In an ideal world everyone with kids would have a designated playroom that the kids could destroy any time they wanted. The reality though, is that many of us are short on space and the living room often becomes the de facto playroom. It’s easy to let toys get out of control and the living room/playroom hybrid can quickly start looking like a daycare if you don’t have a plan in place and an organizational system that you actually use. We recently moved from a large historic home in Kansas to an apartment in Hawaii that is half the size, so creating a spot for the whole family to enjoy was my latest home design challenge. Here are a few ways that I keep our living room looking like an adult room while also being toddler friendly.
1. Choose non-juvenile colors
Thanks to the influence of Pinterest and Instagram, many companies are now making toys and kid’s furniture in colors that don’t scream “daycare.” Our living room sofa is a bold blue and cream ikat print, so it’s safe to say that blue is the main color in the space. When I was setting up the adjacent play area I had nowhere else to put my turquoise file cabinet so I stashed it under our acrylic console table. That pop of color inspired me to hang a turquoise basket we already had as an eye-level caddy for books and toys, and then all I did was purchase a small blue and turquoise rug to anchor the white industrial play table. It also helps tie the two spaces together. The white and acrylic chairs, as well as the woven baskets, add neutral-colored functionality to the space.
2. Baskets are your friends
Consider using an oversized basket to hold large toys, and a smaller basket to keep all the little toys or board books corralled. We also have an additional basket that holds diapers, wipes and a changing pad so that I don’t have to walk back to my son’s bedroom each time he needs to be changed. If you have sets of toys (like blocks or trains) consider buying clear plastic bins or cubby-sized baskets to group those items.
3. Think vertically
We own a wonderful giant bookcase that has been with me since my single days. Before having a child I decorated the whole thing with design books and fragile knickknacks, but now that I have a curious toddler I’ve designated the bottom row of cubbies and six little drawers at the bottom as my son’s. They hold his books, diapers, blocks, cars and puzzles, and even though he occasionally clears the shelves while he’s playing it’s nice to give him a little freedom. I still manage to keep the room “adult looking” because I can style the top shelves without fear of him messing them up. As with all furniture, especially tall heavy pieces, make sure you anchor the furniture to the wall in a stud to prevent it from tipping over.
4. Clean up at the end of the day
This one has taken me a while to learn because I’m not an overly tidy person, but it makes a huge difference if you spend a few minutes stashing away toys and putting things back in place once the kids are in bed.
Small homes don’t mean you have to forfeit style for functionality, you simply have to get creative with how you merge the two!