Published on August 27, 2020

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Photography by Jessica Steddom
Mary Lawless Lee, the founder of popular lifestyle blog Happily Grey, designed her 14-month-old daughter’s playroom with the intention of the whole family getting to enjoy the space. Not only is there a deck just outside its doors where adults can hang out while little ones play inside, but the cloud-like beanbags serve all different purposes. 14-month-old Navy can lounge on the cuddly chairs during storytime—but so can Lee and her husband on movie night.

Previously a bonus TV room, the play area’s wide-open, rectangular shape posed a challenge off the bat. Lee took her first cue from the existing chandelier in the space, letting that guide the placement of the area rug. Then she set up a dreamy tent next to the window so natural light can stream through the cream canopy. “Navy loves flipping through books, even though we’re not totally at the reading stage yet,” says Lee. Ahead, she reveals an exclusive peek inside the space and shares a few tips for taking the room beyond playtime. 

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Photography by Jessica Steddom

Lee swathed two of the walls in a striped terracotta wallpaper she found on Etsy (available in a traditional or a peel-and-stick treatment), which is a bold departure from Navy’s gray-toned nursery. The brick-colored undertones guided the art choices: She stuck with peach, pink, and red prints from Society6 so the display practically blends into the wall. “I didn’t want just animals,” says Lee, who had a little more fun with the gallery by mixing in graphic sunscape prints and phrases like Cool to be kind—words Navy will appreciate when she gets older. 

Navy is already learning how to tidy up, mainly because it’s so easy for her to access the storage bins in the room. (Lee will pull out the drawers for her and she’ll put the balls, puzzle pieces, and Sesame Street figures away.) Most of the tot’s toys come from Lovevery, a monthly subscription service that delivers new items based on your kids’ developmental stage to your doorstep.

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Photography by Jessica Steddom

Play kitchens can range from super-cheap to outrageously expensive—Lee opted for something in the middle, prioritizing longevity over budget. Her modern farmhouse-style pick from Pottery Barn Kids is crafted out of a combination of MDF and solid wood. The setup features a ton of interactive opportunities, like knobs that turn, doors that open, and a sink that’s watertight for real cleanup. To bring it to life, Lee hung a print of a cactus at Navy’s eye level so that she can pretend she’s looking out a window into a garden. 

baby in a tentPin It
Photography by Jessica Steddom

Snack time takes place at a round Restoration Hardware table in the middle of the room. Because Navy isn’t quite tall enough to get in a chair on her own yet, Lee surrounded it with low-to-the-ground poufs. “She’ll go and sit there on her own,” says Lee. “I’m always shocked.” 

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Photography by Jessica Steddom

To keep her design options open down the road, Lee didn’t splurge on built-ins. Instead, she lined the room with various units. Many of the books that are on display belonged to Lee’s husband when he was a child. “His mom took immaculate care of them,” she says. Small family treasures make the room feel personal—until Navy can add her own little personality into the mix.  

Introducing Domino’s new podcast, Design Timewhere we explore spaces with meaning. Each week, join editor-in-chief Jessica Romm Perez along with talented creatives and designers from our community to explore how to create a home that tells your story. Listen now and subscribe for new episodes every Thursday.

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