We have a small, raw pine table and matching pair of chairs on our front porch. They're dotted with glitter paint, marker smudges and stickers. The chairs are a wobbly (they're desperately in need of having all their screws tightened). And they just might be the most used pieces of furniture in my whole house. This morning, my girls dragged the chairs into the living room for eating breakfast at the coffee table. On Sunday evening, they were out on the front lawn — where the glitter paint was used to make Fathers' Day cards. Last weekend, they hosted a lemonade stand on the sidewalk. They've seen it all: puzzles, tea parties, colouring books, Grade 3 math workbooks.
The set cost me about $25 at Ikea 7 years ago — perhaps the best $25 I've ever spent on the kids. Here's a similar version, they seem to have discontinued the ones we have. Here are 15 other great ways to get your money's worth from children's play table and chairs.
1. Cover it with oilcloth
My colleague Jaimie Nathan spotted this idea on the Yvestown blog years ago and promptly had a sweet floral oilcloth cover stitched up for the play table in her living room. Hers is removable (because her little table was an expensive piece she didn't want to put holes in), but if you're not worried about that, staple the oilcloth in place so it will protect the tabletop from stains and spills and is easy to wipe down.
2. Use it to differentiate kid and adult spaces
This handsome version works as part of a shelving installation in the corner of a living space, with upper shelves displaying elegant, grown-up accessories — and keeping them away from little fingers — while offering plenty of interesting playthings to keep kids busy down below. Outfit play tables with an array of books, craft supplies and toys so they're extra-inviting to busy toddlers and preschoolers.
3. Paint it out to match the trim
Another way to make a play table work in a home's public spaces is to re-imagine it to suit its surroundings. To make a wee play table fit in in her rather traditional West Yorkshire, England, home, artist Anna Roberts painted it in a soft robin's-egg blue to match her elegant mouldings and built-ins.
4. Coordinate it with your child's style
In a pretty in pink-wallpapered girl's room, a quiet, vintage-y table set works well with the casually hung own illustrations and collections of wee Calico Critters, while graphic black chairs and a bold red table complement the aesthetic in the modern white and grey room.
5. ...Or make it suit your style
The play table in her children's bedroom has an authentic mid-century modern look that resonates with Charleston, S.C., interior designer Angie Hranowsky — and it's harmonious with the look she's carried through the entire house. The table is actually a new piece from Room & Board.
6. Stretch it out to fit a crowd
While my tiny Ikea table really can't accommodate more than my two girls, these ones — at least when they're pulled out from the wall — have space for at last four wee crafters. The cube stools with this console-style desk all tuck neatly away, saving space, and can be turned on their sides to fit smaller and larger kids.
7. Go for a vintage vibe
Old wooden gymnasium benches make great kid-level play spaces. Press one into service as a table to seat three or four kids — and pair with mismatched chairs for a quirky salvaged look.
8. Pair it with a chalkboard for a schoolroom feel
Coat a wall in chalkboard paint — like Swedish stylist Emma Persson Lagerberg did here — or the surface of the table itself, as Australian furniture designer Mark Tuckey did on his Kid's Chalkboard table.
9. Set it up to host a tea party ... and more
Somewhere along the way, my daughter Tessa shifted from holding tea parties (the most memorable was tea for 12 to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee two summers ago) to playing restaurant. Either way, a play table is indispensable — as it is in a play kitchen, where it can be pressed into use as counterspace when it's not set up for dining
10. Top it with a dollhouse
Every time the early-childhood educators set up one of the four tables in my 3-year-old daughter's daycare room with dolls, a dollhouse and tiny furniture, the table is swarmed. Why not steal a page from the experts! (The mod A-frame here reminds me of the dollhouse I had as a child in the '70s; it's available through All Modern.
11. Turn it into a Lego table
Transforming a surface into a mecca for Lego is as easy as adding a couple Lego baseplates ; a 25 cm x 25 cm sheet is $8.
12. Supersize it
When blogger Trina McNeilly of La La Lovely Things turned her dining room into a playroom for her four young kids, she plunked a big play table in the middle of it. I can't think of a more inviting centrepiece! While her space (which was photographed, above, for the Land of Nod catalog) has residual elegance from its time as a dining room, the other room here feels more utilitarian: ready to house a crowd for puzzles or painting without decorative flourishes to distract from the task at hand.
13. Get serious about arts and crafts
My kids would go nuts for this craft table, which puts all supplies right at their fingertips. If only our small house had an inch of extra space! (It's by Guidecraft, and I've also seen it available through DwellStudio and Sunny Street Toys.)
14. Let it inspire you to reuse or recycle other pieces
Flip sweet little garbage cans and add seat cushions and cut down old worktables (watch for them at flea markets and garage sales).
15. Make use of an empty corner
This little play table — chairs included — takes up perhaps eight square feet in the corner of a Malmö, Sweden, apartment, but offers space for two to colour, read or play with tabletop toys. Layers of lighting makes it inviting and usable.
1.(Left) The Haystack Needle. Photography by John Granen; (right) Oilcloth Addict
2. Revel! blog
3. La Petite Magazine blog
4. (Left) via Ideiacor blog; (right) Kidsmopolitan blog
5. Photograph by Julia Lynn via Lonny
6. (Left) via Mommo Design blog; (right) Tyler Dawson Design
7. (Left): via Anne Sage blog; (right) via Nietylkodzieciaki blog
8. (Left) Photograph by Petra Bindel, Elle Decor. Photograph by Mikkel Vang. (Right) via Pure Green Design
9. (Left) via Kotivinkki blog; (right) Kidsomania blog
10. (Left) via Sofiajon Tumblr blog; (right) Apartment Therapy
11. Photograph by Asia Citro via Fun At Home With Kids; (right) via My Ideal Home blog
12. (Left) Images courtesy of Land of Nod, via La La Lovely Things ; (right) Kidsomania blog
14. via Pastelowo blog
15. via Revedecor blog. Photograph by Bolaget
Childhood is finite. And despite our best intentions, and the urgings of our favourite parenting gurus, most of us can't help but let our kids get caught up in the hustle and bustle that is 21st-century life. I can't offer a fix for busy lives (I can barely keep mine on the rails most days!), but I've got a great idea for adding a bit of fun to your kids' rooms. It's something you can do this very weekend — and the kids can help!
Together, you can craft a quick and easy bunting or garland to make his or her room just a splash more festive and colourful for spring. It's surprisingly simple to achieve good-looking results, no matter how basic your paper-crafting or sewing skills are.
Let's start with the easiest project first. Print this free "I Love You" download designed by Two Brunettes and found on the Ruffled blog (they provide a full alphabet, so you could do your child's name instead), snip out the flags, glue them onto a length of string and hang. Done! Feeling craftier? Read on...
At our house, rainbows and polka-dots always mean good things. Put the two together, and they're going to spell f-u-n! Craft your own with paper from stationery or art-supply stores, or order these online from Hip Hooray party suppliers.
This joyous washi-tape garland reminds me of confetti: it's lightweight, vibrant and intense. It'd be a great rainy-day or car-trip activity. Simply sandwich a long piece of twine between strips of washi tape, fold the tape together and clip the ends into reverse points. (Used blunt-ended children's craft scissors, if you're working on it in the car.)
Here's a washi-tape garland in action in a sweet party image created by Estonian designer Marlen Kärema.
This garland of simple paper circles created by Sydney, Australia, blogger Nicola Brooke is even faster to make than glued paper ones. Cut dozens of same-sized circles from coloured paper — let the decor in your child's room dictate the palette — then stitch them together quickly with a sewing machine.
A few years ago at Christmastime, Tessa, her friend Claire and I felt pretty clever when we crafted paper-circle garlands like these from leftover giftwrap and red-toned Christmas flyers. We still use them every year on the tree! I also love these — made with clippings from vintage atlases by Jellybean Studio and available on Etsy.
A cloth bunting like this is going to be my next DIY project — it's just so doable. I've made plenty of glued-together paper garlands and buntings, but I haven't stitched one yet — in fabric or paper. I have a boxful of pretty fabric scraps from old projects; I'll just snip out elongated triangles with pinking shears and sew them onto a length of jute twine. It'd also make a great baby gift or shower decoration. (P.S. The pictured baby, six-day-old Elizabeth, and setting could not be any cuter!)
Colourful pennants look especially bold against chalkboard-painted walls.
With its dainty flags and slightly wider band, this bunting — in a vintage-inspired shared girls' room in London, England — looks more twee, but equally fun!
A clean-lined, neutral-toned wool version is a subdued alternative for a boy's room.
A simple white bunting turns this sweet outdoor playhouse into a beacon for adventure for the three young children of Michael and Jane Frosh at their home outside Sydney, Australia.
When I was in Australia a few years ago, garlands of felted-wool balls were everywhere, and I feel in love. I should have picked one up, but never got around to it. Since then, I've been thinking of learning to felt myself, but haven't had the opportunity. This one created by Rochester, N.Y., jeweller Jenna Thompson is used as a Christmas decoration, but with its rainbow colours and simple construction, it's just as fitting for a kid's bedroom or playroom. She has directions on her blog and also recommends these from Purl Soho.
Until I learn to felt, I'll make do with one of these: jewel-toned pompoms threaded onto string. I'll get my girls to help...
1. Two Brunettes "I Love You" Download, from Ruffled Blog
2. Dottie ecoGarland from Hip Hooray
3. Parcelpost Wordpress
4. Tõnis Kärema, Remodelista
5. Concrete and Honey blog
6. Jellybean Studio, Etsy
7. Meg Duerksen
8. La Factoría Plástica
9. The Boo and the Boy
10. Vintage Junky
11. Sharyn Cairns, from Homelife
12. Small Bird Blog
13. Captain and the Gypsy Kid
Before the household purges that inevitably come with spring cleaning, I'm going to daydream a little bit. If someone were to ask me for a list of 10 things I'd like for my kids' rooms — if money, time and space were no object, as well as their own predilections for all things pink, frothy and Disney- or Barbie-sanctioned — here's what I'd tell them!
1. Magical beds
I've always been enchanted by the heavily canopied beds I've spied when visiting historic castles across the pond or catching the latest well-decorated period film. While some richly tapestried number pulled straight from a chambre at Versailles would look over-the-top in one of my girls' rooms, these two beds put a fanciful, cosy spin on their more staid ancestors. Why not ... you're only young one, after all!
2. Vintagey industrial sign lighting
Old-school, signage-style lighting is at the opposite end of the spectrum, and it's a sure-fire way to introduce a gritty contrast to the frills and floral hues my girls are partial to. I love crisp, graphic shapes like arrows and stars.
3. A closet play nook
We actually have a double-depth closet in Tessa's room, that could also be opened up to the side of my closet, that I have dreams of turning into a secret fort/passageway.
4. A colourful designer carpet
Christian Lacroix's Abstract Malachite Opalin rug for Designers Guild, is playful enough for a kid's room, and has high-fashion cachet to boot. And Madeline Weinrib's colourful carpets have set the standard for cheery graphic pattern underfoot; I love how the brown balances the pink in this one.
5. Unique wooden beds
I'm partial to everything from the most ornate antique to something that looks like it's slapped together from old shipping crates. We've actually got an old four-poster bed made by my husband's great-grandfather, but we haven't yet come up with a suitable mattress for the custom-sized piece. Someday....
6. Curio shelves
I haven't gotten a read on Zoë yet, but Tessa takes after me in her quest to collect. Her dresser and desk are already covered with favourite knickknacks, and I really should figure out a better place for her to display her snowglobes, figurines, music boxes, etc.
7. A fun sculptural lamp
My girls already have a ceramic owl lamp, but these cartoon-like critters feel even more fun and quirky.
8. Eames Hang-It-All
It's a classic and it's rainbow-coloured! And I can justify the purchase as "an organization tool."
9. Whimsical bedding
The hippie in me still loves Indian-style patterned bedding, and luckily, companies like John Robshaw and Rikshaw Design produce brightly coloured versions of the sweet designs I've been coveting for years.
10. Old metal lockers
Like reclaimed industrial-style lighting, school lockers bring edginess to a room, and they're also great for forcing organization and injecting storage where closets are tiny or nonexistent (as in Zoë's room).
Browse this gallery of nursery decorating ideas for more inspiration.
1. Paper Blog, Sparkles and Crumbs
2. XO-In My Room, RH Baby & Child
3. Dos Family
4. Designers Guild, Madeline Weinrib
5. Light Locations, Period Living
6. Apartment Therapy, VT Wonen
7. The Modern Shop, Ten June
8. Things to Love, Welke.nl
9. John Robshaw, Rikshaw Design
10. House to Home, Making Nice in the Midwest
As a child, I always loved Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “The Swing,” from his A Child’s Garden of Verses. It spoke to me, even at a young age, about the joys of soaring through the air and of the unique perspective a swing offered otherwise-earthbound wee ones. Several decades later, the swings are the first thing my three-year-old wants to try when she hits the park — any park, in any part of the world. And last year, “The Swing” was the poem my seven-year-old memorized and recited the first time she participated in her school’s wildly popular Poetry Night.
How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!
Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all,
Over the countryside —
Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown —
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!
As the weather gets chillier and after-school play moves at least partially indoors, it’s a great time to reassess interior play spaces and consider making a few changes. Like adding a swing! It won’t quite afford the same views as an outdoor swing, but swinging in and of itself is just plain fun — and it helps kids work on gross and fine motor skills (swinging engages abs, arms and legs, and develops hand and finger control and strength), as well as a host of other skills like cooperation, balance and confidence. I’ve added trapeze swings to my roundup, too; they offer the same kind of fun, and can be used as sit-upon swings by all but the smallest toddlers, too.
Adding a swing inside isn’t as out there as it may seem (but keep safety top of mind, see a list of tips at the bottom of this post). Plenty of parents have gone before, and even made the apparatuses look rather winsome in the process, coordinating with — or at least not clashing with — their decor.
Here are some of my favourites.
In our house, I'd consider something simple like this. A basic swing — a small plank and a couple lengths of rope, much like the one in our front yard — mounted in a wide doorway between the living and dining rooms. When ceilings are iffy (like our decades-old plaster ones that won’t even hold a screw), doorways can be a great alternative.
This swing is made with $17 worth of supplies from Ikea. (Basic directions are posted here.)
Fun at Home with Kids blogger Asia Citro went above and beyond when creating this no-holds-barred playroom for her two young kids at their Seattle, Wash., home. A trapeze swing with rings and a boat-shaped swing (the Ships See Saw swing by Haba) are complemented by a climbing wall, art centre, and loads of toys and storage.
Among other fantastical decorating and lifestyle options (I’m thinking of Tom Hanks’ character’s place in the film Big or Ally Sheedy’s in St. Elmo’s Fire), high, roomy converted lofts afford loads of space for a swing or even two. They give kids a coveted place to play near their parents — and exposed beams make it easy to install one.
I’m not certain how one gets up onto the higher swing here... but it sure looks like fun!
For younger kids, consider a swing with a back and handlebars — like this one at journalist-stylist-designer Jennifer Jansch’s home in Stockholm — and hang it close to the ground so it’s easy to get on and off.
It might be tough to keep kids at the table during meals with a swing in the kitchen — but I give these Helsinki parents (Mom is Finnish fashion designer Tuula Pöyhönen) bonus points for style: the crafty swing is an old tire cut and styled to look like a horse.
Then again, installing a baby swing in the kitchen may be just the ticket for cooking dinner and keeping baby happy simultaneously.
A standard tire swing has an authentic 1970s playground aesthetic. In a black and white bedroom, this one looks graphic and bold.
Live in an old Victorian or farmhouse with big rooms and high ceilings? Then you’ve got space for a trapeze, as A Cup of Jo blogger Joanna Goddard’s friend Sophie Demenge (of children’s furniture and clothing company Oeuf) did in her Brooklyn, N.Y., homes. It’ll be especially popular with kids who want to keep their skills brushed up between summers at Circus Camp.
Of course little ones embracing their inner princesses (like my two) may want to put their own personal touches on a swing or trapeze — ribbons, bows or glitter, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the workings or pose any dangers to kids — to zhoozh it up a little bit!
Exposed beams are a natural spot for a simple swing bar in a nine-year-old boy’s room in Copenhagen. (I love how the beams also act as a display spot for favourite outgrown toys!) Be sure to mount swings and trapezes nice and low for younger children.
Like trapeze bars, busy preschoolers and grade-schoolers can have no end of fun with a basic set of rings — especially when paired with an ad hoc climbing wall and partially hidden built-in bunk beds. Call it a private playground!
A swinging bed at golfer Greg Norman’s house in Hobe Sound, Fla., is an over-the-top take on the indoor swing. Obviously, construction would entail an engineer and load test as opposed to just a screwdriver and a couple screws — but your child will undoubtedly have the best room in the house!
You’re the best judge of what’s safe for your children, but here are a few things to consider.
• Use sturdy rope and screws or hooks to mount swings; consult hardware-store staff for suggestions.
• Give a swing a wide berth: leave enough space on all sides so that kids won’t bump walls or furniture.
• With smaller kids, set rules about not using the swing when you’re not around. Consider a detachable swing that fastens to hooks high up on the ropes so you can detach it when you’re not in the room.
• If you’re worried about spills, add a plush carpet or gymnastics mat underneath, and don’t hang a swing near stairwells or areas where kids could have long falls to the ground.
• If you’re uncertain about where your ceiling studs/beams are or whether aging plaster or drywall can stand to have anything mounted on it (ours certainly can't!), sturdy door frames can be a great option.
2. Real Simple
3. Fun at Home with Kids
4. This is Glamorous
5. Rafa Kids
6. Photography by Lena Granefelt from Sköna Hem
7. French by Design
8. Photograph by Mikkel Adsbol from KML Design
9. The Boo and the Boy
10. Coming Kids
11. Photo by Stephanie Deleau from A Cup of Jo; Photo by K.Balas from Milk magazine
13. Architecture Art Design
14. Adore Your Place
Once you’ve planted a forest to get the woodland look in your son or daughter’s room, it’s time to populate it with forest creatures great and small. I’m frankly amazed at the number and variety of animal wall decals available today. Some are graphic and photo-realistic, while others are sweet and simplified, more Beatrix Potter or Wind in the Willows than National Geographic. Pick the one that suits your child and his or her room best.
For a baby or toddler, I like the precious pastel Woodland Scene from Australian company Love Mae.
While it hails from Paris, Mimi' Lou’s Woodland menagerie is thoroughly pastoral. It’s made up of the forest’s smaller inhabitants: a bunny, squirrel, hedgehog, mouse and a flock of birds — perfect playmates for the littlest of kids.
Minimalist and modernist parents will probably err on the side of realism, and opt for critters like these Forest Friends by Kek Amsterdam.
Nathalie Lété’s woodland animal wall stickers for Domestic have a similar aesthetic.
While it could just as easily take centre stage in a hipster’s downtown abode, artist Charmaine Olivia’s super-quirky Deer Wearing Gym Socks print looks just as fitting in a kid’s room — putting a cheeky spin on the woodland theme.
On the flip side, there’s Inke Heiland’s charming floral deer decal. Handmade from vintage and designer wallpapers, her pieces have a light hand and distinct femininity that temper the stark silhouette shapes.
Bed linens are another fun way to add animals in a bedroom. These bunnies — on a petal pink pillow from H&M Home — could not be cuter for a baby's room!
Likewise, my dear friend Genny Burgess's Rabbit Patch designs for her company Little Auggie are utterly charming. We've got the quilted sham and toddler quilt at our house, and the line also includes sheets and even a sleep sack for wee babes.
For a more grown-up look, check out By Nord's deer, bear, hedgehog, moose and wolf duvet covers — the ultimate creature comfort!
And here's perhaps the quickest way of all to adopt a menagerie: hang a mobile. Sebra's critters are quirky and cartoon-like, while the Tree mobile from Cloud Kissed Kids is a bit more quiet and whimsical. Whichever you choose, I hope you get as hung up as I am on woodland-themed rooms!
Did you miss my post on woodland-theme bedrooms? Read it here.
1. Love Mae
2. Mimi' Lou
3. Kek Amsterdam
6. Cloud Kissed Kids
7. H&M Home
8. http://www.littleauggie.com/shop/quilted-sham-rabbit-patch/)">Little Auggie
9. By Nord
11. Ferm Living
13. Cloud Kissed Kids
When Lou Reed crooned “take a walk on the wild side,” the subtext was risqué but his words ring true for adding playful edge to children’s rooms this fall. A trip into the forest can make for great inspiration — whether you’re looking for an overall theme for the room, or just a quick hit to refresh it.
Here are a few great — and widely varied — ways to get the look. And stay tuned to our Great Kids’ Rooms blog for more woodsy inspiration over the next few weeks. Happy autumn!
Ferm Living’s Dotty wallpaper has become a classic motif for avant-garde kids’ spaces in recent years. The yellow version has universal appeal, but I also love the rose and grey colourway, which is surprisingly understated and grown-up.
Black pine trees look graphic on a white ground in this wintry-white Finnish nursery.
For setting a shady, magical mood, you can’t beat the inky Black Forest mural (it’s about 12’ x 10’) by Parisian artist Nathalie Lété for Domestic. With so many creatures peeking out among the foliage, a child will never feel alone.
In this bright, modern space, a wall clad in Cole & Son’s now-iconic Woods wallpaper establishes a nature theme that’s reiterated by a mossy green rug, leafy Midsummer ceiling light by Tord Boontje and a fantastic tire swing.
Saartje Prum’s 12’-wide photo mural of a birch glade offers a sunnier, more verdant look.
If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer or prefer a folksier aesthetic, follow these simple guidelines for painting tree-trunk silhouettes on your walls.
Or if you’re feeling particularly whimsical, take a page from Babyccino blogger Courtney Adamo’s book; she painted a single leggy tree trunk in daughter Ivy’s room, then dressed it with vintage wallpaper leaves from Inke Heiland.