Photography by Lucinda Mitra

Published on December 29, 2020

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For nearly six years, Lucinda Mitra used the beige spare room in her East Sussex, England, home for wrapping paper, books, and her 5-year-old daughter’s toy overflow. “It was definitely a space where we kept the door shut, as it was often the room we chucked stuff in when we had visitors,” she recalls. But it only took one week this summer during lockdown for Mitra to completely transform the 56-square-foot nook into an office-slash-play area. “Dare I say that none of it was a challenge,” she says. 

After patching up the old screw holes in the walls (the previous owners had shelves hanging there), Mitra got to work on making the space equal parts fun and functional, with a modular worktable, hidden toys, and graphic walls. (Psst: That’s paint, not wallpaper.) Ahead, the seasoned DIYer reveals the quick tweaks that help the family make the most of the once wasted room. 

The Experimental Wall Mural

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After freshening up the baseboards and walls with two coats of white paint, Mitra picked up a can of leftover black Annie Sloan chalk paint and worked her way across every surface, making loose abstract brushstrokes (she first tested it out on a piece of paper to get a feel for the dashes). With that same slim, tapered paintbrush, she even went over the radiator, too. “They’re not the prettiest, so I decided to make them blend in,” she says. 

The Game-Changing IKEA Storage

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Mitra and her husband purchased and assembled two different IKEA Ivar units for the room. The larger of the two ($230) has lower cabinets that are great for concealing bulky toys, while the smaller combination ($165) features a fold-out desk with additional open shelves. “I really love the finish of the plain wood,” says Mitra, who decided not to paint the pieces. Her hack? She added chic leather handles (also from IKEA) to the doors.

The Floor Refresh

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The dated orange pine laminate floors got a fresh update, too—also with paint. “The white gives them a more modern look, and we saved money by not replacing them,” says Mitra. The time-consuming part was allowing the Zinsser 1-2-3 primer to cure (it takes around a week) so the paint sticks to it like glue. Mitra applied Rustoleum’s white paint in a chalky finish with a synthetic brush on the edges and a roller everywhere else. “It’s definitely worth doing!” she says—and the whole family agrees.

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