Getting to know you: Adventures in homemaking (and playroom reveal)

An introvert by nature, I love my house. It’s an escape from a world that is often too fast, too noisy and too frustrating for my sensibilities. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. It’s where my favorite people are. And it’s important to me to make that space a place where our family can flourish: maintaining a cleaning schedule so the germs responsible for the Great Flu of 2013 don’t have a chance to reappear; planning out meals so we eat healthier, together; and creating rooms that are welcoming and meaningful.

Before we even loaded the van to move into our current house earlier this year, I had about 142,785 ideas for the space. Paint chips and Pinterest aside, the whole process of taking an empty room, putting our stamp on it and making it functional and fun for our family is one of my favorite things. It’s project management, HGTV style. I love love love championing a project and guiding it toward completion. (My two younger siblings would tell you I just love to be in charge; they’re not necessarily wrong.)

The Type A in me, however, hates multitasking, so I chose one room at a time to focus on, starting with my son’s playroom, since it’s the most-used and most-seen room in the house, both in terms of housing an active toddler and being the main access point from five areas: the garage, the patio, the laundry room/my home office, the kitchen and the nursery. Thank you, 1950’s architects, for your creativity.

Here’s what was on my wish list:

  • A bright, gender-neutral theme that’s classic, not character-driven;
  • Seating to accommodate adults and kids;
  • Storage for large, bulky toys
  • Learning tools: letters, numbers, places to draw and write, etc.
  • Personality, in my son’s artwork, pictures and interests.

And, here’s what it looks like in action:

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My son is in love with all things transportation, and I found this fabric (My City from JoAnn Fabrics’ snuggle flannel line) that kicked off the rest of the room. I got it for a steal since it’s been discontinued, and I took home the rest of the bolt.

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We painted one wall with a traffic scene using re-positionable vinyl wall decals I found on Etsy (side note: I love these things. They feel like fabric, blend in seamlessly to the wall, but were super easy to move around to get the scene just right).

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Major props to my numbers-minded husband who painstakingly measured out the road placement and its hash marks/border. Also, choosing a sky blue and grass green that don’t look weird is not as easy as it sounds; I debated about two dozen choices for weeks. All are Valspar: the blue is Billow, the green is Peaceful Leaf and the black is Lincoln Cottage Black. We got ½ gallon for all three colors and just a sample of the yellow; the white we already had on hand. And we used a LOT of painter’s tape.

We painted the bottom center and bottom right side with magnetic paint, and covered the center portion with chalkboard paint. The chalkboard paint I love; the magnetic paint is less than impressive. We used all of it, which made for three coats on each side, and virtually nothing sticks to it. The only success I’ve had is with large, thin magnets (like the postcard-sized save-the-date magnets or the business-card ones you get from the roofing guy). But, they won’t actually hold anything else up, they’ll just stick. Which is great if you want to turn one portion of your child’s playroom into a rotating billboard – maybe I should sell ad space? 😉 Another thing: we used paintable outlet covers for the closet light switch and an electrical and cable outlet to the right of the chalkboard, so they blend in with the background. Really easy update and made a big difference.

The lego table was made using a cheap Ikea Lack table, covered in four Lego base plates using Liquid Nails. Owen only has the chunky Duplo Legos now, and the majority of those fit on these plates, which are designed for the smaller pieces. That way, the table will grow with him.

We removed the closet door and put up a simple curtain with a tension rod instead. Owen LOVES it, and we call it his “fort.” I have lots of plans for the inside of the space as he gets older – a reading nook, play clothes closet, etc. Because the curtain’s on a tension rod, it’s super easy to raise and lower it for puppet shows, too. I’m considering painting the inside black for that purpose, but we’ll see. I wanted to live with this piece of the room a bit first.

Another sewing project in this room were these curtains. I used a basic solid cotton from JoAnn’s (whatever was cheapest/on sale) and lined it with blackout fabric, since these French doors open into the nursery and the playroom gets a lot of traffic. I made two panels and they’re hung up on tension rods, so the curtains just slide back and forth. And the hems aren’t straight, but I can live with that (at least, until I find the motivation to take them down and fix them).


A little bit of fun, for mom: I re-used a shelf that hung in his nursery in our old house and now works better in this room. On the left is a picture of our son at the beach (he’s a HUGE water baby, and fearless), using a 97 cent wooden frame from Walmart that I painted yellow. I had a pack of wooden craft stars in my stash already, so I painted a couple and hot glued them on. His name is spelled using paper mache letters from Hobby Lobby that I had originally spray-painted brown for his nursery, but repurposed by covering them with colored yarn. They’re not perfect, but they’re  perfect enough, which is fine by me. (Just don’t look at the back side.) I made a pennant by cutting out triangles from the My City fabric and pinning them, end to end, inside double-fold quilt binding. I then sewed a straight stitch down the binding, also sewing in a decent length of ribbon at either end for tying it up. Beyond easy. The quilter’s binding is genius, I tell you. I want to make about 10 more, just for kicks. The clock I’ll talk about further down; the table and chairs are from Ikea.

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These shelves are built-ins that came with the house, and I love them. I was worried I wouldn’t find colorful storage bins to fit, but after some hunting I found these online at Target. I used clear, adhesive index card holders to hold labels, which I made by Googling (is that a word?) free clipart and printing out on white cardstock. I left a few of the larger/pretty toys on their own for variety. The thing I love about these bins is that while they stay mostly organized, it also makes for super-fast cleanup if needed – just throw toys in bins, stick bins on shelf, ta-da! Floor is clean. It also allows me to move bins around and change up Owen’s toy rotation. He feels like he’s playing with “new” toys when he hasn’t seen them in several weeks. It also lets me (for now, at least) put up toys that I don’t want him to reach on his own or have too much time with, like art supplies or his iPad.


The hubs gets all the credit for this toy bin on wheels. I used old school stencils to spray paint on lettering, and it works great for corralling all the large, bulky toys that can’t fit on shelves. Then, when I need to vacuum (ha!), it’s on wheels so I just move it to one side and back again. I imagine one day it will also serve as a boat, or a raft, or… 🙂

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The alphabet canvases are my favorite part, I think. They could probably stand to be lowered a bit, but anywho. I used 21×24” basic canvases I picked up from Ollie’s, a discount store, many years ago for another project I never tackled. I used my Silhouette to cut out the letters from scrapbook paper, using this playroom art as placement inspiration. I used spray adhesive to fix them in place, then put on two coats of matte-finish Mod Podge and hot-glued ribbon around the edges to finish. I loved them so much I made a matching clock using the same technique, but with a 10” cardboard cake board as the base. I gave it a white coat of paint, ModPodged on the numbers, and laminated two arrows to attach with a brad.

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The last wall features an art gallery so I finally have a place to put up all of Owen’s schoolwork and art projects that’s not my fridge or a well-intentioned file folder. I got the idea to use strips of inexpensive trim from Pinterest (need to find the link!), and used small multicolored binder clips to hold the art. I bought unfinished wood letters from this Etsy shop that I painted at home—I purposefully didn’t put a first name so that it can be used by the whole family and/or future kiddos.

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The bench is great for visitors, and while I don’t have anything on the shelves yet, could be used for more storage. Board games, maybe? We used an Ikea Lack TV console (designed to hold 150-ish pounds) and then followed this tutorial that’s all over the Interwebs to make the cushion. I did spray the seat fabric with a protector spray first so it’s waterproof and stainproof. I made the pillows using forms found at Hobby Lobby (on sale – seriously, never buy anything full price from that store), following a basic envelope style like this YouTube tutorial. I didn’t want something that couldn’t be easily taken off and washed, since it is a playroom, after all.

And that’s it! One project down, 142,784 to go.

Check out my other room re-dos:

Turquoise & fuschia laundry

Turquoise & fuschia home office

Shabby chic foyer

Craftsman-inspired chocolate-and-sage nursery


9 thoughts on “Getting to know you: Adventures in homemaking (and playroom reveal)

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