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The Playroom Update: Why We Made Our Dining Room a Space for Our Kids

About a year ago (gosh, how time flies!) I posted about how we were thinking about trading in our formal dining room and instead turn it into a playroom for our kiddos. It was a really big decision for me because I hated the idea of a) giving up a formal dining room and b) moving the toys and kid mess to a more prominent spot in our house. But, in the end, it came down to how we spend our time the most. More space for us to play was in much higher demand than a rarely used dining room. Let's be honest, since having kids, we just aren't entertaining like we used to.

A quick recap on the previous space and THE BEFORE:

We have a small breakfast nook off of the kitchen at the back of the house that I initially planned to use as a playroom when we moved in. I loved the idea of having the toys (and the kids) contained off the kitchen while I cooked dinner. It was light-filled thanks to two walls of windows and had adorable built-in corner shelves that I was going to use to display all their sweet toys. That plan was all good in theory...

fun kids nook

small kids playroom

corner built in cabinets in playroom

Just looking at these pictures again is making me clausterphobic! As you can see the room is super small and the toys were over taking the space. And keep in mind, this is just the toys - no kids are even in there playing! The space could not hold more than two adults and two kids so as soon as we had any guests over, the space became way too cramped. So much for that plan.

The dining room also sits off the kitchen with a perfect little pocket door. On the other side of the dining room are glass french doors that lead to the living room. We ultimately decided that this would make a better, bigger playroom. Not only was the space bigger but it was centrally located to the kitchen and the living room so we could easily keep an eye on the kids. And thanks to both sets of doors, it is possible to close the room off if needed.

It's taken some time but the room is now the hub of our home. Yes, the toys still take over everything and it is hard to keep clean. But we have lots more room to play and have friends and family over.

Here's the new space...THE AFTER:

Ikea shelves as toy storage in playroom

Ah yes, here are my trusty old Ikea shelves again, this time serving as tv and toy storage. Remember when they were in our living room? They are great for displaying tons of toys and books.

Side note: It is driving me INSANE how the Xbox camera has to sit on top of the shelves because that cable hangs down the middle of the wall behind the shelves and looks awful. I am working on finding the right art or some other alternative solution to camoflage that.

ikea shelves as tv and toy storage

I loved the rug in the previous playroom so much that I sold that small one and purchased another larger one, just in a lighter color. It's great because it is bright and cheery and playful but also busy enough that it hides all kinds of toddler messes.

Other than the rug, the only other thing we did when we switched the spaces was to switch out the dining room chandelier for a ceiling fan. It instantly made the room feel intentionally like another living space instead of a dining room disguised as something else.

I put together a little gallery wall of animals and animal art that we had. My mom painted one of the dogs shortly before she died and I painted the other so they have special meaning to me. That elephant head (would you believe I found it at Home Goods?!) makes me so happy every time I look at it.

Neither my husband or I are a fan of that gray chair so one of these days we will need to find a cuter, more comfortable alternative. But for the sake of the budget, this'll do just fine for now!

gallery art wall in kids playroom

Kid art is a cheap - make that free! - way to decorate a room. Hang 'em up with a little washi tape and instant gallery wall! The art changes out really easily because the washi tape doesn't pull the paint off. Plus, my kids love to point to it and tell me how and when they made the different pieces.

tip for displaying kids art in playroom using washi tape

We got this great kids table and chairs as a hand-me-down and I just did a high gloss navy spray paint on them and they spruced up great! The kids love eating and coloring in this nook.

navy kids furniture

And lastly is our "adult" sitting area. The kids obviously use the couch but it is nice to have a spot for the adults to perch while the kids play. We got this couch from PierOne after lots of couch searching. We didn't want to spend a ton of money knowing full well that it probably wouldn't last long with kids climbing on it, wiping dirty hands, etc. This has been just the ticket for our space and it is actually pretty comfortable. If you don't take my word for it, ask my husband who falls asleep on it all the time...a sure sign of a comfortable spot!

playroom couch with fun pillows
fun pillows in playroom

That wraps up the playroom tour. In the end, I think it was the best decision for our family to switch the rooms around. It was hard for me to wrap my head around not having a formal dining room but at the end of the day, I just remind myself that this is not a permanent change. We haven't done anything drastic that cannot be switched back when the time comes or if we need to stage our home differently to sell it. And it has drastically improved our quality of life and how we enjoy our home. Have you made any big changes in your home based on the way you currently spend your time?

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