By Jennifer Shapira
For kids today, a dedicated playroom is the happy result of a number of factors. But even if you’re looking to carve out a corner in the home’s shared space, local design experts say job one is figuring out how the area should function. After that, space restrictions, budget, ages of children and their constantly changing interests are the most important elements when creating such spaces.
Overall, a designer’s vision for the family’s playroom tends to blend old-school classics seamlessly with new-school innovations. Still, as trends change, the purpose remains the same: to learn and to play.
“What I really like to do with playrooms is create spaces where kids can foster their creativity,” says designer Suzanne Price. Case in point: the popular application of chalkboard paint. Price says kids never grow out of wanting to scrawl on chalkboards. From practicing ABCs to creating to-do lists, the chalkboard’s purpose changes over the years, but the draw is permanent.
Paint it on a playroom wall, and “you could have several kids down there just going to town and drawing on the walls, and it’s OK. They love that,” says Price. “They can play school when they get a little older, and when they’re younger, they just kind of scribble around.”
Price offers this tip for framing the chalkboard: Consider a piece of fluted molding that performs double duty as both a chalk dust catchall and a mini shelf for the chalk itself. Choose magnetic chalkboard paint for an instant gallery wall fit for displaying the kids’ artwork.
In play areas, storage is also key. Labels serve as guides for older children, but for younger ones, designate baskets or bins for like items: stuffed animals in one, Legos in another, arts and crafts supplies in another.
A basic system teaches children about order, which can be important if the play area is a shared family space where toys might need to be stored out of sight by bedtime.
“People should think carefully about the organization part of it so that kids can be involved in the putting away of their toys in a way that’s possible for them, even when they’re little,” says designer Kathleen Soloway. “I think it encourages an important habit.”
For a flexible workspace, Price favors the Container Store’s versatile Elfa wall system, which can see a child through from coloring books to textbooks. “All of the heights of the surfaces are adjustable, so it can grow with the kids,” she says. “You can just rearrange and readjust the whole unit to be something different.”
Something else kids never outgrow: the floor. It serves as a necessary crash pad for toddlers and later turns into a spot to spread out, to play and to create. A word of caution thanks to a common experience: Price suggests a soft, low-pile carpet so that Legos or Barbie shoes don’t disappear, later to be found by an angry adult’s bare foot.
As the child grows and transitions from playroom to a pre-teen or teen hangout, it’s a given that the zone, like the rest of the home, is WiFi-enabled. And that should be a comfort to parents. As teens shoot pool, play Ping-Pong or settle into portable beanbag chairs to stream movies or play video games, Price says parents are investing in making “cool hangout spaces” into safe places so they can track their whereabouts. “It’s a safe place where we know where they are,” she says.
And who could argue with that?