One Toddler’s Fun and Fanciful Playroom
When her son was just one and a half, Emily Riddle felt his play space was in dire need of a face-lift—so she used the One Room Challenge as a catalyst. Riddle owns The Amsden—a Parisian-style cafe in an 1890 building in Versailles, Kentucky—and is a designer and lifestyle blogger at her website, Gathered Living. She had one main goal for this room in their 1915 farmhouse, which previously had white walls, white trim, and a hodgepodge of decor: “I really wanted to go all out,” she says. “He was little but getting to the point where he needed a dedicated space for all his stuff—a spot that would contain all his toys but also be safe for him where he could play in there without us having to monitor everything!”
Thankfully, Riddle had been nesting for a while—and had collected vintage kids’ pieces ranging from well-loved books to a bedspread she scored for $5 at a garage sale. “It’s a twin quilt that’s super cute and has all these different circus patterns and all different colors that ended up matching perfectly,” she says. “I forgot I had it until the very end [of the project], and pulled it out and it ended up working.” Another favorite is a family heirloom: “right in the center of the mantel we have a toy orange truck that was my dad’s when he was little, so that’s very special!”
During the eight-week project, Riddle worked a lot of DIY magic to make the room their own. “The biggest one was the wall fireplace: I hand painted the sun design after finding a wallpaper I loved but it was way too expensive for how much I needed!” The inspiration paper cost $50 per sheet . . . not roll, she says. “So I ended up trying to duplicate it by painting it like a mural, and made my own stencil using my Silhouette Cameo machine.” Riddle repeated the motif in a grid pattern using painter’s tape, working on the project a little at a time so it wasn’t too overwhelming—often with her latest Netflix addiction playing in the background for entertainment. “It was actually pretty relaxing to go in there and do it at night,” she says. “Now I’ve seen a ton of similar projects—that wallpaper must be very popular; I’ve seen a lot of hand-painted versions of it since!” Still, the look wasn’t without its issues. “I had to try a couple different stencils at first to get the sun the right size and make it as uniform as I could while popping it on there and painting really quickly.”
Riddle also hired a carpenter to install the built-in bookcases to “get them level—our house sways five different ways. It’s a little challenging!” They’re painted in high-gloss Sherwin-Williams Alabaster that can easily be wiped clean. Now, the shelves tuck the TV away so it’s no longer a focal point, and put toys within easy reach (orange, pink, and red bins corral books, puzzle pieces, and more).
It all goes hand in (teeny) hand with her philosophy on designing kids’ spaces: “Just make them as fun as possible!” says Riddle. “I definitely use the space a lot—there’s a lot happening but it’s just kind of an explosion of everything that I love and wanting to make it a fun, inspiring space for him to play in. Definitely, fun is the most key thing: bright and colorful!”
Her son’s verdict? A+. “He loves it,” she says. “He was still a little young to be super excited for the big reveal, but if I had done it this year he would have freaked out.” The space is now one of the family’s most-used rooms. “That’s why we wanted to incorporate comfortable seating in there—I sit in there all the time and let him play while I eat lunch.” And it came with a hidden bonus that parents of toddlers can appreciate: “He can make a mess in there and we can close the door and hide it away from the rest of the house.” Corralled chaos; but make it fashion.
/ Written by Kathryn O’Shea-Evans. Photography by Sarah E Dunn Photo and Design.