying let her do it. When I was a teenager, my parents let me paint my bedroom door to look like an infinite hallway, complete with over the top black and white shrinking tile floor (my room was at the end of the hallway so I though this was a hilarious "illusion"). This was the OUTSIDE of my bedroom door, mind you, so everyone else had to live with it, too.

That door ended up being a blast to paint with my friend, it became a fun family talking point for years, my dad would always pretend to walk into it in lieu of normal knocking as a joke, and most importantly, it represented my parents indulging and encouraging my creative side instead of valuing inanimate objects over that, something I truly cherish even to this day. Years after I moved out of the house, the door was eventually replaced with a normal one, but the memory will always be there.

I bet if you let your daughter unleash her creativity and paint her room, you'll invite so much awesome unknown into your family's home. And when it's time to resell, several coats of paint and a new carpet will be there for you.
posted by carlypennylane at 3:48 PM on July 15 [75 favorites]

With the qualification that I'm not a parent (I was a child, of course), I'd like to say just one thing: barring situations where there's actual, consequential danger to their life and the lives of others--basically, when a car is involved--I think there's a lot of value in saying Yes to something a kid wants to try, and letting them sort out the details and deal with the mess. This is how we learn to make our way in the world.
posted by pullayup at 3:49 PM on July 15 [36 favorites]

I was thinking more of a dry-erase wall or chalkboard paint wall, rather than letting her use real PAINT paint.
posted by kschang at 3:51 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]

I don’t know how you should do this, but I encourage you to let her - I had such a wonderful time drawing and writing on my walls when I was in high school! I think I used a fine line sharpie and colored pencils. My room was such a personal nest and refuge to me. (I was devastated when my dad painted over it the minute I moved out for college.)
posted by acantha at 3:52 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]

She's thinking about something ongoing, redone on occasion/whim, not a one-time thing

Changeable wall art: chalkboard paint (multiple colors), w/liquid chalk markers
Whiteboard paint
Wall Easel w/ paper roll (lots of DIYs online)
How to Build a Wall-Mounted Artist Easel
Washable Tempera Paint
Drip-worry reduction: Paint pens, paint markers
There are many less-permanent options if she'd like. Let your daughter paint her wall as she wishes.

I love to encourage her artistic side but...
We could make it a one-time thing, or an infrequent parental-supervision thing

Please let her work on her art as often as she wants, in private, to better encourage her creativity.
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:54 PM on July 15 [25 favorites]

it's not just the carpet in her room that will have to be replaced.

Paint gets everywhere. EVERYWHERE. She will step in bit that's dropped to the floor, then walk through the rest of the house. Some will get on her hair, which will then get on your couch and your walls, and everyone else's possessions. It's just how paint is. You have to be incredibly scrupulous, and change out of any clothes you are wearing while you paint before you leave the room, to not make a giant mess. (And even then there will probably be some.)

I think this sounds like way more potential agita for the rest of the family than it could be worth to her. I'd compromise by giving her a wall painted in chalkboard paint, that she can then draw on with chalk to her heart's content.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:55 PM on July 15 [13 favorites]

This feels like a wonderful and supportive parenting thing your kid would remember fondly for the rest of their lives, and personally I'd at least consider placing that at a higher premium than knowing you'll have to repaint/recarpet someday. With some rules set around keeping any mess within her bedroom if she wants to keep the painting privileges, and understanding that you're not replacing carpet anytime soon so if she spills she gets to live with that, I encourage you to let her at least paint once and then see how it goes.

This does assume you're planning to stay put for a while; if you think you'll be moving in two years, then yeah, the calculations get different and maybe you have to start talking about chalkboard paint or whiteboard paint for an accent wall instead.
posted by Stacey at 3:57 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]

My dad removed the carpet in my room so the plywood subfloor was exposed. He gave everything a couple coats of white paint - floor, ceiling, walls. He then bought me paint whenever I wanted and my friends and I regularly painted stuff all over that room.

Including stepping in paint in our bare feet and tracking it around on the floor in trails - intentionally.

Truly - I don’t know what they had to do with that room when they sold the house and Dad’s memory is not up for answering if I asked.

But I love my dad so much, and it was actions like that which cemented that bond. He was always willing to support joy.
posted by hilaryjade at 4:11 PM on July 15 [64 favorites]

The first time I painted a room was for my daughter’s nursery. I messed up a bit and got some paint on the white ceiling. That wasn’t favorite part of that room. I was sad when we moved.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:40 PM on July 15

My mom let me do a giant collage all over my bedroom walls when I was in middle and high school, and it was a wonderful gift of joy and creativity. Even though she had to use a putty knife to pop bottlecaps and lord knows what else off when she later sold the house, she let me be me in my room, and I will remember my Amazing Wall-O-Stuff for the rest of my life.
posted by mostlymartha at 4:41 PM on July 15 [9 favorites]

Remove the carpet. It will get paint on it, so vacuum well, maybe even shampoo, dry, roll it up. You could put something over the tack strips or pull them. Try it for some period of time. Get a good floor mat, and work with her on using it. Keep a stack of clean rags in her room; post on freecycle for old towels and sheets, they make good, cheap, rags. Would be great to have her take a class and learn to use paint properly/sensibly; that will help a fair bit. Good paints are not cheap, so she should learn to use paint at least a little bit frugally. She should also be called on to scrub any paint that she tracks.

Encouraging exploration is huge; I hope you help her do this.
posted by theora55 at 4:41 PM on July 15 [6 favorites]

One of the best decisions I made regarding my kids was to as much as possible value expression over order: to nurture their creativity and give them space to try things and figure themselves out even if it meant extra mess or expense.

Require her to confine it to her room, and get her to agree to help paint it over if/when you move. I wouldn't even require a drop sheet and will just assume that it will get messed up; that's okay. At worst it will cost you, what, the price of the carpet and paint? I can attest that those things will be tiny compared to the other expenses you'll rack up when selling the house - and you'd probably end up doing them anyway given typical wear-and-tear.

And allowing this will yield huge benefits to her self, her enjoyment of her space, and her relationship with you. It will show her that you value her over your property.
posted by sir jective at 4:56 PM on July 15 [12 favorites]

Sharpies would be a great compromise but if she wants to use paint I'd say let her go for it.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:59 PM on July 15

(fyi, recommended watercolors as they will be way more manageable than acrylic. They'll be a little goofy or avant garde on matte wall paint, but if you're seriously concerned for carpet, this is one way. She's likely not going to need to implement a lot of detail at this stage, but what do I know.)
posted by firstdaffodils at 5:00 PM on July 15

A house is a machine for living in, as le Corbusier famously said. Sometimes your computer needs a new hard drive; sometimes your car needs new tires or a new battery; sometimes part or all of your house needs new carpet. I would 100% say yes to this, with the proviso that any damage outside her door will require immediate remediation at current market rates. Inside the room? Let her paint and live with her own mess.
posted by fedward at 5:00 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]

Think about the gift you are giving your daughter. She will have fond memories of her OWN room.
posted by heathrowga at 5:02 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]

Have you ever tried paint markers? Or I like the chalkboard wall art idea. Chalk markers are fun. My main idea is: I wonder if the mural is a way to encourage her to keep her room tidier? Help her organize her stuff so there’s an empty wall space and most of her stuff has a place to be put away (and moving into a new house is a good time to declutter). Then when it’s time to paint, she can work on cleaning the supplies after & keeping the supplies organized. Any painter will tell you that cleaning brushes is important. I’m thinking the floor has to be kept sort of clean so she doesn’t drip paint on her clothes or stuff that’s on the ground & friends can easily come help paint or she can give tours of the art. I don’t know if this will work for her or be too much work for you to set up & manage, but it feels like an opportunity to learn some cleaning skills. And then the mural wall is easier for her to work on & show off.
posted by areaperson at 5:17 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]

Just get a nice big sheet of plywood and tack it up on the drywall to the studs; let her prime over it and paint what she wants on it. Any drop cloths you put down long term are going to have the reverse effect; they might keep that section of carpet clean, but the rest of it is going to have teenager dustings and juices all over it and it will wear unevenly, making it more obvious that the rest of the carpet X years down the line is nasty, but there's a sweet clean patch near the wall.

You're not being too paranoid, but you're not going to get around teenagers fucking up carpets; she's going to do that regardless of the painting-permissions in the space. That's holding back the tide.
posted by furnace.heart at 5:38 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]

I just want to say that, as a former teenager with a pretty permissive father who didn't always help with my crazy ideas, but very rarely stopped me unless I was in imminent danger of hurting myself, I agree with everyone else that accepting there may be some mess is part of raising teenagers either way, and supporting creativity will pay off more than preventing some paint damage will.
posted by Alterscape at 5:43 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]

So, I'm in a position to sometimes see people take their first dive into being able to be creators of things rather than consumers of things. And it's awesome to see an adult who was told as a kid that they aren't allowed to create things, or creating has to be only under certain narrow conditions, or that they can't touch this or that because it's expensive and might be damaged -- it's awesome to see people get a chance to come into their creativity for the first time. Really awesome. Their eyes light up and it's like a whole new world has opened up for them.

Do you ever read interviews with creators who discuss how grateful they are to their parents supporting them, even though it was inconvenient or messy or meant giving up their own weekends or whatnot? Sure, it's not universal -- but it's a hardly a surprising thing to hear in an interview.

Now, 12 is just about the right age to crush your daughter's natural desire to be creative and express herself. She is growing into her own person and insisting that her creative activity be only under parental supervision or something, if you want her to grow into the sort of adult that feels like "they aren't creative", yes, this is your chance to influence her that way. Make her ashamed of wanting to paint, fearful of every little drip damaging something. Supervise her closely so that she feels she has to paint things YOU will find worthy of granting her more supervised painting time, instead of having the freedom to paint images you might not approve of. Maybe then when she's 25 she will be able to bring joy to someone bringing her out of her creative shell.

Though personally I would forgo ever seeing an adult get that gleam in their eye of personal paradigm change, if it meant that our culture doesn't crush the creativity out of children they way it does.

Or maybe it's more important that your carpet stay pristine. I guess it depends on your personal values.

(edit: in answer to this part of the question: Am I just being too paranoid?)
posted by yohko at 6:00 PM on July 15 [18 favorites]

Absolutely worse case with the wall is she absolutely destroys it. In which case you tear the gyproc off, put up a couple new sheets, tape mud and sand and it is better than new. A DIY possible job or one that can be contracted out for a few hundred dollars.

Or you could be proactive and just cover the existing wall with a layer of gyproc now and then when you go to sell you just have to take it down and spackle a few screw holes.
posted by Mitheral at 6:06 PM on July 15

When we bought our house, one of the rooms was painted in a color I can only describe as “bonkers.” The owner explained that a teenager had painted it. We all nodded. We bought the house and repainted the room. It’s fine, let the kid paint.
posted by kerf at 6:07 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]

I let my daughter paint her room in the house we moved into. She selected atrocious colors, let her friends paint, painted mermaids...we had to scrape some paint off the wood floors, but the funny thing is now she feels like repainting.

Let her do it.

It'll teach her something, and more importantly, I think, it'll teach you something: letting your daughter do something is better than not, and the price is worth it.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:12 PM on July 15 [3 favorites]

My parents let my sister paint one wall black and have another as a graffiti wall. It was so cool and so different from what friends' parents allowed. She's a professor now, and the painting-over was a pain but not the end of the world. Do whatever you can to support her creativity!
posted by Pax at 6:17 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]

Let her do this, but make it a House Rule that if you ever catch any trails of paint OUTSIDE her room, you will:

1. Make her clean it up herself, and
2. Take her paints away for a week.

For repeat offenses, maybe take the paint away for TWO weeks and paint over whatever it was she had just been painstakingly working on.

As for the carpet in her room - just don't have one.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:22 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]

In my just-outta-school years, I rented a house with 3 good friends. We had an awesome landlord who said we could paint the walls whatever we wanted as long as we painted it back before we left - he'd even provide the paint. (I think he knew he'd have to repaint between tenants anyway, and he got free labour this way.)

I painted my room a bright green and the ceiling bright blue. It looked like a friggen multicolor lego block. One friend's room was a glossy, shiny reflective dark red. Another roommates room was normal light blue with some custom flourishes, but she is a notorious messy painter and ended up with it all over the carpet. Another room was a deep dark purple, I can still see it in my mind.

We loved our rooms so much. We learned a useful skill in how to paint interior walls. It took us so, so, so many coats of paint to get things back to a "normal" color. But it was possible, and we did it. And omg, the ceiling. I learned an important life lesson in that I will never, ever paint a ceiling a dark color again, thats for sure! And yeah, we lost some of our damage deposit with the ruined carpet. But 20+ years later we're still friends, and we still reminisce about that experience.

What's the worst that can happen? You deny your kid the opportunity to express herself and make some good memories. What's to lose? Some carpet. Win-win in my books.
posted by cgg at 6:29 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]

Painting and decorating my room was one of my great joys of mid teenagehood, and taught me a bit of responsibility and neatness. My parents let me do whatever i wanted within the room (other than paint the floorboards or plaster ceiling which actually both survived fine ) seeing the results as its own consequences (I painted all the walls electric salmon at one point). I’d let her do it, and treat her like an encouraged apprentice to give her the tools to try and not ruin the carpet, not too much “don’t you dare/I told you so”.
posted by hotcoroner at 6:40 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]

Removing carpet is a giant pain and the tack strips used to hold it down are difficult to remove. I'd put down plenty of cloths and let her paint. Anything can be covered with modern primer.
posted by The_Vegetables at 6:47 PM on July 15

[...] if you ever catch any trails of paint OUTSIDE her room, you will:
1. Make her clean it up herself, and
2. Take her paints away for a week.

For repeat offenses, maybe take the paint away for TWO weeks and paint over whatever it was she had just been painstakingly working on.

OP, please -- don't ever deliberately destroy your daughter's art.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:43 PM on July 15 [31 favorites]

Do you want to serve your house, or do you want your house to serve your family?
posted by disconnect at 7:58 PM on July 15 [8 favorites]

I think some of the answers in here are pretty don't need to choose between fostering your child's intellectual and creative potential or crushing it here, surely? There will be more than one opportunity to support your daughter in being creative/autonomous!

I would get some info about the cost of replacing the carpet before you make a decision, and I wouldn't assume that this will occur in 35 yrs, unless you are really sure that you're staying?

It sounds a like a partially supervised approach with some caveats might be a good way to scaffold her understanding of the balance between freedom/creativity and respecting a shared space.
posted by jojobobo at 8:21 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]

If you resell the house, you will want to repaint it, and put in new carpet. Sure, take sensible precautions, but look at it this way: you're going to "use up" the useful life of your carpet and paint by a certain date anyway, even if you don't do this.

Heck. I'm not even that worried about accidentally putting a hole in the plaster or ceiling, it's trivial to fix up to look just like new. While we were building the house, intruders broke in and vandalized the internal walls and broke big holes in them, it was easily fixed and you could never tell that anything was ever wrong with the walls. When installing the AC the electrician slipped and made a big hole in the ceiling, also easily fixed and no one could ever tell it ever had a hole in it.

I'd be a bit concerned about the ventilation in the bedroom and what kind of paint she's using - bedrooms typically aren't that well ventilated.
posted by xdvesper at 8:52 PM on July 15 [4 favorites]

Before I had a teen around, I had a whole clowder of cats. And those cats wrecked a bunch of stuff, but in the end they made (and continue to make) me a lot happier than that stuff. I try very hard to keep that in mind with my teen now.
posted by wotsac at 9:22 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]

Watch this! It is a home tour of the home of an artist in New York, who uses chalk to paint on his (and other people's) walls it is really inspiring, and chalkboard paint on one wall is a safe and inspiring way to encourage experimentation.
One of my teens painted with markers on the door of her IKEA closet, which was also a good idea. The doors are replaceable, and still big enough to give space for a lot of fun. Still put a drop cloth on the carpet nearest the chalkboard. Though I would strongly suggest that you replace the carpet with some sort of timber flooring. Carpet is the devils work in children's bedrooms, home to gazillions of dust mites which may eventually cause allergies.
posted by mumimor at 11:14 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]

I would just get her a large roll of canvas. It will be much cheaper than replacing the carpet, which you should just assume you will have to do if you let her paint the wall. No matter how careful she is when painting the wall, the paint will go everywhere. It will get on everything. As a very careful, experienced adult painting walls a single color I still get paint on unintended surfaces.
posted by Polychrome at 12:54 AM on July 16

I had a bright red bedroom wall (hey, it was the 1980s) and was allowed to write on it with markers. My friends and I wrote song lyrics on it and drew little pictures for each other. I wish I had more photos of it now.

Inspired by this, my parents did the same in the downstairs toilet (but with green paint) and encouraged their friends to write on the walls there, albeit in pencil.

If you use washable paints or blackboard paint, maybe your daughter can photograph what she draws or paints each day, then start anew? It's a great way to create a visual diary.
posted by Orkney Vole at 1:12 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]

Anything she does could be hard to paint over if and when we eventually sell the house

I encourage you to ignore this feeling. It appears to me to lead to misery and never allows you to enjoy the home you have NOW. (My source: experiencing the talking points of dozens of home owners in my life).

What would honestly be the worst thing about her getting drips of what, acrylic paint on something? What is the ACTUAL harm? Love her artistic impulses enough that a few drips of paint are the cost of living with an imaginative kid making art for you to enjoy.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:53 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]

Not to pile on, but this question is wild! As a perma-renter, I've always been told that one big selling point of home ownership is being able to do stuff like this! You don't even have a landlord, let the kid paint! Maybe take a look at Zillow Gone Wild -- truly, even if you didn't paint over it, there's no way your tween's wall art would be the worst or weirdest thing on the market. (Also, you can paint over it. That's what renters do and it works like a charm.)
posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:33 AM on July 16 [8 favorites]

OP, please -- don't ever deliberately destroy your daughter's art.

Iris is right, I was wrong to suggest that. Apologies.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:55 AM on July 16 [10 favorites]

Like everyone else, I don't want to squash your daughter's creativity. But is there something else she could do?

I am amazed at how many people feel like it's nothing to replace carpet, repair walls, and repaint. I helped remove a carpet and painted most of the rooms in a house. I used the proper tools and looked up how to do things correctly.

Removing wall to wall carpet is dirty work, and getting the tack strips up involves flying nails and strength. I was careful painting; I used drop cloths and xboard over the whole floor of the room I was working in, wore disposable booties over my painting sneakers, safety glasses, and had lots of rags available. Even though I removed my booties and examined my shoes every time I left the room, there were still a few times when I had to clean up foot prints that made it into the hallway. Even the belt I was wearing has a paint stain. I tried to fill in some nail holes but I can see a difference in the sheen of the wall where most of those were.

So I think it will be hard for your daughter to avoid getting paint into the rest of the house. (How did my *socks* get paint on them through booties and sneakers?) I also think it is not trivial to fix things up afterwards. Maybe I am just bad at diy. Are you?
posted by SandiBeech at 8:32 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]

I am amazed at how many people feel like it's nothing to replace carpet, repair walls, and repaint.

It's not nothing. But it's also extremely unimportant compared to a creatively encouraged child, unique art to enjoy, and living in the moment instead of worrying about the future sale of a house being just moved into now. We have precious few moments on this earth and thinking of people worrying about the fate of one wall...well, there are better things to focus on.
posted by tiny frying pan at 9:01 AM on July 16 [8 favorites]

Ooh, I totally shared your reservations when I first this post. I am a parent to two extremely oblivious children and it is no leap at all to envision dozens of scenarios of accidentally kicked-over paint cans, hair getting dipped in paint, mindlessly brushing up against a wet wall and then coming to sit on the living room couch... These are absolutely within the realm of reality, I don't think you're being overly paranoid at all. Of course the last thing I want is to squash my children's creativity but I already have so much less free time than I'd like and cleaning up splattered paint or scrubbing or replacing carpet absolutely falls into the category of non-trivial to me. Like I honestly wouldn't care at all if she got some paint on her own carpet but it's not out of bounds to not want that migrating through the rest of the house.

And yet, as a very non-artsy person, I have also been deeply swayed by the many thoughtful responses here about just how meaningful an experience this can potentially be! I also don't think this is as binary as several comments above keep making it. So I think I would let her have at it while also teaching the care and management of a large art project + mess containment strategies. My daughter responds strongly to physical zones and boundaries, so what would work really well for both of us here are parameters like:

1) she chooses THIS as the dedicated painting wall and it becomes her "studio"
2) we move most of the other furniture well away from it so she has plenty of space to work and paint specks flying a few feet won't be too big a deal
3) we select a rug or tarp that always lives underneath it to serve as basic carpet protection and clearly delineate the studio pace
4) she has dedicated shoes like flip-flops or booties that are only worn while painting and have to be removed every time she steps off the rug

And so on. As she gets older, I bet she will manage most of this more easily on her own but 12 is still young enough to need a little oversight nearby and help with cleanup during the first few sessions.

I really don't think the resell angle matters remotely at all unless you're moving in less than a year.

I hope she enjoys her new space!
posted by anderjen at 10:03 AM on July 16 [3 favorites]

I was just thinking that if you really wanted to get DIY about it, you could hang a sliding or barn door & rail over that wall, which would both give an extra (and removable/save-able canvas) and also provide cover and protection against smearing or brushing up against while wet.
posted by ApathyGirl at 11:32 AM on July 16

I saw suggestions for chalkboard paint and whiteboard paint/wallpaper. Both are great ideas. We did chalkboard paint in one of our son's rooms, and years later it painted over just fine. Also, you don't have to worry about paint accumulation layers.
posted by rich at 11:45 AM on July 16

Anderjen's reply is quite thoughtful, and they are right that some others (including me) have been perhaps too dismissive of your concerns. So let me add one more suggestion on how to make this more manageable and less inclined to be a disaster: buy small paint receptacles (how many colors will she want to do at once?), and a parent mixes the paint and puts in the smaller container. So she can't, for example, pour an entire gallon of paint into a paint tray and have it spill everywhere. This might mean you keep the paint elsewhere and bring it in and out of the room as she needs it, and then you will have to manage any potential messes around that. I'd say put a drop cloth elsewhere (basement? outside?) to store the paint can while this is in progress. Or maybe you trust her to have the paint in the room, with the lid closed, and not pour any into her receptacles. So then she's working with smaller quantities at a time, and, if it goes well, you can adjust your process along the way.

If she hasn't done much painting, the big thing could be that she used too much and it's just too thick. So you might suggest you all spend some time painting a board or sheet of plywood or something outside so she can get a feel for the medium and tool.
posted by bluedaisy at 11:46 AM on July 16 [2 favorites]

Please let her do this.

Get some cheap carpet from a discount place, they often sell end of bolt and off-cut scrap for next to nothing. Lay that over the existing carpet everywhere except maybe under the bed.

Then tack 1/4" plywood or chipboard 4x8 sheets over the wall. She'll probably need to prime/gesso first. Get her dedicated painting coveralls and shoes that must be removed in the room before she leaves it.

I would have loved this freedom.
posted by ananci at 11:51 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]

As a perma-renter, I've always been told that one big selling point of home ownership is being able to do stuff like this!

This too. Being able to change your living space according to your needs and whims is one of the great boons of owning your own place. Kids will mess up their rooms just by existing so when it comes time to sell your house you'd likely be doing a lot of repainting and replacing of things anyways if you're in a market where that kind of thing matters, and if you're in a market where it doesn't matter, well then it doesn't matter (you could let your kids paint the entire house in Toronto and still have 30 people lining up to buy your house).

I think something like this would also give your daughter increased ownership of her room and the house in general. It could even be a gateway to her making other changes like putting up shelves or a swing, which means the next time you need to do something else in the house she'll be able to help out.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:12 PM on July 16 [2 favorites]

For perspective, here in California carpet is considered such a quickly-degrading item, it's my understanding that if you've rented a place for more than three years, the landlord can't charge you for damage to it (if they try and you push back via the legal channels, they won't win).

Please set things up in a way that will make you feel okay, then leave your daughter alone. Maybe that means pulling up the carpet and putting in linoleum, maybe that means putting a doormat outside her room to catch paint on shoe soles, maybe it means something else.

The benefit to your daughter from you encouraging her creativity is so, so much greater than any possible paint damage to the other spaces in your home.
posted by Lexica at 1:40 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

I made a comment the other day to my dad about how something my kids were doing was going to damage a patch of grass in the backyard, and he said "You're not raising grass here! You're raising kids."

Let her paint to her heart's content, but make her responsible for not tracking a mess outside of her room. She's old enough to not track it through the house, although it will probably take a bunch of reminders/cleaning supplies/patience at first. I'd give her a choice of keeping the carpet and needing to work extra-hard to keep it clean, or taking it out and living with painted plywood floors and cheap washable rugs for a few years.
posted by beandip at 1:56 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

FWIW unlike other posters, I'm not reading you as someone who is intentionally trying to stifle a child's creativity. It's been my observation that "borderline-oblivious leave-a-trail messy" types often overlap with "cleaning up messes creates negative family dynamics" types and "struggle with follow-through" types. If this is the case, then perhaps you can help your daughter narrow down the scope of work to something more manageable for both of you.

Perhaps your daughter would want to practice painting a piece of furniture (outside) before starting with her room.

Perhaps she could paint a mural on a drop cloth or hardboard .

Perhaps she would be interested in a DIY whiteboard wall or corkboard strip instead.

Or maybe a suitable compromise is that she may start by painting one accent wall. Later on, there can be a discussion about repainting it or painting the other walls.
posted by oceano at 2:03 PM on July 16 [3 favorites]

As someone said "blackboard paint". If she's open to other media on the wall.....
posted by lalochezia at 2:17 PM on July 16

When I was a junior in HS I subscribed to GQ and Rolling Stone. We were in England and I discovered Blu-tack. I posted magazine pages - ads and rock stars and sharp-dressed men - on every single wall surface in my bedroom, floor to ceiling.

I surrounded myself with images that I loved. I made that space my own.

It wasn’t a huge bedroom, but every inch of vertical space was covered with pictures that made me happy. One day my parents said I had to take it all down. No particular reason or explanation it just all had to go.

Thirty-plus years later that still grinds my gears.
posted by bendy at 8:23 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]

My mom let my siblings and I paint our rooms any color we liked (once we had rooms of our own, which was older than most) and basically any wall art we liked. My sister glued all sorts of neat stuff around her closet door. I made a lovely night sky with black paint, silvery coins, and broken mirror pieces. (Someone else had broken my mirror.) I know she needed to paint over it when she sold the house, but Mom said the only part she regretted was letting me glue sharp things to the ceiling. Everything else was easy enough to remedy as part of getting the house ready to sell. And that's what she said at the time, twenty years later she's completely forgotten the mirror fragments but remembers how she liked the art we made.
posted by blueberry monster at 9:55 PM on August 5

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