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How to Build a Fun, Functional Playroom

The kids’ playroom presents parents with a design dilemma: You’d love it to be organized, not too spendy and able to last a few years; they want it packed to the gills with toys, games and craft supplies, pronto. “Children grow out of things very quickly,” says Amy Wolff, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based interior designer. “But you can give the room a longer view by making higher-priced furnishings age- and gender-neutral.” Want to design a fun, flexible space that’ll accommodate your kids as they grow from tots to teens? Build it in these three steps.


Stage 1: Build Out the Basics

Start by getting the room’s essential elements in place.


Legos and trikes and teddy bears, oh my! The primary requirement of a playroom: somewhere to store all those toys.


Keep everything orderly with shelves, bins and boxes. But think twice before buying toy storage bedecked with purple dinos. Neutral-colored chests or credenza cabinets may be a better option. “They can be used to store toys now, and games or blankets later,” Wolff notes.


Still need more storage space? “Look for furniture that does double duty, such as ottomans or benches with storage underneath,” says Tiffani Stutzman, an interior decorator based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.


“If your budget allows, consider custom built-in cabinetry along walls and under windows,” Stutzman adds.


Finally, lay down a soft area rug that welcomes kids to play on the floor. Choose one with a pattern; it will more easily disguise stains than a solid rug.


Stage 2: Add Embellishments

Layer in a little something extra.


How will your kids really use the room? Is it a toy-only zone, or will it accommodate crafting, dance practice and video gaming, too? Furnish accordingly, but skip faddish items and pint-size pieces kids will grow out of and focus on sturdy furniture that’ll survive the toddler years.


“A solid table with a wipeable finish can be used for everything from painting to puzzles,” Stutzman says. Wolff adds that it can even double as a desk later on.


Select neutral, durable fabrics and finishes for furniture. “Those made for outdoor use are resistant to spills, stains and fading,” Stutzman notes. Then, bring in bright, playful colors with throw pillows and floor cushions (look for machine-washable covers), and hang vibrant artwork—professional or made by your little artist-in-residence!—that can be swapped out as the kids grow.


“It’s all in the accessories,” Wolff says. “Pillows, throw blankets, soft rugs, art, and lamps can easily and inexpensively be swapped out as children age and their interests change.”


And consider covering a wall in cork board, so art projects can be displayed and changed out, Stutzman adds.


Finally, provide a cozy corner for kids to read or nap. “Daybeds can be dressed for any style and any age group,” Wolff says. “Sofas and chairs with slipcovers can be laundered.”


Stage 3: Give It the Wow Factor

Load the playroom with items that take it to the next level.


Regardless of how traditional or formal the rest of the house, the playroom should be fun, whimsical, colorful and bright. And above all, it should showcase the things your child loves. If that’s planes, then let him hang model airplanes from the ceiling. Castles? Use wall decals to create a scenery that will spark her imagination. Got an outdoors lover on your hands? A play tent complete with sleeping bag can accommodate spur-of-the-moment campouts. Remember, this is where your kid will come to let loose and play, so it should be Fun (with a capital F).

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