Published on September 23, 2020

The basement in this Philadelphia home has a colorful history: It was once a speakeasy. Unusual as it may seem, turning the space into a playroom made a lot of sense. “It’s perfect for small people,” says designer Michelle Gage of the low ceilings and wonky long hallway. At the end of the room there’s a tiny, awkward corner that, in any other circumstance, would serve no real purpose. But for Gage’s clients, who were at the time gearing up to homeschool their two kindergarten-age kids, the child-size nook was full of potential. 

Originally, the designer had considered installing shelves inside the alcove (a playroom can always use more storage). But then one day, the homeowners asked, “What if we add a curtain?” What was once unused space is now a secret hideout where their avid little readers can get lost in a good book—or put on a show. 

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Photography by Trevor Dixon

Key to the setup is a curved ceiling track, which Gage sourced directly through her local window treatment specialist, Claudia Clobes of Urban Loft. If you don’t have the budget to go the custom route, you can pull off something similar with a mounting piece from IKEA ($36) that’s designed for tricky spots like this. 

Given there are no windows in the basement, Gage decided to mimic the outdoors with baby blue walls (Skylark Song by Benjamin Moore), mossy green wall-to-wall carpeting, and a bird wallpaper print by Hygge and West that she put, fittingly, on the ceiling. When it came to selecting the fabric for the drapery, she stayed on theme with a tropical banana leaf textile, also sourced through Clobes. 

Around the corner: a $10 tap light installed at the kids’ height and round printed cushions that make the nook extra-functional come story time. 

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