Rooms with a playful purpose: Playrooms

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Author Gretchen Rubin has a mantra that I’ve always loved yet questioned as a frenzied mom: Outer order contributes to inner calm.

My young kids — 9 and 6 — are experts at disorder. Where they go, a mess often follows. And no matter how many reminders I give about picking things up and that we all need to do our part to put things away, the bulk of the cleaning up often falls on me.

No wonder why I dream about a playroom. Playrooms are magical rooms or spaces designed specifically for your child’s toys, a place where play is the priority and it’s OK to get messy. Better yet, it’s a place where the chaos can be contained when the good times are over.

Not everyone has space for a playroom, but luckily adorable options abound these days for taming your kid’s clutter, whether it’s a designated corner in one room or a nook.

In my family room, we have two walls where I continue to tinker with ways to make my kids’ toys accessible, but also ensure they don’t take over the entire house. I have designated canvas bins in one bookshelf and two four-cube organizers for more books and toys. My husband and I even bought an old vintage cabinet recently to store even more.

A funny thing happened when I started tucking away the toys, making sure everything had its place: My kids loved the ones they hadn’t seen for a bit even more. Hello, old friends!

But storage isn’t the only important element to a playroom. Keep in mind all the different types of play your child will engage in and what surfaces you may need, suggests Philadelphia interior designer Michelle Gage, a contributor to It’s amazing how much use a little table can get.

“Make sure there are appropriate surfaces for all imaginations,” says Gage in a post for “A table for activities like building blocks and coloring books is great, but ample floor space can also do the trick. When it comes to floors, carpets can provide a comfortable surface to lie on, but they can also be a magnet for stains. Consider area rugs rather than carpets since they are easier to replace.”

Lucy Penfield is a Minneapolis-based interior designer who designed a playroom for a creative couple and their two children. Instead of using standard carpeting or tile, she used hex-shaped nylon carpet tiles by Shaw Industries.

That way, they “are easy to clean or change out if necessary,” says Penfield of Lucy Interior Design in an email.

The entire playroom, located in a narrow room near the children’s bedrooms, “is full of energy and surprises, nothing precious.”

That applies to the furniture, too. So much furniture today is multifunctional. The same should go for your children’s playroom or play space. Create nooks and spaces for reading and playing, having a snack and doing artwork.

If you have a TV in your playroom, Gage, the blogger, suggests using a TV stand that does double duty as a place to store toys. Or choose a bookshelf or bench that can also be used for toy storage. Pottery Barn Kids’ Cubby Bench ($199), for example, is a perfect a place to put on shoes, read a book and store toys or kids’ gear at the time.

And don’t forget the walls. Floating shelves are a great way to contain and display your kids’ clutter. Land of Nod offers a Honeycomb Wall Shelf that can hold up to 50 pounds, for example.

When it comes to storing your kids’ toys, bins aren’t the only option. I Heart Naptime blogger Jamielyn Nye suggests using kitchen containers to store play dough or miscellaneous toys. A condiment holder is another unique way to display toys such as blocks, suggests Nye.

Several retailers, including IKEA and Land of Nod, sell metal bars that can be hung horizontally to display children’s artwork and change it out as seasons begin or a new masterpiece arrives at home.

Gage suggests creating a gallery wall with your little one’s artwork. Put the artwork in simple frames and “see your child’s face light up,” writes Gage.

So as Mother’s Day approaches, remember you don’t have to lose the war with your kids’ toys. Arm yourself with storage solutions, cubbies and most of all, plenty of patience.

Whether it’s an entire room or a nook for play, you and your children’s playthings can both peacefully co-exist. I promise.

(313) 223-4686

Twitter: @mfeighan

Playroom must-haves

Seating: Seating doesn’t have to be a traditional table and chairs. It can been bean bags, stools or poofs.

Storage: Consider wicker baskets, bookshelves, cubbies, or even the TV stand to tuck away toys.

Rugs: Play can get messy so think about having a rug that can easily be cleaned.

Color: You may love beige but play is about being creative and imaginative. Create colorful walls or use fun accents. Hang up your kids’ artwork or paint a chalkboard wall.