YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Room to Grow : White wicker, flowered wallpaper and dolls are fine for little girls. But after Ashley Williams entered college, her tastes graduated too. Designer Mary Divel guided Williams through transforming the youthful bedroom into an exotic adult interior.


When Ashley Williams turned 21, it seemed time her bedroom grew up too.

"The room had white wallpaper with flowers, white wicker furniture and white shelves holding my doll and music box collections," she said. "I was tired of it."

Williams, a student at Saddleback College, packed the collections away in the garage of the Laguna Niguel home where she lives with her parents and set out on a quest for a new, adult look. For help she turned to artist/designer Mary Divel, who is also a family friend.

The finished room is dramatically different: It has a rich color scheme and exotic touches. Most of the new look was achieved by reworking the existing furnishings.

Only a few items were bought for the redesign. The biggest changes were made with the all-time agent of versatility: paint. It was applied--often in multiple layers--to walls and furniture.

All plans have to start somewhere, and the plans for Williams' room started with a white bedspread that her mother wanted her to use. Because the white would make the bed less suitable for sitting, Williams decided she needed a separate lounging and reading area.

Designating one corner of the room as this area, Williams and Divel upholstered a piece of curving foam-rubber to create a futon on the floor. They covered it in a combination of zebra-print and tapestry fabrics, a decision that was to inspire other changes in the room. They added a custom railing designed by wrought-iron artist David Brunetta and stacked many oversize pillows against the wall and rail.

To further enliven the sitting area, a large mirror found in an antique store was refinished and added to the mix.

The mirror was scrubbed of its painted color down to a metallic gold and rubbed with a black wash; a touch of the zebra print fabric was added.

The completed reading/sitting area is one Williams uses often: "It's really comfortable," she says.

By the time the sitting area was done, Williams had decided she liked the drama of the darker colors. She decided to buy a black bedspread, which meant she ended up not using the original white bedspread that started the whole project.

"That is how I like to work," said Divel. "It's more fun because you create as you go along. You're able to add something you'd never thought of until you came across it, and you solve problems that you never anticipated. When Ashley and I went shopping for the original fabric for the futon, it took hours. And then when we picked the fabric we liked, only a black bedspread would look good with it. That's what made it fun and not some by-the-book look."

Among the existing furnishings that underwent a dramatic change was the metal bed frame. It had been painted with many coats of white paint through the years. "We sand-blasted it down to a natural metal, almost pewter color," said Divel. "Then we started painting it using the combination we used on everything: metallic copper, gold and a little bit of silver."

At the head of the bed they draped gauze fabric to give the illusion of being in a tent in the Moroccan desert and then held the gauze back with two golden lion heads they found in an antique shop.

When a new mattress was purchased for the bed, it was so much higher than the original one that the bedside table they had also picked up in an antique store now seemed too short. The solution: add metallic balls to make it taller.

"Originally I was just going to crackle the table to go with the rest of the furniture, but since it was so low we added the gold balls in the center to raise it up. It was never all that valuable, so we didn't ruin any priceless antique," Divel said.

The new, fantasy-like table goes better with the all-over look of the room than the original one ever would have.

On the bed, Divel made over-sized pillows to coordinate with the ones on the floor, and a lamp purchased by Williams' mother was added to the side table.


Much of the drama in the room comes from the rich golden color Williams and Divel added to of the walls.

After removing the original wallpaper--white with blue and pink flowers--they painted the room. The gold paint was applied with rollers, and then old T-shirts were used to wipe the still-wet paint off in sweeping motions. The process gave the walls a warm, weathered look. It was difficult to achieve a consistent effect because the paint needed to be rubbed before it dried.

Track lighting on the wood cathedral ceiling illuminates the artwork and filters through the gauze around the bed, making shadow patterns on the walls. "Getting the shadows right was very important to me," said Williams. "I like the look they cast on the walls."

Los Angeles Times Articles