Room to Play

Playroom. The word is a bit of an anachronism, isn’t it? With space in short supply for most Londoners, ‘play area’ is a better way to describe those parts of the house where urban offspring are letting off steam. Landings, under the stairs, snippets of kitchens. But even if your floorplan allows for a separate playroom, the gap between grown-up and children’s areas is blurring for other reasons, says Joanna Feeley, of lifestyle forecasting agency Trend Bible. “Open-plan living means that parents are happier having children’s toys on view. Nowadays there’s also less distinction between adult and children’s décor. From wall art to cushions: typographical messages, illustration and bold colours look good in any area of the house.”

Interior designer Mandy Colliss agrees: “We’re increasingly asked to create playspaces in grown-up areas. But wherever you plan your playroom, good storage should be a starting point,” says Mandy, who also runs online kids’ design emporium Funky Little Darlings. “Fit narrow bookshelves under stairs to house a mix of books or framed artworks or customise basic white storage units with stickers.” For moveable storage, consider Oeuf’s mini birch bookshelf (from Smallable) or strike an industrial note with the ‘String’ shelving system (from Haus London). Invented in 1949 by two Swedish architecture students, the buildable shelving defines Scandi style: functional and affordable. At Cottage Toys, owner Jess Portway’s pick of “storage that doesn’t scream children” includes tall, tasselled baskets. At the Camouflage Company, storage in a myriad of hues folds flat and is wipe-clean; for Bardot chic, Oli and Ella’s vintage-style Piki baskets can double as mini picnic hampers. Space-saving specialist IO Kids’ clever Doodle Box is a unit on wheels, which opens out to reveal storage, and paper that can be pulled over the lid to create a drawing board. 


Turning to walls, even the pokiest spaces can be brought to life with a bold sticker. Some of the liveliest come from newcomer Chameleon. “We’ve used a matte textile fabric for our stickers so they are easy to apply and remove,” says designer Jane Street of the collection that depicts designs drawn from 19th-century illustrations. Another name on the rise, Wallplayper’s newest retro-themed wallpaper has moveable stickers inspired by designer Emma Carlow’s memory of messing around with Fuzzy Felt sets. At Eggnogg, designer Kate Edmund’s colour-in wallpapers reference the zoo. Garlands are everywhere; some of the best come from French-brand Tim and Puce: rabbits, pineapples or cacti feature in pleasingly bold designs. Or fuse fun and learning in Funky Little Darlings’ learn-to-tell-the-time clock wall sticker with moveable hands. 


Alternatively, take a DIY cue from Emma Jameson of graphicdesign led brand Jam Tart and “peg our flash cards onto an ‘alphabet washing line’.” At e-tailer Scandiborn, founder Grace Tindall’s tips include “chalk paint for playroom walls in the shape of a mountain or landscape” (Annie Sloan for paints). “I also like making a collage of my son’s art in a frame.” And the stencil, last seen in the 80s, is resurfacing albeit with a Banksy edge: take your pick from designs at the Stencil Library or Everlong.


Then future-proof your space with desks. Furniture maker Alex Swain’s ‘A range’ desk was inspired by a passion for typography; elegant but playful, the birch ply design features a tilting lid with space for pens. For a vintage feel, the Moulin Roty desk-and-chair-inone design at Cottage Toys would sit neatly under stairs. At Nubie, new arrivals include rabbit-eared chairs and table by Oeuf, which you can customise with re-usable stickers. Funky Little Darlings’ top picks include a simple trestle-style in fresh green or head to Smallable, where space-saving designs include a sloping desk and chair by Kutikai. Doyens of the perennial, Stokke’s Trip Trapp chair can be personalised, transforming from a high chair to a mini chair for arts and crafts. 


Shifting your gaze to floors, interior designer Amelia Carter is a fan of cork: “It’s cheap, easy to lay and warm under foot.” Or consider hardwearing vinyl in brilliant colours at the Colour Flooring Company (it won’t mark as the colour is solid). Then add a playmat: Sebra’s interlocking design (at Cottage Toys) is made of 13 pieces, which can be easily tidied away, and throw in a beanbag by Love Frankie. For illumination, look to the typographic lightboxes at SGT Smith. Then scatter cushions: some of the prettiest come from French brands Main Sauvage or Ila Ela: long-necked swans, pigeons or knitted chickens. British designer Tori Murphy has turned her hand to child-friendly but adult-pleasing wares; her monochrome cushions will transition easily from playcorner to sitting room as will the typographic designs by US name Jonathan Adler.


Finally, reward yourself with an heirloom toy. So what if your children would rather spend their hours with dayglo plastics? At Ooh Noo (in Slovenia) simple wooden prams and toys have a pareddown, Scandi feel. In Amsterdam, Dutch designer Kast van een Huis’s miniature wooden canal houses in pastel hues bridge the child/adult gap with ease. Back home, Little Country Cooks’ wooden kitchens are miniature facsimiles of the real thing, replete with gleaming pots, kettles and utensils so charming that, even when the playroom becomes a distant memory, it is unlikely that will ever want to part with them.