Q. We have a toddler, but we don't have a playroom. How can we keep our living space kid-friendly without letting it become overrun with toys?
A. Designer Abbey Francis, owner of Sassy Sprouts, in St. Louis, recommends some creative arranging. "Pull the furniture away from the walls and have some floating pieces you can use as room dividers," she says. By compartmentalizing the room, you can create conversation spaces in the center of the room for adults and strategically place toys and other kids' stuff behind furniture or in neatly organized niches. "Find things that are tasteful but appeal to kids (like colorful boxes) and pop them in a corner to use for storage," she says.
If you're trying to create a room that welcomes kids into an otherwise adult space, opt for furniture that can store some of their playthings. Francis is a big fan of ottomans with lids that lift, because they keep toys or books within easy reach of kids (plus, it's easy for kids to put their toys away). From leather to wicker, there are lots of stylish ottoman options out there.
End tables with a shelf underneath for a basket of toys, or media units with drawers or hidden nooks, help keep the clutter at bay. Also, look for ways to incorporate shelving units into your living space. Use them in the corner or as room dividers.
If you have a closet in your room, devote it to storing your kids' stuff, Francis recommends. If you can't afford a custom-designed closet storage system, create your own. Install shelves so you can get as much stuff off the floor as possible. Francis likes to stack the shelves with plastic bins -- she even puts pictures on the bins of what goes inside so her toddler knows where things go and can help.
Originally published in American Baby magazine, November 2006.
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