When Waltham interior designer Leah Cantor was tapped by Boston’s Room to Dream Foundation to make over the bedroom of a chronically ill 14-year-old boy named Sean, she jumped at the opportunity. “It was an honor and a thrill,” says Cantor.
After meeting with Sean (Room to Dream does not release last names of families it serves) and his family, Cantor collaborated with interior designer Shalini Sookar to transform the small room with red walls and heavy drapes into a light and airy space with ample area to display Sean’s sports memorabilia. The high school freshman also has room to hang out with his friends, and focus on schoolwork.
“A lot of makeovers for kids’ rooms tend to be based around a theme,” says Cantor. “We didn’t want to do that here — kids’ tastes and loves change over time. We designed something more sophisticated, a space that Sean could grow into.”
Room to Dream strives to improve the quality of life for children coping with a long-term illness by transforming their environments, according to Stefan Nathanson, the organization’s founder. The foundation accepts referrals from local hospitals and is guided by the concept that as children recover, their renovated bedrooms will promote recuperation and strength.
Cantor and Sookar collaborated with Gary Rousseau of Cumberland, R.I.-based architectural woodworkers Herrick & White to design a platform bed. Integrated 30-inch-deep drawers incorporated below the mattress platform provide space for clothes.
“A special alcove below the bed accommodates a hip new dog bed for Astro, Sean’s black lab and partner in crime,” says Cantor.
An architectural post not only anchors the bed, but also provides an opportunity for Sean to improve his agility, says Cantor. “The post features rabbeted circular wells backed with Velcro to provide targets for an assortment of Velcro-covered Wiffle and Ping-Pong balls we created.”
Stairs leading up to the bed are illuminated by tiny wall lights and Cantor fashioned a handrail out of Sean’s mini hockey sticks. An open niche of shelves was integrated into the outer side of the head-board — the first thing you see when you enter the room — to give Sean’s prized baseball collection a place of prominence.
“He has more than 75 baseballs, many of them autographed, and they are very colorful,” says Cantor.
A custom L-shaped desk provides plenty of study space as well as open and closed storage. The counter is topped with wood laminate with a white gloss surface for the cabinet base.
The room has a versatile backdrop: Walls are a warm gray and a gray graphic print roman shade, donated by The Shade Store, adorns the window. For a little pop, Cantor and Sookar used a mix of colorful striped FLOR carpet tiles accented by blue, green, and gray shag tiles.
To visually enlarge the space and add a sense of lightness to the room, a continuous panel of drywall clad in linear bamboo textured wall covering runs up the bed wall and across the ceiling. Sleek linear fixtures with LED strips flanking each side of the ceiling panel provide a boost of light output, says Cantor.
“We’re told Sean never leaves his room now,” says Nathanson. “It’s truly a teenage boy’s dream.”