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The FINAL I Design, You Decide: Pick a Theme For the Kids Attic Playroom


Well, it’s come to this: the final “I Design, YOU Decide” of the mountain house, play attic edition. In case you are like “what is she talking about,” here’s a reminder—we renovated a mountain house and brought you into the process of this house by, well, designing each room TWICE and then letting you decide which design we execute (a poll we couldn’t rig). It was fun if not hilariously stressful because Brian and I had to like both plans equally BEFORE we presented to you. Also, if you are wondering when you’ll see the house fully shot, check newsstands in August as it’s going to be in the September issue of House Beautiful, shooting in two weeks (EEK). (And no, we are not selling this house, ever, ever, ever, unless we financially have to or leave Southern California).

Most of the rooms are finished (see the kitchen and kids bedroom posts) with the exception of the attic playroom. This room won’t be shot in two weeks, as we’ll likely work on it after the magazine shoot this summer.

Here’s what it looked like before renovation.

It was already finished, just not safe. The pull-down ladder was super dangerous and where I once wrote “cute cubby” was actually really dangerous, too. I fell from it once while trying to get Birdie down and hurt my leg REALLY bad because I was holding her and didn’t catch myself with my hands. This was the first time I got hurt while alone with two small kids and realized that this is why you have home phones to call 911. I didn’t need to but it could have been so much worse and it terrified me. So we took out the ladder, which allowed us to make the room more usable in many ways and instead put in stairs from the kids’ room.

As a reminder, this is the kids’ room downstairs. It has wall to wall carpet, folks and loving EVERY SINGLE FOOT STEP AND WRESTLE SESSION.

Back to iPhone shots upstairs…

2x2 Room Context

Here’s where we are now. It’s a cute little space with fresh carpet and clean walls. We put in a window and are about to put in two operable Velux skylights for air flow (the window couldn’t be operable because it was on a diagonal).

Where We Are Full Horizontal 01

It has not only this playspace but also a ladder to what we are calling the “clubhouse.”

Where We Are Diamond Window 01

That window (by Marvin) is magical and had to be a diamond due to the roofline, but we love it and the view out of it is all trees. It has a soffit bench that houses AC vents for the house, which could be a cute bench or more play space.

There is so much potential for fun up here, it could be such a magical space (though it kinda is already).

Where We Are Toward Toy Storage 01

There is more room behind that wall where the cubbies are so we could do a secret door and have an additional secret room. We are obviously VERY into secret rooms around here.

Where We Are To Small Door 01

Where We Are Nook 01

That’s the space, now let’s get your vote on which style we go for. But first some information on my kids:

We have a 3 and 5 year old who actually love playing together (I mean, they call each other best friends and I want to DIE with happiness). Most of their play up at this house is imaginative, so think lots of costumes, “get the bad guy,” hiding from parents, spy adventures, etc. So this room is to help foster that kind of imaginative play.

OPTION 1: Secret Spy Headquarters/Base

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer I Design You Decide Kids Attic Mood Board Secret Spy Headquarters

Our kids love playing any sort of game that feels like a secret and involves an adventure so both plans would have elements of that. This option is more geared towards “spy/superhero” but could really be anything they imagine. We love the idea of a wall of gadgets with boxes that have locks. I already bought that wooden safe which I’ll incorporate into either design because it’s so stinking cute.

Finding inspiration of EITHER of these styles was rough and nothing really tells that story, but here are some images that we are kinda referencing:

Secret Entrace Inspo
image source
Headquarters Grid
image sources: top left | top right | bottom left | bottom right
Mission Control Side By Side
image sources: left | right

That mission control is so amazing and the wall of gadgets, of course, wouldn’t be saw blades; it’s just an inspiration for a sliding secret door that could house their binoculars, compass, masks, etc.

OPTION 2: Enchanted Forest

Emily Henderson Mountain Fixer I Design You Decide Kids Attic Mood Board Enchanted Forest

This theme is more nature-oriented, obviously but where you’d walk in and have it be a magical enchanted forest …via Scandinavia. We’d still do a clubhouse but it would be more treehouse inspired. I found those vintage mushroom stools at the flea market and they spin which is super fun.

Julie tried to find some inspiration shots for “enchanted forest themed room” and here’s what we found…

Forest Inspo
image source

It would be far less themed with say, trees and deer…that room CRACKS ME UP. But the trees would come in the form of a tree mural and the “stumps” would likely be the mushrooms stools I already have.

Treehouse Round Openings
image source

We love the idea of a rotating circle window and that tone of wood would obviously work in the house.

But we also could paint it white if it competes less with the carpet and wallpaper.

White Wood Inspo
image source

So it’s down to this: you choosing the theme of this room and entering to win the 5 days at this house with your friends/family (likely next spring or summer). Remember I’ll even pay $1k towards your travel, as you can tell I REALLY want you guys to enter and share and, frankly care as much as you have about this project. So many of you feel so invested and engaged and it means so very very very much to me. Thank you so much for watching, reading, voting, sharing and caring.

Now vote. It’s not a privilege, it’s a right. 🙂

OH and I haven’t shown either of these to Brian or the kids…I know they’ll like both, although I think the kids will lean towards headquarters just because it sounds so much cooler. But I promise to make it very very cool, fun, exciting regardless of what theme is chosen.

I Design, You Decide

Kid's Attic Play Space

Option 1: Spy HQ

Kids Attic Play Space

Option 2: Enchanted Forest

Kids Attic Play Space

(Vote by Friday, June 14th to have your voice heard.)
You did it!

Thank you for doing your daily design duty.
Your vote has my vote 🙂


Now enter to win

A five-night stay at the cabin in 2019 or 2020 (with some blackout dates, of course, because our family uses it) with $1,000 towards travel expenses (if you live driving distance then it’s just fun money, or if you live internationally then we will cover up to $1,000 of your expenses. So, all the international readers please feel free to participate and enter as well). We’ll make it a dream trip! Including cocktails out on the lake with me.

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Fin Mark


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Oof that’s a tough one! I’ve gone for the spy HQ because I feel as though even the enchanted forest idea is absolutely magical, kids would go totally nuts for the spy idea and you’d get more imaginative play and more time where they’re entertaining themselves in their own world. Plus your house is kind of already in the middle of a magical forest anyway with all that outdoor space and nature around you! Why pretend when you can be out in the real deal?

Martha Buckwalter-Davis

This was precisely my reasoning for choosing Spy HQ as well!


Why go with a singular theme? I would merge Ideas and put those little spies in the forest.


I suspect most will think the same, ………..the spy headquarters set in a remote enchanted forest.
You have already done the work, incorporate it and make it count.
I believe children playrooms may be the one room that don’t need to get simplified and edited down. Looks like plenty of open spaces elsewhere.
This is not there bedroom where understandably you have created more calm. This is a PLAY room, go for it, there are plenty of other great quiet places and nooks in your home for reading etc
What a fun room!
Thanks for sharing your ideas, this room will be amazing!

emily jane

I also want to combine both ideas! Couldn’t ‘Spy Headquarters’ be hidden inside a tree..?

Myra Bruce

Spy Headquarters for sure! Looks like such a fun project ❤️


LOVE this idea!

Katie Kerr

If there was that option I would have picked it. Both are amazing. Also I am obsessed with that carpet.


Spy HQ

Loveley of

this is exactly what i thought too. spy room!

OOH. ok i’m definitely down to combine ideas…. I guess the question becomes which wallpaper …. that treasure map is so fun (and we could put glow in the dark X-marks the spot all over it that they have to use a special light to see), but the forest is more calm and magical ….


Mrs Maximum here:)
Both wall papers!

The gorgeous magical overall forest wall paper on the wall that you see when you enter with the diamond window. The trees will look great on that wall with real trees and sky coming in thru the window.
Then you put that great forest paper on the 2 perpendicular walls (to make the most of those angles all the way to the highest point of the ceiling) making a tree canopy.

So the majority will be calm and magical.

Then you are right that map paper is fun, it goes on the last remaining wall, it becomes a feature, ties up downstairs to upstairs. Also with the 2 levels they will be able to get closer to it and it will be more intimate/usable (great idea the special glow). If you want to incorporate blackboard paint. Incorporate it into the map, in the lower county areas, so they can reach. Plus there is different chalk board colors besides black.
Looking forward to seeing this room.
You have got it! It won’t take long. Probably because you haven’t had “clients” that you get more on every level.


What if Spy HQ was in a treehouse? Keep the treasure map wallpaper and the cool locks, the safe and the wooden periscope. Combine the slat wall hidden door with the pulley window (love the pulley system with a bucket on it that allows the kids to send notes and toys up or down through the window!). Then decorate with the mushroom stools and woodsy decor! Less “high-tech spy lab” more “no grown ups allowed tree fort”…


A dollar store item…my kids always loved the glow-in-the-dark stars which we put on their ceilings. Kinda magical when lights are off


If you build a treehouse, put the treasure map wallpaper inside that section, like the headquarters had the map displayed?


Spy Fairies and Gnomes! Monster and Unicorn tracking! Evil Wizards with oppressive political and economic ideas requiring an active underground network to free magical creatures. So many story lines! Love the combo theme.


I guess I’m definitive a minority of one here, but why not let the children decide what THEY want it to be by using their own creativity and imaginations?
Complete the room – add the round porthole opening, cushion the “bench” change the ladder to something more safe and far less likely to result in broken limbs and just let them accumulate their own imaginative pieces to put in their ‘magical’ space.
Possibly include them on flea market trips, thrift stores, etc and let them choose their own play pieces? Is this idea totally out of the realm? I think this would encourage and nurture their imaginations far more than having it all handed to them in your idea of finished form. Just a thought from a creative mom.


Kind of love this perspective!


If I look at your options I see that you put so much more effort in board #1, so for me you should clearly choose option #1.

HA. you aren’t wrong. I have not been able to find ANY good inspiration for a spy Base/HQ so part of me wants to do it because i Know it would be so fun to actually design – and way more challenging than the enchanted forest.


I chose the enchanted forest version of the playroom because, to me, it has more open-ended options for when they gt tired of playing spy. I love the spinning secret door idea, like the crazy spinning fireplace in an Abbot and Costello movie.
Also, if they’re in the woods, it doesn’t mean they can just go out and play in the woods any old time.
Then again, is that the wallpaper from Birdie’s bedroom in the last house? I LOVED that paper.
(I chose first and then came up with the “why”, so…) GO ENCHANTED FOREST!


Agree with this 100%. The spy idea is so cool but more limiting. The forest could inspire many different scenarios.


I feel exactly the same way! The “enchanted forest” room is something that they can continue to enjoy when they get older since it will just be a pretty space, while the spy room will feel decidedly “kid” to pre-teens.

when do you guys think that they’ll stop playing spy? I would think 8 and 10 but do you think earlier?

Marci M Lambert

i’m in my 50s and couldn’t wait to go to the Spy Museum in Washington, DC, so i don’t think there’s an expiration date on spy enthusiasm.


Same! I vote spy 100% because I’m an adult and still into this s*** big time. I feel like if they get over “spy” in particular, you could turn it into more of a workshop/tinkering zone with tech stuff and mini kid carpentry and craft area.


I am on this wagon. I feel like the forest theme might have more longevity. It sounds like your kids are both creative, so they may not need all the gadgets to come up with fun things to do in the space! ? So I voted for the enchanted forest because I felt like it was something that would stand the test of time, allows your kids to create the magic and fits the location of your home.


My kid is nearly 8 and still plays spy with her best friend who is nearly 9, so…I think you’d be safe until at least then!

(And that’s totally why I voted for the spy room!)


@emily to answer the ? about when they might stop playing spy. My 12 year old son and 10 year old daughter were in the yard yesterday playing some kind of pretend, spy, mission, army explorer something-or-other while I was doing yard work and I had the thought, “Enjoy this. This is probably the last summer, MAYBE the last time ever, he’ll be doing this.” (My 14 y.o. is obviously over it already). Granted, we’ve made every reasonable effort to maintain their childlikeness & allow them to stay young for as long as possible.

I voted spy — I LOVE forest/nature — but spy is an unexpected mix-up from the setting of the house. 🙂 And even if they don’t PLAY spy as teens, I guarantee they’ll have fun being in the space b/c it’ll bring up fun memories.


Really depends on the kid, but yes, they’ll easily enjoy spying until they’re 10 and could be even later. My hesitation is that when you devote an entire space to a spying theme, it gets boring to them. A box of “spy gear” they can pull out and play with (and then put away and forget about for a while) might be more fun…


I played spy much later- probably 12. Also, I didn’t have many things, we made them up! Clipboards, any kind of printed forms, index cards, sunglasses…


I think when they stop playing spy you might be in the mood for a redesign of a room or two anyway, right? Not like their bedroom in this house will stay completely static as they get into pre-teen ages. I’d say have fun and design what you want to now that you think they’ll play with and if in five-seven years you have to flip some stuff, then do it! Just maybe go easy on the more “permanent” fixtures (or give some thought to the wallpaper longevity, but the rest can be rotated as they age.


My girls, who are 11 and 14, would still be down to play in spy headquarters! (Although they would roll their eyes at me if *I* suggested it. ;-))


I agree! It’ll be perfect for bad weather days. The forest seems so much more versatile, too: Robin Hood, camping, pioneer… I would 100% enjoy hanging out and reading there as an adult. The spy theme would feel young to me.


Hi Emily! You can never know when they’ll stop playing spy (or any other specific game they like to play). It could be next week! … But the thing is that that theme is not as open-ended as “anything you can do in a forest”. Open-ended is *always* the best choice for longevity and truly imaginative play. (Using a play phone to make a pretend phone call isn’t nearly as imaginative as building a phone out of cardboard and using that for your phone call… and then turning that cardboard into a fairy house… and then into a boat for a pretend voyage across the ocean… and then into swords and lances… and then into a drill etc.) My kids (12, 10, 6 (and BFFs)) go through all sorts of stages with the types of games they like to play. Sometimes they go back to old games; sometimes they don’t. But what is consistent is that they can make anything (and I mean anything!) between Lego, cardboard, blocks and fabric scraps.


PS. In case it’s helpful, I have two mantras when it comes to purchases for kids: “skills before tools” and “ingredients, not props.”


I love those mantras!! What a great perspective on encouraging creativity!!

Deborah M

Interesting, I was going to say the opposite. I think they’d outgrow the enchanted forest theme before the spy. My daughter outgrew her My Little Pony, etc. in 5th- 6th grade, however my 11 th grade son still loves and works on Legos.


I agree—the spy idea is too specific for longevity.


Exactly what I think—leave it all more open to their imaginations! Plus then it may keep their interest longer.


I am on this wagon. I feel like the forest theme might have more longevity. It sounds like your kids are both creative, so they may not need all the gadgets to come up with fun things to do in the space! ? So I voted for the enchanted forest because I felt like it was something that would stand the test of time, allows your kids to create the magic and fits the location of your home.


Man its 50 50! This is by far the hardest one!

Mary Ann

Good morning!
Thanks for the giveaway. I choose the spy option too because I think it ages better – they only get bigger and older. Sigh…
And, yes, the magical woodland is just outside that magical window. 🙂
Have a great Mountain Monday!


I chose spy hq based on the cabin already being in an enchanted forest, they have that outside. Options are key for kids.


Voted for forest because my kids (5, 3, 1) would like it more. So, selfish reasons, I guess? I feel like the spy stuff could just be a phase, whereas the forest theme could be a backdrop for all sorts of pretend play (forest, magic, safari, camping, picnic…). My favorite pretend game that my own kids play is “Christmas” where they bag up all their toys and drag them in a sack to a different location then “open” them. Very fun.


I love the idea of option 2, being in the trees and embracing nature, but I think they will have more fun with option 1. more things to touch and encourage creativity.


I like both ideas, but I love design of the forest and feel that it will age better. Kids of a wider spread of ages will be able to utilize the space. Love the idea of secret walls and doors. I also might sneak in that steel and wood ladder in either version because it’s awesome! Good luck! Love the mountain home!


I chose spy theme because it may have more staying power as the kids grow. They have an adorable treehouse back in LA and lots of real enchanted forest just outdoors, so the spy haven is a different lane and also seems to have lots of potential for interactive concepts.


For sure the Spy theme! Even though I’m sure they would love the enchanted forest, based on how you’re describing them they may get most play time with the Spy! Too fun!! CAN’T WAIT TO SEE IT! And, can’t wait for August HB!! You and your team work SO hard. So happy for you to have this mountain house as a respite. What a gift!


For play I would have chosen the Spy Headquarters, but for the build I chose Enchanted Forest! That spinning circle door is amazing, the secret door, the wide wood ladder, CAN YOU COMBINE THEM?? Like, allll the spy stuff, the spy wallpaper, too, but with the wood elements from Forest?




I think enchanted forrest. It’d be my personal choice bc I find it much prettier, but also goes with the feel of the house and the surrounding area, so it’s a complete (magical) package for the kids! Also, when they tire of spies, you could always revamp the whole thing, of course, but the e.f. theme is much more flexible for when they get a bit older. They are both super adorable tho, very excited to see how it turns out!!!

ps. don’t know if someone has mentioned this already, but the pics aren’t showing to me on chrome, I had to click on them to see the inspos.


You should definitely have a secret door and room! Our friends moved in to a house with a secret little play room in the basement and the kids all LOVE it!


I could not figure out how to vote! So I am voting here, I would do the spy room. They are only little for so long! Those are my best memories playing spy club with my brothers.

Leigh H

option 1 spa headquarters for sure!


Love both of these options – I chose enchanted forest mostly because of the wallpaper and I like that theme better visually. That being said I really think either one will be fantastic. Can’t wait to see how it all turns out.


HQ for inside but is there a yard to build a version of the enchanted forest?


I voted for the forest theme because it seems more open to imagination and flexible play options and is more cohesive with the bedroom below. The spy headquarters sounds like something the kids may want to build themselves (or participate in building) when they’re keen for games along that line. If most of their play is already spy/gadget themed, then now may be the time.
Both look fun and I can’t wait to see what you decide.


If I had to pick one, it would be forest because it allows for many different imaginative scenarios. BUT I think you can do both. My suggestion is to turn the “secret” room into the spy room with the gadgets, spy phone, etc. because those look SO much fun. Best of both worlds!


Yes, this!


Love this idea! Forest room with secret spy area.


They are both so beautiful, but I have to go with the spy room. It is so unique and my kids would go nuts for it! I’m seriously considering turning my loft into a spy headquarters now. Thanks for in inspiration and chance to stay in such a gorgeous home!


I think you can go with Enchanted Forest and still incorporate “spy” elements. “Spies in the Forest” 😉 Magnifying glasses, footprints, hidden stuffed animals, etc. Forest just seems a prettier theme and has a lot more longevity and flexibility. Good luck!!


This might be an incredibly dumb question but how do I cast my vote? I can only clicks on the images and then it just shows me a scroll of all of the images on the page!

Taryn Waters

I think the Spy HQ is the way to go. Since the Mountain House has a general feel of a treehouse/nature setting, I think the Spy theme would give the kids a new twist to their play time. I can’t wait to see it complete!

Jenna Whitt

I think it’s great to have the spy theme because the forest theme is right outside, so they can have the best of both worlds! However, whatever you choose, it will be the best! (I feel certain that you could have an empty room theme and still make it fun! ?)


Enchanted forest!


Enchanted forest & for inspiration check out the Gros Morne National Park headquarters in New Foundland, Canada. My kids played for hours in the forest room on a rainy day!

Erin Hamilton

while I would choose the forest, I asked my Little’s and they said DEFINITELY the Spy HQ ?‍♀️. Whatever you do will be fabulous and I can’t wait to see it! And we are totally ready to come stay for 5 days ?.

Kimberly James

Your home is already set in a magical enchanted forest so I say number 1!


Love both options but the Spy theme feels more original and fun! Although the enchanted forest does continue the outdoor/camping theme of the attached kids room which speaks to me in terms of continuity.


If you go with the spy think I love the idea of having a false bookcase as a door!

Julie Dawson

Too theme-ey for me. I would combine the two in some way.


The best “spy/detective years are yet to come. My best friend and I played like that until we were 11 or 12. Definitely that one!

I vote the Spy design. Very cool idea!


Voting option isn’t showing up for me but I vote for the spy headquarters. They have the real enchanted forest outside so they might not want it inside too. What a magic home for your family to make a lifetime of memories! Thanks for taking us along this journey.

Hmm weird. You don’t see both of the side by side designs with the “vote” button underneath each at the botton of the post? Are you viewing on mobile or desktop?


I saw the same thing on an older version of Firefox, but the vote button showed up in Chrome. I was on desktop for both.

Tina Schrader

Wait — there are actual buttons to hit to vote? Did not see those. I thought just commenting would be the “vote.” I’ll take another look.


I’m going with spy but love the mushroom stools too and hope you keep them and use them somewhere else, they are really great!

Kim Kernaghan

I do love all that you’ve sourced for the spy room and I’d use some of those fun props… in the super secret spy cubby room because hey it’s secret.
I’d then go with enchanted forest for the main room. A forest room has unlimited possibilities, it’s soothing, pretty, not scary to nervous kids, and it lets the Kids imagination roam towards any of their own stories. From the spy cubby they can plot to find the bad garden gnome that took the fairies or they could leave pretty white rocks for the princess, or pirate to find the trail back to the mushroom or pine tree. They could figure out how to help the leprechaun find his pot and fill it with lost gold coins… hidden around the forest. Or there’s tea parties and picnics in the indoor woods with flashlights/ lanterns. Haha I’m into it!


Forest! Spy while fun is about solving crime (fighting bad) something your kids will have years ahead of them to deal with. The forest idea is magical and fantastical something special that we tend to lose as adults.


I agree with this comment. And when I think of my older son (now almost 11) his imagination was extraordinary from ages 4 – 8. and then continued some through age 10. I think the spy theme would have been a little abstract and adult for him at the height of his imaginary play. He could create magic for hours from his head just in our living room or a wooded area outside. It is true the spy theme would age well but with all your projects and resources that should not be an issue for you.

You could incorporate some spy elements in the forest now … then adjust later as needed. Let your kids really create their own imaginary play without having too much of a theme.

Becca H.

I voted HQ…more “things” to keep them occupied and in a few years when they grow out of that kind of stuff you can redesign it to be more of a hangout/chill space. Take advantage of the play stuff if it’s going to blow their minds, they’ll be grown soon enough. Speaking from experience. ?


Wow! Such a hard decision! I suppose it would be something that the kids should choose. Although, I do think that my child brain would choose that super cool spy room, even though my adult brain would love the relaxing woodland room.


Spy HQ!! The kids room already has a camp/forrest feel to it, and I imagine they’ll play outside a ton anyways, so the Spy HQ feels like a better overall alternative and one that they can age with! My kids are 5 and 7 and they would likely already have outgrown the forrest room.


They are both amazing! I personally (as an adult) like the enchanted forest option better and think it’s more consistent with the rest of the house, but kid me LOVES the spy room. And, the forest is readily available from the house any time. Kid me won this round 🙂


I think Option 1 would invoke more creativity. The forest is nice but takes away from the real thing outside.


My thought is don’t make a “this is where we play spy” room.


Woah…. you know what’s weird…. I woke up on this sunny Monday morning and my first thought was, is Em Henderson still doing this mountain house contest?!? Why did I randomly think about that? Then I checked my email and read your post. Obvi, I really want to win and I’m so glad you did a post about it today because I’ve been very concerned, ha! Love love love the enchanted forest, more on the scandi side, mountain house-y, and magical!


I love the enchanted forest!!!

Diana Wright

Enchanted forest!!! Keep the woodsy them going all the way!!

Cynthia Geis

I loved the Spy Room! A great way to challenge their imaginations. (As if they needed a challenge!)

Kim gibson

If I had to pick one it would be the spy room! But agree with incorporating both together.


I love both ideas! But, I know when my kids were little they would have had endless fun with the Spy HQ. So, for a lot more joy at your Mountain House that’s my vote.


I vote for the spy headquarters, largely because you already have a forest outside, so doing an indoor one seems kind of redundant. But with the spy headquarters, I would say make it less specifically “spy”. When I was a kid I found a wooden board and I stuck a lightswitch on it, and various other things that could be switches and buttons. And the great thing about it was it could be used for anything – a PI bugging station, a spaceship navigation panel, a zoo control panel, a panel to open the doors to the superhero lair, whatever. I think whatever you do, the elements should be something that the kids themselves give a function to. So rather than “Mission Control” it could just be a general control panel. And rather than a board where you write the mission, just a general board that they can decide afresh each time what to write on it. Your kids are young and it may be all spies now, but in even six months it could be Jurassic Park or Space Station or whatever. Also, you currently have almost exclusively blue. I think whatever you do you should bring in all… Read more »


I agree with this!!!


Love this!


I vote spy theme! For some inspiration, look up the Safe House restaurant in Milwaukee or Chicago. It’s all spy-themed with a password to get in and plenty of spy command decor.


I really, REALLY think that making this space into something as specific as a “mission control center” is a huge missed opportunity for open ended creative play. I taught preschool for 7 years before staying home with my own children, and I can tell you that the dramatic play areas the children enjoyed the most were always the ones that they helped set up and contribute to- and they changed often. It’s a well intentioned adult impulse to super design a themed play space, but I think it’s a mistake.


Totally agree!! Kids can make a “mission control” of their own out of a cereal box and toilet paper rolls (or whatever they have on hand), but making one for them, and having that be the theme of the playroom is just too limiting.


I agree, my own creative impulse loves designing a themed play space, but my kids love being able to redesign things based on their own creativity. Mine are 7 and 9 and we’ve started having conversations about the toys they purchase with their allowance. They’ve realized that Magnatiles, Legos, and Star Wars action figures are things they play with more often because of their flexibility. It was interesting to watch them realize that they are drawn to things that only do 1-2 play scenarios before they are bored and whatever it is sits in a bin. I would go open ended and watch them play spy in the enchanted forest, then pirates, then animal trainers, then. . .then.


I agree and since I don’t have kids, all the rest of my argument sounds very judgey but…. this just feels very limiting.
-Long time reader, sometimes purchaser, and big time fan of EH.


In early childhood education and parent of two (middle schoolers now, sigh); totally agree with this.


I really really agree with you Carly!


Well this is exciting! And barrels of fun!

I love both the options so much, but I would make this a neutral space. Paint, wallpaper, general decor would all be theme and gender neutral for my preference. I would provide dress up bin, spy bin, nature bin, etc. Probably not all at the same time though. That way this space can grow with your children’s interests and ages right up to teenagers. The possibilities are endless and should not be limited to themes. IMHO.

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