I am finally ready to share the Narnia Wardrobe secret reading nook that I made for my children. Everything in this playroom space was lovely created by my husband and I. We hope that our children will create magical memories in this space, and be inspired to read. We have always strived to cultivate our children’s imaginations, and I just know that this secret reading nook is the perfect place to bring that creativity to life!
My artist’s heart went a little wild in this space. I shared a lot of the progress on my Instagram Stories, so many of you watched this project transform from a blank hallway to the magical secret room it is. If you want to see all the projects & how we did most everything (I’m sure I’ll post some blog posts with the DIY’s on here too), you can go to my instagram page: @WELIVEDHAPPILYEVERAFTER and I have most of those videos saved in my highlights under “Narnia.”
This post includes affiliate links, and some products were given to me by Well Woven and Crates and Pallet to be used in this space. But I only recommend things that I love & think you will too.
I grew up reading all the books, and so did my husband. He was more into the history side, and I was more into the classics and fantasy. But we both grew up reading C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles Of Narnia Series. So naturally, we’ve always pictured our kids following in our footsteps. What better way to do that, then to get them excited by building a DIY Narnia Wardrobe Reading Nook?
This space has been several years in the making. I started the concept for this project back in 2017 when we lived in our last house.
My daughter just had a normal square room at the time, and I thought it would be fun to create a magical wardrobe that she could open up and hide away in. So I built this wardrobe & distressed it with Amy Howard’s Toscana Milk Paint (in layers of pink and white) to give it an old world feel. Then I painted the back of the inside of the wardrobe to look like you were walking into a scene from The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe.
We ended up moving away from that house (here’s our daughter’s old room), and the wardrobe went into storage for a bit.
1st Photo: The hallway before the reading nook.
2nd Photo: Midway though the project- when there was no wall framing in the wardrobe.
Our new house has so many great things about it, but the room our two older children share has an awkward dormer window hallway. I wish I had taken a better photo of it, but here’s a fuzzy one so you can see what this space looked like before I got my hands on it…
Honestly, I HATED that hallway…
But then, I had an idea that changed EVERYTHING. I could put the wardrobe in FRONT of the dormer window space, and make a secret playroom for the kids!
I measured out the width of the hallway, and ran downstairs to our storage to see if it would fit.
We took the back off the wardrobe, and installed hinges on it to made it into a secret doorway into the hallway. Then we framed around the wardrobe so that it would feel like you were walking into a magical fairytale land.
Let me take you on a little tour of this space:
When you open the two front doors, you see a winter wonderland with pine trees, a lamp post, and a glistening ice castle. I also added some large frosted pine branches to the sides to give make it seem like you were really walking into a forest. I wanted it to feel like you were walking straight into the chapter where Lucy discover’s the magical nature of the wardrobe in The Lion The Witch And The Wardrobe.
Once you step into the wardrobe and look up, you will see a magical constellation of glowing stars in the shapes of animals. I actually drilled tiny pinholes and placed a string of lights above the ceiling of the wardrobe so that light could shine through the tiny constellations. It is so dreamy, especially at night.
Once you push open the door, you will see walls lined with colorful paintings.
It was important to me that this space feels like the magical adventures that happen in it belong to my children. So while it has nods to other fairytales, I wanted the paintings that I created to feature their own personal adventures. Almost as if this was a “sister” wardrobe to the one in C.S. Lewis’s works.
I hand painted each and every piece in this space. We have three children, and each child got one painting devoted to them (divided into two canvases)
Each wall has four canvases on it. I went back and forth quite a bit to determine if I needed eight canvases, but I wanted it to be symmetrical, and I’m glad we did two scenes on each wall.
We decided for the extra two paintings to be of my husband and I on our own adventure. That was easier than having another baby. Haha! This one here is ours. I mean, who wouldn’t want a pet dragon or two, right?
Let’s talk about a few of the other details in this space for a second. We have plain old brownish carpet upstairs. Eventually I want to replace it, but it was WAY easier to cover it up with this stunning rug from Well Woven. I love how it literally transformed the space. It has those medieval tapestry vibes I was looking for.
My friends at Well Woven want to give you all a 15% discount off any purchase of $75 or more. Isn’t that sweet of them? Use Code: EVERAFTER15
I also wanted to keep the walkway to the wardrobe open, but it would be too boring to leave it blank, so I added these cute crates from Crates & Pallet to the side. They hold the kids toys, blankets, and books.
When you walk into the space, you see another crate full of books & some floor pillows for cuddling.
Here’s the painting featuring my four year old son. I asked him what animal friend he wanted in his painting, and he told me a polar bear. I thought a mountain peak with a swirly arctic sky was the perfect setting for this adventure. I love painting starry skies, so all the paintings in this series are set at night. All the paintings featuring the kids have a moon as well.
I can’t take ALL the credit for the artwork in the space. My little sister (you can find her on Instagram @THEWISHINGWOODS) is also an artist.
Since we have such similar styles and work with the same mediums, I asked her to come help me knock out these giant paintings. She said yes, and that gave me the courage to start these massive concepts & bring them to life. We worked pretty much nonstop on them for two weeks before she had to go home. Believe it or not, we weren’t able to finish all the paintings during that time.
We focused on the polar bear painting and my daughter’s unicorn painting. I normally work with watercolors, but I knew that I needed to work with a more durable medium for this space. We chose acrylics (with some blending medium) and watered down our paint, working in small washes & layers to get my signature watercolor landscape look. I wanted these paintings to have the detail of an oil painting, with the whimsical feel of watercolor… while using my least favorite medium: acrylic paint.
One of sweetest little details that I included was this little stone bunny from my great grandfather’s rose garden.
I wanted to utilize the small space of the dormer hallway and make the paintings look like windows into other worlds. I love how you feel surrounded by magical adventures the moment you enter this space.
This painting duo was the hardest by far. I kept having to repaint the hippogriff (mythical creature that is half eagle, half horse) The castle ended up being a great touch, but the detail work on it was so difficult.
I added some plugin remote operated copper LED lights on the ceiling, and hung up the unicorn stuffed animal I sewed by hand for June. I even hand painted the color on this horse. I guess you could say nothing is safe from being painted in my house. Haha!
You may have noticed the bookshelf along the back wall. It’s actually made of thin blocks that we cut, painted, and secured onto plywood. I used gold leaf paint to add the titles of all the books I loved while growing up. I’ve had some people ask why I didn’t just make this wall into a bookshelf. There are a couple reasons. First, this space is small, and it’s a playroom nook, not a library. But I wanted to make it feel like a cozy library with colorful old antique books, and these wooden “books” literally take up 3″ of space. That left us with plenty of space for playing.
Who am I kidding though? The main reason is that we have a one year old who’s favorite pass time is to take everything he can reach off the shelves & dump it onto the floor… so these blocks are nailed into the plywood. Phew. Haha!
But for those who still think this should be a REAL bookshelf, be assured that right around the corner from this room are shelves overflowing with hundreds of books waiting for the kids to grab and bring into this space to curl up and read.
One thing I tried to do with all the paintings is make the colors flow cohesively.
I was so scared that my concepts for the paintings were going to look like the simplistic “finger painting” type of artwork you see in nurseries and pediatrician offices… mainly because of how little time I had to create them, along with the fact that I used the cheap 99 cent acrylic paint you find at Michaels.
Nothing against that style of children’s art, but I wanted these paintings to be detailed masterpieces. Now I don’t know if they are masterpieces per se, but I am super happy with the level of detail we were able to add to these paintings. It’s so hard working with acrylics, as they dry fast, but I think it turned out amazing.
One thing I really wanted to add in the space was a floating book wall. I just love how artistic this type of gallery wall looks. It’s literally enchanting in this space. They look like they are flying. I just used a staple gun to attach the books to the back of the false door (don’t worry, the staples didn’t go through to the painting side, I made sure it wouldn’t damage anything before I did this!)
I honestly could not pick a favorite part of this space. It all started with the wardrobe, and then we kept on getting more and more neat ideas for this space!
It took months of hard work, and lots of late nights painting, but I am proud to say that this labor of love is now done. And by done I mean pretty done… because I’m sure there will be days when I grab my paint brush and add a few more details to the paintings here and there.
I know that June, Jason, and Myles feel loved every time they enter this magical reading nook playroom.
Everything we did in here was for them. I want my children to have the most magical childhood.
I want our kids to look back and feel how much mommy and daddy love them when they think of all the fun that was had in their magical wardrobe playroom nook.
I wish I could prepackage this concept and give it to every child in the world. I truly believe creativity and imagination are one of the best gifts we can give our children. I want them to read and play their little hearts out in this space.
It’s become their favorite pass time to each grab a book & have me read to them in here before bedtime. Then I tuck them into bed and sing them each a song. This space has helped me be more intentional about spending time with them. I have found that no matter how wonderful, or difficult the day was, with this bedtime routine we will always end the night right. With a space built by love, cuddles & story time, and a big kiss (and back scratch!) good night.
Believe it or not, I think this space is even more magical at night. I’ll have to do a twinkle light tour one of these days.
I asked the kids what their favorite part was- and they both think that my take on the Dawn Treader is the most magical thing about the wardrobe. It’s literally a just a model ship & some hot glue on top of one of my paintings. And I almost didn’t have the heart to drill into the painting to attach it. Haha! I guess it was worth it in the end.
I’ve had this post sitting in my draft box for several weeks… probably because I just don’t want to call this space “done” yet. It has been so magical to create, and I guess I just don’t want it to be done… or I’m selfishly trying to keep it all to myself. I don’t know. But I thought it was time to share a peek into this little corner of our home. It feels like a fairytale- like fairy godmother from Cinderella wove her wand and transformed this room from a dusty dormer window hallway into the fairytale playroom of our dreams. But I guess that’s why we love stories like Narnia- something as ordinary as a dusty old wardrobe becomes the most magical thing of all.
PRODUCTS FROM THIS SPACE: