Under A Clear Blue Sky

from Paint Décor
An attic becomes an ideal kids' room through sky-blue wall decor and unique details that encourage fun and fantasy.

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.”

A newly upholstered chaise longue provides a cozy spot from which adult visitors can supervise or read and relax with children. “The chaise is inviting, but my favorite accessory in the room is the floorcloth,” Norley says. Decorative painter Catherine Bosna based its design on motifs from the fabrics in the room — polka dots, stripes, diamonds, and roses. A 9 by 14-foot double layer of heavy-duty cotton canvas was first primed on both sides with three coats of quality flat white house paint.

Once the base coat was dry, Bosna sketched her designs on the canvas using colored pencils. A laser-leveling tool was used to ensure straight lines for the harlequin diamond pattern. Next, she used artist’s brushes and house paint to create the designs, allowing for plenty of drying time between each section. Five coats of polyurethane, followed by a final coat of paste wax that she rubbed on and buffed off by hand, protect the finished design from scratches.
“Practical and beautiful, the floorcloth anchors the room and pulls together the entire play space,” Norley says. “Floorcloths have been used as floor coverings since the 1700s. They wipe clean with a damp cloth, so they are perfect for messy areas.”

Impervious to stains, a painted floorcloth is durable enough to last for decades with proper care. But don’t fold it — to store or transport a floorcloth, Bosna recommends, roll it loosely around a cardboard tube with the painted side facing out.

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