Like many Disney fans, we have a life-long dream of visiting Wonderland. Since we haven’t found a rabbit hole or a looking glass to fall through, we have found other ways to incorporate our love of all things Alice in Wonderland into our lives. Ashley Eckstein, the founder of Her Universe and the voice of Ahsoka Tano on Star Wars: Rebels, is obsessed with all things Alice, too. In fact, she turned her dining room into Wonderland.
We know, we’re totally jealous too. It’s a perfect mash-up of all the things we love about Wonderland—from the mismatched chairs, to the golden afternoon setting on the wall—there are so many great winks and nods to Alice. We had a chance to sit down with Ashley and talk about her love of Alice in Wonderland, and how she transformed her home into a mad tea party.
Where does your love of Alice in Wonderland come from?
My love of Alice in Wonderland goes way back. It goes back, honestly, even farther than I can remember. I moved to Orlando, Florida, and was two-years-old when my dad started working for Walt Disney World. I had really blonde hair and blue eyes, and as you know, when you’re a young girl you kind of associate with the character you look the most like, and so I looked exactly like Alice. My mom bought me an Alice dress and it kind of became my character. When people would give me gifts, or outfits, or dolls, they would give me Alice in Wonderland things.
When I was a teenager, I looked at all of my stuff and I realized, ‘Oh, this is a collection!’ And I took it over from there and I said, ‘Okay, this is going to be my collection.’ And then I really started collecting dolls and ornaments and pins and clothes and tea sets and everything I could find, and it literally has become an obsession.
Walk me through the process of transforming your dining room into Wonderland. How did it go from just the idea to actual reality?
So, having an Alice in Wonderland room in my house is something I have been talking about for a very long time, because I have this huge collection. And when my husband and I bought our house, I said, ‘Okay, one day I’m going to do it.’ But I don’t have an eye for interior design … and so I said, ‘One day. One day I will make an Alice room.’
I became friends with this gentleman named Mike Hanley—he works at Disney, and he helps build themed rooms and events. We worked together on Star Wars Weekends, and for a couple of years I talked to him about my Alice collection—I tell everyone because it is an obsession. He came to me one day and said, ‘I am going to design your Alice room.’ He was like, ‘You’ve talked about it for way too long,’ and, ‘It needs to happen.’
We had this dining room that was kind of sad and sat empty, and there’s an adjoining sitting room to it. I looked at it and said, ‘I need an at-home office and I love tea parties, so let’s turn the dining room into Wonderland and I can have people over for tea parties and I can use it as my at-home office, and I have a bunch of art, too.’ We had the sitting room adjacent to it, so I kind of came up with the story where the dining room could be Wonderland, where you literally feel like you’re walking into the movie and then the sitting room could be the everyday room. So, Mike came up with the design—he’s such a talented artist—and we designed it over a couple of months, and it only took them a week to install it. And there are so many custom elements and Easter eggs; it literally blew me away.
Can you talk about what your favorite custom piece or Easter egg is?
Yes, I told him I wanted a teacup. He actually hand carved a teacup, so it’s made out of a really dense Styrofoam, but it looks like plastic or wood and it’s beautiful. He put my Star Wars symbol—because we have a special Star Wars symbol just for Her Universe that incorporates Ahsoka Tano’s face tattoos and her lightsaber—on it. He put my symbol on the teacup, but because of the funky shapes on the teacup, it kind of just blends in. You don’t realize it’s our symbol until you look up close!
Another Easter egg I love is on one of the tables. He wanted to represent both me and my husband in the room, and my husband used to play baseball. Mike asked for one of his wooden bats, and he custom made one of the tables where one of the table legs is my husband’s baseball bat, so that’s pretty cool.
I also have multiple tea sets all over the table. I was inspired by Mary Blair’s painting of Alice at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, and it’s just her at the end of a long table with all sorts of teapots and teacups. I have several different tea sets on there that have several different memories to me. I have my very first tea set that my mom bought me when I was six-years-old—that she bought on Main Street, U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom. So, I have this baby blue and white fine china tea set that I’ve had ever since.
What tips would you give someone who wants to incorporate Alice in Wonderland into his or her own home?
I usually like to match too much and everything has to color coordinate, and one thing that I learned throughout this process, and one thing to learn from Alice in Wonderland, is that everything’s a bit crazy. Nothing’s really matched … it’s mismatched; it’s different sizes. And in my dining room everything is mismatched. There’s three different tables, that are all three different shapes and three different sizes. Every chair is different, all of the teacups and tea sets are different, and the tablecloths are different.
All of the colors are vibrant and every color you can imagine—every color of the rainbow is in there—but it works. I think it taught me to think outside of the box. If you love something, and it’s your place, who cares what other people think? Make it your own and it doesn’t have to necessarily match perfectly. I think every room needs a touch of personality, and I look at some of the other rooms in our house and I want to spruce them up because they don’t represent our personality like these rooms represent. I guess I should say, don’t be afraid to inject your personality into your room!
Photos by Preston Mack, Design by Mike Hanley, Tea Cup Bookcase and “Drink Me” Bottle Lamp by Scott Blackwell