Rainbows and Unicorns

It was a huge surprise for a precious four-year-old and her eight-year-old sister last weekend when our Special Spaces Orange County team worked around the clock to make her dream of a ‘Galaxy of Unicorns and Rainbows’ come to life!

Meet Paloma! Our most recent recipient of a dream bedroom design makeover. Paloma is only four years old, but her journey with rare congenital heart disease began shortly after birth when she was diagnosed with Shone’s Complex. When I first met Paloma just a couple of months ago, I was immediately in awe of how spunky and talkative she was. I noticed her keen sense of awareness and loved her crazy fun imagination. She knew I was coming that day and was excited to share her ideas with me.

As part of our initial planning process with the family, it’s important to set aside a time to interview the parents and child so we can begin uncovering creative ideas for the new space. When I arrived to meet with the family that day, I giggled because Paloma and her sister Penelope had sketched pictures and notes for me about their dream room. Their images included bunk beds, a hanging chair for reading, lots of glitter, unicorns and rainbows and even an image of a projector so the sisters could watch movies together. The latter being a poignant detail in how close the girls were and how Penelope always watched over and supported her little sis. Simply precious.

It’s not surprising that children battling a life-threatening illness appear older than their age. They endure so much, so soon in their little lives. Paloma and her sister are wise beyond their years.

Special Spaces, is a non-profit organization with 40 chapters nationwide and has completed over 1,000 bedroom makeovers to date. We transform the child’s existing bedroom into a place that only he/she can dream or imagine. We believe the bedroom is so much more than a place to sleep—it is a special space for children to recover from the challenges of their illness…a special space to heal.

As Director of the Special Spaces Orange County chapter, I feel honored to direct a team of amazing volunteers and to also play a lead role in creating the design of the bedrooms. This effort takes a village to implement and we are only successful because of our donors, sponsors, and volunteers who so generously donate funds and time to bring these dreams to life.

Over the course of my 20-year career in furniture and design, I’ve had the opportunity to create residential and commercial spaces for clients, but the joy I receive from creating experiences for these children is like nothing I was ever prepared for. Sure, pulling together fun elements for the rooms are important, but I know the overall benefit is so much more. I truly believe the spaces we inhabit have a profound impact on health and happiness. It’s about exploring and discovering that one special thing that ignites emotion…allowing an ability to create a design experience with the intention to trigger a deeper sense of healing during a period of transition.

We transform children’s lives one bedroom at a time, but in the end, I believe it’s those that serve who are ultimately transformed.

Paula Oblen Director, Special Spaces Orange County

‘Fact’ – Each year over 27,000 children between the ages of 3-18 are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.


Special thanks to our Vendor Partners & Donors:

-Custom Comfort Mattress

-Lowes Home Improvement

-Closet World

-Sundried Tomato

-Hunter Construction

-AG Ramirez Painting Co. – Agustin Bustos

-Hotelements, Inc.

-McNally Enterprises

-Universal Press



-Pottery Barn

-Pottery Barn Teen

-Pottery Barn Kids


-Baja Fresh

-Pizza Hut

-Marriott Rewards

-Karen Safranski Arietta

-Marriott Courtyard Anaheim Disney

-Anna & Chris Hecker

-Tom & Lynda Brewer

-Steve Oblen-Art

-Renee Weitzel-Art

Special Thanks to the Orange County Chapter Core Volunteer Team

Paula Oblen, Director

Gina Siebert, Co-Director

Shannon Mehrens, Volunteer Coordinator

Lynda Brewer, Design Asst.

Susan Finney, Family Coordinator

Lana Devore, Family Coordinator

Steve Oblen, Project Assistant

Chase Oblen, Project Assistant