I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that I think children’s bedrooms are the funnest spaces to decorate. But I lied. It’s actually playrooms. Playrooms are where it’s at, you guys! No rules, no worrying about blackout curtains or having too many distractions that will mess with that ever elusive sleep or putting climbable furniture too close to the crib or any of that. Playrooms have one main function- to foster and encourage play. If you have done that, then you’ve done your job.
But you know me- I’m not just going to throw some toys in there and call it a day. So when we decided that we would turn our spare bedroom (this was two houses ago, when we actually had bedrooms to spare), into a playroom for Penny’s first birthday present, I immediately began planning a play space that would be perfect for our family.
After doing some pinning for inspiration, I knew that I wanted the room to feel fun, adventurous, and girly. I nailed down a color palette of yellow, pink, and aqua. Penny’s nursery design, while I loved it (and still do- check out this post for details), was a lot more subdued color wise, and I was itching to go a little more vibrant in this space. Because toys and children’s books tend to be rather colorful on their own, however, I wanted to stick with a consistent color palette to make the room feel more cohesive and not like a bunch of crayons exploded.
Because the room was basically a big boring box, with two windows facing onto the front lawn of the house and a double door closet on the opposite wall, I decided that I wanted to create separate areas of play. There would of course need to be a reading area, somewhere to store toys, a chair for adult visitors to comfortably sit, and ideally a desk for me to maybe get a little work done at while Penny played. (Full disclosure: That never really happened. But I was still a pretty new mom at the time, with a late to walk baby who happily sat where I put her in all her roly poly glory, so cut me some slack! I later found out that if kids sense you are trying to get work done when they are around, they will effortlessly find endless ways to occupy your time). Penny was also starting to get into pretend play, and after seeing this idea on pinterest I knew I wanted to create a sort of market for her. But most importantly, we had to have a GINORMOUS PLAYHOUSE SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM THAT TOOK UP A CRAZY AMOUNT OF SPACE. Obviously.
The catch? We were on a tight budget. It was looking like there would be a lot of DIY and Ikea in our future, which worked out fine for me, because I was still a mother of only one child who took two gloriously long naps a day. What else was I going to do with myself if I wasn’t painting furniture or making yarn mobiles?
And so I got to work. And when it involved saws and nail guns, I put others to work in my stead. (Not because I don’t think girls can handle these types of projects. It’s just that I can’t- sharp tools make me squirmy). Papa’s fine craftsman skills were utilized with the amazing playhouse that I still miss ever so much. He did such a fantastic job on it, and it is still one of my greatest regrets that we weren’t able to take it with us when we eventually moved the following year. I loved how the simple raw wood added a natural element to the room, but the cedar plank shingles on the roof and the scallop trim detail made it so stinkin’ sweet.
I found an old desk and hutch for a steal on Craigslist, painted both pieces a soft peachy pink, used the desk as my working space in the corner of the room, and re-purposed the hutch as Penny’s Market display. I had way too much fun styling her market shelves with adorable play food (most of which was from Ikea), and she had just as much fun making a mess of my handiwork each and every day.
Since the wall to the left didn’t have much function as it housed both the closet doors and was often partially covered by the door used to enter the room, it was the perfect wall to turn into a chalkboard. Kevin applied several coats of magnetic paint first, then topped it with chalk paint. The magnetic paint was no picnic to work with, but I am glad we took that extra step so that Penny could use her magnets on the wall as well as chalk. We also installed a couple of hooks for holding buckets of chalk and magnets.
An Ikea Kallax shelf was used for the majority of our toy storage, with some nice deep baskets to house smaller toys like blocks and legos. In the narrow space between the windows, we hung a couple of Ikea spice racks to display board books. I debated whether or not to paint them, but ultimately decided that the otherwise colorful room could use a little more natural wood to balance it all out. Sheer curtains were hung to soften the room while still allowing light in.
After bringing things into the room and noticing how tight the space was starting to get, we ended up using the extra space outside of the bedrooms as more of a reading nook, with lots of Ikea picture ledges for book display. It made a cute entrance into the room, and I loved how we were able to make use of otherwise wasted space.
In the other corner, I placed a vintage school desk that my mom found for $5 at a Goodwill. I know. The vintage globe was a flea market find that I had to have. Beside the toy shelf, I also placed a rocking chair that I found at a garage sale and painted. As I became increasingly more rotund during my pregnancy with Lucy, it came in handy to have this comfy spot to sit while Penny played.
From the ceiling I draped a fun bunting that I made using scraps of fabric cut into triangles (the perfect DIY project for a non-sewer like myself), and above the desk I hung a mobile that I made using a branch, some embroidery hoops, and yarn. Lastly, I took the boring brass chandelier that had been there, spray painted it coral, and yarn bombed it. Have you heard of this technique before? It basically just means wrapping yarn around something until it is completely covered and unrecognizable. It was a time consuming but super easy project, and was definitely a fun element in the room.
So there you have it! Every single thing in this room was handmade, re-purposed, or purchased for a steal. And yet it was such a magical playroom, with so much to look at and so much to do. We spent hours in this room, and still miss it dearly. Kids are kids, and they will find a way to play and have fun in an office supply closet. But the way Penny raced into her special space first thing every morning, politely demanding that we sit for tea, and the way her and her friends’ faces lit up when they would walk into a room full of possibilities and endless potential for fun, made the hours of work that went into it more than worth it.
Photographs by Amanda Seifert Photography