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Water Mill home contains secret Harry Potter room

Water Mill designer-parents combined elements of the Harry Potter stories in an 8-by-3-foot space, a surprise for their son.

Austin Handler explained how he and his wife created a Harry Potter-inspired room under the stairs in their Water Mill home for their son, Wesley. (Credit: Gordon Grant)

When interior designers Jennifer Mabley and Austin Handler began renovating their Water Mill home, their son, Wesley, asked for a bedroom under the stairs like his hero Harry Potter had as a child in the J.K. Rowling book.

Though Wesley, then 11, had been a fan of the Harry Potter series for some time, his parents feared he’d soon outgrow the phase. Yet, as the renovation went on, Wesley’s admiration for the fictional wizard did not wane. So the parents came up with a "secret" Harry Potter playroom in the basement instead.

Taking inspiration from the books and movies, Mabley and Handler combined two elements of the stories in the space: the bedroom under the stairs and Hogwarts’ library and common rooms.

They found reasonably priced items that enhanced the room, from push-button light switches to a magnetic touch-latch paneled door.

To prepare the room, which had been the space under a staircase, the contractors added Sheetrock to the inside and underside of the staircase to the lower level, says Handler. "We then had them build a paneled door that has a magnetic push-touch latch. When the door is closed, it just looks like a wood panel, but when you push the door in, the spring-loaded touch-latch swings the door open."

Though the room itself is not heated, the lower level is and the room stays at roughly the same temperature as the rest of the house, says Handler.  

The 8-by-3-foot room is 4 feet at its highest point. With space constraints, the decorators had to get creative, forgoing real bookshelves in favor of wallpaper.

“By putting up the bookshelf wallpaper, it brings a sort of coziness to it, but doesn’t really take away space,” says Handler.

Now 12, Wesley still spends a considerable amount of time in his wizard’s lounge, alone or with friends. "It's a very nice place to sit down and read," says Wesley. "I love relaxing in it."

How they did it

Designing the Harry Potter space was fairly inexpensive, says Austin Handler.

“This is something that many people can re-create in a similar space quite easily, just knowing where to find the materials," he says.

Here is what Handler and wife, Jennifer Mabley, used.

The wallpaper looks like bookshelves filled with books. $32.80 for a double roll from

The gaslight lens sconce is inspired by early 20th-century lighting fixtures. $189 from

The push-button light switch features matte black buttons and mother of pearl inlay. $17.25 from

The push-button light switch dimmer also features mother-of-pearl inlay. $32.79-$38.79 from

The vintage-style light switch cover plate, also operated with a push button, is made of cast brass. $18.49 from

The 3-by-10-foot Turkish rug contains a medallion design. $56.48 from

They used Harry Potter-themed pillows and pillow covers. $29.50-$67.50 each from and And a 33.5-inch Hogwarts pennant. $24.50 from


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