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Home & Design How to create a functional – and inspired – playroom for kids

This undated photo provided by designer Kate Lester shows a safari-themed playroom designed by Lester near Los Angeles, Calif.

Amy Bartlam/The Associated Press

Go bold. Stay practical. Think long-term.

These are among the tips offered by interior decorators for creating a fresh, fun – even inspiring – playroom for kids.

FOSTER CREATIVITY

“I love bold choices in a playroom,” says Mel Bean, a designer in Tulsa, Okla.

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In one client’s theatre room, for example, “we used a high-contrast carpet as a real show-stopper,” she says. “Another space uses black and white walls and floors as a backdrop for colourful art supplies, chairs, books and paintings.” Yet another playroom she is working on “includes a stunning, green-marble-slabbed wet bar with navy cabinetry, multiple television screens and something for all ages, from a play kitchen to gaming.”

Los Angeles designer Kate Lester has a similar approach: “Don’t take the space too seriously – have fun with it,” she says. “Wallpaper the whole room or paint the ceiling.”

Lester favours a light-filled palette and livable furniture. She recently completed a safari-themed play space for a family with 6- and 8-year-olds. Papier-mâché animal-head sculptures adorn the walls, which are covered in a cool, black-and-white zebra print. Peel-and-stick carpet tiles make for soft lounging and individual squares can be replaced if they get stained. The vibe is easygoing, yet the aesthetic is chic.

Lester recommends a “high/low” formula: investing in a good built-in storage piece, for example, and then including affordable pieces from Target, IKEA etc. She likes to buy fun, printable art online, as well.

Bean recently completed a teen-friendly room in Grand Lake, Okla., with multiple bunk beds and a communal gathering space.

Jenny Reimold, a designer and former teacher, likes to create playrooms that contain both imaginative spaces and opportunities for learning. She’ll bring in pieces such as an industrial-look storage container with labelled basket liners, so kids can store their reading and writing materials. As in a classroom, she’ll designate areas in a room for art and imaginative play, and include pieces such as a wooden lemonade stand.

KEEP THINGS FUNCTIONAL

Hardiness matters when furnishing a playroom.

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Lester puts removable floor tiles in almost every kids’ playroom she designs. They’re a durable and affordable alternative to a traditional rug, she says, and “can be laid out in custom designs.” There are also removable vinyl tiles in a variety of patterns; just peel and stick.

She cautions homeowners to think twice about whether things that look cool are actually practical.

“An 8-by-10-inch chalk wall may look cool on Instagram, but how does it work if you have three toddlers and white sofas?” she asks. “Integrating wow-factor that’s also functional is a must.”

Mixed storage is always helpful, with open bins and drawers.

“Rolling bins are great under a window seat – they can be rolled out for play, then filled up with toys and rolled back under the seat,” says designer Jess Cooney of Great Barrington, Mass.

She’s fine with that chalkboard wall, but advises getting chalk pens to avoid dust.

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She also recommends performance fabrics, such as indoor/outdoor rugs, in craft areas. “They can be bleached or hosed off outside,” she says.

For teens and older kids, being plugged in is key. Cooney tries to incorporate connectivity for video, music and gaming in a stylish but practical way, housing all the tech equipment in a closet that little ones can’t get to and having one universal remote for the TV, so you can control the content.

ROOM TO GROW

Plan for the future use of the space. “Give the room the ability to grow and transition with your children,” Lester says. She suggests “play tables that can turn into homework stations or pin boards that can display art but also calendars and schedules.”

Wallpaper choices these days include stylized and sophisticated prints that work for kids’ rooms and also any other room in the home.

And consider furniture that kids can grow into, too: “A pull-out sofa is great for sleepovers down the road as kids grow,” Cooney says.

While some kid-size furniture can be fun, include normal-size furnishings, such as sofas and media units.

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“Keep the more expensive pieces in adult-scale,” Lester says. “This will not only make the space feel larger, but you won’t have to replace them as your kids grow. Also, sitting on a mini-sofa isn’t fun for anyone over 5.”

Likewise, Cooney prefers neutral colours for key pieces to avoid too young a look in the playroom.

“Being able to change the wall colour and throw pillows down the road to transform the space into a teen lounge, without buying all new furniture, is important,” she says.

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