September 2008 Issue
Designers cater to their own children’s fantasies when redesigning bedrooms.
Raea Palmieri wasn’t entirely happy when her family moved from their suburban Cleveland home last spring. It didn’t matter that the new house was right next door — the 9-year-old simply didn’t want to give up her bedroom, a sunny space featuring a vine-covered playhouse with a shingled roof, shuttered windows, Dutch door and picket fence built along one entire wall. So her interior-designer mother, Libby Palmieri, sweetened the deal: She proposed decorating Raea’s new room in a theme inspired by Candyland, the popular children’s board game.
“Raea loves candy,” Libby explains. “And her favorite game, always, was Candyland. I wasn’t sure if she was going to bite — she was already at that age where sometimes kids are like, ‘Oh, it’s too babyish.’ But she was very excited about it.”
Instead of hiring contractors to build an architectural feature like the playhouse in Raea’s old room, Libby relied on paint to create a fanciful retreat for her daughter. “At some point she’s going to say, ‘I don’t want Candyland anymore,’” Libby says. When Raea outgrows the decor, the room can be updated simply by repainting it.
Columbus-based interior designer Jo Akers, who used the same strategy to redecorate her 17-year-old daughter Lexi’s room with fashion-designer names in logo typefaces — everything from Chanel and Dior to bebe and kate spade — adds that paint is the most affordable finish available, particularly in the hands of a creative parent. It’s also the easiest to do over.
“If you put something up and it’s not really the color you had in mind, or if it’s not mixing well, paint over it and start over!” she says.
The defining feature in Raea’s room is an elaborate mural designed by Libby and Cleveland artist Kim Colarik that wraps around the 14-by-16-foot space in an approximation of the Candyland board, complete with a path that winds along the bottom of all four walls. Libby points out that the landscape of green hills, ringed by soft-serve ice-cream peaks, includes elements from past and current versions of the game.
One wall is dominated by King Kandy’s Castle, a structure flanked by cupcake-topped turrets, that incorporates a gumball machine in its front facade. Gumballs roll down a chute, to a waterwheel that drops them into a chocolate river flowing in front of the castle. On an adjoining wall, the Plum Forest shades a shimmering pale blue lake piped in pink icing, the home of an unseen Queen Frostine. King Licorice’s Tree spreads its twisted purple branches over the entrance and closet door, while a far corner is occupied by Gramma Nut’s House, a peanut-shell-shaped abode built of — what else? — peanuts. Overhead, pale pink cotton-candy clouds float on a ceiling punctuated by a small purple-pink chandelier. A thick, dark-chocolate carpet grounds the room.
“I originally was going to do green, to pull in the grass [from the mural],” Libby says of the color. “And then I thought it might be too loud. Before the carpet was down, this room was really intense.”
There are other elements of practicality in the room. Instead of going with, say, a custom-made quilt that turned the double bed into the iconic Ice Cream Float seen in early versions of the game, Libby selected a chocolate-brown duvet and dust ruffle. She anticipates that the bedding and scalloped headboard, upholstered in plum velvet and embroidered with a large oyster-colored “R,” will take Raea well into her teen years. The same goes for the light fuchsia silk-taffeta drapery curtains and matching silk-organza sheers hanging at the window. Only a length of dark-brown tassels on each curtain — trim that gives the illusion of “Hershey’s kisses just dripping off the edges” — and the rich look and feel of the fabrics ties the window treatments to the candy theme.
“You know when you look at a box of chocolates? Everything’s so luscious,” she rhapsodizes. “I really wanted all the fabrics in the room to give off that same quality.”
The furnishings, in contrast, are surprisingly sparse. Aside from the bed, there’s a nightstand topped by a lamp with an opalescent glass “bubble” base that mimics the shape of the lollipop “flowers” in the mural. The knickknacks usually found in a girl’s room are confined to a big walk-in closet. Framed photographs of family and friends and trophies won in dance competitions are displayed on a chest of drawers, while dolls and Care Bears line the shelves.
“If I was to put all this out there, it would be just so completely overwhelming,” Libby explains as she stands in the middle of the closet.
Jo Akers used a similar neutral backdrop to showcase an orderly display of fashion-designer logos on the walls of daughter Lexi’s bedroom. She came up with the idea last year while decorating a show house in a Grove City subdivision that was featured in the 2007 BIA Parade of Homes. Inspiration for a chic teen girl’s room came from a view of the Columbus skyline from the house’s bridge balcony and her two daughters’ love of fashion. When Lexi saw the result, she pestered her mother until she agreed to duplicate it in her own room. The palette they chose, however, was darker than that in the show house.
“The catalyst for the color scheme was a throw Lexi had in a cheetah print,” Jo says. “We kicked everything up a notch.”
Jo began by using a projection system to arrange designer names — Lexi added Juicy Couture, Coach, luxury watchmaker Rolex and German automaker Audi to the mix — on walls that had been painted a deep ivory. After outlining the names in pencil, she hand-painted and shaded them in a range of browns. (Lexi put her personal stamp on the project by outlining the Rolex-logo crown in pewter, highlighting each point with a tiny crystal stud and filling the dot over the “i” in the Cartier logo with seed pearls.)
Jo’s design plan kept the previous furnishings, which included a 19th-century antique dresser and camel damask chair, in the room. The white-painted cottage-style bed was updated with a brown microsuede quilt and a scattering of faux-fur, leopard-print, and black-and-white beaded throw pillows. The room wasn’t big enough to accommodate the wire dress forms and retail display rack used to accessorize the show-house room. But the charcoal fashion-design sketches drawn by Jo’s artist husband Rick ended up on their daughter’s walls.
Lexi is thrilled with her mother’s work — good news, since Jo expects the redo to take her through college.
“Some of these logos have been around for years and years,” Jo says. “[The room] is timeless, even though it’s got a theme to it.”
What About the Boys?
Creating a room fit for a rock-star wannabe. Columbus-based designer Jo Akers also dreamed up a guy’s rock ’n’ roll fantasy room in the 2007 BIA Parade of Homes show house she designed. The same concept that put fashion-designer names on the walls was used to create a space fit for an aspiring guitar god.
“I didn’t want to do sports,” she remembers. “It’s done all the time.”
To achieve an authentic back-alley grittiness, the walls were first covered with brick paneling, painted an ivory shade into which sand had been mixed, and then “dirtied up” with washes of taupe and black paints. A projection system was then used to arrange logos of classic rock bands such as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen and U2 on two of the four walls. Jo and business partner Seth Perkins outlined the logos in pencil and hand-painted them in grays, blacks and taupe. A third wall was finished with a silhouette of a city skyline.
“We actually had a car detailer come in with a metallic paint and airbrush highlights on the cityscape to give it a three-dimensional look,” Jo says.
The room was furnished with a bed featuring a corrugated metal headboard, wood-and-metal bookshelf and a desk. Black-and-gray-striped corduroy was used to make the bedspread, the draperies for the French doors and the shams edged in grommet-studded faux leather. (The pillows are stacked at the end of the bed, facing the flat-screen television hanging over the skyline mural.) The finishing touch: a pair of electric guitars on stands placed in a corner of the room.