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Our Play Room – An Update + A TV Choice


If one could have a ‘spirit room’ then I’ll go ahead and say this is my ‘demon room’. That didn’t come out right, but the point is this room is just so challenging in function, layout and now in style. Let’s revisit the past and catch you up to speed on this embarrassment of a space.

When we first bought the house, it looked like this:

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It was right off the entry and close to the kitchen. So we knew once we opened it up to the kitchen we would have this amazing flow and visibility (especially with two small kids). But it made the architecture tricky and I’m sure someone could point out a million things we did wrong. By doing this we were able to get a proper powder room (that you didn’t have to go through a hall to access) and more importantly mom visibility from the kitchen to the playroom (as if I cook and as if they play without us …. although keep reading).

But then we were like ‘WAIT, WHERE THE EFF DO WE WATCH TV?’ The living room has no proper TV wall that doesn’t totally dictate an awkward layout (see our first post, here). So fine, this would be a little den/playroom.

We painted it navy because that’s cozy and fun.

Neustadt 007 Neustadt 008 Neustadt 017

It looked pretty awful and jarring, mostly because of the awkward architecture and its location in the house (all the furniture and rugs were just leftover and obviously not designed to exist here).

So we repainted and attempted to design it as a tv room/den with toy storage.

Emily Henderson Modern English Cottage Tudor Family Room 02

It’s not bad, but not good. I love the sofa, rug (vintage), curtains (well the window curtains) and lighting but because it was so long and narrow, it still couldn’t be laid out in a way that made it look good AND functional.

Emily Henderson Modern English Cottage Tudor Family Room 03

We had those leftover curtains from a different room so I had our handyman install them here and while it was kinda awesome to be in a little cozy theater room, it begged the question – do we need a little theater room?

It felt heavy and made the room feel smaller. Sure it hid the TV but it was annoying and the jump rings would get caught on the rod because the weight of the blackout was just too much for that function.

Family Room 5 Of 51

It was neither a proper play room or a proper TV room. It was a long narrow room with an awesome sofa and a bunch of toy storage.

04 20 17 Updates 9

It worked and man, that sofa is cozy but it didn’t look good. Plus our kids aren’t allowed to watch TV during the week (listen, we have full-time childcare, if we didn’t it would be different, trust me) so seeing it became a battle. Around that same time we bought the mountain house, which doesn’t have a tv and guess what? Those little addicts forgot about their favorite thing in the world. The option was taken away and instead, sticks from the trees, a janky ‘stream’ and a lot of other activities distracted them from their one true love.

The first few months up there they didn’t even ASK for a ‘show-just-one- little-show’. So we were convinced. Up there they had a huge playroom with a lot of fun blocks to climb on, legos, puzzles, bean bags … it was a room totally dedicated to them and GOOD GOD-IN-EARLY-CHILDHOOD-HEAVEN, they played. The two of them would just play. Keep themselves busy. We’d be in the dining room drinking coffee, reading the paper (and by paper i mean magazine) or in the living room hanging out with other parents. Sure, our mountain house is way bigger than our current house and obviously it’s ideal to have a dedicated playroom, a dedicated living room and a dedicated TV den. But that’s not our house so we had to make some decisions.

We finally decided to remove the TV from this room and turn it into a dedicated playroom for the kids. Ironically, around the same time I was (and am) the spokesperson for the most beautiful TV on the planet. Don’t worry, the mountain house will have one, but I literally don’t have the wall space to put it in our current house. You can’t put a 65″ TV in this room and our living room has huge windows on both sides – sad story, I know.

This is the evolution of this stupid room (and I KNOW you are curious if we have a TV at all … stay tuned). It’s long, and has a weird architectural change 1/2 way through on the walls and ceiling. I designed it to be more of a ‘tv room’ so the sconces, drapes and too-big semi-flush fixture aren’t exactly ‘kid’.

And now that the sofa and tv are removed, the big question is HOW do I design this room?

Here’s where we are now – not designed but turned into a playroom.

Kid Safe Vintage Sophisticated Rug Playroom

If I were a normal person I’d be done. The color is pretty, the rug is soft and TOTALLY kid-friendly (plus a 1″ memory foam underneath) and the drapes are nice (although architecture above doesn’t have proper rain drainage thus making the curtain rods fall out of the wall). The kids are happy and frankly I have a lot of other things to design or do right now  – including hanging out with my kids here or organizing a drawer nearby while they play.

But then I’m reminded that not only am I a content creator and designing this playroom is good for traffic, but many of you have awkward spaces and maybe me designing mine will somehow help you design yours.

Kids Sophisticated Playroom Makeover Open Floor Plan

First off, we are set with kids play furniture. The art table is awesome and Birdie spends an alarming amount of time drawing. The cubby and drawer set is genius because the drawer hides the random things, the cubbies are easy for them to access and clean up. As a super experienced mom of 4 years (ha) I’ve learned that kids need to see their toys in order to get the idea to play with them (a couple of you readers actually clued me into this). Additionally, a few books that I’ve read about having your kids help you with chores mentioned cubbies or open baskets opposed to drawers or cabinets because it’s easy for them to successfully put things away.

Emily Henderson Playroom Makeover Progress

The dollhouse is from Target, and while I LOVE IT, for now, it will remain up there until they request to play with it because Charlie mostly destroys every eclectic, modern but traditional room that I create. And if you think I don’t have a sh*t ton of dollhouse furniture, including wine glasses, hat racks, pots/pans, throw pillows, and even fly swatters …  you are dead wrong.  My dollhouse is PIMPED. While I’m trying to brainwash the importance of style and decor into my kid’s heads, Charlie finds it far more fun to “rearrange” with his bat mobile. The truth is they need a ‘doll’. They don’t want to decorate, they like to put PJ mask in there and pretend he’s napping, etc. So I think Birdie is too young and Charlie is in a more destructive phase.

But she sure looks nice, no?

Open Floor Plan Kitchen Playroom Circa Lighting Pendent Tudor Style Home

The relationship to the kitchen is pretty awesome. The whole floor is just so open  – we can be in living, dining or kitchen and still keep an eye on our kiddos.

Traditional Tudor Playroom Makeover

They are obviously happy with it, but I think we all know it could be better.

Playroom Beanbag Art Table Sophisticated

One of the challenges is the fact that there is a jut out and the arch is not quite in the middle. It makes you want to divide the space or do something with that architecture instead of fighting it, BUT WHAT?

Here is the one thing I have planned and already ordered – a big graphic navy and white ship mural with Charlie and Elliot’s names on the boats.


I bet you didn’t see that one coming. I didn’t really either. I saw it on the same site that I got my green forest mural in Elliot’s first room and I fell in love. I reached out and due to the success of their prior gifting to be on this site, they said they’d customize the color and add the kid’s names. GREAT.

Kids Names

We chose a navy blue. It was shipped from Europe in 2 weeks and then I was like …. wait … is this the best thing to do?

This was also during a dark period for me on social media where I felt like THE ONLY things that were hitting were things that were graphic, clean and poppy in blues and whites. As more and more people post other peoples stunning work, it leaves those of us who really just try to put our own work on our feed feeling a little down. That’s a whole other conversation, but my reaction to it was to basically make sure that I design with social media in mind – and incorporate the colors, styles and patterns that I know will HIT.

Now, part of this is disgusting and upsetting – that so-called ‘creativity’ is being dictated (or altered) to appease millions of strangers. But then the other part is that it pushes me to take risks and not be safe. The patio tile (AMERICA’S PATIO) cost me $8k + install and I didn’t want to spend the money but I did because I kept telling myself ‘this is worth it both for your family, resale and business’. I knew that the tile would ‘hit’ on social and BOY HAS IT. In fact we joke in the office that when the algorithm has got us down and a photo that would have gotten 15k likes now gets 2500, someone shouts – “put up a patio shot stat!!” 8 out of the top 20 most liked instagram posts had that patio tile in view.

For the record I would and will NEVER do something in my home just for ‘likes’. But knowing that a more interesting or riskier design element will likely garner new followers and more ‘like’s (thus breaking the algorithm) is certainly not out of my brain when designing these days.

The problem with the mural is then what happens on the other walls?

Schoolhouse Electric Silver Floor Lamp Playroom Bean Bag

It’s hard. I’m stumped. Twenty-seven year old Emily wouldn’t care and would have made it look kinda cool regardless because houses are quirky. Thirty-three year old Emily would have customized it to be PERFECT. Now 38-year-old Emily is not convinced we should do anything and wait til the kids need change.

But it’s content… and if I’m going to do anything I may as well make it as cute as possible.

So thoughts? Feelings? This room is THE WORST so how do I make it the best?

*right now I’m planning on going for the mural then seeing how I feel because it’s great content even if it’s weird. 

***Progress Photos by Sara Tramp for EHD

Fin Mark


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Love your tricky spaces, your honesty and your process!


For the love of awkwardly shaped rooms, I’m enjoying watching this play out. Also, I appreciate that it looks like the Charlie ship is coming to rescue the Elliot ship in the mural. Just don’t take the nautical theme overboard.


You are right! Didn’t see that coming but love it! Dollhouse commentary–ha! 🙂

My brain wants something linen-esque on the other walls. Full plain subtle linen look wallpaper, some type of i-dont-know-the-term for framed fabric panels, something textural but subtle is what my amateur gut says. OR large black and white family photos. Not portraits, but photojournalistic photos that are in high contrast black and white.

Or a ship steering weel and wooden telescope and a porthole and a periscope? Too themey? 🙂 Kids would love it!


I think the mural will look cool. I’d add a good chair for a grownup to sit in that could get pulled up to the art/lego table because at some point you or a grandma will want to do that. I think that end by the windows would make a great stage if your kids are in to costumes, music and dancing. When not in use for that, you could put the art table up there or something else that isn’t too hard to move.

Regine from The 256 Project

I like the idea of adding a comfy adult seating area to this room and that might be good use of the arched area by the windows. Not anything that would use that entire space, but one really comfy chair in a non-neutral color (like the color of the couch that you’ve since removed) and that will help define that space as well as draw your eye to the distant part of the room.

I also like the idea of the mural because I think it will help define the room and give it a stronger sense of purpose rather than come off as just being a room that the kids are using for now.


I love the idea for a stage in the window nook. I think it’s a great use of the space, to give it some purpose and definition. And you can hang the curtains right up behind the arch so that it looks like a real theater 🙂

yes! stage nook! such a good idea


What an imaginative idea! If anyone could pull this off it would be you! I love the mural too.

Jordan G

Maybe you can make the stage top liftable so that you can store toys underneath. That would be awesome!

I’m not really into that mural, to be honest. But then again I’m not a nautical person. I feel its too specific and I would get tired of it. I’d love to see a different mural or some exciting wallpaper.

Also, have you thought about having fun with the ceiling? We have a white-walled playroom with tons of colorful art, but my favorite part is the silver sunburst stickers we put on the ceiling. They are so playful. When I lay on the floor with the kids – which happens a lot – I love looking up at them. It gives the room tons of personality without sacrificing the view from other rooms. We have two year old twins and we basically live in our playroom. It might be my favorite room in the house. It’s worth designing something you’ll love!

Angie RS

I 100% agree with comfy adult seating. My older son’s room is lacking in this department, and it makes it a bummer to hang out in there with him. It might also help balance all the smaller, kid furniture.


Maybe it needs a smallish poker/game table with club chairs, could even throw in a bar cabinet/area. It could still have space for the kids to have their playspace and some of their play things. The mural would work and give it a lounge feel and helps to get something on the walls without having to find the right scale and placing of other artwork. Since there’s virtually nothing on the walls now, it looks a bit empty especially since all the furniture is kid sized.


Do it! I love that you take risks and not every room you design is “California-cool-neutral”. Don’t get me wrong, I love some all-white, sunny California homes, but some of us live in row homes in D.C. and need to see some other options! 🙂


Yes! This room’s layout reminds me so much of my awkward row house rooms.


If it was me, I would not do the beautiful mural here (in a play house, one day?) and instead get a big piece of framed photography/artwork/poster to fill the space (with plastic in place of glass if you’re worried). Or maybe frame parts of the mural as overscale artwork? Can the kids table go in front of the windows? A wall of framed E&C artwork that you can swap out as they make more could go above the cubby storage. The framed art (professional and kids) will make it seem more grown up on the walls, even while the stuff in there is actually “kid.” If it was me, I would probably pick art that related to the rest of the house for the wall that is visible from the kitchen. I use baskets to house almost all of our kids toys (such as those blocks), which would break up the white furniture. Do you need all of that storage, or can you consolidate/relocate some toys to a bedroom? I say all of this and my house looks nowhere as lovely as yours 🙂 Look forward to seeing what you do as it will be great no matter what… Read more »


Please don’t play it safe! I read your blog because you come up with things that no one else does. Of course we all love blue and white, but we can find that anywhere.


I appreciate that you’re a designer and all, but honestly, lately it just seems that it’s all about content. Just make the decision as a mom and deal. I know this is your business but life isn’t always about what creates the most hits on instagram or brings the most revenue. Make choices from your mom gut and let the world deal with it.


Agreed 100% with Jess and Jenn. We come on here because we want to see the way YOU design, not the way you think we want you to design just so we’ll like or comment on a post. Please, please stop making decisions for likes or so it will pop on Instagram. This is the 2nd or 3rd post in as many weeks where you reference this exact same conundrum, and I think it’s time for you to take a step back and realize you are in too deep. This is a playroom. Keeping it lighthearted and designing a space that’s ideal for your kids to play in and that stokes their creativity should absolutely be the #1 goal, likes and social media content a very distant second.


Agree. I know the blog is your primary business, but I don’t like removing the fourth wall. I like pretending that you’re just another mom (with a lot more resources than I am) making her house look as good as she can in creative and problem-solving ways. Maybe that’s an unrealistic expectation, but it takes the blog from relateable (earlier in your career) to aspirational (more recently) to can’t-relate-to-this-world-at-all.


PS I like the mural. But then, my whole house is blue and white and charcoal gray overboard (ha!), so what do I know.


I feel the same. I just wanted to be inspired by your designs and not worry about Instagram likes

I think that being a mom, designer and yes ‘content creator’ who is often racked with indecision is pretty fun content to both create and read. It’s a fun process for all of us (well, I guess most of us). 🙂


Yeah, I really like you talking about content creation and “likes.” It feels more genuine to me.


It’s the new kind of relatable I think, being honest about it being a business. So many lifestyle bloggers are like ‘ooooh, I just threw this together, whatevs lol”. When in reality it’s a totally sponsored & planned post that took days to plan.

Bettye Greenwood

Reading your posts about your challenges with designing is so liberating. It isn’t easy even for professionals! I love the drama of the mural, but I think I would get tired of it after a year. Is it easy to take down? Kids move through stages so quickly and the room’s needs will change too.

I fear that, too but yes all wallpaper these days are easy to take down so I kinda figured I could take the risk then see what happens…


I 100% vote for the mural. Will be so fun to catch a glimpse of that from the kitchen, and I can’t wait to see you design the room around it.

Mary Lou Johnson

Not sure about the battle theme of the mural. How about a library wallpaper with classic children’s books, past and present and small doorway overlooking a garden (is there such a thing?)
I hear you about awkward rooms. Our tract house living room is 10’ wide. Really. The room would make a wonderful home office or homework center down the road. Or a home theatre (the live kind) with left over drapes hung across the arch, creating a stage.

Ooh, i like the idea of a library wallpaper too …. hmm… and stage – yes!!


A stage! Such a great idea!


Yes, I agree! Not sure I would want the War of 1812 on my walls (and I also worry it will read too dark in there — like the navy walls before it). (Of course, I’m also a nay-sayer on the dark walls in the cabin – sorry!)

Library paper — or if you are going to do a mural in there, I would prefer something like the one in Birdie’s room, which would add brightness to the room…

Emily R

MURAL! It’s going to look amazing. I love it. And for the record, I’m 38.


I want you to try the mural because I (selfishly) just really wanna see it and because I have a million spaces that are weird and I don’t know what to do with and seeing you try and figure your space out helps, if only in the “you are not alone” sense. Also, I promise to like more pics in the future – I always real life like them, but forget that businesses need me to actually double tap ?


I’d be interested in a get-the-look link-up (loving the rug and the huge white storage furniture). Ifff this were my space, I’d stop putting large wood furniture in front of the window (the soft kid chairs are fine), I’d swap out the wall fixtures (love the ceiling one though), and I’d choose a more peaceful mural. To me, it looks like the ships are at war with each other and that the Charlie ship is trying to kill the Elliot ship. Going to go tackle my own albatross room now, a tiny dark room that should be a craft and guest room but is currently a storage locker…


Addedum: Ifffff this were my room and I had unlimited time or money, then I’d paint the kid kitchen white, so that it blends more with the other furniture in the room and feels less visually heavy (I’d leave the kid carpentry table natural though).

Interesting … i like the kitchen as is, but i see your point. I am honestly SUPER sensitive to anything that has any negative or violent conotation and never thought of that with this! I’ll have a second look but I really love it …


I’m shocked that you didn’t see that! It’s the first thing I noticed. It’s a depiction of a battleships shooting cannons at each other, so people are most definitely suffering and dying inside the imaginary world of this mural. I read your post a few weeks back where you referenced kung fu panda bringing out the fighting instinct in Charlie and this is like…a million times more violent than that and in their faces all day! It’s too much. If you want to use it to garner controversy and page clicks then sure, but it’s going up in your kids playroom, too….it seems like an easy decision to me.


Yes, me too. I noticed that the mural is depicting two ships fighting, with cannon smoke, immediately. Also, the BIG ship has Charlie’s name while the LITTLE ship has Eliot’s, also subtly (or not so subtly) misogynist: I really wasn’t trying to read anything into it but it jumped out at me. If the ships did not have names on them then it would not be so bad. But despite all that: if I were to use this mural I’d consider using it at the lake house play room in a larger, brighter space. Even with the lighter (than the original) color on the mural, it still has a great amount of contrast which to me is the achilles heel of this room and why it hasn’t worked well yet. This is a dark room and that narrow shape doesn’t help the light carry through. I would keep the walls light, neutral, and warmer so that the color itself encourages more light bouncing around. I am not a big fan of “yellow” colors but a warm white/pale ochre of some sort is probably where I’d go with all the walls. Some more soft furnishings (a chair or small love seat… Read more »


I thought the mural scene was your playful way of depicting sibling rivalry,

Julie P

I’m a mom of preschool boy and he would DEFINITLEY make that battle ship scene his play-inspiration…. He’s very sensitive to when people seem mad or are fighting…

Just a thought but what if you took down the arch and opened up more of the wall between the entry and the play room? Yes it helps hide mess but the room would seem less skinny without it.


I totally agree about the violence in the mural! It speaks of battleships (not travelling ships; and then, with the kids’ names on those battleships?? Yikes! Ha! They’re probably French vs. English battleships fighting. Too funny.


I thought it was a bit violent too (though I’m not sure what an acceptable level of violence would look like 😉 ). I think something more serene for a kids room, they will create their own excitement and don’t need the added help. I think as it is so open to the rest of the house a large fun painting/print that appeals to adults and kids.


Play rooms are tough! I love that you’re adding the mural… can’t wait to see how it looks. My only thoughts are to maybe add some more whimsical lighting (i.e. switch the sconces to some vintage tole ones in brass or painted navy)? Also, some shelving near your soft seating for books?


I cannot imagine what it’s like to live in your work as you do. I tried some house style blogging for a while but it made me crazy. I wasn’t able to just relax at home in the same way, my blog To-Do list was so visible. I am so impressed by your determination and drive.

I suppose I’d get rid of the bean bag/stuffed chairs and get some beautiful upholstered comfortable real ones and the kids are just about big enough to climb into them. And do something with the walls. I like the murals, but, I don’t think I’d like to have them in my house for more than about 30 days. Too much for peace. Again, I am impressed that you can live so visibly especially when being visible these days means “popping” off a little limited-pixel screen.


Hi Emily! I have never commented before, or on any site for that matter. I don’t know why I feel the need to this time. I’ll start by saying that I am a designer,and I love following your work. I immediately loved the mural when I saw it! And I love the fact that the “old world” vibe of it ties into the rest of your home. It’s also playful, while still being grown up in some weird “ fancy library kind of way”. To answer your question about the other walls…the wall adjacent to the mural wall (where the beanbag is), I would hang a simple clock, or maybe lean a tall ladder or some kind of leaning book holder…right now it looks like the kids books are just stacked. Besides that, the only other wall that would seem to be an issue is the wall across from the mural. You could either hang a big cool graphic that has a special saying on it(like a phrase your family lives by).. curt cobain has a few awesome ones! Ha! Or you could incorporate a taller piece of furniture there to fill the wall space…something fun, or vintage…idk—- Sorry this… Read more »

Thank you … i always LOVE hearing ideas from other designers. Part of me wants to GO FOR IT and the other part of me wants to keep it calm. But then I actually think that mural is calm …. ha.

Herself In Dublin

I love the mural and I think it will be amazing. But for the rest – can I suggest COLOUR. I know you’ve said repeatedly that you have a chaotic life and therefore you want your home to be more soothing, but surely this is one place you could go colourful, particularly on that wall that is not visible from outside the room (the one opposite the sofa). You can also go colourful on the furniture items (either getting new ones or painting the ones you already have).
Maybe it’s not that blue posts get more social media traffic than “neutrals” ones, but that people are craving colour . I’ve commented a few times, and I know others have too, that I miss the range of colours you used to do. Enough with the various shades of dark blue and pale pink – there’s a whole rainbow of other non-cream, non-grey colours out there. And this is the perfect place to do it! (Ideally before rollling out said colours on a more widespread basis…).

I definitely want to bring in some more color, too. Do I want to start all over in the room? Not necessarily but if i can repurpose or donate the things I’m not using then it won’t feel as wasteful….


The Frame TV comes in 55″ too which may be better for your room.


Hi Emily. I know it’s easy for me to say being a social media nobody, but I think you should be inspired by the playroom and feel free to be more *playful* in the design of the space. I love the mural and think it will be amazing and fun and dynamic. And if it isn’t the 100%-best-thing-that-could-have-possibly-gone-here-in-the-history-of-the-world-ever, who cares! It’s fun and it’s for your kiddos. And stuff like that can change when it’s time to change.

As a designer myself, I know how easy it is to get “in your head” about ALL the choices. I really have to force myself to take a step back and say, it’s just design! If it’s not fun it will feel forced and forced design looks worse than “loose but imperfect” design IMHO.

TLDR: darn the torpedoes, full mural speed ahead! 🙂

THANK YOU. I agree (well, i’m conflicted but the fun person inside me is like – GO FOR IT AND SEE)


Yes! Go for it and see! Leave it up for a year or so and just let it influence whatever else you do next.
I have been a fan of yours since you were on HGTV and rooted for you to win. I also had your TV series saved for years and would watch certain episodes over and over just for the fun of it.
Go for it Emily, let your free spirit shine through❣


Or…accept that you didn’t notice the battleship (as in violence and fighting) element and ….let it go. Or cut a small part out, say, the ship with his name on it, frame it and put it in Charlie’s room?
Nothing wrong with saying, “Oops! Made a mistake.”


This is totally an opportunity to create a post (or series) of posts about working with what you have in an awkward space. So many of your readers are stuck with rooms they can’t change architecturally, and don’t have access to trades for custom designs and I, for one, would love to see you design a play room for your kids using solely Target and/or Ikea pieces, while still making it beautiful. I love the mural but worry about it upsetting the look of the rest of the house if you put in on the wall visible from the entry. Could you instead hang it on the former tv wall?

kate w

where is the cubby/drawer set from?

it’s from pottery barn kids and has just been linked in the post xx


Can’t wait to see how this plays out! I would swap the storage bins ( sans the dollhouse on top) and drawing table around; the visibility in to the room increases and then the mural is on the interior wall instead of visible to the whole house.


We’re dealing with a similarly awkward room at the moment, and the way I’m handling it is to create zones. Ours is our study/library/studio so we have the work zone (with a desk, and filing cabinet), a music zone (where our record console and records go), a reading zone (we’re adding built-ins and a comfy chair), and an art zone. This makes the room sound much larger than it is, but it’s really just about squeezing a lot of function out of a completely worthless space. Our renovation just started yesterday, but I’m optimistic that it’s going to save a room that is by far the weirdest space I’ve ever seen. Similarly you could create zones for a play room. Are you at all familiar with the Reggio Emilia teaching philosophy? They call their classroom the “third teacher” and create spaces for learning exploration. A building zone, an art area, etc. Perhaps breaking the room into parts will make it easier to arrange. In my experience keeping the color palette consistent keeps things from looking too chaotic. I love the mural! I would totally do that. One question though…is the texture of your walls an issue? I can see it… Read more »


Um, those ships are FIGHTING with one another-it’s not something calm, like a sailboat race! In Feng Shui terms, it will translate to your kids being at odds with one another while they are in that room. I’d not put it up just for that reason but hey. That’s just me. I like the idea of the art area facing in to the room with the windows behind ( really using that natural light) and the the little kitchen on the art wall. Bring some furniture forward into the room , maybe? Don’t do the furniture ’round the outside wall thing. Yes, kids need space to play blocks/house/etc. but you don’t have to leave the entire room bare in the middle to achieve that. I’m a teacher of kids with special needs. In my school room design, I use as little wall decor as possible, real art, and real plants. And lots of blue :))) My SpEd kinder and first graders ( there are 12 this year) need as little distraction as possible in order to concentrate on whatever they are doing. I’d keep this in mind as you design/decorate for your kids-while a nature type mural may be fun,… Read more »


I second this. There will be a ton of color and movement brought into the room by toys, books, and artwork.


I mean, a ton of color and movement *even without* adding a “statement” piece or mural.


So my first thought was ‘whoa!’ at the black and white ships but i really like the more subtle navy as it goes with the decor, style and age of the home. Obviously, adding your kids names is a sweet touch. Functionally and frankly for our sanity, I think a kids room is a great idea. I would love to see you perfect it. I also think that maybe because of its proximity to the front door, I wouldnt want my visitors to be stepping on leggos and shopkins. But it is private enough. So not sure if that is helpful. If you love it, go for it, you will be the one looking at it all day!


Could you reuse the curtains and hang them close to the windows, behind the architectural piece and make either a stage area (with the rug being where the ‘audience’ would be) or create a reading nook back there? The curtains would need to be lighter to work, but something along that lines? And then you could do the mural still and float the crafts table or put in it against the wall as needed?

Good luck!


I had a stage in my basement growing up, and can confirm it was the greatest thing ever of all time.

ooh, interesting and i’m listening….


What about 2 pretty chairs by the window? That could be the adult part of the room. The rest would be the play room. Is the white bookshelf bin thing too big for the room? If you removed it you could put the play kitchen and tool bench in its place.
I found this post fascinating. For some reason it has inspired me to take a fresh look at problem areas in my own house. Thanks for sharing your headaches with us!

ha you are welcome. the shelves – do you mean the cubbies? those are all their favorite toys. can’t remove them but i’m open to all ideas. xx


Mural all the way! Murals require guts and you have them. I also think that the window area is begging for comfy chairs or a reading nook. Maybe that’s where you throw the beanbags in or have some big reading chairs. It can be for you to read alone by the window while they are playing or for them to use now or later for some quieter play/reading. I also like the idea of that area being a stage with some curtains where that awkward wall transition is. The wall opposite from the mural should just be some fun posters or framed photos. You have that big storage area which doesn’t leave a lot of space for much else. but because of the mural, the room doesn’t need much else. Blue rug and you are in business with the rest staying as is. good luck!

steph z

I totally agree! I’d l;ove to see a couple of chairs and a table between in front of the windows for and adult hang out area… or even a custom made sofa that fits the bay windows like cup of jo had made.


As a grandma who loves to spend time with small grandkids, I vote for adult seating too. We can only spend so much time playing on knees. Just saying….

yah, maybe i reconfigure and make kids area in the center and adult at the other end. i like this idea.


Yes, mural!! Just NOT that one.


I just really want to talk about that gorgeous dollhouse! Be still my 8 year old soul!


Yes to the mural! But put it on the right side, where the TV used to be. That way you don’t have to see it all the time from the entry, kitchen, etc. It’ll be like a secret, with no one realizing it’s there until they turn the corner into the play room.


YESSSSSSSSSS to this! Best of both worlds. (Ships? Lol.)


Agree on this


I second this idea!

but I want to see it!! i love it. but interesting idea …


What about making the area in front of windows and behind the change in the ceiling/wall a little stage? A place for kids to put on magic shows – dances – singing competitions?

Also agree with the earlier commenter that a “grown up” chair would be nice for both the adults and the kids wanting a cozy place to sit. Eventually they’ll sit still and read use an iPad (for purely educational reasons, of course!)


That spot feels perfect for a baby grand too – maybe a super small navy lacquer one so there is room for performances!

ha. that would be amazing. the space is so much smaller and i really want our kids to be able to play freely and with space but i love that thought.


I seriously love your honesty and am a die-hard fan of your style. Your openness is brilliant and it makes being a regular home owner who doesn’t create content for her job feel normal. But don’t get me wrong – I love watching you save the day on a room and seeing your perfectionism/professionalism win because I love me a jaw-dropping reveal! Now I’m rambling, back to your question of the room. That mural is killer & definitely go for it. My only concern is that it is busy and kids and their toys are busy. I think it might make such a narrow room feel a little frenetic. But if anyone can pull it off its you. And believe me, hit or miss on this room, I will keep following you, liking your posts and copying your style because you are refreshingly real and ridiculously talented. Carry on Emily Henderson!!!!

thank you 🙂 but i don’t think its busy! its graphic and large scale in a soft navy and white … its bold, but not busy (if that makes sense)


The mural sounds cool!

I’d make that front nook the art space and then do a very large double reading chair in the big space. Ha! That space reminds me of our playroom/office only yours is bigger:)


Where did you find the cubby?

it’s from pottery barn kids and we just linked it in the post xx


I love that you have that space as a play space! Love that E can “do art” whenever she wants, C has a place for cars and crashing.
It will change! I thought we would live with our little red art table forever but now they are just too big. (I moved it to the attic to save for grandkids.) Now we have the music stand up and the trumpet is out most of the time to play when the spirit moves my 5th grader, which happens to be just when I need to walk the dog! The guitar is on the stand, and the keyboard gets lots of attention. It’s not pretty, but it’s life and it’s noisy and messy and fun!

Boys are 10, 10 and 12 and this too shall pass…

Go for the mural! You can always change it.

ha. thank you. and i chant ‘ this too shall pass’ all the time 🙂 except i don’t want them to actually age. xx


I really like the ship mural. Do you have a link for where you got it? I understand about the likes on Instagram. Your not alone in your feelings.


It is from Rebel Walls, they call it ‘High Seas in Henderson Blue’ after Emily!

ha. thanks guys. I thought we linked it up, but glad you are taking care of each other. xx


What happened to that amazing sofa?

ugh. its in brian’s office. I LOVE IT. so I’m hoarding until i’m sure about my decision.


Maybe I need to stand in the space to understand but I’m tempted to put toy storage on that short wall directly opposite the windows. Yes, you’ll probably get half of the toys on that wall; it’s not a bad thing. That would open up the rest of the space for playing. Maybe you need a window seat? A place for adults to spend time in the space? Or the little people to read a book? Or, like I said, maybe I need to stand the space to understand.


I second that. IMHO kids need floor space to play and that wpuld open the room. I would say go for the mural but on the wall that had the TV before. I think it would be too busy if it is visible from all the other rooms.

we thought about that, but then that space would be open to the entrance and I can’t handle visual entrance clutter. It’s a thing. And we want to put a built-in seat but the windows would have to totally replaced as they are falling out and unsafe to lean against and all that can be done but I want to make sure its the perfect thing to do before we spend like $15k to do that. Ideally it would be a round table in that window… but with kids!


You say “let’s get weird”. In re mural, go for it! See what happens.


A mural is fine but not a fan of the two ships in battle. I can see a curtain in the arch to create a playhouse area as well as facilitate performances.


I know you will come up with something really cool for this room! I love the mural idea. I wonder if built ins on the opposite wall would be nice? They can transition from toy storage to more of a library/homework/art room when the kids get older. I love how honest you are about tricky spaces. I have a very long narrow living room that is so difficult to decorate. I change it all the time because I never feel like I have it right!

narrow rooms are the worst. they make function difficult and aesthetics even more challenging. NARROW ROOMS CAN GO TO HECK.


Please use the mural. It is beautiful artwork in its own right, but I just imagine it as a jumping off point for kids play. Looking at it as a child, I think of Peter Pan and Hook and Pirates of the Carribean and can just see the kids using it as a backdrop to play battles and rescue scenes. As an adult, I see it as beautiful art, but also moody and romantic and dramatic. While I don’t have a room I could use this in my house, it makes me want to have a room that for kids could be a playroom, but as they grow older, could turn into a lovely library nook, with two chairs in the windows and a wall of bookshelves across from the mural and a lovely bar under the mural.


Agree!! Well said.

Lisa Hamel

First, the room is pretty and organized as-is. I am sure the kids love playing in there. Second, it sucks that social media is so pervasive in your work, and now home, life. I wish it mattered less. Third, you’re bloody brilliant. You love a mural, the kids will love having their names included, it will tie in beautifully with the blues in the rug and curtains, and the company went out of their way to please you. I say go for it! I am not sure how to style it, but I have some suggestions about function. I would recommend adding adult-friendly seating where you currently have the bean-chair and dedicated book storage, perhaps front-facing bookshelves at kid height on the mural wall? The end by the bay Windows seems crowded, I am guessing because you don’t want to see the toys from the doorway. However, I think that would be a lovely spot for the art table. Do the kids use the tiny armchairs? If not, I would move them out. Finally, the dollhouse looks like it was shoved in top of the cubby to be out of the kids’ reach. Can you find a way to make… Read more »

Sherrie S

It’s tricky because it’s a 100 year old house and that room is meant to be a dining room – with a long rectangular or oval table and 2 beautiful chairs in the window. I used my living room as a playroom way back when – mostly because we had no money to furnish it anyway – but kiddos rarely played in it……they grow so very fast and whatever you do in playroom needs to be updated for their age every 2 years – keep that in mind when designing and determining how much you want to spend. In a few years – when Charlie reads on his own – he’s gonna want a couch to read on……


so true! i have a 7 year old and a 1 year old and I’m remembering how all the phases of toddlerhood seemed like they’d last forever but now they seem like vapor! And the younger one just wants to keep up with the older one so they go even faster the second time through! I am liking the idea of putting the mural on the inside wall so it’s not all you see from the rest of the house. Grasscloth and cool art on the other walls. The stage idea would be a huge hit with my kiddos, bonus if they can pull the curtains across that bay area and create a cubby to cuddle/hide in. Fill it with floor pillows. Also love the idea of creating a reading nook at the ‘open’ end of the room with a cozy armchair, side table and lamp. would look great from the other lines of sight, be handy for adults hanging out in the room and be a nice reading spot. however – you’ll make it amazing i’m sure – but it’s really cute and seems very functional as is and they will need something different in just a couple of… Read more »


If it was my house, I would have turned the room into an office/library. With a desk in front of the window and bookshelves and a little seating area in the rest of the space. But, I don’t have kids, so if you’re wanting to keep it as a play room, I say leave it the way it is. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. And it seems to be working for your kids.


I love the murals you’ve used, so I say go for it.

Interestingly enough BEFORE you showed us the mural, I kept thinking the window area beyond the awkward architectural beam, reminds me of a captain’s cabin, you know, the one in the back of the ship with all the windows? Kismet!

What about putting up a curtain under that awkward beam so the kids can put on shows in the “captain’s cabin” area?


For what it’s worth, I think the mural would look incredible and really ground the space. The room can handle something graphic because it’s so open to the other neutral spaces. Also, I would have LOVED having a pirate ship with my name on it in my playroom as a kid!!

Also, it’s nice to see your internal conflict. Thanks for being real – that’s why we love you.


Can you tell me more about the memory foam under the rug?


I’m also wanting to know about the foam under the rug : )

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