When designer Lauren Li first toured the home recently purchased by her clients—a couple with three children under the age of 8—the charming brick Edwardian seemed perfectly suited to a young family save for one inescapable detail: Every surface of the interior was brown.
Li, whose boutique design practice, Sisällä, specializes in “creating good vibes,” set to work on a six-month renovation focused on incorporating elements of the couple’s Finnish and Australian heritage, and infusing family-friendly functionality with playful sophistication. The home’s brown and beige finishes were quick to go, revived by a selection of paint (seven colors total) centered around energizing shades of blue; meanwhile, patterned wallpaper and a host of custom details—a plywood slide installed over the stairs, for starters—transformed portions of the second floor into a bright, kid-approved paradise. Here’s how she got it done:
Use Personal History as a Starting Point
Li’s clients wanted their space to reflect their respective Finnish and Australian backgrounds. The designer developed the home’s unifying blue and white color palette as a nod to the Finnish flag and incorporated Melbourne-made furnishings from Jardan and Lowe Furniture. Fabrics designed by local indigenous artists were used throughout, as well.
Use Color Without Going Kaleidoscopic
A liberal use of color was key to Li’s concept, but the designer opted for subtle variations of a single hue over rainbow-themed rooms. Shades were chosen to evoke specific moods: the master bedroom is cloaked in a restful darker blue, for instance, while a brighter turquoise in the office (offset by a watermelon-colored table) adds much-needed pep to a studious space.
Create a “Home Hub”
Li replaced one of the house’s bathrooms with a designated “home hub,” built to support each family member’s day-to-day routine. Custom-designed lockers hold school supplies, shoes, tech gear, athletic equipment, mail, and more, helping to encourage both a clutter-free home and parental peace of mind.
“This is definitely the house you want your kids to go for a playdate,” says Li. In addition to colorful wallpaper chosen to reflect each child’s interests (and a line-drawing print made for coloring on the walls), the designer positioned a plywood slide on the stairs, monkey bars in the hallway, and a wooden cubby in one of the bedrooms, at just the right height for jumping on the bed.
Save the Day With Custom Sizing
Custom pieces are an ideal solution for awkwardly sized nooks and corners. In the master bedroom, for example, Li ordered an extra-long headboard to fit the dimensions of a bay window. “We didn’t want to block out any natural light,” she says, “so we also kept it low.” Nearby, in an adjoining bathroom, the designer installed a mirror specially sized to float over a window to further maximize light and functionality. This house may be a wonderland for kids, but parents have just as much to be excited about.
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