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How a Designer Created a Whimsical Playroom in a Historic Townhouse

Playful and bright nursery with sliding wood door.

Design: Lina Galvao; Photo: Erin Coren

If there’s something we never get tired of seeing, it’s a great makeover. Whether it’s transforming a retro bathroom into a modern oasis or giving a lackluster bedroom a fresh look, pros perform these design miracles all the time.

To give designers a chance to showcase their favorite makeovers—and to bring you plenty of inspiration for your own home—we’re sharing the best before and afters we’ve seen in our series, Makeover of the Week. Take notes for your next renovation.

“Like so many families, my client’s basement became a holding cell for all of their stuff, and they longed to turn the usable space into something more functional, including a playroom for their two kids and an overflow sleeping area for visiting nieces and nephews,” interior designer Lina Galvao says. “Plus, they desperately needed storage for all their kids’ toys, which had taken over their living room.”

Meet the Expert

Lina Galvao, an interior designer and co-owner of Curated Nest in Brooklyn, New York, combines a passion for style with a love for functionality, always mindful of mixing integrative solutions with bold designs and colors.


Before shot of cluttered finished basement space.

Courtesy of Lina Galvao

 "The room is long and narrow, so we had to deal with a challenging layout,” Galvao explains. “We needed enough circulation to allow access to the backyard through the French doors, yet we didn’t want it to feel like a hallway. Another issue was spotty lighting, as the natural light favored one side of the room. The space also felt cold with wood-like porcelain tile floors—not a place where kids would want to sit and play with their toys." 


After shot of playroom with floral wallpaper.

Design: Lina Galvao; Photo: Erin Coren

 “Our goal was to create a space that felt cozy and modern, with a hint of old school,” Galvao notes. “To lighten things up, we painted the walls and trim bright white, and added wall sconces and more recessed lighting. Then, we got to work on the details, which included a shelving system with various types of storage for toys and books, a spot for reading utilizing a beanbag and sleeper chair, and a craft table and chalkboard to encourage creative play. On the other side of the barn door sits a guest room with a queen-sized bed.”

What Changed:

  • Color theme: Mint green tones mix with rainbow colors and natural elements to create a lively yet soothing feel. 
  • Chalkboard: A wall covered in chalkboard paint runs the full length of the wall and is flanked by barn doors. 
  • Floor:  Wall-to-wall whitish-grey carpet tiles are made of recycled materials and can be easily replaced in the event of water damage or staining.  
  • Loveseat: The grey loveseat folds out into a sleeper and works well with the room’s modern design. 
  • Chair: With its colorful print triangles, the structured beanbag chair keeps the room’s playful spirit.
  • Bookshelves: Open shelving is combined with closed storage to display (and hide) toys and books. 
  • Grey containers: Wool storage bins, with their decorative leather ties, are stiff enough to hold heavy toys but soft enough to be safe for small children. 
  • Tree mural: Peel and stick panels come in 15-foot-wide sections and bring the outdoors in.
  • Wall art: The light wood-framed letters spell out PLAY and are filled with 100% rainbow-colored wool felt balls.
  • Plants: The fiddle leaf tree and succulents tie in with the tree mural and add living elements to the space. 
  • Stools: The industrial-style mint-colored stools reinforce the old-school play theme. 
  • Sconces: The black sconces tie in with the barn door hardware and add a soft layer of light for quieter playtime.
  • Play table: The craft table has a lip to avoid toys or markers from falling onto the floor; the adjustable legs can increase in height as the kids get older.
  • Barn door: A pine barn door opens up to a guest room, transforming the space into a family suite.
  • Baskets: The baskets provide extra storage while their rainbow pom poms coordinate with the other accessories in the room. 

Shop the Look:

Pull out sofa under "Play" sign.

Design: Lina Galvao; Photo: Erin Coren

Sabine 43.31" Wide Armless Sleeper Sofa Bed
Wayfair Sabine Wide Armless Sleeper Sofa Bed $319.00

“I love that this sleeper chair isn’t bulky, making it the perfect choice for smaller spaces," Galvao says.

PLAY Letters
J&J Custom PLAY Letters $260.00

“There are lots of ‘Play’ signs out there but this one is unique, with its rainbow pom poms livening up any wall,” Galvao says.

Pom Pom Mini
Pehr Pom Pom Mini $24.00

"These bins come in 13 different colors, but my favorite is this rainbow style for a hit of bright color," Galvao says.