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. eilene says

    A little sad that your “welcome to the first ten minutes of any project” is what my house looks like now, but I’m mucho inspired lately to do some DIY art project. I also love the white walls. I’ve been thinking of white a lot lately, but wasn’t sure because we have less than perfect walls that no amount of spackeling and sanding will ever fix. I have to look into the best wall colors for yucky walls…

    • says

      Ooh, I think white flat paint on bad walls is one of the best ways to hide imperfections. Then load them up with art and curtains and furniture and you’ll hardly notice them (the white recedes and the flat paint hides the most issues). Good luck Eilene!


  2. Tracy Carson says

    Looks great! I am not sure if it was intentional or not but it sure was a fabulous random moment to have the print, “You are SO Loved” hanging right above the mirror! I am a Professional Counselor who specializes in adolescent and women’s issues, specifically Eating Disorders, and it is more and more clear that the younger girls are when they start to learn and hear about healthy body image (especially from their Fathers) the more successful they will be in fighting the inevitable battles that will come as they grow and mature. This simple yet profound message above a mirror in her room will only serve to support the healthy messages we all want our children to learn as they grow. As Clara learns to read and understand that message she will no doubt be reminded of the true meaning as she looks at her reflection in the mirror. Bravo Mom and Dad!

    • says

      That’s so sweet it had me tearing up! It was a complete accident, but I love that print and always want her to know we love her just the way she is. Such a sweet comment Tracy. Thanks so much for sharing!


  3. Jane says

    Love the wall of fun! I’m still trying to finish a couple gallery walls of art in our house inspired by your projects in the old house – just about ready to pull the trigger and start hanging! Love this extra layer of “fun”, the ledge shelves are super cute and practical for rotating objects. Any chance you are going to bring your old gallery wall of frames and move them over the staircase?! Holding out for instructions on that one! To the reader who asked where Clara’s kitchen cart came from, we have one from container store (it’s silver) but was more then $4- you got a deal! It does serve as my daughter’s shopping cart too. :) Happy Holidays to you all!

    • says

      Love that cart tip! Thanks for sharing! And as for hanging frames up the stairway, I think we’re interesting in some there, although we might go with a smaller amount of larger ones (we worry a bunch of small ones like the frame wall had might be too busy with the striped runner and the right angles of all those stairs). Will definitely keep you posted!


  4. Annelies says

    I love her room! I like how you worked with white to keep it bright and then added lots of colour. You guys are such an inspiration and I have already used a lot of your ideas for my place. Thanks for sharing your talents and being such awesome people!

  5. says

    This is so fantastic. Clara is one lucky duck! I love that, while it is still adorable and photoworthy, you made her room kid-friendly and awesome as well. It’s actually themed around her, not having a “perfect” house (though it seriously is absolutely beautiful and I love it!!). Way to go. I love that you hung the pictures on her level and let her be part of picking them out. Adore.

    • says

      That one’s navy (a bunch of navy frames hung in her playroom) and I think for now it doesn’t bother us since it’s sort of a mix of sizes and shapes on that wall. Maybe down the line if it bugs us we will though?


  6. Nicole Kathryn says

    Oh. my. goodness. I bet you guys can’t help but smile from ear to ear every time you walk in her room. I just adore how bright and cheerful it is! :) Keep up the great work!

  7. Elaine R says

    This room is so much fun! I have to admit… when you first painted the room white I had my doubts. Plain white walls for a 3 year old? But now it’s all come together! So fun and colorful. It makes all the small personal touches stand out more. Clara is very lucky!

    • says

      Aw thanks Elaine! I was hoping the white walls would let us play around with more fun stuff in other places (colorful ceiling, lighted canopy, bold patterns and colors, bright art and birdcages, etc) without the room feeling too busy. We’re such newbies at white walls, but so far it has been awesome for layering all of that fun stuff in!


  8. Isabel says

    The room looks beautiful guys. Clara is a very lucky girl :) I especially love all the fun and colorful art. I’m slowly trying build my own collection. I’m lucky that my parents instilled a love for art in us from the very beginning and also lucky to have already inherited some of the pieces they purchased as a couple. On my last trip to Puerto Rico I purchased a print by a local artist of a turtle (a nod to the conservation efforts of the beaches where they nest) and as crazy as it may sound, it reminds me of you ever since I read your moving story from the 1st to the 2nd house :) I got one of those annoying pop-ups and took a screenshot. I’m going to email it to your “youngsters” email right now. I’ll put pop-up in the subject line.

    • says

      Oh no! Boo pop ups! Thanks for the screen grab email Isabel! And as for the turtle print, it sounds so cute, and totally takes me back to that snowy moving day!


  9. Sheila F says

    I am such a fan of a child’s room being THEIR room. You have done this for Clara. It is designed for her. Not a sleeping room but a room for her. I prefer this to a playroom and then a room to sleep in. I think this gives her a room to feel private in and play in and dream in. Fabulous job you two. I am in love! Can’t wait to see the nursery, or the dining room or the…… Hahaha

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