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Styling To Sell: The Playroom/Family Room And The 4 Lessons I Learned Along The Way…

Today is full of good lessons, but listen, there is no way to learn and grow without making mistakes, and sometimes they are unavoidable ANYWAY. But first, let’s walk you back from the beginning. When we first bought the house this room was considered a bedroom, even though it didn’t have a door. When we renovated we reconfigured that area to make a better laundry room, powder bath, and decided that this room should be either a family room, TV room, or playroom (all three?).

It’s simple and cute and was covered in ivy so you couldn’t even see out, but that sweet little architecture was nice, if not awkward to design around. It’s narrow, which is harder to design, as I’ve written about here, but doable.

It’s been through a lot of iterations because its purpose kept changing.


At first, we wanted it to be a cozy TV room so we painted it dark blue. I had a 1 and 3-year-old and no TV room, so we thought this could kinda be 1/2 playroom, 1/2 TV room and I love a dark TV room (Sara’s is a much better example).

photo by tessa neustadt | from: family room update (and a lot of changes)


While I love this blue (I think Stiffkey by Farrow & Ball), it was a mistake because it was too open to the rest of the house and cut off the flow making the house feel chopped up and small. Whoops.

photo by tessa neustadt | from: family room update (and a lot of changes)

We took a shot of it because that’s what we do, but it never really worked. Here’s where it got weird.

At one point we needed it to function as a guest room AND tv room and playroom and we had these curtains leftover so we hung them over the entrance for privacy and coziness.

LESSON #3: Don’t let desperation lead the design process

I’m pretty sure desperation should never guide any long term decisions (marriage, career, house buying) but it often does because we are human beings. That curtain created privacy and coziness (the TV was behind the curtain) but it was also TOTALLY WEIRD. Admittedly while you were inside of it, watching TV with the curtains “closed” it did feel really cozy. But from the back (the entrance) you just saw liner for a long wall.

I chalk this up to having two small kids and making weird decisions to make my life easier. This was before we got the projector screen in the living room and a TV in our bedroom, solving both of our problems. We wanted a cozy place to watch TV when really what we needed was a playroom for our then 2 and 4-year-old. It’s open to the kitchen and is the perfect place for then to play. Meanwhile, the living room became our big TV room (projector not annoying at all), and adding the TV into our bedroom satisfied my “cozy nights without Brian” problem (he was gone a lot at nights doing rehearsals and performances). So after about 2 months or so of this weird “curtain theater room” we put in the projector, gave that sofa to this feel good flash makeover (the rug is now in the basement), gave my best friend the curtains and I started over.

Once this didn’t need to be “The TV Room” I was able to focus it on what we really needed with two small kids, like I said, a playroom.

So I started transforming it slowly… Stage One.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: our play room – an update + a tv choice

Stage one we kept the window curtains, rug, and added all the storage. As any parent knows when kids are super young (toddler age) they need space and cubbies (not closed storage because they strangely forget that they’re there). So this didn’t look AWESOME but sure, they played in it.

But then I remembered that I’m a literal interior designer and should try to make a space look “good”. So the answer was a custom ship mural, obviously. We needed something to “anchor” the space (going on the road with that one) and pull you in there, without being super loud or a big busy pattern. I LOVE IT.

photo by veronica crawford | from: our la playroom update with solutions that work for us + another diy fail

I also switched out the ceiling fixture, the sconces to match the rest of the house and rearranged the room to create an almost pre-school like separation of the space. Now, while this isn’t visually the most amazing space it worked at the time. The architecture of the space really lent itself to that separation, they each got a side with four cubbies and they would sit in there for hours and play legos. I think kids feel really safe when they have a contained space and it really allowed them to focus on one thing/activity at a time.

photo by veronica crawford | from: our la playroom update with solutions that work for us + another diy fail

The other side of the room was a bench full of art supplies, that vintage mirror (that is now in the kitchen) a play table big enough for me to sit with them, and a big round rug (no longer available) that really opened up the space (and held up strangely well until the pups really claimed it on our one and only trip to LA with them).


This room was a very controversial space to style to sell. We had to ask the same things we ask ourselves every single day. What is its purpose? Who are we trying to sell to? How should it be styled to appeal to most of the people without having to totally redo it and spend a bunch of money???

So, at first, I styled it like a playroom but more paired back, letting in more light and making it feel bigger and brighter.

I gave away the cubbies with the rubber band peg wall on the back to an Insider Member (via our Garage Sale topic) and just had one bookshelf that I had been hoarding forever from Target (so cute – going to Portland with us). I liked how it looked but I also feared that I had lost all objectivity of this room.

So I enlisted opinions: A friend came over and said, “This looks dismal” which I thought was a bit harsh, but I appreciated the honesty. My stylist friend Scott said, “Wow, you are really appealing to like, just moms with small kids.” And finally my realtor Howard said, “Listen, we’ve got the ‘mom’ demographic already what with the two very styled out kids bedrooms and the PLAY CASTLE and swings – so let’s make this more of a grown-up room”.


While I felt that this home would be bought by a family I also had to face the fact that it might NOT and by styling it too “kid” we were reducing our chances of a DINK buyer (double income no kid – my favorite acronym I learned this year). Fine. I’d redo it to make it more of a room that could be either a family room, den, older kids’ homework area, office, breakfast nook, or yes – a TV ROOM.

Sofa | Wall Mural | Cream Lumbar Pillow

There you go. And I think for staging purposes it’s pretty cute. I didn’t have an extra small scale sofa on hand, but I reached out to Article and they lent me one for the month (THANK YOU). I will say that the proportions of this sofa are very comfortable (seat depth, height, arm height – comfortable and ergonomic) and it comes in many different configurations and colors. It is a good one and very popular for a reason. Sara has it in Pacific Blue in her TV room:)

I bought that IKEA round pedestal table (but wish it were antique pedestal instead) and pulled everything else from storage. Again, it helps to be a hoarder.

The rug was originally in Birdie’s room but we just left a sheepskin up there and brought this one down here. I’ve had that antique store drawer piece forever, but the lamp – OH THAT LAMP – is amazing because it is all fabric so it’s lit from the base through the shade. It’s from Human Home and we bought it for my friend’s makeover (coming soon!), then I stole it for myself once I saw it.

Table | Cabinet | Planter

I added some vintage Paul McCobb chairs that I’ll hoard forever, and we swapped the cute house bookshelf that was here with the simpler one that was in Elliot’s room.

I feel like no photos can do this room justice. When I was sitting there writing the blog I was like “this is a special little spot,” but for whatever reason it doesn’t pop on camera. I think that it needs more visual weight at that end of the room – like a wood table or a wood or maybe colorful bookshelf. But I used what I had on hand besides the table and it totally works and I knew that adding a “heavier'” table could also make it look smaller so I erred on the side of “simple, light and open.”

The other side of the room opens to the kitchen and I finally found a place to hang that amazing painting by Colin Scott Glasgow that was homeless until that day.

Flushmount | Cacti Art | Round Rug | Sheepskin | Pouf | Graphic Painting

The goal was for us to show people that you can have this little den/tv room if they wanted one, not just a playroom. But either way, it’s open to the kitchen and dining room which is indeed a big plus.

There you go. Our playroom turned family room, with a few lessons learned along the way. With more time and money I could have dialed this in more to make it more portfolio worthy, but at a certain point I had to let my perfectionism go to make way for “sleep” and “feeling sane.” 🙂

In case you missed any of the other reveals so far check them out: The Living Room | The Kid’s Shared Bedroom | The Basement Guestroom/Office | Basement BathroomElliot’s Room | Kitchen and Dining Room | The Entry | The Front Yard

**Final Reveal Photos by Sara Ligorria-Tramp


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73 thoughts on “Styling To Sell: The Playroom/Family Room And The 4 Lessons I Learned Along The Way…

  1. I think the green sofa is brilliant. It creates a color connection from the front garden to the island. I might try a printed drape for visual weight on that side of the room.

  2. I love these Styling to Sell posts! I mean, obvs this is YOUR LIFE (to design/create/improve the visual), but it just also makes me chuckle because I think for most folks, “getting your house ready to sell” means “put away your crap”! (I also imagine a higher price-point house requires more magic as those buyers expect – and are paying for – more.)

  3. Hi, I had not seen the way this room connects to the rest of the house before. Wondering what the advantage (or big plus) of having the room open to the living and kitchen is? We just bought a 1900s farmhouse pre-covid and were going to open up the floorplan, but are now rethinking as we really like having rooms and it gives the house more flexibility. It seems like the old layout would have lent this to being a really beautiful home office/library. And do you get kitchen smells in there? Curious if covid has changed your opinion on open floor plans at all? Especially in non-MCM homes?

    1. Yes, beyond those very youngest years, who wants to be fully involved in every kid show/argument/video game all the time? I honestly want a little peace while I’m cooking dinner! Homes with open concept better have enough space for a separate area for noise/smell/mess containment during those teen years!

    2. I have a house that isn’t open floor plan, but there are pocket doors between the living room and dining/kitchen, and man, it is GREAT to be able to close myself off when I’m cooking or using the dining room to work or study. I think that open floor plans are super overrated and also, it kind of depends on your architecture. MCM, sure, keep that open floor plan. But 1900 farmhouse? Keep those rooms and authenticity with your architecture!

      1. That’s where we’ve landed, but the pressure from contractors and architects we consulted to open it up was nuts. Maybe they just see more $ that way? Because seeing this room, just makes me want the wall back as in the “before” photo. And bc of covid we ended up moving in after a mini-reno (kitchen and baths will have to wait) and LOVE the way the house was originally designed after living in it. I wonder if Emily would do the same layout changes if she had lived in the house first? It’s a cliche, I know, but I totally believe it after experiencing it firsthand. It seems like the interior design struggles she’s had at the house might be bc the layout changes threw the house “off” in a way? The thing about buying a really old home is people had the $ and tradesmen to do things right and you get to benefit from that. (Like in our house, we rarely need AC in SoCal, bc the house is set on the perfect spot on our street with the windows designed to get a cross-breeze). You don’t always know what you are losing when you rip apart a well thought out home that has stood the test of time.

        1. We didn’t just open it up to open it up – the “hallway” that once housed the fridge, washer/dryer and a funny little bathroom had to be reconfigured to make the kitchen bigger and create a powder room that you could access without going through the kitchen. I’ve loved having it open with small kids for sure! I think this ‘kitchen smell’ discussion is funny as I always think that is a good thing! 🙂

          1. People have different preferences for sure and glad it worked for your family (although your blog post seems to say it really didn’t?), but also sad for a 1920s house to be stripped of so much character and original style when LA has so many houses better suited to open living. I can still picture the most beautiful study in the original space. But maybe the new buyers will do something different!

            I think the kitchen smell thing is for people who cook a lot and cook pungent meals (as we do at my house). I love garlic and spices, but not in the fabric of my sofa.

    3. I have an 1890s mill house and I love having separate rooms. The rooms are cozier and you can get away from others if you so choose.

    4. I used to be on board with keeping rooms separate, but since COVID, I have been spending way more time in the kitchen (I like to cook and now I don’t have a commute majorly limiting the amount of time I can spend on dinner!) We are actually opening up our kitchen to the dining/living room after 8 years of living with it closed off. It has been good for hiding dirty dishes when we host Thanksgiving, but 90% of the time I wish it were more open to the rest of the house where my family is hanging out.

      Slightly different situation since it’s my kitchen that’s closed off, not a living space, but living in a small space with a small kitchen, I now really wish it was more open.

      1. @Jeannie funny we are having the opposite discussion due to COVID. Our rarely-used dining room (used a handful of times per year pre-COVID and not at all since February of this year) is open to the entryway and therefore to the stairwell & the rest of the house. My husband is using it as his home office and would really like the option to close some doors during the day for noise/access control. It would be ideal if it was closed off with glass French doors, but it has substantial trim and a transom window above the cased opening, so it would be a big project to do, we couldn’t just put in a French door package without significant modifications. I think we’d have to do sidelights or something so the transom wouldn’t look weird (it’s a nice detail we wouldn’t want to lose) and I can just see it running $10k. Ugh.

  4. I love the room as a sitting area minus the mural. Those windows are beautiful. Loved it as a playroom. You are so honest and refreshing about your choices and how they affect you.

    1. ah, thanks. And listen the mural would only cost $400 to remove (maybe less, that is usually for a full room) so its easy to get remove 🙂

  5. The color of the couch is very interesting, and not super EHD, but I like it a lot. Solid borrow.

    Great use of the space. I would love that little nook with my morning clicking and coffee.

    Our friends are a bunch of DINK’s. Happy to know that little diddy. 🙂

  6. i think this looks amazing! i loved it as that final playroom, but this is super good too! i love that the color of the couch ties in with the color of your kitchen island, or at least it does in that shot where you can see both. i so wish i had space for more hoarding! also, where is that dome-top floor lamp next to the sofa from? love it!

  7. Only a true friend could say one of your rooms looks dismal. That’s a strong phrase! It looks really great this way. Love the mural color alongside the green sofa.

  8. I’m not in real estate so take this with a grain of salt but if you live in a calm, suburban area near a “good” school district, and have three or more bedrooms, isn’t it pretty logical that a family with kids wants to buy your house? Not necessarily kids as young as yours, but I still don’t see why you shouldn’t play up the family living appeal of your house. We bought the ultimate family home a few months ago (a pool! With a basketball hoop! A tree house!) and every single person who bid on this house was a family with young kids. It was very competitive and the sellers got a great offer.

  9. I love how this ended up! I think that window nook area is just crying out to be a place to sit, so I like having the table down there. I think if it were my home I would set this room up as an office with a library vibe, and I would put a cozy arm chair near the windows to make that end of the room a reading nook.

    I loved that photo of the green couch looking towards the kitchen where you can see how the couch ties into the green of the island!

    1. I was also thinking office! With lots of people working from home and kids having distance learning I think that would really appeal to a buyer to have that dedicated space!

      1. I really wanted to make it more of an office/library, too. If I had had enough furniture to style it out that way I would have. I pretty desk facing the windows with shelves? Could be so pretty. We have thought about adding french doors into it, too if we wanted to later turn it into an office or a closed off den. totally possible.

  10. It looks good. I like seeing various versions of the room. I see the point of cleaning up and removing excess. However, as a buyer I know what I want, how many rooms, and what functionality they need to have. I won’t be living with seller’s furniture. I can make my own decisions what each room will be. My furniture will go in, as well as my decor. Seeing seller’s furniture only matters so that it is easier to visualize the scale and size of the rooms.

  11. The curtain wall/tv cover era! Feels like a fever dream <3

    Honestly except for the curtain wall, each iteration of this room appealed to me. I love its quirks and the little kernel of *other options* it brings.

  12. I really like the space as an adult den/ tv room…i can totally see myself spending lots of hours in that room working and relaxing. Great job.

  13. Geez, this is STUNNING, also inspiring. You know a room is done just right when it makes you want to go putter and fix a room of your own. I love every piece of it. And I terribly want a green couch *all the heart eye emojis*

  14. Love the area with the couch (couch mural and cabinet are perfect!) but surprised you didn’t make it a home office (esp now with everyone working from home). Would be so great with a beautiful desk in front of the windows.

    1. I always wanted her to turn this room into a library and put a big Regency-era desk in front of the windows.

  15. I have the full size version of this Article sofa in green and LOVE it. Currently looking for a cream pillow to put in the brown chair opposite of it & would love to know where the cream pillow on the couch in the photos is from?

  16. I’ve watched lots of the British show, Escape to the Country, and they would call this room a Snug. Those windows. I love those windows. I would have used it just as you have it now and have lots of time sitting there in that beautiful light working or reading. Nicely done!

    1. It is totally a snug Kelly. Spot on as the Brits say. I’m a fan of Escape to the County too.

      I always thought that a desk or small table and chairs was what the bay window needed. I like how you tied in the green from the kitchen to this room too.

  17. These styled to sell posts are so fun! I love all of the green and white in this latest iteration- it looks so calm and inviting!

  18. This is fantastic. As a DINK in a pandemic, I would definitely fantasize about putting a nice ergonomic desk setup where the table is and looking out those big windows while I’m stuck working at home… And then in reality I would lie on the couch in my yoga pants and work from there 😉

    1. (But for real, all of the iterations look good in their own way! Sure, you’re a “literal interior designer” and all, but every iteration looks better than… probably all of the homes I’ve ever visited. You have a good eye, even when something isn’t “perfect”)

  19. Oh! That green sofa connecting to the seret front yard and the kitchen island equals design jnterconnectedness supreme!
    The table and chairs make it work so well too. I can imagine working there.

    I even don’t mind the battleship fighting mural now (remember al, the fuss and comments about it veing a war mural?! Ha!).

    It was a great playroom and now a great den! Just shows how versatile the room is. The only version I didn’t like much was with the curtains… weird can ve fun, byt that was just plain weird!

    Grrreat lickety split job of using what you had and mak8ngthe room sing!
    I was hanging out to see what you did with this room for staging to sell.

    Cracked me up that you only just learned the DINK acronym!!
    Thatsbeen around for….well, forever! 😂

      1. Rusty, thanks for saying this re the DINK acronym. I’ve always known I was older than the typical EHD reader but that comment solidified it for me!

  20. “this is dismal” lololol! i like all the iterations of this room, especially the preschool separate spaces and the final one.

  21. I love how you pulled this together. I loved it styled as a playroom, too, but I think I’ll forever be attracted to that phase of parenting, even though I have a teenager now. The table and chairs in the bay window seems like a wonderful place to sit and have coffee or for playing games. And I’m totally coveting the Paul McCobb chairs! The Sven Article sofa is definitely a favorite, I’ve seen it in more than just Sara’s TV room on the blog. Clearly a winner. I know where to look when I’m ready for a new sofa.

  22. This room has always been my favorite in your whole house! I love the window with ivy and how it has the little offset area in front of the window. I always thought it would be a beautiful dining room or library/office combo. Such a great room!

    1. Sorry! Somehow I accidentally posted twice! Technology challenged 🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️

  23. This room has always been my favorite room in your whole house! I love the shape of it and the window with the ivy. I always thought it would be great as a more formal dining room or a library/office combo. Such a great room!

  24. I have always loved this little room! If I were to buy this home I would make this my office! The little window nook would be the sweetest spot for a floating desk and I love a comfy couch/chair in my office. I read/research a lot for my job and it’s nice to be able to step away from your laptop/desk for focused reading/review.

  25. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the fact that you’re always open about finding rooms to be tricky and about how you’re still not always totally satisfied with them.

    In following home design blogs it has bothered me over the years how the writers will wax poetic about how wonderful a room/products are, then two years later say it never really worked for them. Many times I’m following them for ideas and advice, so I’d much prefer honesty than false claims of perfection!

  26. This would be a great library/office! Could a buyer create a perpendicular wall with a door at the end of the “TV wall,” and make the space into a closet beyond? maybe you could sketch that out, since many buyers aren’t as creative at imagining what something could be.

  27. I thought that was a custom mural that had your children’s initials incorporated? Seems like something you’d remove to sell?

  28. Catching up and truly love all the iterations, mostly because it feels like most people design over time and try things. I laughed that DINK just came into your lexicon. Like so many things from the 80s that are new again. Apparently Yuppie (Young Urban Professional) is remaining in the past. My new favorite is CATS – Curious Ambitious Thirty Somethings. Back to the room – was a teeny bit surprised you didn’t create the home office there. It’s a lovely window for a desk view and DINKs don’t need seclusion to work – except perhaps from each other or to stop working at the end of the day. Anyway – it looks great. Hope the buyer can find a way to work with the mural – its eye catching in all the best ways.

  29. As a “dink” myself, I totally appreciate this moving away from playroom to another use. Too many play spaces at a house just scream “you don’t have enough room and way too many things”. Given the era we’re in the only change I could have add was more of a home office rather than another lounge space. I know you included one in the basement bedroom, but not that many people want to go down to the lower levels and having a dedicated room as a home office/den that you can keep messy and don’t have to tidy for guests is a dream, actually.

  30. Preface – I really enjoy and like the decorating style on this blog. BUT – With this room, I have always wondered about the wall mural and never seen anyone comment on it. It’s a mural of a battle at sea – ships with canons shooting at each other. It doesn’t seem like a children’s playroom theme – it’s rather scary. I would not like to look at that or explain it to children. (Yes – the sailors/navy marines/pirates are trying to sink each others ships and drown their opponents, possibly steal their shipments/plunder….) Has no one else questioned this? Emily – what were you thinking?

    1. ‘We’ all had a quite robust debateabout exactly that with regard to it being a war mural, vack when it was first put up.

  31. I would think that a room with so much light would have been styled as an office or playroom. I would never have painted it a dark color. I adore the light coming in. I am an artist and would use it for my studio.

  32. What a beauty that couch is !!!! Love the space, some lucky buyer will get a gorgeous home – soon i bet!!! Oh that gray “bumpy” vase that is on the bookcase – any source on that?? Thanks

  33. Did you style any room In the house as a home office? In this WFH time, it feels like options for a home office might be the “grown up” space that draws more buyers and this room feels like it could present well in that way.

  34. I love the round table and chairs in front of the bay window. I always thought that window needed something curvy in front of it. I also love the mural on its own, and even more with the green sofa in front of the blue and white mural. It’s a pretty room.

  35. The room is gorgeous-light, airy and inviting with enough warmth from the wood side table, chairs, gold light fixtures and various textures. I recently inherited a vintage green velvet Henredon sofa and love how it fills the LR with a touch of elegance and a nod to nature. Thanks for all the decorating tips! Good luck with the move!

  36. I’ve been struggling to decide paint colors in an open-ish layout like yours (a smaller old house with defined rooms, but wide openings between them). This note about the dark blue making the space feel chopped up and smaller clarifies ones of the doubts I’ve had, but haven’t been able to put into words. You went with the same color across the first floor, right? With the exception of the powder room? Is that the best way to go? I would love a post on wall color and flow between rooms. I know I’ve seen houses like on Old Brand New or Wit and Delight where they go bolder with color, so I’m sure there’s a way to do it, but I’m kinda stuck.

  37. This might have already been suggested, but I keep thinking this room would make a wonderful library/home office. A desk in the area by the window and maybe keep an overstuffed chair and you could still add a TV. I think it could feel private at the far end, but still be open enough to the rest of the house to feel a part of it. In these pandemic times, a quiet place for working from home or homeschooling would be great!

  38. I’ve always liked a vibrant color sofa/sectional and have had blue, red and deep teal in the past 20 years. Now your green couch is speaking to me for my next place. Thanks for the inspiration! I’m going to add it to my Pintrest board.

  39. I love this version of the room. It’s perfect, I think the staged to sell playroom was super cute, too. My kids are teenagers/ young adults and this space would be the perfect spot for them to hang out after school with or without friends, or having their Zoom classes on the table in the front.

  40. I love seeing all these fun options! I also love that you let go of the need to make it “portfolio worthy” and just let it be. It still looks amazing to me! And besides, the idea of letting go of perfectionism is refreshing for people in the OINK category (one income, nine kids) Ok, I only have four, but it feels like nine sometimes. 🙂

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