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Great Kids' Rooms

In her delightful new book, Design Mom blogger Gabrielle Stanley Blair emphasizes making rooms in a family home as multipurpose as possible. This dining room, featured in the book, has been completely transformed into an inviting playroom for the kids – but one that can still pinch-hit as a dining room when needed. Excerpted from Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide by Gabrielle Stanley Blair (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. 

Full disclosure: I’m a busy working parent, and when I get home, I often have little energy for big projects around the house. Putting my kids to bed at night and getting them to their one or two lessons each weekend is about all I can manage. In addition, I’ve worked in the world of interior design for the better part of 20 years, and I see my share of great rooms and savvy ideas on a daily basis. So when I reviewed Design Mom recently for H&H’s “Home Library” column, I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed it and by how fresh and inspiring Gabrielle Stanley Blair’s ideas are.

Early on in this smart, stylish guide on living with kids, Blair puts her finger on the crux of the problem: “Kids come with all sorts of gear — and it multiplies.” The down-to-earth solution, says the popular blogger and founder of the Alt Summit, riffs on William Morris’s adage “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Blair says: “Think of the beautiful teapot you use every single day. This should be your goal when choosing any object in your home — high function + high beauty.”

But should we change our decorating for life with kids? Blair thinks so, saying “design affects us and can alter relationships in a very real way.” She plans her own homes (and her family has had a number over the years) to encourage togetherness, even if everyone in the room isn’t focusing on exactly the same thing. Her book, she says, aims to teach us, “How to live with kids, and not just how to live, but how to live well.… One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that design doesn’t have to disappear when kids appear.” 

Blair is my hero when it comes to copyrighted cartoon characters. “It’s 100 percent possible to make a room your child will love without involving Olaf the Snowman,” she insists. I wholeheartedly agree. She created this enchanting bedroom for a youngster in love with Finding Nemo – and it’s surprisingly chic and parent-friendly. Excerpted from Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide by Gabrielle Stanley Blair (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. 

The interior designer and mom of 6 (!) features reams of vibrant, approachable, livable rooms that lean slightly toward the contemporary but also incorporate a good dose of the quirky, the creative and the colourful. She sagely tackles the various zones and hotspots of the family home, offering unique and seasoned tips for the entryway, living room, kitchen, kids’ bedrooms, family room, laundry room, bathroom and family office, weaving together the wisdom she has gained wearing the two hats: mother and designer.

Her ideas are thoroughly practical and flexible. Idealism be damned – she's not afraid to advise, “Be willing to adjust to the current situation.” Likewise, as a relatively harried working parent, I appreciate her idea on timelines. “There’s no deadline. You’ve got a whole lifetime to work on it.”

Her warm ideas for family living have helped reinvigorate my goal to be a fun, involved parent and given me some fresh ideas for achieving that. I'm inspired by her recommendations to hold monthly interviews with each child; to do some goal-setting as a family; to crank good tunes during dinner cleanup and get the whole crew in on the action; to start a collection together as a family (even if it’s as simple and budget-friendly as collecting a couple lovely rocks on very trip we take); to create a stage-type space in my house for our pint-sized performer; keep a couple of thin, roll-up mattresses on hand for sleepover guests (which would keep us from having to drag a standard mattress through our narrow hallway from room to room when the girls have overnight guests…); and, perhaps most helpful for me, the family packrat, how to sort and purge kids artwork.

On the design side of things, she expounds on plans like establishing a functional command centre at the front door; rotating toys and clothes seasonally to make the odds and sods you’re living with on a daily basis more manageable; storing things where right you’ll use them; the best ways to make rooms multifunctional. She discusses the best family-friendly options for small-space seating, rugs, countertop materials, coffee tables, dishware, clothing and shoe storage and more. And she also includes several easy DIYs for making things like inexpensive but stylish cement planters, a “meaningful words” poster, a fabric-covered bulletin board, a customized laundry bag and a Sticky-Note calendar. 

Blair suggests using eye-catching dressup clothes as room decoration, which has the added benefit of making the outfits readily available for the kids to use. Excerpted from Design Mom: How to Live with Kids: A Room-by-Room Guide by Gabrielle Stanley Blair (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. 

So … what has Blair inspired me to change at my house? First up, I’m going to gussy up my laundry room.  I log several hours a week in there – why not kit it out ... even if it’s just for me! Then, I’m going to rotate out a bunch of my kids’ toys. I do it with their clothes each season – why not the toys, too? Don’t tell them, but some things may get rotated out permanently. Next, I’m going to invest in one of those clear plastic sets of drawers at a big box store and completely reorganize my art-supply cupboard. I’m never going to have enough space in my small city semi to have a separate craft or wrap room, and I’m the mom who hosts crafts parties for the kids in our gang, so why not indulge myself? Finally, I’m going to rethink my (extremely tight!) front hall and decide whether there are any ways I can make it better. After all, Blair insists, “setting up a functional entry is key to gracefully managing a home with kids,” and as her latest disciple, I’m going to see about making my busy life a bit more graceful. 

Photo credits:

1. The Land of Nod
2. Kristen Loken
3. Lesley Colvin


Katie Hayden 

Can we go outside yet? I know the trees and flowers have been blooming in Victoria for weeks, and Calgary's had some nice weather, but we're definitely still shivering away in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. But that isn't keeping me from daydreaming of days spent in the backyard — bringing our garden back up to speed and the kids passing full Saturdays and Sundays out in the fresh air.

With the sun not quite as strong as in summer and humidity not yet an issue, spring can actually be nicer than summer for outdoor pursuits. To inspire your kids to get out there, consider adding something new — like one of these five toys — to spur on play and venture into the cooler weather.

1. Disc Swing

We have the simplest board-and-rope swing in our front yard, and it never fails to entice every single kid who comes to our house. Installing a disc swing is even simpler than a two-rope swing because you don't have to contend with levelling the two sides of the swing. Retailers like The Home Depot and Canadian Tire stock inexpensive versions, and there are handsomely crafted and stained version on Etsy. To make your own, check out the blog Dukes & Duchesses.

2. Skateboard Swing

I'd hazard a guess that skateboard swings use more of a child's muscles and help develop large-motor skills like balance. But to kids, all that matters is that they're just plain fun. Here's an easy how-to.

3. Hanging Hideout

The Victorians are said to have loved their fresh air. If your house doesn't have a wraparound veranda like they had, a hanging chair is a lovely outdoor retreat. It's like a hybrid of a swing and a fort. The Cacoon hanging tent (left) is good-looking and fun. And the egg-shaped rattan hanging chair (right) designed by Nanna and Jørgen Ditzel for Sika Design in 1957 is a classic that appears to be having another comeback this year.

4. Balance Beam

Don't have the space or budget for a palatial play structure? A balance beam is something quick and easy to add, but that will foster all sorts of play, not just balancing. I'm seriously contemplating one for our postage stamp-sized backyard. Cedarworks (above, top) has a sturdy outdoor version. And Ikea (above) has an indoor one that I'd use out in the yard when it's not too damp. Ikea's is higher, so I'd pair it with their Plufsig folding gym mat for extra cushioning when my kids fall.

5. Sandbox

There's no denying the appeal of a sandbox. My girls started playing in them as babies and my 9-year-old can still while away an hour or so in the sand. But if you're doing one, why not take it to another level? Here are two unique examples: a recycled wooden boat-turned-sandbox and a rolling version featured in Domino magazine years ago.

6. Theatre Or Puppet Show Curtain

My kids love to put on shows. They sing, dance, recite poems ... you name it. Last summer, when we were camping with seven other families, they strung up a rope between two trees, threw a few beach towels and sarongs over it and performed a concert lit by lanterns and headlamps. Wouldn't a stage curtain like this up their game? I spotted it on Etsy a couple of years ago. Sadly, it seems like it's not available through House That Lars Built anymore, but I flirt with the idea of stitching up a replica when I have the time. For kids who love puppet shows, this doorway puppet theatre curtain would be a hit.

Hopefully the temperatures will heat up soon and we can all venture outdoors!

See what else you can do with a small backyard in our photo gallery.

Photo credits:
1-3. VintageSwings, Etsy
4. Dukes & Duchesses blog
5a. Cedarworks
5b. Dig This Design blog
6a. Cacoon hanging tent
6b. Shoot Factory
7. Cedarworks
8. Ikea
9. Desire Empire blog
10. Domino via Nonchalant Mom blog, photography by Melanie Acevedo
11. HouseThatLarsBuilt, Etsy


Katie Hayden

I have a new baby nephew coming any day now, and he'll eventually share a bedroom with his almost-2-year-old brother — which has me thinking about boys' bedrooms.

I've always been more partial to warm colours, and I have two girls myself, so my comfort zone is rooms full of pinks, reds and oranges. (Though we painted my girls' room in Farrow & Ball's Skylight (205), which is a really livable pale blue that sets off the bright colours.)

It turns out there are piles of great boys' bedrooms out there — even ones that woo a romantic like me, who thinks whimsy and fun are essentials in any child's room!

My favourites have rustic leanings; they feel almost like you'd find them in a log house in the woods or a summer camp cabin.

Maps always inject loads of colour and pattern, inspire wonder and wanderlust and are fun and educational. In Desmond's Ottawa bedroom, his mom Giulia Doyle set off the blues, yellows and greens with hits of bright red in the wall-mounted lamp, sock monkey stuffie and army-style blanket.

This room takes the travel theme a step further, with the addition of vintage suitcases, a steamship trunk, a stuffed giraffe and kangaroo and scientific illustrations of exotic birds. An old iron bed, understated bed linens and grey-on-grey Union Jack pillow balance the look.

I'm sold ... bright green is great for a kid's room! It's fresh and strong, but not at all overbearing. And set off by buffalo-check bed linens, it looks mod and playful. A patterned rug, strapping-topped stool and toy car add depth and character. I'm not the biggest fan of taxidermy, but it works here — and, of course, it's not real.

The worn wooden beds in this room remind me of old-fashioned sleighs. Along with the painted-wood floors, checked and striped bedding and bright red toadstool, they give the room a fairy-tale quality. And there's lots of space on the floor to flop down and play cars or colour.

I'm not certain many boys play cowboys anymore, but they did when I was a child. I'm pretty sure my nephew, Rafa, would find it fun to have thundering horses on his walls! A horse-patterned bedspread and saddle-blanket-covered headboard cushions continue the theme, while the canary yellow of the bed frame and side table clash a little bit with the rest of the room, keeping it from feeling too perfect.

Animals are a universally loved theme for children's rooms. While the wolf cub on this bedding is charming, the look is graphic, crisp and clean. First-aid-style accents bring in layers of details. (This bedding was from an H&M home collection. I can't find it available anywhere now, but H&M's wild cat bedding has a similar look, as does ByNord's wolf bedding.)

For more inspiration, check out our gallery of Editors' Favourite Kids' Rooms.

Photo credits:
1. Apartment Therapy, photography by Giulia Doyle
2. Ty Pennington
3. Interieur Inspiratie
4. Light Locations
5. Poligom, photography by Lucas Allen/GMA Images
6. Met Melk & Suiker


Katie Hayden

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.

Photo sources:
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  
13. DwellStudio
14. via Pastelowo blog 
15. via Revedecor blog. Photograph by Bolaget


Katie Hayden

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...

Photo sources:
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


Katie Hayden

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.

Photo credits:
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,
9. John Robshaw, Rikshaw Design
10. House to Home, Making Nice in the Midwest


Katie Hayden

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.

The Swing

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!

Safety Tips

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.

Photo Credits:
Real Simple
Fun at Home with Kids
This is Glamorous
Rafa Kids
Photography by Lena Granefelt from Sköna Hem
French by Design
Photograph by Mikkel Adsbol from KML Design
The Boo and the Boy
Coming Kids
Photo by Stephanie Deleau from A Cup of Jo; Photo by K.Balas from Milk magazine
Architecture Art Design
Adore Your Place


Katie Hayden

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!

Areaware's Large Wolf throw pilow has a similarly true-to-life look, while Ferm Living's Mr. Frank Fox throw pillow has a more playful aesthetic.


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.

Photo credits:
1. Love Mae
2. Mimi' Lou
3. Kek Amsterdam
4. Domestic
5. Design*Sponge
6. Cloud Kissed Kids
7. H&M Home
8.">Little Auggie
9. By Nord
10. Areaware
11. Ferm Living
12. Sebra
13. Cloud Kissed Kids


Katie Hayden

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.

Photo credits:
1. Ferm Living
2. My Second Hand Life
3. Domestic

4. Skona Hem
5. Saartje Prum
6. Apartment Therapy

7. Babyccino Kids 


Katie Hayden

Otomi textiles are a perfect way to pull out all the stops and splash around a riot of colour. Made by the Otomi indigenous peoples of the central plateau of Mexico, the traditional brightly embroidered fabrics feature red and orange, green and pink, turquoise and navy flowers, birds and animals parading across a pristine white ground, and will inject fun and playfulness and just a dash of fairytale intrigue into kids' rooms.

Right now, Otomi textiles epitomize lush summer colour and tropical warmth, but in several months' time they'll also be great for helping us shake off any winter doldrums.

I love this Moorish arch-style headboard upholstered in vibrant fabric.

This classic shot from the late, great Cookie magazine (left) may have initiated the most recent craze for Otomi fabrics. If you're hesitant to commit to the expense of upholstery, mount a twin- or full-size bedspread on curtain rods behind a bed for a feature wall and giant headboard in one.

Sydney, Australia, creative director/blogger/shop owner Louise Bell complemented a rainbow-bright Otomi in her son Jasper's modern room with artfully arranged picture book spines and a vintage-style toy car.

A bright pink Otomi bedspread is mixed with like-minded fabrics in this girl's bedroom by Charleston, S.C., architect Heather Wilson.


I am always partial to a rainbow of colour and pattern in a child's room and would model a whole room after the multihued Otomi palette. But if you like a sparer look, try a single injection via a lumbar pillow from Etsy shop Casa Otomi ($200). 

...or a framed Otomi-inspired print, like this one from Etsy shop ScoutandLilly ($18).

A rich embroidered Otomi bedspread (this one is from Etsy shop from YucuNinu) cheers up even the most sedate space.


I love Peter W. Gilroy's Otomi-upholstered ottoman ($790), handcrafted in Taos, N.M.

I'd toss a couple of these 24" x 24" poufs from Casa Otomi ($148) in the corner of one of my girls' rooms to cushion a cosy reading corner, or keep a pile in a playroom/TV room for flopping down on during movies or Wii games.

If you're feeling particularly crafty, try this more advanced DIY project by Brooklyn-based artist/textile designer Lena Corwin. She patterned a dresser in Otomi-inspired images, a project reviewed in her book, Printing By Hand (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2008).

And last, but definitely not least, if you're feeling superposh, stitch together a couple of these Hermès carre scarves to cover a silky throw pillow. It'll be luxe and lively!

Photo credits:
1. Project Nursery blog
2. From Bali with love blog (left) and Undecorate blog
3. Table Tonic blog
4. Heather Wilson
5. Etsy Casa Otomi
6. Etsy ScoutandLilly
7. Etsy YucuNinu
8. Peter Gilroy
9. Etsy Case Otomi
10. Apartment Therapy
11. San Diego Red


Katie Hayden

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