A Narnia-Style Reading Nook Sits Just Behind This Toddler’s Bedroom Closet Door
Her parents designed the space for their future teen in mind.
Published Nov 16, 2023 10:30 AM
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For Lauren Heanes and her husband, Waine Longwell, the first project they tackled in their newly purchased 1912 Craftsman was not the run-down bathrooms or an unfortunate ’90s kitchen remodel. Having recently relocated some 650 miles from the Bay Area to Portland, Oregon, they decided instead to prioritize making their two children, Tennessee (4) and Augie (3), feel at home. So when Tennessee requested a “rainbow, pink, and red” bedroom, the design-savvy couple put their heads together to create a space that could satisfy a toddler—but, with a few smart swaps, also easily evolve with her changing taste.
Heanes, a set designer and prop stylist, and Longwell, who’s wrapping up an architecture degree, are no strangers to hands-on renovations. The duo cofounded and codesigned Range Life restaurant and the adjacent mezcal-focused Bar Quiote in Livermore, California—reviving the spaces into neighborhood destinations and earning them DIY credentials in the process.
But before the decor fun could begin in Tennessee’s new room, the heavily textured popcorn ceiling had to be addressed. Ultimately, they decided to cover it completely with tongue-and-groove, which also added to the cozy vibe they craved to contrast Portland’s chilly climate. “We wanted a lot of color and whimsy, but we also wanted something that she could grow into and ideally would keep a version of as a teenager,” explains Heanes.
To mesh the collective visions at play, the trio agreed on a playful yet polished red and cream block-print wallpaper by Cole & Son. (Augie’s room will feature a cool green version of the same paper, so the siblings’ rooms complement each other.) Meanwhile, nailing down a pink trim that, as Heanes puts it, wasn’t “too in your face,” proved trickier. Farrow & Ball’s versatile Middleton Pink ended up being the winner “because it’s so light that sometimes it looks almost white, and other times you can really see the pink,” she says.
With the room’s backdrop in place, they layered in vintage pieces, including a mid-century wall unit that Heanes inherited from her grandparents. The hand-painted chest tucked beneath was another of their possessions (and dons their initials), having made the voyage from Switzerland in the 1950s. Now it’s been repurposed as storage, doubling as a perch for Tennessee’s record player, where she listens to her vintage 45 storybook collection. Rounding out the curation are various Etsy finds—“cute little ’50s lamps, great artwork, and vintage frames”—as well as a curbside freebie: scalloped shelves that just needed a lick of bright green paint and some new drawer pulls.
“We didn’t want [the room] to be too heavily one style or another,” says Heanes. “Not too mid-century or too cottagecore, but a nice mix of both.” To juxtapose the graphic walls and wood ceiling, for example, the couple brought in a lemon yellow antique Jenny Lind bed but with a twist. Longwell designed and built a matching citrus-hued trundle with a squiggly border that’s ideal for impromptu sibling sleepovers—and, down the road, for friends to stay over.
Perhaps the biggest transformation is hidden away Narnia style in the bedroom’s cozy closet, which “really feels like a secret treehouse,” according to Heanes. Nestled under a flight of stairs, the sunlit nook already had a built-in bench and even a window, giving it potential for being more than just a spillover storage zone. And so, up went wall-mounted bookshelves to create a welcoming reading corner and a built-in shelf for neatly stashing away art supplies and smaller toys in stackable IKEA boxes—as well as a wraparound row of Shaker pegs (of which “we use every single one,” says Heanes) and a mini wardrobe area for dress-up.
For now, Tennessee spends hours rummaging through her capes, tutus, and frilly dresses. But when that changes, Heanes and Longwell will be ready. “I imagine her doing some homework in this space, or lining it with string lights, records, and posters,” says Heanes. “A room she can really make her own.”