Blue-sky walls, a rose-painted floorcloth, and child-size
hideaways for pretend tea parties and camp-outs
will entice any child’s imagination to blossom.
That was interior designer Jane Norley’s
philosophy when she designed this attic play space in Pennsylvania. “When I first walked into the attic, I knew it would make a perfect playroom,” she says. “Its third-story location allows you to look out at the trees and sky, and the odd angles and tiny cubbies invite exploration.”
Norley commissioned decorative painter Rebecca Lukens to help transform her vision into reality. Lukens applied a base coat of sky blue on the walls and a slightly lighter blue on the ceiling. Next, she randomly applied four other shades of blue and white to the walls, blending the colors together first with a faux-finishing brush and then with a lint-free rag. Even though the walls and ceiling meet at odd angles in some places, the paint makes them fade together to create the illusion of sky overhead. (To slow the drying time and make blending easier, she mixed each paint color with glazing medium in a 2:1 ratio.) “I followed the blue color wash with a sponged-on layer of white color wash to create the illusion of a hazy overcast sky,” Lukens explains.
Once the sky was painted, Lukens sketched the layout for each wall on paper. Then she resketched the trees, vines, birds, butterflies, and white picket fence to size on the wall and began filling them in using artist’s brushes and acrylic paints mixed with a matte medium. “The medium makes the paint dry slower so you can keep fussing with the details — I fuss with them a lot,” she says, smiling. To create shading and highlights, Lukens mixed base colors with black or white, blending the mixtures until she was satisfied with the results.
Painting the insides of two closets transformed them from storage spaces to private hideaways — one designed for tea parties and the other outfitted for camp-outs. A few yards of tulle gathered on a tension rod mark the entrance to the tea party. Three-dimensional butterflies, purchased from a local crafts store, adorn the fabric panels. Inside, a vine-wrapped painted picket fence
and a wall filled with painted floating teapots let pint-
size guests know that anything is possible in this playland. The camp-out cubby looks like the inside of
a tent, complete with painted flaps.
Cushion-topped window seats invite relaxation and reading, and an antique bench serves as an art table (its dark brown finish makes it perfect for coloring because a stray mark or two won’t hurt it). There’s also an old child-size game table painted in soft shades of pink and green. “You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to create a welcoming play space,” Norley says. “All you need are some cast-off furnishings such as this play table, a little imagination, and a lot of paint.”