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The 1960s-era home in Hamilton, New Zealand, had lost its luster by the time interior stylist Erena Te Paa and her husband purchased it in 2016. “It was quite run-down,” Te Paa recalls. But the project provided her with several exciting design opportunities, including the chance to customize a pair of bedrooms for her sons Costa, age 4, and Sol, 2. 

When she started decorating the boys’ rooms, Te Paa didn’t have to look far for inspiration—she let the style in the “grown-up” parts of the home be her guide. In the living room, for example, Te Paa had successfully used a selection of her favorite pastels and earthy neutrals to offset the room’s rich, wood-paneled ceiling. Since this paneling extends into Costa’s room, decorating his space using a similar palette was a no-brainer. To keep the neutral hues from feeling too mature (or worse, dull), Te Paa added funky, postmodern details and kid-friendly DIYs.

While the kids’ bedrooms mirror other parts of the home stylistically, Te Paa was able to find ways to tailor them to each of her son’s needs, fostering a sense of creativity and imagination. Here, she shares how she brought three unique projects to life. 

The Perfect Indoor Fort

Photography by Erena Te Paa

Photography by Erena Te Paa

Some days it seems like all Costa wants to do is play outside in his fort. The weather does not always cooperate, however, so Te Paa recast a nook in his room as an indoor fort with the help of her handy father-in-law, Charles. The piece they created together is made of corrugated timber (a nod to the room’s wood-paneled ceiling) and has hinges that allow it to lay flat behind the play kitchen when not in use. Charles even added a charming circular window to make it feel extra-homey. All in, the supplies cost only $100, and now Costa has a fun place to play no matter the season. “He’s a shop owner selling pizzas out of the window one day, and the next it’s a secret hideout,” Te Paa says, laughing. “It’s a cool addition.” 

Custom Coloring-Book Wallpaper

Photography by Erena Te Paa

Photography by Erena Te Paa

The wallpaper in Costa’s room nods to the kiddo’s love of shapes. To achieve the look, Te Paa commissioned Etsy artist Faye Johnson to scale up one of her geometric pieces to fit the bedroom’s main wall. Te Paa then sent the digital file to Your Decal Shop, which printed it on wallpaper for $300. She didn’t simply hang it upon arrival, though. For the final step, she used the wallpaper like a coloring book, painting over a selection of shapes so that they matched the home’s overall color scheme. 

The Quietest Nursery-Slash-Office

Photography by Alice Veysey for Assembly Label

Part of the property is still being renovated, so Sol is hunkering down in Te Paa’s home office until he can move into his own room. In order for the space to accommodate both parties, Te Paa had to design something that would allow her to keep working through her son’s afternoon naps. The solution? A wall-to-wall blackout curtain that, when closed, prevents light from reaching his crib while he sleeps. 

The roof in the makeshift nursery is pitched, so Te Paa’s husband and father-in-law kicked off the project by adding a valance to the section of the ceiling near Sol’s crib. Te Paa then plastered, sanded, and painted the new part of the ceiling to match the rest of the room. She finished the project by topping the blackout curtain with a sheer outer liner, a move that softens the heaviness of the installation. “If I am working and Sol is sleeping, the curtain provides us both privacy,” explains Te Paa. “It’s a win-win.”

Photography by Alice Vesey for Assembly Label

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