Who Says a Treehouse Has to Be Outside? This Designer Built One in an Attic
It’s for the grandkids but has secret storage, too.
Published May 17, 2023 9:09 AM
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Flying pigs and an indoor swing don’t sound like the usual design elements for a pair of septuagenarians, but when interior designer Melinda Trembly’s clients reached out to her about converting an attic in their Southern California home into a sleeping and play space for their eight grandkids and two great-grandchildren, they were ready to have some fun. The couple, who consider themselves design enthusiasts, were willing to take some risks to create something magical.
Trembly’s first task was to make the space livable, as it had previously been used for storage. After having it finished and drywalled, she set about turning the blank box into a treehouse-inspired room where the two youngest generations could play, watch TV, and spend the night. Here’s how Trembly created an entire world in what once was the place where luggage and old paperwork gathered dust.
Get Creative With Awkward Spaces
To get the floor plan right, Trembly and her team at Rincon Road Design Studio took advantage of space that often goes unused by tucking two sleeping bunks under the eaves, which left more floor open for play. The area beneath a dormer window was not quite big enough for any kind of useful furniture arrangement, so Trembly built in a plus-size window seat that pinch-hits as an extra sleeping spot on slumber party nights. To give each nook privacy, Trembly had her workshop sew curtains from basic drop cloths.
Cover the Practicalities
Even a just-for-fun playroom needs strategic storage—and the clients still had a few things they needed to stash away in the attic. So Trembly carved out deep storage for them in one corner, then built out shelving on one of the end walls and closed cabinets under the eaves. To dress up the cabinet doors, she designed a simple motif of circle cutouts.
When You Want Charm, Think Wallpaper
Trembly knew that wallpaper would go a long way toward setting the tone for the space, and she found her touchstone in whimsical wall coverings from Sian Zeng. The designer was drawn to the toile pattern, interactive magnets, and dry-erase bubbles, but also to the sophisticated palette of olive green, Prussian blue, and pink, which influenced the color scheme for the room.
Double Down on Pattern
Trembly didn’t stop with one print: When she came across Rebel Walls Cloud wallpaper, she decided to add it to the ceiling. To keep it from overwhelming the room, Trembly worked with the brand to customize the design so the clouds would gather at the ceiling’s peak and fade out to white at the base. (This conveniently left some breathing room to include a few of Zeng’s flying pig wall stickers.)
In order to highlight the hues in the wallpaper, Trembly settled on Sherwin-Williams’s Moscow Midnight paint for the cabinetry, while the interiors of the sleeping berths and the dormer got a lighter shade of blue, Blustery Sky. The subtle shift between the two creates visual depth without looking choppy.
Bring the Outdoors In
While walking on the beach one day after a storm, Trembly came upon some large pieces of driftwood. After consulting with her carpenter, they arranged to have the driftwood kiln-dried and pieced together as a guardrail for the pull-down stairwell. He used additional small pieces throughout the space to give the illusion that tree branches are poking in. Running with the woodland theme, Trembly gave the existing structural columns a faux bois paint finish that reads like a happy wink beside the pieces of natural wood.
Trembly still felt the design could use another layer, so she came up with the idea of installing wood shingles on the wall behind the built-in bench. Another unexpected way Trembly made the room feel outdoors-like? She had her contractor hang a Serena & Lily swing from the rafters. And because this project was part of the clients’ home, not a child’s personal room that would naturally fill up over time, she added faux birds, birdhouses, and woodland animal art on the walls.
When the grandkids pulled down the ladder stairs to the attic for the first time, they were very surprised by what lay on the other side. “The ladder drops down and you’re just transported into this different world,” says Trembly.