bedroombefore and afterkidsproducts

before & after: kate dixon’s circus room

by Grace Bonney

this might possibly be my favorite before & after bedroom that i’ve ever seen. it’s been on a few blogs already, but i couldn’t resist sharing this because it blows all those extreme home makeover rooms out of the water.

when i was little i always hoped for one of those crazy rooms that had a serious “FUN” theme and would have details like a race car bed or some sort of rope contraption that i could climb up to the ceiling. i ended up with a purple bedroom and grape vine borders on the wall, but a girl can still dream. and now that i’m grown up, i’d still like to live in this fantasy child’s bedroom that designer kate dixon created for the symphony designer showhouse in kansas city. kate created a circus themed room that where whimsical and functional manage to somehow meet. in addition to building a giant spinning ferris wheel toy storage unit (man i would have loved one of those growing up!), kate and her team also made rugs out of duckcloth and stitched them together to create a patchwork effect. the “ringmaster” pictured is kate’s son, who approved of the idea of turning old pallets into fun custom furniture. the look was finished with pillows by SOWN and circus illustrations created by jeff shumway, and the final room is just stunning. i know this was created by a pro- but there are so many ideas in here that you could easily take and do in a real home: stitched rugs, pallet furniture, custom themed portraits, chalkboard walls, etc. if we end up with a little boy down the road i am totally stealing some of these ideas- assuming he’s down with a circus theme. but man, what kid wouldn’t love to escape to this room to play? great work, kate– thanks so much for sharing!

[all photos by chad jackson at jackson visuals]

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  • Oh. My. How awesome is that ferris wheel?! If I were a kid, I’d be jealous! (Okay, so I’m a little jealous now :)

    Thanks for sharing!


  • I absolutely LOVE this room! I’d love to do my room like that…a grown-up version :) Thanks for posting!

  • Wow!!! This is so tastefully done. I hate to see rooms with a theme where everything is extremely cheesy (like on extreme home demolish, whoops I mean extreme home makeover ;). This is lovely. I love that the primarily colors are muted and not overpowering. Great job Kate!

  • I see that ferris wheel and it just looks like an accident waiting to happen!! I imagine a boy trying to see if he can fit in the toy basket with a friend spinning him around and around!

  • I’m 35 and I’d like to know if I can come live in this room! Has to be one of the coolest kid rooms I’ve EVER seen. What a lucky boy!

  • This is the COOLEST room ever!!! I love the minty green wall color mixed with the circus primaries. What kid wouldn’t want a ferris wheel in their room? It’s truly amazing and very inspiring. Thanks Kate.

  • Am I the only one whose first thought was how long will it take for the kid to try to ride the ferris wheel and break his arm in the process?

  • Never mind loving this room as a kid, I’d love that room now and I’m (nominally) grown-up. So many awesome ideas for when I finally get a flat of my own.

  • I’m going to say it, this room seems a little ridiculous. The way the theme was carried out is very cool and not cheesy, but it’s a bit much. How about when the kid hits jr. high and is way too cool for a circus room? I think kids rooms are better when the bones are simple enough that you can easily and cheaply transition through different ages and life stages. I realize that show rooms are meant to inspire more than anything, but I hate to see kids rooms that are unsafe and excessive.

  • I love it but my crazy 3-year-old would have either broken an arm or broken a piece off that ferris wheel.

  • while i can appreciate the thought and time put into this particular project, it just seems as though it would be best as a concept. it is a bit much and think it is a bit dangerous. first thought that came to mind was, human hamster wheel. i could even see if it was a mural of a ferris wheel (a bit more safe and practical).

  • finally a kids room made for a kid. This is the best kids room I’ve ever seen. Not like those uber modern cool kids room where the hipster toys are strategically placed to remind you that a little person is there. I am truly inspired.

  • I know we all want to keep our kids safe… but sometimes fun is just fun. Kids love this kind of thing (as do many adults, as is obvious from the comments!). I have a few (4) crazy kids myself and the craziest has already broken a collar bone – on the stairs – and no one lobbies to have stairs removed from every house with kids! We need to remember how fun it was to climb trees, run and roll down hills at top speed, ride on the handlebars, ride roller coasters, shut each other up in the hide-a-bed (well, maybe we were the only ones who did that!) – my point is – let kids have fun – and learn a little common sense along the way!

    ..and I loved the room.

  • I love the ring master painting/photo collage. It is super cool.

    I also love the concept but find the color choices a bit odd. The navy and washed out red and yellow remind me of a nautical theme and the mint on the walls does not seem to go with the harsher colors.

    And I would definitely put one of those ferris wheels in my playroom. It would be a blast!

  • Woah! Amazing. That is one lucky child. I can only imagine the creativity that environment will encourage – not to mention, fun!

  • I actually live in Kansas City and went and saw this room. It was very cool to see but in the end it wasn’t very practical. There is no closet or dresser in the room. The ferris wheel actually moves so nothing would actually stay in it and it’s asking for someone to climb it. These rooms are set up to be taken down after a month or two, so they aren’t really budget friendly. Plus it’s not something a kid can grow with. I don’t know any 15 year old who would want a circus themed room.

    I give props to Kate. This took real imagination and awesome craftsmanship. I didn’t realize they made the rugs, that’s awesome! It just made me a little sad because I couldn’t see any 5 year old, or 12 year old for that matter, playing in this room.

  • The kid in me wants to test out that ferris wheel to see how fast it goes. I bet you can make all those stuffed animals FLY!

  • I love everything about this room. The colors, the bed, the illustrations… And I wouldn’t mind having two of those yellow Bertoia chairs in my house either :)

  • It does not look as thought the wood in this room comes from packing pallets.
    Most wooden packing pallets are treated with chemicals that are harmful and cause health hazards. They’re very chic, but NOT the type of material that you want to keep in your home.

  • I would have loved to have this room at any age. I think it’s super clever and original and isn’t that what we all strive for in the long run? Everyone complains when we see the same concept (mid-century, beachy/coastal, shabby-chic) over and over and over and over, but then we are shown something completely different and unique and people still complain.

    Oh, and I work at a plant that using packing pallets and ours are not chemical treated. We actually have eco-auditors that come out and check the chemical content in our materials.

  • Love it, love the soft washed out colours. I actually do see this room growing with a child. The ferris wheel would obviously be moved to my garden! The bed looks like it has a toddler mattress on it, and the frame is brilliant as it works as a seat on the end. So it grows with your child. Because smaller kids love to flop and drop out of bed; really easy sides can be made from large L shaped metal shelf brackets – so one side goes under the mattress(can be screwed in) and the other side attaches to wood slats.

  • This room is brilliant! I love anything circus anyway, but the ideas you came up with are so cool and unique! Love the ferris wheel!!!

  • as stated in the post, the room was created for a showhouse, which is why the designer was able to take certain liberties. interior design is an art, and there is a phrase, “art for art’s sake,” that i think would apply here. it’s fun! enjoy the art and craftsmanship. it’s meant to be inspirational. there is a link for a past post at the end of the post of a before and after of aidan’s real room that is super fun and practical.

  • Extreme home makeover did this same room as a playroom for a special needs baby with the baskets on the ferris wheel used for the therapy supplies.

    I agree with some of these comments though. Those baskets are not likely strong enough to support a childs wieght, but I don’t know any child that would NOT try and sit in them. I think the idea is just silly, even in a play room. A mural would have been great though! Then when they get older they could paint over it.

  • The room is darling. I saw it at the Designer Showcase in Kansas City on May 9th. The ferris wheel was definitely the show stopper.

  • I disagree that the room is one that couldn’t grow with the kid. At most if they would outgrow the circus motif you could take out the ferris wheel, but leave the base and put some cushions on it and make a couch. That’s the only thing that screams circus. Everything else is fairly neutral or could be changed up with new fabric choices when the kid became a teen and wants something less vintage-cool.

    And if you’re the sort of a kid who wants to do inadvisable stuff and tempt the broken bones gods, well if you don’t have a ferris-wheel toy box you’ll find something else :) I once decided I was going to be an Olympic ski jumper and set about practicing by tying 1x2s waxed up with saddlesoap to my snowboots with string and skiing off my friend’s roof. At least if they’re doing the crazy stuff in their bedroom you have a chance to stop it before it’s ambulance time.

  • Wow what a fun place for a kid to hangout in. I could see my three year old grandson “Dorian Chase” in this room.

  • Is there any way to get instructions on how to make the ferris wheel? Please!! I am in love.