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Our LA Playroom Update With Solutions That Work For Us + Another DIY Fail

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There is no room that I apologize for more than this one. And while I know we are all done apologizing, I physically can’t help it because I’m TRULY regretful that I can’t seem to figure this one out. When new people walk in I immediately distract them to the left, into the living room with a ‘nothing to see over there!’ vibe. It’s gotten better, thank god so today you are going to see where we are at now, and how I’m stuck and another epic DIY fail.

When I started this playroom, the kids were 2 and 4. They are now 3 1/2 and 5 1/2 and if I don’t start speeding this up I will have two tweens no longer interested in playing ‘horsies’ or ‘inventor’. But I was distracted by the mountain house and at such a loss of what to do here that I just couldn’t.

Here’s where we started:

BEFORE:

When we bought the house, it looked like the above photo. Sure, easy enough. It would be the playroom, er, TV room, er both…

But I’d make it cozy…paint it really dark, not realizing that it would chop up the house so much and make it feel so much smaller.

That was makeshift, obviously, with leftover furniture, not actually designed, but you get the idea.

So we painted it light and got a sofa that was better scale for the space, but it was still a TV room with some toy storage in the back. (The sofa now lives in the apartment of our last Feel Good Flash Makeover.

But then we realized that the kids really needed a playroom, a space just for them. We nixed the sofa and TV and brought in a bunch of toy storage.

We made the same mistake that a lot of new parents make—too many toys, not enough that they actually play with or engage with for a long time. Bins of balls, action heroes and garbage that they pull out all day every day but they don’t really engage with. They liked the play kitchen, but the rest was mostly for other kids to be enamored with, not them. As much as I begged them to play dollhouse with me, they weren’t old enough. Even that adorable workbench that we got for them for Christmas sat totally untouched unless we did it with them. What they love are two things: arts and crafts and building things (think Legos).

2x2 Grid 2500 Pixels Horizontal Copy

THE CHALLENGES:

It’s a long skinny room that needs to function as the playroom (for now) but you see it IMMEDIATELY when you walk in. I actually wanted to put in some glass doors and somehow figure out how to decrease its importance and give it its own space (because someday it would be a great home office) but Brian wasn’t on board as he thought it would break up the space too much and make it feel smaller (it would).

It has an architectural break in the wall, almost creating two different spaces, but it’s awkward.

You can see it from many rooms on the first floor so it can’t scream TOYS and instead, should look pulled together. You know, as if an actual designer lives here, but I still want it to be playful and fun, you know, as if it’s an actual playroom.

Additionally, the lighting felt too big. It doesn’t look like it in the photos, but I just wanted to simplify it a bit.

After trying a million different layouts, I drew inspiration from, well, our preschool and had the idea that maybe where the wall juts out should be its own “room,” with cubby dividers creating walls and a sense of privacy for them. Not because they need privacy, but because creating zones seems like what little kids like, and areas where they can imagine and play felt right for their age. I was right and this was a huge hit with them.

Playroom Update Lores 1

The good news:

MURAL: I love that mural so much. I ordered it from Rebel Walls and you can size it exactly to your wall so it fits perfectly. And yes, we put it over the plaster wall because we didn’t want to skim coat over the original pretty plaster as we knew that someday we would likely remove it and then we’d have one flat wall. We customized the color to be a nice muted navy blue and white. It’s graphic yet exciting, as it’s not too busy and it’s playful in an old-world way (matching our 100-year-old English Tudor).

LIGHTING: I switched out the lighting so that the sconces matched the living room (we stole two from the living room over the bookshelves and instead put in horizontal art lights—I’ll show you soon). They project less into the room but still provide nice lighting (the house has no can lighting and we didn’t put any in except for in the kitchen and bathrooms during the remodel). We switched out the ceiling fixture to be glass (from Rejuvenation) so it took up less visual space. It is raw brass so it will age really nicely. I love them both.

RUG: The round rug really helps that space feel brighter and more playful. Obviously a round white rug in a playroom seems a bit nuts, so I bought an inexpensive one in hopes that if it only lasts for a couple of years, I’m at least not wasting too much money. The other options we considered are a darker round rug (which might have been a better choice long-term) or using Flor tiles. But out of desperation on a Saturday morning, I pressed “purchase” and you know what? It’s been TWO months and it still looks this white. It’s cheap, 100% polyester or rayon and for some reason, maybe that it’s such a high pile, it hasn’t stained at all. I came up with a genius rule that there are not paints in the craft room, which they don’t miss (remember we can play/paint year-round outside in LA) so it’s actually GREAT.

Playroom Update Lores 6

ART TABLE: I bought the table a year ago and put on the taller legs that came with it so it’s a great height for them (and us) to sit at. I used Target stools that come with a different table that was too small, but we had leftover from another project. I wish they sold them on their own. Elliot sits here for HOURS a day. She spends more time drawing than I ever knew a child could. It’s amazing.

Playroom Update Lores 5

BOOKCASES: I used that architectural break to divide the room with bookcases. They each take a side. On Charlie’s, he has his Legos (the kid is SUPER into Legos, guys) and he displays them on the top shelf. Birdie has a ton of beads, treasure boxes, princess crowns and horses. I already had these Pillowfort bookcases/cubbies from Target that were functional and great but the back of them had a wood/white detail that was too busy to be seen from the back.

So here were our options:

  1. Make it look more “built-in” and cover it with with the same white as the molding and even add trim pieces like a baseboard and a trim piece against the wall to make it look “built-in.” That is a lot of work though for two pieces of furniture that are definitely NOT built-in.
  2. Make the back of the shelves functional (as in create some sort of feature for them).

The Pottery Barn shelving (from the “befores”) is now upstairs in their room (not all of it—some is in storage).

After thinking about it for a while, we realized that we would be spending way too much time/money trying to make a piece of furniture look built-in. If it were something we could do ourselves (Brian and I), that would be different but paying someone (our handy PA, Shade) to do it could take hours and add up to hundreds.

So instead, we had this idea that we would put a pegboard on the back that could be a few different interactive things, such as:

Rubberband art:

Rubber Band Marble Run
images: left via instructables | right via kara paslay designs

Marble run or tubes that you snake around the pegs:

Tube Marble Run
images: left via frugal fun 4 boys | right via frugal fun 4 boys

You can use cardboard tubes like they did on the left, or really bendable tubes, or PVC pipes like they did on the right.

We do need more art storage for more maker supplies so we also thought that one of them could be styled out more like this:

Kids Craft Wall How To Home Inspiration Cupofjo
image via cup of jo

This is where it all started going/rolling downhill.

Because we are perfectionists, we felt that we couldn’t use something readymade. WE don’t just buy pegboard, no, and certainly not a system from IKEA that would, well, create the most perfect and functional art wall. NO, we have far too much time and money to waste to do a simple solution!

Instead, Shade would buy some plywood, cut it perfectly to size and drill each hole INDIVIDUALLY, then attach it to the back of the shelves (after bolting them together).  Sounds easy, but this did, of course, take time and time is money. I think he spent a day and a half on it, which is about $350 in labor (not including materials). We ordered some marble run stuff and attached the pegs to them so they could move it around and create their own creation.

The problem is by customizing our own holes, it fits no art system because they aren’t spaced apart in a standard way.

I’ll remind you what it looks like:

Playroom Update Lores 1

We found these raw wood marble run pieces and glued pegs into them, with the hope that they can be rearranged on the peg wall and be an interactive game that our kids will spend hours quietly playing with.

The kids came home that first day, got excited then realized that they are VERY hard to take in and out and went back to Legos and art. Even when I sat down to do it, I got frustrated. It could be that they are too young, but it’s frankly just more annoying and the payoff (a marble rolling) isn’t worth their frustration.

Playroom Update Lores 4

Admittedly, it does look fun, but for whatever reason, they don’t like it. It’s kinda hard and again the payoff isn’t worth it.

Around the same time, we bought an art system for the play attic at the mountain house that was awesome (update on that space with photos coming soon). I then realized that we had gone through all this trouble to create a custom system that already exists readymade and affordable, only better and more functional! It would be like spending months designing a chair that already exists.

Cool. Sure, it’s white and plastic and ours is raw wood and pretty, but I actually think that white would work better in here anyway. Why didn’t we just do this in the first place? Honestly, because I haven’t been to IKEA in years and didn’t know it existed. I was hasty. Too busy to research. Preferring instead to spend time and money customizing something that doesn’t work.

Additionally, after ours was done, I thought we couldn’t find pegs that really fit easily because the ones that we bought for the marble runs were too big and tight. Then last week, I decided to, you know, measure the holes. From there, I Googled pegs that size, ordered them and boom. The morning of the shoot, I set up the rubber band activity and it looked cute. I couldn’t find rubberbands so I used Birdie’s hairtyes to show you the function.

Playroom Update Lores 3

PLOT TWIST:

When the kids came home from school on Thursday (when we shot this), they started playing with the rubberband wall and proceeded to play for a while (I’d say around 25 minutes which is a long engagement time for a 3 and 5-year-old). Birdie wanted rubber bands on her side so we took out the marble run and they put the pegs in where they wanted them, moved them around and made patterns, letters and shapes with the hair ties. We then found our actual rubber bands, started playing with those and guess what? It’s a really fun guitar wall and they played with that for a while.

So now I’m thinking that maybe it wasn’t an epic DIY fail but only time will tell. Part of me wants to fill the holes and paint it white and then attach the art organization system I mentioned we already have at the mountain house.

I did, however, buy them a cart full of garbage to play with in the meantime.

Playroom Update Lores 2

We call it the “makers cart” or the “inventor cart.” It’s full of recyclables (plastic containers, cans, paper towel rolls, newspaper), different tapes (I need to buy stock in 3M or Scotch because the amount of tape we buy for them to make things is INSANE), magnets, screws/bolts/brackets, strings, pipe cleaners, etc. Hell, we put all takeout materials in there—chopsticks, plastic forks, etc…

Like I said, LITERAL GARBAGE, but it makes us feel way less bad if they at least get some creativity out of that waste. Charlie LOVES it. Birdie is much more into art and coloring, but Charlie loves inventing things and our neighbor (my best friend’s son) tortures her with bringing home his “inventions” daily (riddling her house with our garbage).

So there’s one success.

I also LOVE this art wall. Like nothing makes me happier than when they finish something and ask me if they can put it on the wall (not sure why they ask).

Playroom Update Lores 9

So the next challenge is making a big bulletin board that is actually pretty. Here are my ideas:

  1. Put it in an interesting shape, like a house. Have it lean or start on the floor so that they can reach and add their own finished pieces.
  2. Use masonite (a soft composite) and cover in a fabric (likely a pretty linen or maybe a subtle pattern).
  3. Mount a thick roll of cork to plywood then paint it a color or white.
  4. Frame or trim it out with thin wood.

Like so:

160831 Kinderspeelhoek Krijtbord Bron Liveloudgirlcom
image via live loud girl

I’ve tried to think about different shapes that make sense, to try to reinvent this but I haven’t come up with something that would be easy to execute that makes sense for art. I love the graphicness of the house, and remember that we have a big moment, the mural on the opposite side of the room.

Playroom Update Lores 7

Okay. This room also needs to kinda function as the kids mud-room. So we brought in that bench that has great storage, but also provides a great drop place for the kids’ bags and shoes, as if they put them there, EVER. HA. They are getting better, but the first week of school they dropped them within inches of the door, on the floor.

The drawers right now hold more art supplies and paper, but will be great for either shoes or homework stuff later. We had it at the foot of our bed for a while (which we loved) but we needed it down here more.

Playroom Update Lores 8

I was going to get a bigger mirror, possibly pill-shaped because its 2019 and evidently we DON’T do rectangles in 2019, but then I found this vintage Thonet mirror at a thrift store near the mountain house and couldn’t not buy it (I think it was like $45) and so one day I put it up on an already existing nail and realized that I actually might love it here.

Side note: I never bought or installed nice grate covers. I meant to. I have had it on my list for 2 years now. It’s a long list but above it are things like “raise children” and “stay alive” which are taking more time than I had predicted, so the bottom of the list sits there unchecked. Instead, we have the $3 ones that I feel like you could buy at 7-11. I really need to replace them and will, I promise. (I have a personal assistant now so maybe it will happen before 2025!).

Now I need to decide if I want to add hooks for bags and make it look like a proper Pinterest-worthy mudroom or just call it and let them put their bags on the bench because that is more likely to actually happen.

So I’d love any and all opinions on what to do in here. I know I want to create a more awesome art wall. I know that Birdie would like easier access to art supplies, but we could just do another cart full of supplies and tools and keep the rubberband art. Also right now she is super into colored pencils because that is what is in front of her, why do I need to add more? Less is more with kids, right?

Resources:

Toy Cubbies | Table | Stools (similar) | Rug | Bench | Wall Mural | Ceiling Flushmount | Sconces | Supply Cart | Marble Run Set | Play Kitchen

***Update photos by Veronica Crawford

Fin Mark

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Lisa

I think the room turned out beautiful!! I love the mural and it just looks like such a happy and functional room – I can see why your kids like hanging out and creating in there 🙂 If I was you I wouldn’t add more stuff it sounds like it works great as is (plus maybe one art-cart for Birdie). Also I am obsessed with that mirror -it’s gorgeous!! I actually quite like the look of the art wall and would try not to take focus away from the fab mural, but see how sticking tape on pretty plaster might not be ideal…. Anyway it sounds like you and your kids are really using and enjoying the room so I think that sounds great 🙂

Lisa

Also about the drop-off area: I mean I too dropped my school bag right in my parents hallway for over ten years, so uh I know how hard it can be to establish a different route there ;’) but having it directly in line of sight on the bench doesn’t seem ideal for avoiding clutter… is there a way you could have an easy drop off point right by the door? I’m thinking ideally of a closet or something similar with doors, so they can just come in, open said doors, drop all of their stuff, never to be seen again until they need it the next day. Would that maybe work somewhere?

Katy DeBardelaben

I love this space! Gosh it’s hard to keep it simple with toys right? My son goes to a Waldorf school which only has beautiful wooden toys and simple cloths (for fort making and such) and they have the most magical time playing. And it just looks so pretty! At home though, I struggle to keep it that simple and it’s a constant battle for me to keep the (plastic, neon, sometimes battery powered) toys from overrunning the house.

I love how you simplified this room though! Super inspiring. And I absolutely love the little nook you created with the bookcases. I would have loved that when I was a kid.

B

I like it! Seems both calm and fun which isn’t easy when making a kid space. As a preschool teacher, I find it’s best to have a flexible space and rotate things around when the kids seem to be getting bored. As to the art wall, a school I once visited hung a variety of old (empty) frames on a feature wall and then would hang the art inside. Made the kids feel very important. I want to try this at some point. As a parent, though, I just kept a roll of painters tape and taped the art up. Also, that mirror is so pretty there.

Melissa

I love theempty frame idea! I currently just use a piece of twine with little clothes pins to display art.

Carissa

They make these frames that you can open while still on the wall to change out art. I’ve always wanted to do this but never have. https://www.target.com/p/loft-by-umbra-kids-art-display-storage-black/-/A-51067191

Renee

My daughter loved her art space as well. For easier access to art supplies, I took Ikea’s cubbie system (now called the kallax) and basically wrapped her art table on two sides with cubbies, cubby side out. The supplies were easily accessible, easy to clean up and it gave her more of an art desk/nook feel that she loved. Also, with only wrapping two sides, it left two sides of the table open for multiple people to sit and draw at. If your table doesn’t get moved for play time and if you have enough floor space for the kids to maneuver around it, it may be an art supply solution that doesn’t take up wall space. We had a standard height table and it worked well, not sure with the dimensions of your table how it would work.

Kate

This room is really pretty! I love the bench! As for the art wall, I had the same dilemma with my kids art wall. I wanted to keep it simple, but I didn’t want their work just stuck to the wall so I did a large framed cork board, painted it the same colors as my walls (gray in my case, I just used the leftover wall paint) and I used leftover trim paint to paint the (thin) wooden frame around it. I love it because it literally blends into the wall, which lets the kids art stand out, but it feels finished.

Rene

I think the room looks beautiful. That mural is amazing! I have had a playroom for 13 years now and my best advice is to get stuff that can be reconfigured. You need to mix things up once in a while just to keep it interesting. Preschools do this usually twice a year at least. Once rearranged, everything is new and fun again and the kids will play with stuff they haven’t thought about in months. Also, if you can reconfigure it, then it can grow and change with the kids. Because they will have different needs at different ages. At your kids’ ages, mine loved smaller spaces that made them feel secure. Later on, we needed large spaces for the kids to go wild, set up big forts, make epic hot wheels tracks, etc. I love love love my Ikea Kallax bookshelves because you can put them horizontally and vertically, you can use them as benches, you can add backing like peg board or corkboard–basically, you can combine them in infinite ways. If they aren’t designer-y enough for people, you could have something similar made, but make sure they match that size because so many baskets are made to… Read more »

Karen

I love the mirror – while it has an obvious vintage flair, it’s also octopus-like to me, which jives nicely with the oceanic mural.

And talk about an AH-HAH (yes, all caps) moment for me from this post – that Makers Cart is genius! I can’t even count the number of battles I’ve engaged with my six and seven year old daughters, as they habitually ransack MY desk drawer (which, to their credit, has so many office goodies, all nicely organized in little trays and bowls). Broken staplers, one thousand rolls of masking tape gone, scissors left out all over the kitchen, not to mention the OCD-induced agony for me when I have to tidy up. I am off and running with this Makers Cart idea!!!

julie

I was just thinking that my a-ha moment was the zones!! why not be inspired by pre-school… but make it fashion (jk but you know what i mean)?! to me it looks like a brilliant mix of calm and creativity. somehow have to translate this energy to our basement playroom but not sure we’ll be able to replicate that LA light streaming through the window!!

Sara

Wow, I absolutely LOVE this room. The mural is genius — flows well with the rest of your house but adds a whimsical touch to signal the play space. For the art – I wonder the same for my son! I’m thinking about a grid of clipboards (either white or traditional brown chipboard color) to easily change the art out, but haven’t gotten around to installing it yet. Excited to see what you decide!

MKW

Growing up we had a box of crafting items (i.e. random hairs product lids, pieces of tile from remodel, cardboard tubes) we called the “make and do box.” The idea and name stuck for another generation as my kids crafted from our “make and do box.” Imagine my delight when our youngest, at the end of her senior year, loaded the entire “make and do box” into her car to take to school for building their Rube Goldberg project. (They won!)

Melissa

Love the room as it is. What a find in that mirror! I would say if their bags make it to the bench area it’s a win. Maybe later when they are taller hooks would work. As for the art wall, while I think the house is really cute I don’t think it relates well to the mural. What about several rows of a clothesline situation for them to hang their art? It would bring more order to that wall and be a nod to the flags on a ship.

Zoe

Love this idea! Maybe even add some triangular flags in there

Alicia

We have rows of clothespins at our home. I like that it is structured (in a row), but they can change things out easily. Once it’s full I ask them to pick something old to part with before we add something new. They even put up things I’ve done with them – which makes me oddly happy to see during the day. Reminds me of the time I’ve spent crafting with them.

Evane

For an interim solution you could install one of those systems from Ikea or a DIY chic version thereof, that has the the wire and clips and clip up art and rotate it out easily as they make new things. I’ve seen lots of versions of this for displaying photos and it looks a little dorm room-y but I think with some pretty knobs and clips it could be really chic and simple and not detract from the mural moment!

Ashley

I love everything about this room! Looks so bright and inviting but also functional for the kids:)

Emily

I loved this post! I have little ones so you’re addressing my real issues, and I realize that’s not the same for everyone. But I also love the lowish stakes and experimentation and evolution here. It looks great! Thank you!

Loveley of honeymoonvintage.com

Personally, I love this room as it is! i’ve been trying to think of ways to re-do the kids playroom (aka our basement) so that it’s not just a landfill of toys and crap. Currently, our dining room works as our art room for the kids, which is very frustrating because we have two rolling carts of art supplies in there and tons of stuff on the table at all times. So, I like the idea of moving the “art table” to their playroom…. Also, i love the idea of an inventors cart. i’m totally stealing this. love the mural! love that you have all your kids’ art hanging on that wall. that’s what our dining room wall looks like. it looks like a warm and happy place, and kids feel important when they see their stuff hanging up like that. as for bench and hooks. i say add the hooks even if they don’t use them on their own. then, when you have people over, you can just hang up their crap they way you would want them to and it will look a little more organized. i mean, i set up a great and functional (IMO) entryway for… Read more »

LB

I love that mirror! Looks very fanciful and like a fairy tale mirror. Also, that mural is so, so good.

Kaja

I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and apart from enjoying the content, I’m always happy when I see the topic of waste brought up and that you speak more and more about being responsible for the waste we generate. Great idea about repurposing the recyclables as crafting material! But… please let me call you out on that rug. As a influential designer, who aims to be responsible, you are essentially showing to your readers that it’s OK to buy something that will not last long, and throw it out as soon as it gets ugly, purely for the visual effect. A dirty polyester rug is indeed a thing that no-one will want in their home, so there’s no way to give it a second life. (Or can you clean it?) It will then end up as garbage, and take literal ages degrading, with polyester letting out microplastics (which by now have contaminated even the most remote environments – it’s really scary, all of us are drinking water with microplastics in it) on the loose. I think it’s essential for responsible design to only produce and buy things that last and don’t need to be replaced immediately. Of… Read more »

Camille

I thought the same thing, so I’m so glad you wrote this! It will end up in a poor neighborhood’s incinerator or a poor country’s landfill. So frustrating!

Loveley of honeymoonvintage.com

i thought the exact same thing about the rug. THANK YOU for saying this. it looks great, but yes, ug. it’s basically made of plastic too.

Lauren

Emily and team are very conscientious about waste and environment despite working in an industry that revolves around “pretty things.” Your tone is dismissive of her consistent endorsements of conscientious consumption. Every person makes their own compromises about environment and personal utility.

Lee

All I thought reading your post was how exhausting it must be to go around sitting in judgment and nitpicking about someone else’s consumption. Posts like this are just. so. tiresome.

Steven

Stop. Thinking. So. Much.

Rusty

Thinking. Stops. F**king. Up.

Betsy

OMG…this was my thought exactly. I get it is right next to the front door, but you are absolutely over thinking this. Buy white cord for the art wall. Hang like you would draw Christmas tree branches. if this makes sense. Use Ook nails, so your plaster walls come out semi-unscathed when taken out(trust me on this). Buy small white clips to hang their art, and be done with it. You are driving yourself crazy when you don’t really need to.

Rachel

Stop. Reading. This. Blog if it bothers you so much!

Coletrain

Truthfully, that was my gut response as well. The kids don’t care if the room is perfect, they just need a table, chairs and a few shelves so they can do the activities they enjoy. -Too much clutter? Put up some type of doors.

Perfectionism can be a massive time suck. The room looks great as it is and is way more beautiful and functional than any other playroom I’ve seen. Most people I know don’t even have a separate playroom and everything either winds up in the primary living space or the kid’s rooms. This is infinitely better!

Renee

From my experience of raising three kids, I would give up on trying to make the bench the drop zone. They really just want to drop their stuff as soon as they get through the door. There’s got to be a place nearer to the door where they can drop their stuff, isn’t there?
Then I would make that bench and mirror area a dress-up area–put costumes and vintage clothes (this is where garage sale-ing with your kids can be fun) in the bench and maybe a few fun hats in a basket. With the awesome mirror right there, it’s perfect!

Carissa

Oh that’s a fun idea!

Jackie

Agreed!

Selena

I love this!! Perfect timing too – I’m trying to make our play space more functional for our current needs. We live in NYC so the space also has our desk and is the walkway to the balcony. This is making me rethink my current plan in a good way!

Young House Love has a great cork board in their office for kids art that might work well for your space too.

Katie

I love it! I know the pains of trying to make a play room kids will actually play in! I would add cork to the entire wall and paint it the same as the wall colour. I would possibly frame it out so it is cleaner, and then let the kids have at it.

Caroline

Have you considered magnetic paint for the art wall? You could have it a different shade to the wall, in a big square (or any shape really!) to keep it corralled. Then start collecting magnets to hold up all their masterpieces!

Radek

Any chance you’d consider mounting the mirror horizontally?

Coco

My thought exactly!

Susie

Thank you for sharing! I think it looks great! I wouldn’t worry if they aren’t ready for marble run. My son got really into it around 8-10 years old. I think simplicity and flexibility are key. Their interests will shift with time. I only wish I had kept our playroom set up as a playroom longer. When my youngest was 8, I thought he’d want to play in his room more so I moved things there. I inadvertently made it harder for him to play / build with his legos, etc. and created a bigger struggle against screen time. Oops, still trying to course correct that one. Also, FYI: early childhood suppliers, especially for Montessori and Waldorf ( but also standard programs) have lots of sturdy raw wood art / play options that parents can buy too.

Petra

L O V E the space and the ship wall mural is beyond amazing! An idea for the kids art – we use old fashion looking clipboards attached to the wall to display the kids artwork, it’s actually super cute and the kids love that they can put it up themselves (well the ones they can reach). We have it in a grid pattern and it looks really good. I attached the clipboards to the wall with those command Velcro strips and it literally took like 5 min to create this awesome kids art gallery wall that’s also kid friendly.

Suzy

Head’s up on backpack hooks: once the kids get older (mine are 7 and 10), their backpacks get super heavy. Many days they almost pull our peg rail right out of the wall. If I had somewhere where they could plop them and still be out of the way, I’d do that instead in a heartbeat!

Jessie

I was thinking the same thing – and also that it’s harder to get things out of a backpack if it’s up on the wall, so they’ll end up taking it down to pull out all their school treasures/future homework anyway. Dropping it on the bench really isn’t so bad.

Meg

Your work is always so gorgeous and inspiring. But advice, since you asked for it? Quit fiddling with a play room. My kids are 10, 9, and 6 (so, not that much older than yours) and already well beyond having a play room. We’re setting up a major messy desk in the garage for art and invention projects. We have drawers full of legos. And a giant swing set. And bookcases. Everything else they do is in nature or on little screens. Use your house’s space for the whole family. Anything you make especially for the kids will be obsolete in a few months or years, and kind of a waste of precious time and resources now.

Molly

Agreed, but what is a playroom now can be an art room or project room or homework room later. My kids do hw at the kitchen island and I LOVE having them in there with me, but it’s always covered in papers/pencils/etc and has to be cleared for dinner. A designated table that could stay untouched would be really nice.

Rae

Different perspective, my 10 & 7 year olds still use the playroom all the time– alone, with each other, with their friends. We don’t allow screens during the week so maybe that is part of it but I also think kids are different. Mine love using their dollhouse, blocks and legos, horses, and do tons of art projects, or just hang there for a quiet spot to read. The playroom opens out onto our back garden so they can easily run in and out so perhaps that helps as well?

Kiana

Hi Emily! This room is so beautiful and calming. I actually really like the art wall as it is because it’s the most relatable and “non-editorial.” It just looks like anyone’s house, which I think is a compliment!
For the rest of the room, I think it’s lovely but perhaps you can add a few pops of color, like throw pillows on the bench or add bookshelves to the wall where the bench is because kids books always add such a cheerful smattering of color. I just think that while it’s so calm, it doesn’t really look too cozy, I guess? I’m not a designer so this is just my two cents. Lovely work though!

Jen

I love the art wall we have for our kiddos. I painted it with magnetic paint and then went over it with chalkboard paint. (You could also do whiteboard paint.)

My kids put their art on it with magnets- easy peasy – and they also dray around their art with colored chalk. We have a section of the wall where we write reminders for the week- soccer games, school special schedules. For our five year old, I write in pictures and words so she can start recognizing the words.

I’m an elementary teacher – and the whiteboard I have at school is magnetic. Magnet boards truly are the best way to change yo your display quickly and allow kids to have their own sense of style. Both of my kids also have a couple of magnet boards in their rooms so that they can “decorate” too.. I bought them giant magnets from IKea and let them paint the magnets and put a clear coat on top. The possibilities are endless!

Jessvii

How do you do kid book storage? Asking because our books always look like a mess that’s about to fall over, no matter how neatly we try to put them away.

Also, how do you store the paints and other messy craft supplies that are only to be used outdoors? Asking because my four-year-old finds all the messy things and does them everywhere when we’re not looking (read as prepping meals or changing the baby’s diaper for 5 or less minutes).

Josh

Love the mural. I don’t have kids, but this is a cool playroom.

jen

It looks great. Love the sectioned off area by the window. It would be a great reading nook. 🙂

Marianne

I think it looks great! Having two older kids now, I have one piece of advice. Any solution you come up with MAY be temporary, as their needs and interests change. I wouldn’t worry about spending something too custom that you would want to tweak in the future. I think your already realizing this though. The struggle to get them to put stuff where you want want is REAL! I find myself adjusting drop off points to fit their behaviors to minimize the battles!

Kelcey

I love this so much- it’s so fun and bright and as a kid I would have loved a cart full of stuff to “invent” with! The only thing I’d change is add bookcases and TONS OF BOOKS. This cozy little room has always seemed like a perfect cosy library, screaming to be filled with amazing books for lots of age ranges and genres. Books that you and Brian will like and books the littles will like. When they’re a little older, replace the pegboards and art table with a couple of giant comfy “cuddle up and read” chairs.

Caroline

That’s what I was going to add! They need books in here, and that sunny, cozy spot in the sunlight would be PERFECT for reading/looking at books. Add something comfy to sit on on the floor to make it inviting. As for the art, I’d skip the house shape; it will just get in the way of the art. Just a big, plain bulletin board of some sort that blends into the walls, with whatever they need to attach their art all over it. And when they get a little older, try Playmobil sets for imaginative play–my kids played with their (overly extensive) collection until about age 12!

I adore the mural, and I also thought the mirror looked like an ocean creature!

Courtney

For the art wall, you could try something like this? https://www.younghouselove.com/more-room-for-grumpy-snowman/

In the interest of time/expense, it seems like an easy, no-frills option. Then again, we have had all the supplies for this sitting in our basement for … two years? And haven’t built it yet. But we don’t have a personal assistant! Or a miter saw. So maybe you will beat us to the punch.

Lydia

I loved reading about this evolution! Sometimes I get hung up on making decisions, as if a frame can never move etc. Was really interesting seeing you problem solve this space.

Rischel

My kids use tons of tape too! Daiso sells really inexpensive tape and now I don’t care if they use a whole roll on their project.

megan

Hi Emily! This post was really inspiring to me! My kid would love this room. RE: the art wall- don’t overthink it! This art wall is the most perfect, beautiful thing in your home exactly as it is! This wall is the beating heart of your home. Seeing kid art displayed makes me sooo happy!

Megan

P.S. That Thonet mirror is AMAZING!

P.P.S Can you give source info for the play kitchen and chore chart? Thanks!

Hi! Play kitchen is linked above in the resources (at the end of the post), but we’ll find out about the chore chart!

Sara

I still think you should use this space as a formal dining room.

Paula Carr

I kinda do, too.

Chelsea

I agree. And the current dining room space immediately off the kitchen could be more of a “breakfast table” type eating area.

I think the kids can play in their rooms. Aren’t they sharing a room to sleep now? So one of the bedrooms could actually be more of a playroom space. At least that way you can close the door and not have it be the first thing you see when you walk in the home. I think the layout and location of this room is much more appropriate for a formal dining room than a playroom!

EP

I think this is great! Good idea sectioning off the bay window part. Bonus is that some of the uglier toys can stay out of sight without having to be put “away.” What about sanding down the pegs on the marble run so they fit more easily? I think that sounds so fun! Maybe they would be more into it as they get older. Kids are a constantly moving target. ?‍♀️

I would love to see some pulled back shots of this space as it is now, so we can see how it fits in with the rest of the house.

Cris S.

What I really want to know is – What did you do with those GORGEOUS custom made curtains?????

Karyn

Wow, you did SO MUCH WORK for two little kids!!! Honestly if you look at this room through their eyes and not your designer eye, more workable solutions will come to you. I get that this room is visible from the other spaces, butfercryinoutloud, who else doesn’t have this issue with kids??? Everyone that comes to your house would understand the room and the purpose, no matter what it looks like. My .02 cents…that beautiful bay area is too pretty to block off with the bookcases. Stack them on a wall, put some small chairs there and a bookshelf full of books. You can paint some chalkboard paint onto your wall in a shape (maybe a ship to match the mural?), and attach a pegboard to the wall like the image you showed. I love the garbage cart. We used to do that with our son…I’d go to Goodwill with him so he could pick out toaster ovens, old phones, and other electronics to take apart and rebuild. He loved them and would literally spend all day on those activities. (May have contributed to his becoming a mechanical engineer. Who knows?) Buy a regular pegboard and attach it to the… Read more »

guada

That mirror at $45 is the biggest find/steal ever or what? Love it sooo much!!

Carissa

I love it, but I see why it was hard to decide what to do… our lives change and the design changes. I’m currently going through that in our front living room (first room you see in the house). We have 2 big IKEA bookshelves in this little nook of the room with my kids craft table in front of it and then adult furniture in the rest of the room. The mess drives my husband crazy, and he wants to get rid of all their stuff… They are in 4th and 5th grade, so I’m trying to hold off until they are done with elementary, but we’ll see. Maybe one smaller bookcase that shuts so we don’t have to see their junk (dirty socks, rocks, wrappers, etc end up on the shelves). I love your little “mudroom” and wouldn’t change a thing!! Do NOT add hooks to that wall, the mirror is perfect there by itself! I can’t really tell but it looks like you have a little wall to the side of the mudroom, maybe that would be a good spot to add little hooks at their height.

Eden

All set to buy that rug, then realized it was from Wayfair. Just can’t support that company right now. Unimpressed by its response to its employees’ request that it cease profiting from sales to border camps.

Mary C

Hi Emily!

I love this room so much! Have you ever shopped on line at Discount School Supply? They have the most amazing supplies – I really love their WASHABLE paints – the liquid watercolors are so fun – you can order small bingo bottles, fill them with the watercolor paint for fun painting with not much mess! Supplies are not expensive and they ship really fast – this is just me – an after school art teacher – I am not a representative – just a big fan!
https://www.discountschoolsupply.com/

Tiffanie

Nice bright space. More pics please for the other window side of the room. Is the play room the only toy-filled area in the house?

Elisa

Gorgeous! What is the Ikea art system? Currently working on our playroom and trying to encourage more art time!

Lissa

I like it! It looks happy now. Plus it’s a play room so it’s going to get trashed anyway. I’d roll with it and maybe make small changes you mentioned.

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