How to Create a Play Area That Looks Good Too


Whether or not you have a dedicated playroom, it seems inevitable that the play ends up migrating to nooks and corners in the main rooms of the house. You can carve out room for fun, creative kids’ play time without turning your entire house into a haphazard sprawl of toys — it just takes a bit of smart planning and some grown-up style. Here are 10 ways to tweak your space to keep little and big members of the family happy.

Contemporary Kids by Hide & Sleep Interior Design

Hide & Sleep Interior Design

1. Stash supplies in a storage table. Save space and speed up cleanup time by choosing a play table with built-in storage. Look for one with a top that lifts or has storage shelves or drawers below, for quickly stashing favorite books, games and art supplies.

Contemporary Kids by elena del bucchia DESIGN

elena del bucchia DESIGN

2. Play with scale. Give a mini play zone major drama with the addition of an oversized floor lamp. The juxtaposition of big and small will delight children and adults, and can make any random corner look more purposeful.

Kids by Studio Munroe

Studio Munroe

3. Invest in mini modern designs. There are tons of options out there for pint-sized versions of iconic modern chair designs, including the petite Panton chairs shown here. While it’s true that you’ll probably spend more on these than you would on basic kids’ chairs, the plus side is that you can leave these out in your living room and they’ll look great.

Midcentury Kids by Beth Dotolo, ASID, RID, NCIDQ

Beth Dotolo, ASID, RID, NCIDQ

Here, a child’s-size Cherner table and chairs set blends beautifully with other midcentury-style pieces in the living room.

Modern Family Room by Dupuis Design

Dupuis Design

4. Paint a chalkboard wall (yes, they’re still cool). There’s something about a great big chalkboard wall that invites creativity — and with chalk paint available in every color of the rainbow now, you don’t need to limit yourself to black if that doesn’t go with your decor. Or if drawing with chalk isn’t a family favorite, consider using whiteboard paint to create a writeable, wipeable wall instead.

Eclectic Nursery by elena del bucchia DESIGN

elena del bucchia DESIGN

5. Pitch a tepee. A play tepee makes a fun addition to the living room, pleasing both kids (who can use it as a fort or quiet reading spot) and hipster adults alike. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you could even try rigging up your own version using bamboo poles and canvas fabric.

Scandinavian Family Room by Teaselwood Design

Teaselwood Design

6. Build a band camp. Musical instruments are attractive, so why not leave them on display? If kids are learning an instrument, having it out on a stand acts as a visual reminder to practice and protects the instrument from getting banged around in a closet. Of course, if the playing of the instrument drives you bananas, you might want to give this one a pass.

Eclectic Living Room by Nasozi Kakembo (xN Fotography)

Nasozi Kakembo (xN Fotography)

7. Roll out a carpet-tile play mat. Carpet tiles must be one of the greatest inventions for families with children: They are hardy, nonslip and easy to clean; they come in tons of colors; and if any damage happens, you can replace single tiles. Put a few toys on a carpet-tile rug to make an instant play area in any room.

Midcentury Kids by Lewis / Schoeplein architects

Lewis / Schoeplein architects

8. Put metal school lockers to work. Kids’ craft projects come with all sorts of small parts — the kind of stuff that looks really messy when it’s all out. This is where closed storage, like these cool vintage school lockers, is your best friend. Stash all the creative stuff behind closed doors, and it will be easy to access when you want it, and hidden when you don’t.

Industrial Kids by McIntosh Poris Associates

McIntosh Poris Associates

9. Put your Lego table on wheels. A play table on locking casters can be highly convenient: Leave it out while the kids are playing, and wheel it away (even into another room) when you need to quickly make things look neat. This is especially useful for ongoing projects that kids want to leave out, but you don’t want sitting on the dining table for days on end.

Contemporary Living Room by Barc Architects Ltd

Barc Architects Ltd

10. When in doubt, add a pouf. The tiniest tots enjoy the texture of knitted or leather poufs (and use them for climbing practice), while older kids love plopping down on them as seats or using them in fort construction. And they look great in any room. Start a collection — you can never have too many poufs!

Laura Gaskill

September 24, 2015

Houzz Contributor. I cover topics ranging from decorating ideas, product picks, Houzz tours, and interviews with designers and architects, to the monthly home maintenance checklist. My favorite pieces to write tend to center around the emotional aspects of home and savoring life’s simple pleasures. Learn more at