When Sharon and Noel Boothe converted the sunroom of their 1960s Colonial into a playroom, they felt that the abundance of natural light would make the space an ideal art studio for their six-year-old daughter, Palmer, who loves to paint and draw. But “the room’s inadequate storage meant the floor was always covered with art supplies and Barbies,” says Sharon. “The play kitchen became the storage unit. We kept her Polly Pockets in the refrigerator.”
2 of 4Hallie Burton
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.
3 of 4Hallie Burton
Brighten things up. Real Simple installed a ceiling fixture with lights that could be positioned to illuminate three different zones: the art area, the reading nook, and the worktable.
Designate a place for everything. These cute pails keep Palmer's markers, pencils, and crayons separate.
Use what you have. Palmer's existing white baskets lined with pink fabric fit the new color scheme perfectly. Once catchalls for random items, they now keep stuffed animals at hand.
4 of 4Hallie Burton
How They Like It
"When you have an only child, you want to host a lot of playdates―otherwise you're the playdate," says Sharon. "But five minutes after the kids arrived, they would look at me like, 'Well?' since there was no place to play. Now they stay in the room for 2 1/2 hours before I even hear a peep."