For most people in America, a crawl space set beneath the stairs is usually just seen as extra storage space. What it most definitely is not, though, is a place to entertain your small children. That is, of course, unless you are Brittany Gogel from Saskatchewan, Canada.
Brittany knows just how valuable it is to have a place to indulge the imagination, and she wanted to make sure her daughter had exactly that. That’s when the idea came to her to create a secret room in the crawlspace just for the purpose.
“I really wanted a room where our (2-year-old) daughter could go to play, be messy and use her imagination,” Brittany explains in an interview with Today.
She got to work designing and building the perfect secret playroom, which she refers to as an “Imaginarium”, and based her designs on one of her favorite book series growing up; The Chronicles of Narnia.
The result? Everyone wants to come in and play.
Just as in the books, to get to the secret room, you first have to step through a large wardrobe. To make the wardrobe resemble the victorian era time-piece that is so prevalent in the books and movies, Brittany hired out a carpenter to chisel in the details of the facade.
“I hired a carpenter to build the face of the wardrobe. He designed it so that if we want to take it to another house, we can basically pull it out of the door frame and take it with us,” she continues.
When you open those doors, though, you feel like you are walking into the enchanted world of Narnia for real.
Once you pass through the wardrobe portal, you are instantly transported into a secret magical place of enchantment.
It’s what Brittany described to Today as “a place of wonder, excitement, and adventure.”
To give the room a true outdoor feel, the wonder-loving mom had turf installed to mimic the look and feel of real grass. She added a touch of imaginative whimsy by covering the walls in a brilliantly colored, eccentrically patterned wallpaper.
To keep the forest meadow theme running strong, she repurposed old fake Christmas trees she found at thrift stores. She decorated the enchanted Narnia room with them and fake plants. Then, she tied it all together by painting the ceiling a brilliant sky-blue. It all worked to bring her idea out of the realm of imagination into reality.
According to Brittany, creating the life-like tree trunk that adorns the room was one of the biggest challenges.
To get the bulk and general shape of her Narnia trees, Brittany turned to the good old faithful craft of Papier-mâché.
She used chickenwire and joint compound to mold the frame of the tree trunks, then Papier-mâchéd over it and began the tricky job of painting.
“I literally hadn’t done papier-mache since I was a child and I didn’t know if what I was doing would work at all. But I did a lot of research beforehand and just kept working with it until I was satisfied. The scariest part was painting the trees because I didn’t want them to look cheesy, but I was also really happy with how that turned out. It’s all about the layers,” Brittany explains.
Brittany decided to construct her daughter’s Narnia-inspired room as part of the One Room Challenge. It’s a designer event held biannually that picks 20 “design influencers” to compete over the course of six weeks as they transform one room. They are required to keep an updated blog that discusses the challenges and gives advice to other designers, and Brittany’s was a hit.
All done and told, the cost of creating the Narnia secret-room tallied up to around $1,000.
That is, of course, minus the cost of the custom-designed wardrobe, the most expensive part of the whole project. For those who question the value of having such a room in the house, Brittany has a response:
“Most of the time when people ask about the cost, I tell them that a lot of parents take their kids to Disneyland, but I would rather build a small piece of Disneyland here in our own home to get to experience every day,” she says.
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That’s no understatement from the fun-loving mom, either.
According to her, the Narnia secret room sees quite a bit of imagination-inspired action.
“It’s a destination for visiting friends and our daughter loves to play in it. Right now she’s too young to read on her own, so we mostly play hide-and-seek or just chase each other around the trunk. It has become a place where adults are invited to play with children. We have had everyone from age 1 to 75 in that room crawling around on the floor and imagining all sorts of crazy things together,” she divulges to Today.
Brittany Gogel, in addition to being one of the most fun moms on the planet, also has a passion for interior and fashion design. Particularly for design that blends the old with the new. She runs what she describes as a “one stop shop that curates experiences through bold interiors where maximalist prints are paired with eclectic home decor.”
Source: Brit and Barclay Designs