This Dover Playroom Celebrates Wildlife

Designer Jessie Sheehan turns a bland room with a big television into a screen-free space for make-believe—wild animals included.

Pillows made from Christopher Farr Cloth “La Jungle” linen fabric printed with elephants and tigers and Osborne & Little “Tivoli” linen fabric with appliquéd foliage and embroidery details add color and pattern atop the leather bench. / Photo by Tamara Flanagan

Janet and Colin Ryan frequently travel to far-flung locales. Although ambitious excursions are on pause for a bit—they have a two-year-old and just welcomed a newborn—the pair finds ways to share their love of wildlife and conservation with their daughters. Recently, they tasked Jessie Sheehan to design a playroom and reading nook that celebrate the African savanna and South American rainforest right in their Dover home.

The designer brought in decorative painter Pauline Curtiss to create a magical mural that winds through the rooms. Sheehan found inspiration for the flora and fauna in artist Bodil Jane’s jungle-themed mural for an Anthropologie store in Amsterdam. “The style is graphic, not painterly or cutesy,” Sheehan says. “It will work when the kids are older, too.”

The color palette boasts varying saturations and hues that include muted viridian, bold chartreuse, and two shades of teal. “I shifted the scale of the leaves and the depth of the colors to create a push and pull of movement across the space,” Curtiss explains. Indeed, leaves burst from the Thibaut shades onto the wall, and fronds float out of the reading nook into the main space, which Sheehan kept uncluttered for flexible play.

As for the animals, a lion rests under a baobab tree, and giraffes graze through tall grasses. Then there’s the reading nook. “The nook is meant to invoke the wonder of staring up into the jungle canopy, full of life, speckled with brightly colored exotic birds,” Colin says. “And, of course, a couple of sloths because they’re awesome.”

Interior Designer
Jessie Sheehan Interiors

First published in the print edition of Boston Home’s Spring 2023 issue.