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“Every time you move into a new house, you have goals—like, I really want this to be organized,” says Jessica Turner. When she and her husband, Andrew, first set out to transform a spare room above the garage at their property in Birmingham, Alabama—which they share with their children Gabriel, Liberty, Joy, and Creed—coming up with a streamlined design was a top priority. “I wanted a place that was inspiring and where the kids could come in and feel creative,” recounts Turner, who is the chief operating officer at sustainable lifestyle brand Alabama Chanin. Another must: “Solve the Lego problem.”

“Every kid who comes up for the night wants to sleep in the window,” says Turner of the plush reading nook, which can comfortably fit four little ones. Window, Roman Shades, Cushion, and Window Seat, Raka Home; Throw Blanket, West Elm.

From the get-go, Turner knew who she wanted for the job: Karla and Ray Graves of design studio Raka Home, whose children go to the same school as her brood. “They came over for dinner [and we] went upstairs and just dreamed about what the space could be,” says Turner. “I started telling Karla all the things I wished I could do”—which included creating a media area where electronics and cords would be kept out of sight; different zones with comfy seating and enough room to spread out to draw and color; and designated spots to store magnet tiles, dress-up clothes, dolls, comic books, and the extensive Lego collection, without being too prescriptive. “I wanted our house to be fun,” she adds. 

Daytime Zen

A 19-foot-long handwoven jute rug runs the length of the room and conceals the most kid-approved of features: trap-door beds. Farmhouse Jute Runner Rug by Safavieh, Wood Balance Board by Little Dove, Disc Plate Swing Seat by Playberg (similar), Climbing Holds by Rocky Mountain Climbing Gear, Amazon; Blocks, Banquette, Cushions, Rainbow Sculpture, Climbing Mat and Art by Karla Graves, Raka Home.

Nighttime Fun

Mounted flush to the floor, the doors can be opened with the flick of a magnetized key. (No surprise: One of Ray’s design inspirations was Batman.) Adventure Rug by Oyoy, Maisonette; Rectangular Pillow Covers and Inserts by Mercer41 (similar), Wayfair; Lillabo Train Track, IKEA; Wood Race Cars by Darice, Amazon.

That balance of playfulness and problem-solving is intrinsic to every project the Graveses oversee. Also parents to four children—Aidian (13), Roman (9), Liam (5), and Penelope (2)—they have made streamlined, stylish family spaces their signature. Ray, a woodworker and furniture-maker, builds all the custom-designed elements that allow for smart organization solutions, while Karla brings the interior design prowess and spatial vision that supports their passion for getting creative with square footage. (As their family has grown, the couple installed a custom triple bunk bed to accommodate the boys in one room, and carved out a 50-square-foot nursery for Penelope within their own bedroom closet.) 

The slatted wood doors running along the wall are installed on hinges so they can fold up accordion-style to save space, allowing the room to be elegantly reconfigured at will. Custom Beds by Ray Graves and Window, Raka Home; Mattresses, Lucid.

For the Turners’ home, understanding how the space would be used unlocked a multifunctional layout. “The more we talked [to Jessica and Andrew], the more we realized they love to host their extended family and that Jessica needed a place to work,” explains Ray of the playroom evolving into also becoming a guest room and part-time office. “People often look at a room and think: This can have one function—but then we kind of stop dreaming.” After observing that the Turner children read constantly—books were everywhere—he came up with the round seating area. His thinking? “You don’t have to leave the house to have fun.” (“Every kid who comes up for the night wants to sleep in the window,” Turner confirms.) 

“The best part is all the kids can be in there doing different things. I don’t think there’s an area that doesn’t get utilized,” says Turner. Wood Paneling by Ray Graves, Raka Home; Lines Pillows, Three Little Warriors by Raka Home.

Open the magnetic wood panels he designed to stretch across the entire wall, which allow the room to be elegantly reconfigured at will, and you discover a hive of clever storage: the cozy velvet reading nook with built-in bookshelves; a TV and game station with floating console; and plenty of places to stow toys in the form of neatly stacked pull-out bins, as well as spacious double drawers tucked beneath a daybed on the opposite wall. With the essentials in order, the fun could take center stage: A pair of rope swings (now “famous with the neighborhood kids,” says Turner) is suspended by hooks and can easily be dismantled when not in use, and climbing-wall steps make the most of the room’s trapezoidal architecture and help burn off extra energy on rainy days.  

But the most Narnia of design details is concealed beneath the 19-foot-long jute rug that runs the length of the room: two twin beds (complete with separate storage compartments for extra bedding) installed directly in the floor and accessible via trap doors that open with the flick of a special magnetized key. (No surprise: One of Ray’s design inspirations was Batman.) Guests or not, the mattresses often double as a makeshift trampoline park, according to Turner. Another source of delight: “The rock wall has a hidden door that opens up and all of my daughters’ dollhouses and accessories are stored there,” she says. “You can climb in and play hide-and-seek.”

The playroom’s enduring success is proof that one of parenting’s golden rules—kids need a few healthy boundaries—is treasured for good reason. “My kids have really learned to love the organization, [which] Karla and Ray made approachable through design,” explains Turner. “Everything has its place, and they feel like they can conquer that.” Even the family’s youngest, Creed, knows which bins and drawers the Lego pieces, cars, and superhero costumes each go into. “It’s clear and consistent. He knows his ‘job’ is not complete until the door to the bins and the drawer under the bench are closed,” she says. “And then he feels proud of himself.” Magic, indeed. 

The Goods

This story was originally published in our Kids 2020 issue with the headline “Practical Magic.”