This Was a Triumph! The Ultimate Portal Bedroom

PortalRoomEntrance

Hello, and, again, welcome to the Aperture Science Computer-Aided Enrichment Center. We hope your brief detention in the relaxation vault has been a pleasant one. Your specimen has been processed, and we are now ready to begin the test proper. Before we start, however, keep in mind that, although fun and learning are the primary goals of Enrichment Center activities, serious injuries may occur. For your own safety, and the safety of others, please refrain from [static and garbled text]. Stand back. The portal will open in 3, 2, 1…

Thus begins one of the greatest video games of all time. Portal, and its successor Portal 2, took the brilliantly simple concept of a portal gun, combined it with a fantastic storyline that included a sadistic but hilarious antagonist, and created a game that is just as replayable today as it was eight years ago. It was no surprise that my video game obsessed son took to it like a Cheep Cheep to water. Years after that first test chamber, he is still a huge fan and has amassed an impressive collection of t-shirts, toys, and collectibles based on the characters and story. So when it came time to remodel his room for his thirteenth birthday, and he asked for a Portal room, my wife and I wanted to make sure it was something worthy of one of Aperture Laboratories’ finest young test subjects.

If you don’t care how or why I did any of this, and you just want the pretty pictures, there’s a gallery at the bottom. And cake.

The Demolition

The first step was getting rid of his existing furniture that my dad and I built 15 years ago. We tried to figure out a way to repurpose it, but it just wasn’t going to work for what we wanted. Because I needed another emotional punch to the gut aside from the realization that my baby boy was a teenager.

What? Oh, no, I must have just gotten some sawdust in my eyes.
What? Oh, no, I must have just gotten some sawdust in my eyes.

Gathering Our Supplies

The Walls

The walls were a deep blue, which, while perfect for a Super Mario Bros. theme, was going to show through the light gray paint we picked, so the first step was to primer everything.

A note about picking paint colors: Why is it that the paint industry hasn’t discovered hexadecimal color codes? Literally no store I went to could do anything with the colors I pulled directly from the game. Luckily, I was able to find a site called EasyRGB that would take a hex code and show you closely matching colors from major paint manufacturers.

That is some persistent blue. Another coat took care of it.
That is some persistent blue. Another coat took care of it.

Next, we taped off the lines for the seams where the “panels” would meet. I spent a little extra for “Frog Tape,” which is supposed to provide a tighter seal and prevent paint seeping underneath. If you have a textured wall, don’t bother. I smashed that stuff down like Wheatley smashing steel plates together, and it still seeped through. Thankfully, the roughness added to the look, so I didn’t have to go through and touch them all up freehand.

Tea, Earl Grey, hot to get us through those long nights of taping and painting.
Tea, Earl Grey, hot to get us through those long nights of taping and painting.

Speaking of freehand, here I am painting the circles to represent the lights for the door triggers–all 255 of them.

Circles

Party Time

What better way to celebrate the birthday of a video game fan than a day at the arcade? The Penny Arcade in Manitou Springs is packed full of vintage video games, most of them still only a quarter (and some real oldies that are a dime or a nickel). If you’re ever in the area, it’s worth a few hours of your time just for sentimental value. Here I am schooling the younglings on Galaga.

High Score! Yes, I know the place has only been open 30 minutes. Just let me have this one, ok?!
High Score! Yes, I know the place has only been open 30 minutes. Just let me have this one, ok?!

The Absolutely Wrong Way to Paint Finished Furniture

When it came time to paint the furniture, I completely bought into the hype from the person working the paint counter. (“It’s primer and paint in one! You don’t even need to primer!”) This is a lie. A terrible, terrible lie. Even after three coats, the paint would peel off if you looked at it crossly. Faced with the prospect of stripping all of the paint back off, we decided to give polycrylic a try. Similar to urethane, it dries to a super clear finish and is supposed to be good for protecting painted surfaces. While I’m sure it works fantastic in most applications, because of the fact that we were covering over what was essentially three coats of paint on top of a glass finish, we still had chip after chip we had to touch up and cover over again. And again. If you ever plan to paint furniture that is already finished with a glossy finish, do yourself a favor and sand that sucker down, then tell the paint counter dude he’s full of what makes the grass grow green and buy a good primer.

If you look closely, you can catch the last vestiges of my wife's sanity slowly slip away as she touches up yet another chip.
If you look closely, you can catch the last vestiges of my wife’s sanity slowly slip away as she touches up yet another chip.

The Details

The heavy lifting was finally over, and it was time for the fun stuff. I used a projector and a screenshot from the game to get a rough sketch of the doors for the closet, then finished it with a makeshift compass from some string and a pencil stub. For the signs around the door, I freehanded the check and “X” and used this old hack to make my own carbon paper for the exit sign: print out the photo you want to transfer, then, with a pencil, scribble all over the back where the image is (it helps to hold it against a window or other bright surface). Once your image is completely covered, place it scribble side down where you want to transfer, and trace the printed image.

Back in my day, we didn't have fancy carbon paper...oh, wait. Yeah we did. Never mind.
Back in my day, we didn’t have fancy carbon paper…oh, wait. Yeah we did. Never mind.

And because it just wouldn’t be a Portal room otherwise, if you crawl underneath the desk and look up, you are greeted with this startling revelation:

...it's so delicious and moist.
…it’s so delicious and moist.

Lighting

The Enrichment Centre promises to always provide a safe testing environment. In dangerous testing environments the Enrichment Centre promises to always provide useful advice. For instance, anything you read in this section is not to be considered useful advice, or even a suggestion. Performing any of the tasks described below may be a violation of state or federal laws, building codes, or international treaties. Failing to heed this advice may void your warranty, insurance policy, or life.

Not being huge fans of the emergency room, after deciding on a loft bed, we needed to remove the ceiling fan. I chose to replace it with a three-bulb fixture in which I could install WiFi LED bulbs. Controlled by your smartphone, you can customize them individually or as a group. With the ability to assign colors, create your own transitions, or sync the lights to your music, they are perfect for creating that Aperture Laboratories atmosphere.

WiFi Bulb UI

WiFi Bulb

Finally, the pièce de résistance. Using two oval mirrors and some rope lights from Home Depot, I gave my son his very own Portals!

Warning: Portals are just an illusion. Any head injuries sustained while attempting to dive through illusory portals should be reported to testing personnel immediately.

Hot gluing rope lights to the back of a mirror? Almost assuredly a warranty voiding activity, but still pretty freaking sweet.
Hot gluing rope lights to the back of a mirror? Almost assuredly a warranty voiding activity, but still pretty freaking sweet.

The Gallery

I’m making a note here: huge success.

Oh, and I believe I promised you cake:

The Cake is Not a Lie

Rope lights and mirrors were provided by Home Depot. Portal bookends, companion cube rug, turret wall decal, and desktop turret were provided by ThinkGeek.

Randy Slavey lives near Denver, Colorado with his wife and two boys. When he's not writing code, you can usually find him behind a camera or on a trail in the mountains. Or both.