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Omaha Magazine

Fantastical Journeys & Where to Find Them:

Feb 28, 2020 01:35PM ● By Lisa Lukecart

A 3D paper airplane sails across an ashen New York skyline. The Statue of Liberty is a voluptuous woman with a contemptuous look plastered on her face. Her golden garter belt gleams on one thick thigh, while tight high-heeled boots cover the rest of her legs. A bullet holster rides low over her hips, and a round golden choker compliments her bustier. Antique amber glass balls shine on the statue’s crown. Liberty’s torch illuminates the gray and red of the clouds above. On the statue’s tablet, it reads “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost…”

This J.R.R. Tolkien line from the author’s poem, “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter,” starts the fantastical journey. Frescos like these are seen throughout Europe, but it all happens in a small room in a northwest Omaha home, where Sandra (Sass) Lassley has resided the past two decades. Lassley, owner of the design company Fe Fi Faux Studios, wanted to pass on her love of travel to her two 4-year-old grandchildren. The word “Wanderlust” is elegantly printed on a cracked decoupaged map as a reminder to embrace the spirit of adventure.

“I don’t have anything against Winnie the Pooh, but I wanted to do something intellectual for my grandkids,” Lassley explained.

Each child has their own custom-sized bed with a “magic button” on the headboard. If scared, the child can press the magic button to light it up. The bed frame is the only place the colors are somewhat traditional, navy and coral pink.

The designer and artist passed on baby colors for the room, preferring ethereal colors instead. The effect is like stepping into a whimsical world of mischievous creatures and mysterious excursions. Lassley spent hours in the salvage yard looking through dirty buckets for wheels, bed knobs, or gadgets. The room, which took 1 1/2 years to create, is powered by the imagination. One could almost dream about the paper airplane, fueled by an air conditioner part, gliding past the tall buildings of New York City.

“You can go anywhere in this room,” Lassley said, gazing at the acrylic-painted mural. “It’s a fantasy.” And the fantasy is continually evolving, as Lassley adds baubles and larger treasures to explore. 

The water ties the walls together, allowing each scene to seamlessly flow into the next. The Hudson River rolls into the Seine River. Late in the afternoon, the Eiffel Tower lights up as a murky backdrop. A golden 3D zeppelin looks like a pirate ship with white netting and a dark boat riding down below it. The steampunk chandelier made of pipes and tubes hanging from the lime-colored ceiling enhances the Pirates of the Caribbean feel.

Sandra Lassley's fairytail-themed walls

A light on the end of the zeppelin shines on the opposite wall in Venice, Italy. More specifically, the glow is on the gondolier who happens to be a fully dressed, anthropomorphic cat. The 3D elements on this side stand out. Pat Gehrman, an artist and independent contractor, painted the room but asked Lassley if she wouldn’t mind trying some three-dimensional aspects.

“She [Lassley] was willing to let me do some experimentation and it brought me into a different level of work and that aspect was pretty exciting,” Gehrman said. “Because we work really well together, our ideas complement each other.”

Gehrman sketched out the form of the cat, hand-molded white plaster into rough shapes, and carved away on the wall. The effect is lifelike. The gondolier is a model of Lassley’s cat, Thelma, who passed away. Her current cat, a friendly Tonkinese named Frankie, stares at the wall. 

Lassley wanted “playful but believable” characters. Gehrman’s 3D objects make the walls pop out, telling a tale all their own. On the south wall, the Black Forest in Germany features a chase between a fox and a mouse. The bronze metallic trees are a perfect place for the three-dimensional furry fox, who happens to be wearing goggles, to hide. The mouse, with a block of cheese on the back of his motorcycle, looks behind him, heedless of the danger in front. The initials MJ and AJ painted onto his bike are for each grandchild, Madeleine Josephine and Ace Jeffry. Lassley added small details like gold butterflies she found at a market and a tire swing made from leftover parts from the same steam punk goggles.

“I didn’t want to leave any inch like it was forgotten,” Lassley said.

Even the corner heading into the bathroom has a black silhouette of a man on a bike being carried away by a flock of ravens. An owl, wearing a black hat with a feather, gazes out of a monocle on the other wall.

The room also pays homage to generations past, featuring a hope chest and sewing basket from the grandchildren’s great, great, great grandmother. The first bell Lassley’s grandmother ever gave her hangs on the church on the Italy wall.

Mainly, the room is a voyage of love. The cousins, born three weeks apart, spend time in this room exploring, reading, and dreaming with their grandmother. Lassley recalled looking through a stack of postcards over and over again as a child. “I’m going everywhere,” she had declared. She wants her grandchildren to go places, too. Lassley tells both of them to close their eyes, spin the globe, and imagine where to go. But now, Lassley’s next quest is figuring out how to recreate the room because a new grandchild is on the way.   


This article was printed in the March/April 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Lassley's grandkids Madeline and Ace