Flying Circus Fun

from Paint Décor
This decorative painting idea is perfect for a kid’s room, complete with realistic circus animals and planes. See how one family transformed a nursery into a school-age bedroom.

All too soon, every parent faces the same problem:
That adorable nursery no longer suits a growing, independent preschooler. When one couple in Northern California faced the challenge of updating their son’s room, they turned to designer Jane Antonacci for help. “His mother knew the nursery needed to become a little boy’s room,” Antonacci recalls. “She wanted something really lively. We decided on a flying circus theme with biplanes in the bedroom and circus animals in a tent for the bath.”

Antonacci knew the project’s success would hinge on the quality of the painting, so she commissioned decorative painter Willem Racké. Racké and his staff reached deep into their bag of paint tricks to achieve astonishing realism, especially on the painted giraffe and tiger on the bathroom walls.

Racké and his team began by drawing scale elevations of each wall in the bedroom and bath. The elevations included all permanent room elements, such as doors, shelves, and windows. They became the “floor plan” on which the painted images were laid out.

Next the team tackled the pivotal task of developing realistic-looking animals and planes that would delight a growing child. Racké and Antonacci worked together to create the initial drawings. “It was a newer, rather nondescript house, so we wanted to make the little boy’s spaces fun,” Racké explains. They perused a variety of sources for ideas. “Almost anything can be a source of inspiration. We even got on the Internet and did searches on ‘circus’ and ‘tiger.’ Then we melded all the ideas together,” Antonacci says.

Antonacci specified a color palette to ensure the painted creations would coordinate with the furnishings and fabrics she had selected. At this point, color drawings of the overall wall design were presented to the family for approval. “I like clients to be part of the process,” Racké says. “These parents were very involved. They made suggestions like ‘Make the ear bigger,’ and ‘Have that animal face the other direction.’ They were especially concerned that the animals look very friendly and have nice expressions.”

“We had to work long and hard on those animals,” Antonacci says. “At first the monkey looked too mean. And getting a tiger to look friendly is a real challenge!”

Once the homeowners had approved the drawings, Racké created a color maquette, which is a scale drawing done on paper in the actual colors that would be used on the finished product. After some tweaking of the maquette, he painted a sample board, which is a full-scale section of the scene done with the same paint colors that would be used on the final version. Only after Racké was satisfied with the sample board did his staff begin painting.

“Because of the time they would require, we chose to paint the circus animals on theatrical muslin in our studio and transport them to the home when finished,” Racké says. He and his staff stretched muslin on the studio walls, then coated it with primer. Next, they created line drawings of the animals to scale and used an overhead projector to project them onto the fabric. After the drawings had been sketched onto the muslin, the clients were invited back for another look. Once they signed off, the actual painting began.

After the creations had dried, they were carefully cut out. Racké decided to use removable wallpaper paste to apply them to the walls so they could be relocated in the future if necessary. “We don’t really recommend moving them,” he says, “but with care, they can be successfully removed and reinstalled elsewhere.”

Meanwhile, in the bedroom, artists painted the planes, clouds, and tree directly onto the walls and ceiling. “Mom understands that one day her son will outgrow them, and they’ll be painted over,” Antonacci says. That will no doubt be the day Antonacci receives the call to create a really cool teen room.

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