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Published: Thursday, January 23, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Play spaces don't have to be frenetic and plastic

  • A Restoration Hardware Baby & Child's Mason activity table offers a modern take on a traditional kids' play table, with functional storage and ample r...

    RH Baby & Child

    A Restoration Hardware Baby & Child's Mason activity table offers a modern take on a traditional kids' play table, with functional storage and ample room to get creative.

  • A Restoration Hardware Baby & Child’s vintage schoolhouse play table has sturdy legs and a sheet metal top.

    RH Baby & Child

    A Restoration Hardware Baby & Child’s vintage schoolhouse play table has sturdy legs and a sheet metal top.

  • A Restoration Hardware Baby & Child’s Weller play table has roomy drawers and a chalkboard top.

    RH Baby & Child

    A Restoration Hardware Baby & Child’s Weller play table has roomy drawers and a chalkboard top.

  • A Geo rug in pink provides punch and pizzazz in a modern play room without being juvenile.

    Fab

    A Geo rug in pink provides punch and pizzazz in a modern play room without being juvenile.

  • Multicolored knitted poufs, like these from Fab.com offer low profile seating in a play space. With knitted, faux leather or kilim style upholstery, p...

    Fab

    Multicolored knitted poufs, like these from Fab.com offer low profile seating in a play space. With knitted, faux leather or kilim style upholstery, poufs are stylish, rugged and portable – perfect for a modern home play space.

Outfitting a play space for children might consist of nothing more than setting up a few old furniture pieces, someplastic storage bins and that extra old TV.
But some parents want the play space to reflect their design esthetic and easily grow with the children.
Does the rest of the home look more Eero Saarinen than Superman? More Verner Panton than Pokemon? Is the vibe less Nickelodeon, more George Nelson?
If so, you'll want to try balancing kid-friendly with cool. Some options:
Mod mad
Lots of decor from the '60s and '70s works well in a play space: mod lamps, modular furniture, pop art and fun, space-age prints for wallpaper and textiles. Hues popular back then — orange, yellow, teal, green, white — add energy to furniture, cushions and rugs.
For a low-key look that still fits the esthetic, think smooth-edged Danish modern wood furniture. Armless upholstered club chairs look smart and are perfect for lounging; find new ones at Overstock.com and vintage ones on Etsy.com.
Or take a cue from Australian designer Anna Williams and use mid-century credenzas for toy storage — check out ThriveFurniture.com and OneKingsLane.com for options at various prices.
Accent with "Mad Men"-era posters or toy ads, and add floor pillows covered in patterns drawn from the era.
Soothing hues like umber, avocado, mustard and sky blue keep the energy relaxed.
Industrial chic
Rooms with an industrial feel — warehouse-grade tables and storage, furniture and decorative elements with a rugged look — appeal to many kids, who sense they can let loose in these spaces.
Neutral color palettes mixing whites, grays and browns work for either gender. Look for ceiling lights caged in metal (no worries about errant pillows or Nerf balls), riveted furniture and repurposed machine-shop elements such as gear pieces, tools and signage.
A galvanized-iron, locker-style dresser makes great storage (pbteen.com).
Powder-coated in crisp red or white, Ikea's PS metal cabinet adds a pop of color (ikea.com). A magnetized blackboard fits the edgy vibe and lets inspiration fly.
Make your own inexpensively with instructions at TheTurquoiseHome.com.
Rugged-looking play tables offer surfaces for messy art and often offer great storage for toys and games (rhbabyandchild.com).
Exploration location
Animals, trees and sky or earth elements can inspire children to be creative in play spaces, and many contemporary pieces appeal to both kids and adults.
At Stardust.com, find the Zuo Modern Phante chair, a version of Eames' iconic, polypropylene, elephant-shaped chair.
A realistic, cast-resin bear's head is fun, eclectic wall art (urbanoutfitters.com).
Ocean Sole's animal sculptures made out of scavenged flip-flops would be inspiration for indoor adventures.
Rhinos, giraffes and lions come in sizes up to about a yard and a half long (thespotteddoor.com; piqproducts.com).
Clouds and intergalactic silver orbs are two of the striking mural wallpapers at DesignYourWall.com.
Ikea's Vandring Spar low-pile rug features an impressionist version of a nature walk, complete with grass and sandy footprints. And a soft gray and white wool rug silhouettes romping deer and a leafy forest at LandofNod.com.
Other ideas:
Create inexpensive, customized storage in a playroom by painting or staining ready-made kitchen cabinets.
Metal tool carts can be side tables, as well as portable art supply zones or storage stations for small toy parts.
Multipurpose pieces serve the whole family's needs. Land of Nod's round coffee table with drawers is user-friendly for TV watching, table games and crafts, with no sharp corners to worry about.
Also from the retailer, a farmhouse-style work table with storage on the ends provides space for teens and laptops, grown-up tasks and art projects.
Ikea's Kivik sectional can be reconfigured a lot of different ways; it's hardy, comfy and versatile for a family room.
Display books face forward on wall-mounted shelves with a lip, so covers can be easily seen.
Or scrounge flea markets for old wooden carpenter's tool boxes, which are sturdy and shallow.
Use games as art by displaying the boxes on floating shelves; old game boards hung on a wall add color and visual punch.
Shoot photos of kids' favorite toys — close-ups, Instagrams and black-and-white look cool — and then mount them in identical frames. Ikea has inexpensive options, and Michaels craft stores stock three-packs of LP frames.
When the kids set up their own places in a few years, this will be hip art with happy memories.
Story tags » Interior decorating

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