To polish her Manhattan apartment, Lucy Liu looked through the eyes of a toddler: her son, Rockwell. The busy mother and actress thought about how he’d want to play, giving every corner soft surfaces and clever storage. The result? The most sophisticated “playroom” we’ve ever seen.
Liu worked with designer Nicole Fisher from The Studio at One Kings Lane for a living room/playroom that feels equally fun for a kid as it does for an adult. Metal cars and a cool indoor teepee mingle with sleek leather seats and vintage rugs. It’s a collective space where friends of all ages have a spot to sit, read, and play.
“Without Nicole I wouldn’t have been able to really visualize it myself,” Liu says. “Sometimes you buy something and it’s too big, but then you try to make everything around it fit, and it just ends up looking strange. She was able to make the space feel balanced in terms of scale as well as style. I also appreciate that she was able to achieve a play space for kids as well as a social environment for adults.”
To start, Fisher looked past primary colors and went with a monochromatic palette. She toned down the living room with serene shades of blue, white, gray, and brown, so when there is color in accents—think framed Dr. Seuss books—it really pops in a playful, warm, friendly way. Neutral-hued craft paper is ready on a roll next to black chalkboard and magnet boards, while brass trays are perched for happy hour.
“Creativity, comfort, and practicality inspired the design,” Fisher says. “While it had to be functional for Rockwell and his interests, it had to be comfortable with soft corners throughout, and it had to be practical for Lucy and other moms that come over for a playdate.”
Next Fisher added global touches, such as hanging wooden masks that Liu already owned on the wall along with multicultural baskets over the fireplace. “There’s something about that added texture and weave that brought the different elements of what New York City is to me, because it’s a city with so many different things going on and so many different cultures,” Liu says.
“Often times playrooms are full of new items,” says Fisher. “Here, I incorporated some of Lucy's finds throughout her travels, and many vintage pieces, including the two beautiful rugs, to breathe a sense of life and story into the space. These pieces elevated the sophistication factor dramatically.”
For some extra liveliness, Liu outfitted her apartment with Sonos so she and Rockwell can cut loose. “There’s a lot of ‘Shake Your Sillies Out,’” she laughs. “Then sometimes we put on opera because he heard opera at Washington Square Park—we try and include things like that...things he’s heard outside of the apartment.”
Throughout the design process, Fisher kid-proofed the interiors. All of the edges, from the ottoman to side tables to stools, are safe and soft. She secured shelves to the walls with screws so Rockwell couldn’t pull them down and used Crypton fabrics, which she says are soft and luxe but more importantly, stain-, spill-, and odor–proof.
Three Oeuf storage pieces hide paint, crayons, markers, coloring books, and magnets. Larger pieces stash trucks and toys for easy access. Everything is labeled and eye-level so Rockwell can learn to put things back where they go.
“I think one of the keys to parenting is organization, not just with your time, but also the elements within your space,” Liu says. “I couldn’t get as involved as [Nicole] did because the spare time I did have is time I wanted to spend with Rockwell being a mom. I think that asking people for help is one of the key things to do as a parent and not be afraid to do that.”