If you have space for a dedicated playroom, or can allocate a section of another room, you can keep toys contained and your children happy – and it’s a great opportunity for some imaginative decorating, says Katherine Sorrell.
The key to designing a playroom is flexibility. Unless money and time are no object, frequent redecorating is simply impractical, so keep the basics plain and simple – neutral walls, floor and major items of furniture, with only the less expensive and easily changed items (such as blinds, cushions or storage boxes) theme dedicated.
Start by considering the major factors. Is the room just going to be a playroom, or will it double as a child’s bedroom, family dining room, adult living room or other? How much space do you have and what shape is it? Who will use it and how often? How old are your children? What are their likes and dislikes? What is your budget? Sketching a floor plan on graph paper will help, as you may need to include one or more beds (plus room for friends to sleep over), a desk, seating, a music system and clothes storage, as well as space for books, toys, games, art and craft activities – and, of course, free floor space in which to enjoy the above.
Place and space
The more space you can allocate to a playroom the better, as children love to be able to run, jump, hop and generally scoot around. Not to mention the storage requirements (see below). A light, bright room that doesn’t get too hot or too cold is ideal, preferably not too far from a toilet or from the kitchen or living room – it’s nice to be able to keep an eye or ear on what they’re up to. Direct access to outside space would, again, be ideal. Rather than a bland, box-shaped room, a space with interesting nooks and crannies, perhaps even different floor levels (within reason), will feed the imagination.
Floors should be non-slip, easily cleanable, hard-wearing and not too hard underfoot. Wooden or laminate boards plus a soft rug (with an anti-slip mat beneath), vinyl, linoleum, cork or rubber are all ideal. If you must have wall-to-wall carpet, go for an inexpensive one, perhaps with a texture or pattern that won’t show the dirt, and ask for it to be given a stain-resistant treatment before installation.
When it comes to lighting, inset ceiling lights and high-up wall lights are better than floor or table lamps that could get in the way of games and be knocked over. That said, decorative lighting looks lovely, and if you choose one specifically designed for children, use the correct wattage of bulb and position it so that there are no trailing flexes, safety should not be a problem.
You may choose to keep walls plain and direct all the interest towards furniture, lighting and accessories, or make them the focal point of the room, in the form of a specially painted mural. The latter looks gorgeous and a quick internet search will produce plenty of companies that will create one for you, but be careful that it won’t date. The alternative is to use framed pictures (your child’s own, maybe), removable stickers, or perhaps something more inventive such as artists’ canvases painted in bright blocks of colour, a camouflage net, flags, maps, blackboard or magnetic paint, or an entire wall of good-looking storage.
Furniture and fun
When furnishing a playroom you can let your imagination run riot, but bear in mind that floor cushions and bean bags are probably a better (and less expensive) idea than miniature children’s sofas and chairs, which are quickly outgrown.
Always ensure that toys are easily accessible, not stuck on high shelves or stacked in inaccessible towers. Cheap and colourful plastic tubs are ideal for many toys, while Lego, plastic people, farmyard animals and other small things can go in appropriately sized storage boxes (you could recycle ice cream tubs or takeaway cartons). Depending on your child’s interests, you may also need storage/display space for elaborate railway or racing tracks, craft activities, pretend kitchens and shops, teddies, dolls and action figures and, for older kids, technology such as laptops and tablets. Last of all don’t forget peg rails, hooks and hanging fabric organisers – all invaluable space savers.
By Katherine Sorrell
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