Adding A Colorful & Functional Play Area For Clara

Step right up to the wall ‘o fun! Sounds like a carnival ride, right? Don’t worry, there will be no clowns or motion sickness. It all started when we moved Clara’s crib out of her room, and shifted the dresser that used to be on this wall to the former crib wall (more on that here). Which left the wall to the right of the bed completely bare. So we decided to bring in a lot more fun to that blank space, now that there was room for it. Clara already has some baskets of toys and books along with a play-table where she loves to build castles and draw, but things like her play kitchen, refrigerator, and food cart were all relegated to other rooms for lack of space before the crib got the boot.

Yeehaw! Amiright?

At first, it wasn’t looking very exciting. Check out all of that bare white wall going on.

And here’s where I show you my chaos and say “welcome to the first ten minutes of any project.” It almost always looks like this. There was a lot of fun and colorful art leftover from her nursery and her playroom in the last house that I couldn’t wait to hang up on that blank white wall. So I just started laying things down on the bed (Clara helped me pick her favorites) and we ended up with this gorgeous progress shot.

She also really wanted a mirror at her height, which was a request that John and I couldn’t wait to fulfill. It was a lot like her “I want a clock” request (the blue cuckoo clock that I made her is still her favorite thing in the entire room) and we knew she’d really appreciate if we hooked her up with a place to study her funny faces and show her dolls the latest hairstyles that she was giving them instead of having to trek into our room and use our big leaning mirror in there.

This mirror is actually the one that we removed from our half bathroom back in July, although the brassy finish wasn’t exactly complementing the silver hardware on her play kitchen and refrigerator, so I thought I could spruce it up for Clara with some fresh paint and a fun little pattern. First I laid it down on a big piece of cardboard at the kitchen table and wiped it down with liquid deglosser, just to get it paint-ready.

Then I used leftover white paint (Simply White in semi-gloss) that we use on all of our trim and doors, just to give it a clean base coat. You’ll notice that I got a little paint on the mirror pane itself, but that’s easy enough to remove (more on that in a second). So the most important thing is just to get a nice even coat. That includes that crack where the mirror meets the frame. Then just let that dry and give it at least one more coat if it needs it for the coverage. Mine just needed two coats and it was good to go.

As for how to remove any paint that gets on the surface of the mirror, I’m a big fan of just scraping it off with a straight razor. And for curved shapes like this, an exacto knife can actually be really easy to slide along the mirror’s surface to peel off any paint that’s on there, just like this:

Now for the fun part. I had some metallic silver paint among my little tubes of acrylic colors, and I thought it could be fun to add some pattern to the mirror with it. So I just squeezed out a blob of it on the cardboard…

… and used a small flat craft brush to make little arrow-like shapes all the way around the mirror. I just spaced them by eye, and I liked the almost heart-like effect of them. I also didn’t mind the imperfect “painted by hand” look, so I resisted the urge to go back over anything and smooth it out or futz with it.

Once it dried, I hung it back up, and voila! Clara was ENAMORED that we fulfilled her mirror request, and we both love that it adds some pattern and interest to the wall while bouncing around more light (and allowing me to watch Clara even if she’s behind me, which further convinces her that I have eyes in the back of my head).

Bonus points for being able to spy on Burger too…

Here’s a panned out shot of the wall. I also hung the shelves that John built for her very first nursery along with her favorite art picks and her new mirror. All of the frames were light enough to be held up with a regular old picture nail into the drywall (no anchors) and the shelves got some extra long screws and anchors, just to be sure they could hold some weight. The mirror also got an anchor and a screw since it’s on the heavier side, along with two 3M heavy duty velcro strips at the bottom (so it’s even more secure and can’t hop off the wall on anyone).

We love that the shelves can come in handy for kitchen items, books, toys, etc. And now between using those to store and display things, playing with her kitchen/fridge/food cart, looking at her favorite art, and enjoying her reflection in the mirror, well – there’s a lot to do on that little wall of hers.

And it looks pretty darn cute with her pink door and wall full of raindrops too. Here’s a shot of her getting in on the fun, just to show you the scale of things. She can easily reach that top shelf and see herself in the mirror (with a little headroom for when she grows a bit more).

Now that there are no longer bare walls everywhere, the room is suddenly feeling a lot more finished, although I’m sure it’ll continue to evolve as she grows. Just kidding Clara, no more growing is allowed! Plus I still have some pretty lofty goals for her big walk-in closet (that thing is destined to be a hidden playhouse within her room – she actually picked this room for that closet).

Oh and with seven days to spare, we’re officially working on Clara’s Christmas present (it’s a tradition of ours to hand-make something for her, like this, this, and this). Looks like it’s going to be down to the wire again… which seems to be an annual tradition for us as well. Are you guys doing any last-minute holiday shopping/building/decorating? How about adding little pockets of fun to a kids room? Or finally hanging art that you’ve been meaning to get to for, oh, half a year now?

Psst- A few folks have told us about an unsavory ad for League of Angels on our sidebar and an annoying pop up for Aveeno, both of which aren’t authorized, so we’re working on blocking ’em. Please let us know if you ever see anything inappropriate or any pop-up whatsoever, those are never cool with us, and we’d love a screen grab and the url/site that it links to so we can get them blocked. So sorry for the trouble!


  1. Christine says

    The room is adorable! What is the size? It’s so spacious!!

    p.s. a little typo in the psst. section “aren’t unauthorized…”

  2. Cassie says

    I LOVE that everything is at her height. That is such a brilliant idea. Makes me so excited to see what you’ll do for the baby’s nursery! When do we get to see mood boards for that?! ;)

    • says

      Hopefully soon! Lots of ideas are bouncing around in our heads, but we keep changing our minds. We started on Clara’s nursery in Feb when she was due in May, so I think starting in Jan since the bun is due in April makes sense to us! Can’t wait…


  3. says

    I love that wall! I just might dub it the “Wall O’ Love” instead! the groupings and the bright colors keep things so cheerful, and it all just works. And what girl wouldn’t love the kitchen set and fun wall in her room! Clara’s so lucky!

    So excited to see what you will do with the upcoming nursery! We’re expecting our first in July (still too early to tell people. our families don’t even know yet!) but I already have plans. I’m very inspired by the Wood and Wellies Reader Redesign, but I’m trying to figure out how to make it gender-neutral. Would switching out all the pink for coral help? Do you find coral (esp dark coral) to be too girly? Thoughts?

    Keep it coming. I love getting ideas from you.

    Mariecel, the DC Twilight Girl

  4. Sara says

    Oh my word! I don’t have kids yet. But I have a few empty rooms in our new house for kids in the future… Clara’s room is a total dream for me. I can’t wait to give my kids a space like this. I love that she will grow with the room. Slowly, Clara. Not too fast! ;)

    Thanks for all of the inspiration!

  5. Leigh Anne says

    That wall is too stinkin’ cute! I adore frame walls, and Clara’s is so much fun:)

    We just closed on a house Tuesday, and I have about a million projects to get to. So overwhelming and exciting. That leads me to my question: what is the lighting situation in the bedrooms? Our first home had ceiling fans with lights in all the bedrooms, and there’s now no overhead lighting in the new house. Just curious about your solution since this is new to us. Thanks!

    • says

      There’s no overhead light in any of the bedrooms in our house! It’s so strange! So we just have the fairy lights on her canopy (on a remote that we can flick on from the doorway) and the moose lamp on her dresser. We’d love to add an overhead light to each of the bedrooms someday though!


  6. Lisa E says

    This room has really come out so pretty. Love all of the thought into the details and how Clara had a huge hand in picking things out. She has a good eye already! Well done!

  7. Ann says

    As you add in more and more layers, I can really see why you chose the white walls and pink ceiling–its like the perfect blank (ish) slate for all the different colors and accessories. I’m glad the bird cages are back too!

    • Liz says

      Does she still love her dollhouse as much as she did when she first got it? I would love to get my daughter one at some point, but of course I want it to be played with a lot since it’s a big gift (in size and price!).

    • says

      Yes, she seems to love it! Sometimes getting her new figures to use inside (not buying them, but showing her how to use the lego men in there instead of her Olivia dolls, or using a little plastic bunny family she has) piques her interest again!


  8. Michelle says

    Looks great! Can you show us a zoomed out shot of the finished wall (as you did in the “before”)? I struggle to grasp the concept of a gallery wall that doesn’t cover the entire wall -like where should it begin and end? I assume you kept it over the play items but am curious to see what it looks like from further back when you can see the entire wall. Thanks!

    • says

      Sure, I’ll have to take more wide shots of the room for a future post for ya! In general we just do framing arrangements and wall items over an object (so that object can ground them). So sort of like how we hung birdcages over the dresser and a canopy over her bed, we just hung art and the shelves and her mirror above/around her kitchen and fridge and cart and laundry basket so they could sort of create a little box of interest on that wall.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *