Playroom Reveal

Sunday, January 22, 2012

AKA the post in which I show you how we turned a formal living room into a playroom.

Our new house was built in the 1970s, so of course, we have a smaller, cozier family room AND a formal living room. When we first looked at the house, then bought it and moved in, we figured the living room would be kept quite empty for a while. Buying furniture for a room that we didn't plan to spend much time in was pretty low on the list of priorities when it came to spending our money.

At first, the room was an "overflow" room. And when we were ripping down drywall and the family room was under construction, we had all of our family room furniture in the living room. It was a mess. But once we had things under control, we moved everything into its rightful place and the living room was left with... a toybox. So it became a makeshift playroom for Nora.

Over time, we began to embrace the idea of a first floor playroom. And finally, we decided that if we were going to make it a playroom, we should put the effort into "decorating" it as such. We started collecting pieces for the formal living room playroom, and now, we are finally done.

It's funny, because when you walk through our front door, this is actually the first room you see. I suppose it is a testament to the current state of our lives. Hi, we are parents to a young child. :)

The color on the walls is Sherwin Williams Sea Salt. We actually chose it (and painted it on the walls!) before we even really knew what we were going to do with the room. Looking back, that probably wasn't the right approach, but I think it turned out to be the perfect color. I love it. It's a lovely blue-gray color and really makes this room light and airy.

This is a DIY magnet board we made out of sheet metal for Nora (thanks to Pinterest for the inspiration).
Curtain rod and curtains are from JCPenney.

Table by Tot Tutors, purchased at Toys 'R' Us from Santa's workshop. :) We have really been impressed with the little table so far. The pieces are nice and sturdy, the colors are great, and Nora loves it. Win-win-win.
Playmat by Tadpoles, purchased at We bought three of them to make a mat of this size. This has been great for us, too. For a few months, we sat right on the hardwoods to play with Nora in the then-empty "playroom," and it was really rough on the tailbone (especially one that I swear is permanently damaged by childbirth). This makes things a bit more comfy!

Cube shelf and fabric drawers from Target. This was one of our latest additions within the last several weeks, and it has really helped to complete the room. To have additional, smaller storage to supplement the toy box has been great. Books, smaller toys--they're all easily accessible to Nora, but they now have a place.

Lamp and lampshade from Target. Art from Etsy. There are dozens of variations of the "playroom rules" floating around Pinterest and Etsy, so there are certainly options. And, subway art is fairly easy to DIY, too. However, this PDF file was only $10 and I figured it was more than worth it for the time I would've spent to try to design something I liked equally as much. I had it printed at Staples for like $2, and bought the frame at Michaels.
More toys organized, but easily accessible to Nora. We also decided to hang her cake smash collage (want a better look? check out this post) in here.
Ah, the alphabet wall. This thing was a labor of love, and totally deserves its own post--so be on the lookout for more details on this project within the next few days. In short, we had a huge wall to contend with, and debated going in a few different directions. But in the end, we fell in love with an alphabet wall I had pinned on Pinterest... the rest is history.

Toy box is by my dad. :)

I know this type of thing probably isn't everyone's cup of tea. Like I said, this is one of the first things people see as they come into the front door of our house! A lot of people would prefer to have playrooms that can be hidden behind closed doors, and toys that can be tucked away. But for us, it was about creating something functional. Instead of furnishing and decorating a room that would be rarely used, we went with something that is utilized on a daily basis.

In this room, Nora can play with all of her toys just a few steps away from us while we're making dinner. When we have company over (almost all of whom have children of their own), our kids can play together in the next room while we enjoy some adult conversation. We envision that this room will get a lot of use during our years with young kids. At some point, when they're a little older, we'll move the playing into the finished part of our basement, and this room will transform into something else. Until then, our little girl enjoys it every day. See?
Making sure to come full circle--here are the "before" pics. First, with the sellers things:

And then on the day we moved in:
And one more time, here's our after:
Overall, this was a really fun room to work on. It took some time, but mostly because we just collected items little by little. Once we decided to truly "finish" it, everything came together very quickly. I wish the kitchen could be this easy!


Kate January 22, 2012 at 9:33 PM  

WOW! I love it and totally wish we had the space to have a room designated as a playroom. Growing up, the room off the kitchen was our playroom and my parents didn't refinish it into the formal dining room it was supposed to be until my youngest sister was well into grade school. Might as well have a room you're going to use instead of one just taking up living space, right?

Amy Kay January 22, 2012 at 9:34 PM  

Wow those before pictures kind of make me want to throw up. Looks so beautiful. If the play room starts to bother you there is no reason why you can use curtains over the door. It looks beautiful. I can't wait for the ABC decor post!

Kimberley January 22, 2012 at 9:47 PM  

i'm all for playrooms!! and what works for YOU and your family! this is the stage you're (us too) at in life, so who cares - it's what works. make life simple! :) i love the ABC wall!! and the paint color!!

Ida Jade January 22, 2012 at 10:00 PM  

I'm a newer follower to your blog, but I just had to post. You've done an outstanding job on this room. The color fits perfectly and I'm in love with the alphabet wall. Hubby and I are awhile a way from having kids, but just seeing this makes me a tad anxious for when the time's right.

Wonderful job!!

Vanessa January 23, 2012 at 4:41 AM  

This looks amazing, Heather, literally right out of a magazine! I am so impressed! So is this actually the larger of your two family/living rooms?

We also live in a 70s house, and have one larger living room and one smaller one. The smaller one will become a playroom at some point in the future, but it isn't really very big at all. I think it's wonderful that you are open-minded enough to view a room as something that is capable of transitioning and serving multiple purposes during your family's life in the house.

Once more, simply stunning!

Heather January 23, 2012 at 9:13 AM  

Thanks, all! We're really happy with it.

@Vanessa--Yes, this is actually the larger of the two rooms. Our family room, although smaller, is carpeted, has the fireplace, and the cable TV hookup--so it makes sense for that to be the family room that we hang out in. I do sometimes wish it was a little larger, too, but really, it's enough space for us now. It's also right off our kitchen, so it's nice in that way as well.

Amy January 23, 2012 at 9:20 AM  

Looks great! What a perfect use for that room. Can't wait to hear about the alphabet wall.

Rachel January 23, 2012 at 9:33 AM  

Your playroom looks GREAT! We live in a mid-entry style house, so our kitchen, living rooms, bedrooms are all upstairs. The only space we have for a playroom is downstairs. And while I'm sure that will be nice one day - it's REALLY hard to leave my 17 month old downstairs when I'm upstairs fixing dinner! I'm jealous of your space!!

And do you mind me asking a random question - did you all paint the baseboard or replace it? We currently have stained baseboard/doors and we're getting ready to 'modernize' and change everything to white. We are replacing the doors, but we've been debating whether to paint or replace the baseboard!

Kelsey January 23, 2012 at 9:39 AM  

I love it! Having a small child means you need a fun, functional playroom close to adult supervision, so I have no problem with a formal living becoming a playroom. Besides, you decorated it so beautifully! If it was one huge cluttered mess then it might be a turn off right at the front door, but an adorable room like that just says, "Welcome! Come in and play!" to me!

Heather January 23, 2012 at 2:25 PM  

@Amy (and others)--Alphabet wall post will be coming sometime this week, definitely. Not sure I'll get to it tonight or tomorrow (I might try!), but soon. It was fun! :)

@Rachel--We painted the baseboards. Almost all of the trim in our house was stained (with the exception of the trim around windows and doors--that was all painted to match the wall color, which made it totally blend in. BLECH!). So, we've had to paint all of the trim white around the floors, windows, and doors in every room. Pain in the ass, but it looks so awesome when it's all done.

@Kelsey--I totally agree! :)

Giana January 23, 2012 at 9:35 PM  

I'm so jealous.. this is the prettiest playroom I have ever seen. Perfect for Nora.. Good job! =)

tab890 January 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM  

Great playroom! I love the color choice for the walls too, it really brightens the room up quite a bit.
We just moved into a 1970's era house as well with a unused living room. Really the only one that uses it is our dog so he can watch people walk by.
I love the idea of turning it into a toy area, much easier to watch the little ones.

Maureen,  January 23, 2012 at 10:34 PM  

It looks great! My daughter's playroom is supposed to be our morning room/breakfast area. It works for us!

I noticed that your before pictures have stained wood trim and your after pictures are painted. Did you paint them or did you rip them out and replace? We recently moved and our house has oak trim that we are in the process of painting white. I'm not convinced we are doing the right thing. Thanks!

Heather January 23, 2012 at 10:37 PM  

Thanks again for the wonderful comments, everyone. Much appreciated after the work we put into it!

@tab890--Turn it into a playroom! Go for it. :)

@Maureen--We painted it. Primed and painted. We really wanted white trim, so it was a no-brainer for us.

Vanessa January 24, 2012 at 5:30 AM  

I think the trim looks amazing! It's amazing what a little detail like that can do - it changes everything (I know from our house as well).

This post has made me excited to plan a playroom (though our second living room really is tiny and only fits a 2 seater sofa)! Thanks for the inspiration (as usual!).

You really did an amazing job Heather - it's stunning!

Nat January 24, 2012 at 9:50 PM  

I've been reading your blog for awhile now. I also have a daughter named Nora who was born in September 2010. I think I'm going to use that exact gray color in our house when we repaint this spring. It's a gorgeous playroom!

brandi,  January 26, 2012 at 2:21 PM  

The playroom looks terrific! I'd love to hear more about how you tackled painting the wood trim. We're facing the same project now. Did you have to use an oil-based primer? We've been told that it's the way to go, but with a baby in the house I really don't want all of those fumes!

Heather January 26, 2012 at 2:26 PM  

@Nat--How fun to have two Noras born in September '10! :) Good luck with your painting. Even though I'm not a fan of the work it take, it makes such a huge difference, so it's more than worth it! I think you'll love the color.

@Brandi--No, we actually did not use an oil-based primer. We used a primer that is supposed to be good for pretty much any surface, called "Gripper." It's available at Home Depot. We scuffed up the trim with a little sandpaper, wiped it down, then got to work. One coat of primer, two coats of paint. Good luck! It sucks, but is really worth it.

Catherine July 14, 2012 at 4:30 PM  

Hey Heather! How is the playroom working out for you??

It's funny, but we are moving to a new house, and I bet the set up is very similar to your house. Formal living room when you walk in, and a cozy family room the in the back that is a bit smaller. We are considering the playroom upstairs in a bedroom, or the downstairs living room - like yours. Our cons are the same as you mention - it's right when you walk in the house! But upstairs seems to defeat the purpose, because not that I am neglecting my child, but it would be nice to cook a meal while watching him in the playroom. That obviously can't happen if he's upstairs.
Just curious how you think this is working out for you. Thanks!!!

Heather July 17, 2012 at 10:43 AM  

Hi Catherine! Sorry for the delay in responding. Yes, we LOVE our first floor formal-living-room-turned-playroom. We actually talk about this quite a bit--how we can't imagine having "wasted" the space with a formal living room at this point in our lives. As for it being right when we enter the house--we just do our best to keep it tidy (we usually clean it up after she goes to bed every night). It is actually one of the rooms I am most proud of, visually. Is it what people expect to see when they walk in the door? Probably not. But most of our visitors are our family and friends anyway, so they tend to think it's pretty awesome (for our kid AND theirs). Nora will play in there by herself a lot of the time, and we can keep a watchful eye on her when we're making dinner, cleaning the kitchen, whatever. It's great.

Catherine July 20, 2012 at 9:56 PM  

Thanks so much! I think we did decide to do that.

I was actually reading up on some old posts of yours because I had a feeling I remember your condo selling nightmare. Well...we are in the same exact predicament. It sucks! We weren't going to buy a house before selling ours, but had a buyer so we jumped the gun, and then our buyer ended up backing out. We didn't want to lose the house we got, but now are petrified of the thought of two mortgages. We have two more months until closing (this all just happened) so I'm keeping my fingers crossed we get another buyer. We too might be landlords and try to rent out our house.

Reading your posts did help, and while your situation sounds just as awful, I at least appreciate the somewhat happy ending. Although I am certain we will be practically giving our house away, as it sounds like you did with your condo. Sigh..

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