The Adler Family, Carmel Valley, CA
Today's space-starved families are coming up with creative ways to carve out playrooms for their kids. Case in point: Tracy and Glenn Adler turned a sunny storage area above their garage into a fairy princess kingdom for their daughters, Sarah, now 7, and Emily, 4. The walls and ceiling were papered with cloud-covered wallpaper topped with murals of a medieval castle and flags. The Adlers divided the space into a crafts area with vinyl flooring and a carpeted area for pretend play, with toy shelves in between. But the room's most striking feature is a castle playhouse designed and built by the Adlers. "Our playroom is a place where kids can use their imagination and enter a world of kings, queens, and princesses," says Tracy.
Ready For Takeoff
The Mattingly Family, Atlanta, GA
While preparing for the birth of their second child, Amy and Paul Mattingly moved their 3-year-old son, Sam, into a new bedroom he'll eventually share with his younger brother. Sam adores airplanes, and Amy began scouring catalogs, the Internet, and local antiques shops for furnishings and aviation accessories. Within a color scheme of black, white, and red, she hung vintage posters, suspended wooden planes from the ceiling, and made a reading corner with a padded window bench. To tie everything together, Amy made stencils of five words that she painted slightly darker than the putty-colored walls: play, discover, fly, explore, and soar. "These are the things I hope for most for both of my sons," she says.
The Jager Family, Ladera Ranch, CA
Family heirlooms and 4-year-old Cole Jager's love of Woody the Toy Story cowboy inspired the preschooler's parents, Marilyn and Paul, to create an Old West bedroom filled with authentic touches. Paul, a designer and artist, began by drawing a freehand mural of cactuses and mountains. He filled in details with foam brushes dipped in latex paint mixed with glazed media (available at paint stores), then created a faux-wood chair rail by dragging a rubber stencil stamp coated with brown paint across the wall. Cole's grandmother used red and blue bandannas to make a quilt, and Paul rescued antique Native American rugs from a family cabin. A small desk made by Cole's great-grandfather more than a century ago serves as a bedside table. "As I tucked him in the first night, Cole whispered, "I love my room,'" Paul says. "That was the ultimate compliment!"
The Grice Family, Valrico, FL
By the time Allison and Tripp Grice found out they were expecting twins, they'd created a whimsical jungle nursery. "We started before I was pregnant," Allison says, "and the project took about 10 months." She and Tripp painted the bottom third of the walls apple green and added a chair-rail molding, then Tripp drew jungle vegetation freehand and filled it in with latex paint. To create three-dimensional animals, he used a jigsaw to cut pieces of 1/4"-thick wood, which he glued together in layers. Cherry sleigh cribs are placed so that Jacob and Caleb, now 1, can get a close look at the friendly creatures.
The Great Green Room
The Mrak Family, Marshall, MI
Eleanor Mrak, now 2, always gets a special thrill when her parents, Jodie and Billy, read aloud the children's classic Goodnight Moon. After all, she lives in a child-size version of the book! Eleanor's bold mural was created by Jodie, an artist and marketing manager, who wanted to capture the peaceful feeling of the story, complete with its cozy fireplace. "I painted the walls first, then drew the details freehand in chalk and filled them in with acrylic paint," says Jodie. "I made sure the pictures were life-size for a toddler so Eleanor could feel as if she was sitting in the book while I read it to her."