This Utah Family’s Home Is Full of Magical (and Totally Doable) DIYs — Including a Narnia Closet!
This piece was created for Cubby, our weekly newsletter for families at home. Want more? Sign up here for a weekly splash of fun and good ideas for families with kids. Join us over on Instagram for more!
Cubby. Real solutions for unreal times.
Join us for a weekly dose of fresh, modern ideas for life at home with your kids.
If magic comes up once when you’re talking with Laurel Harry — a thrifter, crafter, and born designer — it comes up a dozen times. Laurel and her super-handy husband have conjured up a colorful, happy home their three kids (and menagerie of pets) must find nothing short of magical. Which is precisely what she hopes for.
The family’s 1999 builder-grade home in Utah was certainly not awful to begin with. But with a monochromatic green color scheme on everything, from laminate countertops to carpet to the fireplace surround, as well as a dark and cramped-feeling kitchen, it wasn’t exactly the joyful kind of place Laurel wanted for the family.
So, she and her husband rolled up their sleeves and she let her imagination run wild. They banished anything ho-hum or standard-issue. Instead, with Laurel’s touch and her husband’s carpentry skills, the house radiates personality and fun with a cheerful color palette, creative DIY furniture and crafts, and whimsical flourishes like citrus wallpaper and appliance decals. And they’ve kept quite busy at the job. “We’ve pretty much done everything ourselves,” Laurel says. That DIY spirit helps them rein in costs, which is super helpful of course, as they try to save up money for most of the projects, she says.
And what a place for kids to grow up! From the sweetest playhouse ever to rainbows and twinkly lights to — get this — a Narnia wardrobe with a passageway to a fort(!), the home overflows with memorable moments straight out of a storybook for their 10-, 8-, and 3-year-old (plus Bubbles and Ziggy, the dogs; an orange kitty named Poppy; and a giant turtle named Fezzik, yes, from the Princess Bride).
It’s easy to see why Laurel has amassed such a following on Instagram, where she shares inspiring peeks at her whimsy with approachable DIY tips. And she never runs out of material because the house is never finished! “There’s still other projects I want to do,” she says. “I keep finding more [to do] or updating more.”
Here’s how they approach creating a whimsical, joyful family home.
On one-room challenges as a motivator
The family’s home is an ongoing work-in-progress, with Laurel constantly working on some project or another. “I like to use the one-room challenges [on Instagram],” she says. “It motivates you to redo a space in eight weeks.” The couple’s primary bedroom was one such project. They took existing wood planking that ran behind the bed like a headboard and up onto the ceiling and painted it a dark green. Of course that wasn’t quite enough for the DIY duo, so Laurel and her husband added twinkle lights above the ceiling portion. “They’re hidden behind the wood so you can’t see them until you flip the light switch,” she says. Fresh wallpaper and a mix of pastel and jewel-toned linens on the bed add up to the most snug bedroom we can imagine.
On going all-in on colors
“I’m not afraid of using color!” Laurel says. While she thinks neutral palettes are pretty in other family’s homes, “It’s just not my personal style,” she says. Her go-to colors? Teal, pink, and yellow. “I definitely think that color brings out happy moods,” she says.
A perfect example is their 10-year-old daughter’s bedroom. Her favorite colors are pink and yellow, so Laurel echoed the headboard running up the ceiling of the primary bedroom, but with a pastel rainbow. That was a fun and simple DIY project using wooden planks that her husband nailed to the wall and that Laurel painted using about 10 sample pots of paint from Home Depot. (Hint: Go for samples when you can for maximum color choices and affordability!) The light fixture hanging above adds that finishing touch, she says.
And color can pop anywhere in the Harry household. Laurel displays colorful vintage glassware, goes bold with furniture color (check out the teal sofas!), and uses wallpaper and decals for additional splashes of color. Even the bathroom has beautiful teal and turquoise details that tie it into the rest of the home.
On having a dedicated work space for mom (and others)
Laurel works from home selling vintage finds online, but didn’t have a space to herself. That is, until she carved one out of the “random extra room that’s in our house right off the front door.”
They never knew what to do with the space, she says, but about a year ago she and her husband tackled it as a one-room challenge. He built a custom desk with plenty of shelving for displaying her vintage treasures and tons of greenery, and she found the perfect peacock emblazoned chair at World Market (combining new with vintage is one of her tricks to the eclectic style of their home!).
The room is anchored by a lovely family heirloom, the piano her grandmother learned to play on as a child, and remains open to the family. That means her desk is also used by the kids for homework or activities, but she still views the room as her dedicated nook. Even though it’s not separated by a door from the rest of the house, “I definitely appreciate having my own space,” Laurel says.
On that amazing Narnia fort
Okay, seriously. This must be the envy of every kid (and any adult who ever loved the Chronicles of Narnia). The fort started with an unused cold storage room in the basement, which Laurel says is common in Utah, but wasn’t something their family needed. So her husband built a fort out of some dead space and they engineered a secret passageway from a wardrobe in the kids’ playroom to the fort. They win at the DIY game — that is all.
But Laurel didn’t stop there. Drawing on the famous wardrobe that opened to Narnia in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, she painted the inside of a ($40 found on Marketplace!) wardrobe with a snowy Narnia scene, including the landmark lamppost that book fans will recognize.
The journey to the fort starts with climbing through the cut-out in the wardrobe, then going through a ball pit tunnel, up a ladder, and through a trapdoor. Kids can then pop into the fort that’s painted a shimmering ombre blue and green, finished with string lights and stars, and piles of cozy blankets and pillows for what Laurel calls a cocoon effect. Basically, this has to be the most amazing kid fort in the history of fort-dom.
On collaborating creatively
Laurel and her husband make quite the dream team. She mostly cooks up the ideas, and he brings them to life.
“He works from home, so he doesn’t have a commute,” Laurel says. That time, instead, is invested in their home. “When he’s done with work, he can work on projects. Woodworking is a hobby that he happens to be really good at.” Also, she says with a laugh, “I’m always like, ‘can you build this thing for me?’”
Because the answer invariably seems to be yes, much of the home’s design is built around the things he builds. And it’s really a collaboration, Laurel says. She is “always looking on Instagram, sometimes Pinterest for inspiration,” and finding ways to make things her own. “And my husband has a lot of ideas too, like we’ll bounce our ideas off each other,” she says, like adding the twinkle lights to the headboard. “I love it.”
One of her favorite projects is the TV stand in the living room. He built it around a TV lift so the television is tucked out of sight when they’re not using it, inside a pretty piece of furniture that looks like a buffet. “It’s really fun,” she says. “The kids think it’s like a magical TV.” Another favorite project in the living room is the pegboard displays her husband built. Laurel likes to rotate out seasonal decorations on the shelves, along with crafts and other personal mementos.
On the playhouse glow-up
That adorable confection of a playhouse is scarcely recognizable from the one Laurel bought on Marketplace. “It looked haunted when we got it!” she says. They brought it from California when they moved, but it was just a brown, uninviting cabin, she says, which didn’t motivate their kids to play. “During the pandemic I was like, ‘we’re gonna clean this up so that you want to go play in it.’”
Gallons and gallons of paint later, along with the addition of electricity and fairy lights, they have a dreamy little place especially for the kiddos, complete with a ladder to a loft and a teeny play kitchen. “They like to pretend they have a restaurant,” Laurel says. Their 3-year-old especially loves it. One of the best touches? Their own dedicated address (845 1/2) and mailbox. Yes, sometimes they get mail from mom and dad.
Nobody can ever say Laurel takes things too seriously. Just look around — from the disco ball on the back deck to the colorful decals bringing a pop of fun to appliances — the family’s home never stops surprising.
Why not have a disco ball, right? “It sparkles even in the house,” Laurel says. She’s talking about the disco ball, but it’s easy to see that this family creates their own sparkle.