Toss past-their-prime items. Sharon threw out Palmer's bulky plastic kitchen, old stuffed-animal collection, and seen-better-days art supplies (such as dried-up markers and hardened Play-Doh).
Give art top billing. A 16-foot-long wall on the left-hand side of the room sets the scene for Palmer's art center. New cabinetry―complete with open cubbies for stashing supplies in clear, roomy bins―lets Palmer see what she has. Easy-access storage also ensures that everything can be put away quickly after a playdate. "My daughter's too young―and my husband's too male―to deal with a lot of small, labeled compartments," says Sharon. "Cleanup needs to be quick or it won't happen." Real Simple brought in a flat-file drawer unit (shown) for holding paper and completed art projects. It sits at a kid-friendly height, so Palmer can use the surface for spreading out her paints. Sharon used to tape Palmer's paintings to the wall. Now a "hanging gallery" made of curtain wire and clips (shown) encourages constant rotation. It's sturdier than tape and more practical than framing. After all, prolific little painters whip up works of art every day.
Carve out a reading section. The organizers turned the back corner into a cozy area propped with cushions so Palmer can curl up with a good read. A small bookcase contains her favorite books and puzzles, plus a mini boom box with an iPod dock. A task lamp mounted to the wall offers adequate reading light.
Let the space breathe. The new layout frees up plenty of room for playing games and running around―a necessity for any active child.
Adjust the mood. Window shades in robin's-egg blue add a touch of calm as well as insulation, making the room a comfy place for Palmer to hang out.