The von Hausch Family, Fort Lauderdale, FL
In creating a striking aquamarine nursery, Bonnie and Gregory von Hausch surrounded their daughter, Soleil Capri, with beachy treasures from around the world. "The art and photographs in her room capture memories of our travels and the calmness we feel when we're near the sea," says Bonnie. "To us, Soleil means happiness, and the room reflects her happy personality." A painted chest and armoire from the Home Design Store in Coral Gables, FL, work well with a Corsican iron canopy crib. The walls, painted in Benjamin Moore's Bahama Blue with a rubbed finish, are adorned with dangling starfish, ribbons, hearts, and collectibles that have been moved out of reach now that 18-month-old Soleil has started walking. "I wanted the room to appear as if it was a coral reef, where you could see things at different levels as you 'swim' around it," says Bonnie.
The Peterson Family, Houston, TX
At age 3 1/2, Zoë Peterson presides over her very own mini apartment, complete with kitchen, living, dining, and nursery areas. There's no chance of getting bored in this light-filled playroom, formerly a 10' by 14' sun porch: Every nook and cranny is filled with vintage playthings lovingly collected by her parents, Heather and Chris. "Zoë already enjoys thrift shopping with us," says Heather, "and when we find old toys or a child's chair we love, it becomes part of our everyday life, not just a knick-knack on a shelf." Area rugs set off the various play areas, and cafe curtains with a tulip motif add a sweet touch. Zoë delights in sharing tea time with her grandparents and other relatives, says Heather, adding, "Her playroom has become a place for adults to become children again."
The Sims Family, suburban Dallas, TX
This bright and modern playroom proves that you don't need fancy murals to delight a young child. "Our goal was to create a play space that would be genderless and ageless," says Andrea Sims, who dreamed up a bold color-block theme with her husband, Michael, for their 3-year-old son. After taping off and painting 16" by 20" rectangles on two walls, Andrea placed a similar grid of nine 16" by 20" picture frames between windows to form an ever-changing gallery of her son's artwork mixed with animal prints and family photos. Completing the look: block-shaped storage cubbies and an area rug and pillows with patterns of colorful squares. "We see this room growing along with our needs and interests," says Andrea. "The whole family enjoys being together here."
The Looker Family, Whitefish Bay, WI
Sometimes a small backyard can be a blessing in disguise. When Marilyn and Marc Looker realized they didn't have enough clearance for a swing set for daughters Sophie, 7, Grace, 4, and Claire, 3, they decided to build a playhouse that could be tucked into a corner of their lot. The girls' aunt Ann McBurney-Nichols, a Seattle-based architect, designed the house, which Marc and their uncle Mark Rose constructed in a weekend. Leftover 40-year-old shingles from the Lookers' own home cover the roof, and Marc built a wood play stove and added a table and benches. Window boxes filled with flowers are surrounded by fairy statues and birdhouses. "Building the house became a fun family project," Marilyn says, "and the girls and their friends absolutely love it."
The McGould Family, North Palm Beach, FL
When a new baby's on the way, parents often surprise the future older sibling with a "big kid" bed. Well, Max McGould, now 5, got the ultimate treat when his little sister was born: a handmade jeep bed crafted of real bamboo. Max's parents, Erin and Sean, had the idea for a jungle safari theme, and Erin passed on a sketch to sculptor Zavier Bradford at The Bamboo & Cane Company in Jupiter, FL. Intrigued, Bradford constructed a jeep bed with a steering wheel, horn, rear-view mirror, "escape hatch" door in front, and even working headlights! "The bed has inspired Max to explore the globe, study maps and travel books, and go on pretend safaris," says Erin.