This is one of those projects I’ve had in mind from the moment I ruled up our playroom space on a piece of graph paper, back when our house was still a block of dirt and a twinkle in our eyes.
I’d already decided on a grey and yellow colour scheme for the living room (you can see the dark grey wall colour I chose in this post) and because the entry to the playroom is open to the living area, I wanted to reflect that scheme in this room in some way.
I also knew that I wanted a striking feature wall that would be stylish but inviting and cheery, as suited to a kids’ play space. I’ve been seeing birch tree feature walls popping up all over the place lately, and I love how they are dramatic yet natural, and give the feel of bringing the outdoors in.
So it was no surprise when I fell in love with this birch tree stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils – the same place I purchased my polka dot stencil (used for my DIY sand and water play table and my nursery makeover) and my trellis stencil (used for my study nook makeover.)
The playroom wall makeover was first on my agenda after moving into our new abode. I mean literally, it got done before I even unpacked my walk-in-robe. I couldn’t feel settled until we were able to unpack the kids’ toys and give them their own space.
The room looked like this when we moved in:
There were boxes of toys and piles of clutter that we had nowhere to put. We’d purchased an Ikea Expedit unit for toy storage, but it was still in boxes, and we couldn’t set it up until I’d done the wall, because there was nowhere else to put the unit except… against that wall.
Time to get cracking! The kids needed their toys, and I needed to NOT feel like my house could be featured on Hoarders.
I chose Dulux “Sunbound” for the stencilled wall – a bright cheery yellow to bring a splash of sunshine to the play space.
My mistake was to have the builder paint the whole wall yellow first, assuming I’d be stencilling the trees over top in white. Actually, the stencil is a reverse image, meaning my first attempt resulted in yellow trees on a not-completely-white background, kind of the same colour as nicotine-stained teeth. It just looked completely wrong. Ugh. SO not the crisp, cheery look I’d been going for.
So on my one kid-free day per week, instead of finishing the stencilling job as I’d hoped, I got to paint a wall white so I had the blank canvas I needed to start again.
|Such a lovely white wall, isn’t it??! Please admire…
I’ve mentioned this in all my stencilling posts, but in case you missed those, it bears repeating – the only way to stencil is with a “dry roller”. Blot the excess paint off the roller on paper towel before rolling the wall. Too much paint and it will bleed underneath.
Last time I stencilled a whole wall, I just started in the top right corner and worked my way down. Because this stencil is a more complicated design that needs to wrap right into the corners, I looked up some tips online and found a recommendation to start in the middle of the wall. So that’s what I did.
I taped up the stencil with painter’s tape, using a clip-on spirit level (also purchased from Cutting Edge Stencils) to ensure it was straight. Because it was such a large stencil to handle, I also found it helpful to spray it with a light coat of Spray Adhesive to help it adhere a little to the wall. I repeated this every couple of applications, as the stencil lost its “stick” after being used 2 or 3 times.
Crisp white trees against a yellow background – so much better! Now THAT’s what I’m talkin’ bout.
Then it was just a matter of repeating the design. My first couple of repeats were a bit off because I couldn’t figure out how to register the stencil correctly against the previous print. Finally I found the parts of the pattern that are repeated – they’re very well hidden in the overall design!
The corners were fiddly. It’s a really large stencil, and I found it difficult to curve it hard enough into the corner to get a crisp edge. It did an okay job, but I had to touch up the edges a bit by hand.
One row done, and onto the next!
Same deal for the bottom row; just bend the stencil into the corner. At this point I also remembered to tape off the skirting, cornice (crown molding for U.S. readers) and adjacent walls so I didn’t mess them up. Better late than never.
As you can see, the top section was a real mongrel. I cursed the day I ever decided to start in the middle of the wall and work up. I think working middle-out worked well for the side walls, because the stencil really needs to wrap right into the corner to get that nice wallpapered-to-the-edge effect rather than a white gap at the edge where the stencil ends.
But if I ever did a project like this again with such a large stencil, I’d start in the middle of the wall at the TOP, and work down and out. It would’ve been heaps easier to do it this way, as the stencil comes with an extra “top edge” piece especially designed to fill in the gap left at, well, the top edge.
Meanwhile, using my method, I had to work against gravity and a drooping stencil that wanted to land in my hair.
Thankfully, I prevailed, and the job was at last done!
Although this stencil was kind of cumbersome to work with because of its size, the pattern was extremely forgiving. Bit of bleeding here and there? Not even noticeable amid the bark-splotches on the trees.
I was thrilled with the overall effect of the pattern. I would not have chosen such a bright shade of yellow without the white stencilling to break it up, but the high proportion of white on the wall keeps it feeling crisp and fresh rather than overbearing.
Everyone who’s seen that wall has at first assumed it was wallpaper. Score!
With the painting out of the way, we were at last able to assemble our Ikea Expedit unit. It went together fairly quickly. The kids got in on the action too with their little toy hammers and plastic screwdrivers.
Our last view of the stencilled wall, unobstructed…
And with the Expedit in place.
Incidentally, some of you may be interested to know that Ikea are discontinuing this wildly popular Expedit unit. It will be replaced by a unit identical in internal dimensions, but with thinner outer sides. Kind of a bummer – I love the thick edges. I’m just glad we bought ours in time, because I’ve wanted one of these forever. And it was a heck of a lot cheaper than the built-in cabinetry we had made for our last place.
I purchased some Ikea Branas baskets to go on the unit. I like how the woven design picks up on the natural elements of the room, such as the birch tree wall and sisal rug.
I snapped these photos before we’d loaded any toys onto the shelves except for a drawer of paper and colouring-in sheets, and a pencil/crayon carousel (from Howard’s Storage World).
I’d also purchased some of the cupboard inserts that you can buy to compliment the Expedit, but I hadn’t yet decided where to put them. I decided that first I would unpack all the toys, see how well everything fit, and then decide which bits needed covering up the most with a cupboard door.
Meanwhile, I was just glad to have all the boxes of Expedit panels off the floor and a fresh new room to fill with toys and happy things. 🙂
So that’s the story of our playroom wall. I can’t wait to show you how the room is looking now! It’s really shaping up, and I still have many more plans in store for it to make it a really inspiring and creative place to play.
There’s something about decorating kids’ rooms that gets me every time. So much room for creativity; so much freedom to let the imagination run wild.
How about you – anyone else been doing any kiddy-focussed decorating lately?
Update: you can see more of the finished room in this post! Here’s a sneak peek:
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