Portland Reveal: The 5 Design Elements Every Awesome “Big Kid” Playroom Needs
***Written by Arlyn Hernandez
This fun, playful room right here used to be just plain gross. I’m not talking about dirty beige carpet that’s well past its prime and bad paint, I mean…it wasn’t even a real room. It was a dark storage area in the basement of the Portland Project (keep reading to see the “before”) that until we got our hands on it was, in our opinion, a total waste of potential. Yes, all homes need storage, but this was like a straight up garage-like dump pit that would be a dream for the hoardiest of hoarders that stretched across the entire length of the house.
Let’s take a look at the original floor plan so you can understand:
That “storage” space above looks like it’d be really exciting for anyone who has a ton of stuff, but also, unless you have a business with serious inventory or your family has an inexplicable amount of equipment-heavy activities, who really needs that much space?!? Here’s what it looked like IRL:
Because we shifted things around on the ground floor and added the second floor with three additional bedrooms and two bathrooms, we needed to find space for a laundry room but also felt like a home with (now) five bedrooms needed a larger “hang out” area…hence that expanded media room. Which then, of course, meant moving around this floor plan. We stole from the storage space to create that laundry room and pivoted the bedroom, made room for the new staircase, but also carved out a storage space that felt more than plentiful for a family who already has a garage, a mud room, and a storage shed in the backyard (which you haven’t seen yet). Here’s where we landed so you can get some context of where we are with today’s reveal:
This room could have of course been set up as a FIFTH bedroom (it says “4” up there, but there are five rooms in total), but we thought it’d be a fun opportunity to design it as a playroom/hang out spot for the imaginary kids of the imaginary family that imaginarily live here. And, because so many of you have asked about family-friendly design slash kid room design, we’re going through the five must-have elements to keep in mind when putting together a playroom for bigger kids. Let’s do this.
Use kid-friendly textiles and materials.
When you’re designing a kid-focused room, textiles are SUPER important for longevity. This is not the moment to flex your white sofa and rug muscles, folks. As angelic and well-behaved as your children might be, let’s get real…no one is immune to peanut butter and jelly smears or marker streaks. Here, we went with a velvet on a sofa from Interior Define, which is a great fabric for anyone with kids and pets, as much as you think it wouldn’t be (most people think it’s “fancy” and hence not family-friendly). You can’t snag it or pill it, plus most poly velvets are really easy to wipe (as long as you get to it quickly). Also, a patterned rug like the one we used here from Dash & Albert is key, since the color variations make it easier to hide smaller stains.
Here’s another talking point that most people don’t think about in terms of being kid-friendly: art. Most framed art pieces are stitches waiting to happen if your children are rambunctious animals that flop around a room, walls included. Think about it…glass…falling off a wall, shattering, slicing skin open, let’s move on from this dark, troubling subject, but FOR REAL HOW GENIUS IS WOOD ART? We got these pieces through artist Jennifer Urquhart, and they were just the whimsical touch these walls needed, but also, there’s no fear of these being damaged really or inflicting harm. You don’t have to go seek out wood art like we did here, but there are lots of softer or shatter-proof options like wall hangings, pennants, canvas art, etc.
Inject pattern and color (but carefully).
This is not to say you need pattern and color EVERYWHERE, nor does everything (anything?) need to be crazy bright. A solid bit of advice is to riff off one primary color (here, we went with blue, obvs), and then vary the tones you use so it feels a little more pulled together. Kids toys, books and craft supplies are usually SUPER colorful as it is, so leaving the base of the room a little less over the top will go a long way to not feeling like a scene out of Willy Wonka.
And in terms of pattern, have some fun…it’s a kid’s room after all, but by using one color across the board in both solids and prints, it’ll feel a touch more “grown up” while still being fun. We brought in personality through a checkered throw, wavy and polka dot-y throw pillows, a rug and, of course, the art.
Create zones for work and play.
What’s that they say about all work and no play? Well, you get it. But yeah, for a playroom (or general “kid” area), it’s important to create zones. Your room doesn’t have to be as large as this one either to do that. But carving out a little nook with a desk, chair and task light helps with focusing on things like homework and projects, while a space where baskets of toys, balls, instruments and the like a little removed from the “serious work area” limits distractions.
Also, let’s pause a moment and talk about that amazing wood basketball hoop. We got this one through The Good Mod and it’s SO GOOD. This would work just as easily in a grown man’s digs as it does in this kid playroom. And we’ll get to that swing in just a sec…
Choose lots of comfy (modular) furniture for plenty of hang out spots.
When picking out furniture for a room that’s going to be used predominantly by youngins, it’s a good idea to go with more modular pieces (like those nesting coffee tables from Structube and the Interior Define sofa). The tables can easily be used individually right where they are for things like coloring, snacking, scribbling, but are also easy to split apart and move out of the way for impromptu dance parties or superhero acrobatics.
Sprinkle in the whimsy.
This is the part where you take a mostly age-inclusive room and turn it into something that is obviously much more fun, spirited and jovial. If you stripped away the toys, stuffed animals, swing, and large-scale art and lighting, this would be a perfectly adult room, but it’s that “whimsy” that makes it more youth-appropriate. Here are some of the playful elements we added:
Large-scale lighting: The black floor lamp and white table spotlight (both from IKEA!) that you see in the shot right before this one are just large enough that they feel fanciful without being crazy out of scale.
Overscale art: That abstract piece by Mia Farrington above the sofa is another case of how we played with scale. Since we already had a gallery wall of sorts above the blue velvet sofa (all those cute wood pieces), we knew we wanted a single piece here, and the giant scale of this print just felt so happy and not at all serious.
Lots of pillow shapes and sizes: You don’t see it all here, but the pillows on both sofas aren’t very stiff or “elegant.” There’s a mix of squares, lumbars, round and even cutie little animal pillows to keep things from feeling too surly.
Fun elements: I’m sorry, but how cute is that rope and wood swing from Schoolhouse (just make sure it’s properly installed into a sturdy ceiling!)? The vintage toy plane we borrowed from Aurora Mills also makes our hearts happy. Plus, the larger pillows on the sofa are just the right size to toss on the floor (because all kids, for whatever reason, love being on the ground).
And that’s it! Let us know should you have any questions on any of the above topics or anything in this room we didn’t cover in terms of its renovation. We’ll be sure to pop into the comments and answer! Oh, and here’s a comprehensive Get the Look of the whole room with all the shopping links.
1. Color Block Pillow | 2. Arrows Throw Pillow | 3. Black & White Fabric | 4. Wooden Art Collection by Jennifer Urquhart | 5. Interior Door by Metrie | 6. Sofa | 7. Interior Door Lever by Rejuvenation | 8. Rug | 9. Nesting Tables | 10. Table Lamp | 11. End Table | 12. Wooden Basketball Hoop via The Good Mod | 13. Basketball | 14. Red and Blue Basketball | 15. Guitar | 16. Wire Bins | 17. Clock | 18. Rope Swing | 19. LED lamp | 20. Buffalo Check Tray (set of 2) | 21. Desk | 22. Chair (set of 2) | 23. Pencil Box by Jennifer Urquhart | 24. Stapler | 25. Roman Shades by Hunter Douglas through Decorview | 26. Windows by Milgard | 27. Beach Painting | 28. Mountain Painting | 29. Abstract Art by Mia Farrington | 30. Floor Lamp | 31. Caravan Day Sofa | 32. Marble Pillow | 33. Hannu Fabric | 34. Lucca Pillow | 35. Lumbar Pillow | 36. Plaid Throw | 37. Toy Airplane | 38. Wood Flooring by Hallmark Floors | 39. Pure White by Sherwin-Williams | 40. Door and Window Casing by Metrie | 41. Baseboard by Metrie 42. Beadboard by Metrie
***Photography by Sara Tramp for EHD, design and styling by Emily Henderson and Brady Tolbert (and team). JP Macy of Sierra Custom Homes was the fantastic General Contractor, and Annie Usher and the architect.
For more Portland Project Room Reveals: Living Room | Staircase | Office | Master Bedroom | Master Bathroom | Kitchen | Dining Room | Powder Bathroom | Guest Bathroom | Hall Bathroom | Laundry Room | Guest Bedrooms | Media Room | Family Room | Secret Room