Playroom Plans and the Woes of Living in an Old House

A while back I posted a poll about which of two rooms–one upstairs and tiny, the other downstairs and bigger–should eventually become our bedroom.  The results were overwhelmingly in favor (84% to be exact) of the larger downstairs room that is currently our playroom/office/junk room.  I hemmed and hawed, but ultimately I decided that in the short term (the next 6 or 7 years) we’re going to buck the crowd and use the upstairs room.  Before we had Opal I didn’t realize that kids don’t spend time in their bedrooms.  Now it seems so obvious–of course they want to be a part of the action.  Plus Opal is still too little to go up and down the stairs without supervision, and having the playroom downstairs also helps to curb the spread of toys in the living room.  It also means we can cook or fold laundry while she plays nearby and still carry on a conversation with her and pop in to be part of whatever game or story she’s come up with.

Here is what the room looks like these days:

Red House West||Playroom Plans

It’s a generously sized room, but it’s serving too many purposes at once right now.  I want it to be less of a dumping ground, and more of a dedicated play space.  I’m a huge fan of Jenny Komenda of Little Green Notebook (seriously, she’s AMAZING) and the playroom that she created for her girls is so bright and happy:

Red House West||Playroom Plans 39

I love that it’s bright and colorful, not theme-y, and leaves tons of space for imagination.  So I thought that I’d try to create something similar.

Opal loves to read and having a comfortable spot to curl up with her in the playroom would be great.  My plan this weekend was to move my old red chaise in here–it would be perfect!

Red House West||Playroom Plans

In its current position the chaise is cramped and not very inviting.  It’s awkwardly butted against the Broyhill Brasilia credenza that I recently refinished (which I would love to show you, but until I can get the chaise out of here the credenza is stuck in an unappealingly off-center position in the room).

I love the vibrant yellow curtains in Jenny Komenda’s playroom.  I found these cheery ones from ModCloth and I made a quick mood board to get a sense of how they’d look with the red chaise.  I think it would be really cheerful!

Playroom Plans
But alas, it wasn’t meant to be.  In this funky old house our interior doors vary in size, and the door into the playroom is just 28 inches wide.  We tried getting the chaise through the mini doorway every way we could think of.  The legs don’t come off and the frame is all one piece so cutting them off and reattaching them isn’t an option (I was disbelieving about this so I consulted a professional and he confirmed.  Boo.).  We explored taking the chaise outside and then getting it back in through a window.  But NO.  There is literally no way to get the chaise in there.  ARGH!
So, trudging onward through small-door frustration, I recalled that we have a captain’s bed in the basement that was in Opal’s room back when it was little-boy Chester’s room (for new readers, we live in the house where my husband grew up. You can read more about how that happened here if you’re interested).  We had to cut it in half to get it out of the room in order to fit the crib in there (see old house with small doors frustration explanation, infra).  I searched the web for images of kids’ rooms with similar day bed set ups, and came up with some inspiring images.

Okay so this last one isn’t similar at all to our captain’s bed, but I’m in love with the lacquered yellow paint, and now I’m inspired to paint our version a similar sunny hue (apparently I’m really determined to bring a lot of yellow into this room!).   And maybe you noticed that all of the previous inspiration images are the same daybed–I’m fairly certain it is from Ikea.  Ours was built by a handy neighbor decades ago, but it is really similar including the three drawers on the bottom.  Since it’s already in two pieces it will (fingers crossed) fit through the door, and Chester thinks that he’ll be able to reattach the two halves.

So I’m reimagining the playroom now along these lines:

Another Playroom

My image editing skills are nonexistent so you’ll have to use your imagination for the lacquered yellow daybed–hopefully the yellow pillows on the bed trick the eye at least a little.  The floral curtains are actually a shower curtain–you know what’s super expensive?  Curtains.  You know what’s not super expensive?  Shower curtains.  I’m hoping that with one cut down the middle and a little hemming no one will know the difference.

It’s worth it, but this charming old house definitely comes with the occasional frustration!  Anybody else out there been stymied by the quirks of an old house lately?

16 responses on “Playroom Plans and the Woes of Living in an Old House

  1. Carol Crump Bryner

    I think leaving the downstairs room as a playroom/family room is a good choice. Kids do not play in their bedrooms, unless they’re near the action. We used to have such a room in our old house in Anchorage when our kids were little. It was the playroom/laundry room/artist studio, and it was right off the kitchen/dining room. When we demolished it to “modernize” our home, the kids never forgave me. Yes, the frustrations of old houses are endless, but the charm lives on – especially in the minds of children.

    1. meramatthews

      I think I thought that kids play in their rooms because I definitely played in mine as a kid. But it was close to the main part of the house and had monkey bars, so that may have had something to do with it! Thanks Carol, I’m excited to put this one together!

  2. Marlene Miller

    If I didn’t already say so in your original poll, I also think your choice to have the master bedroom remain upstairs and preserve the downstairs room as a playroom/family room was absolutely the right one. I’m almost crying that you couldn’t get the chaise into the room, but the daybed is a wonderful alternative and I’m so excited to see it with its new coat of lacquered yellow paint!! I’ve been adding pops of bright yellow to contrast with all of the beachy blues in our new house so I guess I’m partial to that idea right now… 🙂 Can’t wait to see how this comes together for you.

    PS – Hot pink too?

    1. meramatthews

      It seems like a little hot pink with my mustard is basically inevitable for me these days! Maybe the chaise will have a future home in our Halibut Cove cabin, we’ll see. In the meantime I’ll be dreaming about your blue and yellow beach house! xo

  3. Katy Gilmore

    I am so excited about this plan. Love the colors very much and can hardly wait to read books on the newly together Caotain’s bed. Maybe that wonderful pink chaise lounge can live in your guest room – for a real hideaway!

    1. meramatthews

      Alas, that option has been explored and is also IMPOSSIBLE. If you’re up for it, this project may be happening on or about the second week of December! 🙂 xoxo

  4. y2knina

    Wow, yellow is having a moment! I’m seeing it crop up on lots of blogs lately. I love the idea of the day bed vs the chaise, and your color choices so far. It will be fun seeing you put this together.

    BTW, possible stupid question, but how do you put together mood boards. Is there any idiot proof (and preferably free) program I can download? (I don’t have photoshop.) I would love to be able to put some together to send to my long-distance shopping/thrifting girlfriend, rather than attaching a bazillion separate pix to every email. Just wondering!

      1. y2knina

        Thank you, Mera! I’ve been having fun noodling around. However there doesn’t seem to be an option to use your own photos, which is kind of a bummer. But its a great option to have otherwise. I never would have known about it otherwise!

        1. meramatthews

          You can use your own photos, but it takes a little doing. Step 1: start a blog (just use a free wordpress format and mark it private if you don’t actually want to blog). Step 2: upload photos to a draft post in your blog and click on the “preview” button. Step 3: use the Polyvore clipper to clip the image from the preview of your blog post. It’s a roundabout way, but it works!

  5. panda flannel

    Daybeds rule! And so much storage! I hope it fits through your doors; it sounds like a great idea. To commiserate on the tiny doors/weird old house front, I present Evidence A:

    These are the doors to me and my roommate’s bedrooms. (Please ignore everything else about that room, it is my albatross. Ooh, except the cool original linoleum that’s super beat up but made out of actual linseed! Okay, wait, I digress).

    I swear to god, the doorways are each – count ’em – 18″ wide. Some people have to turn sideways to get in. I have a miraculous hardwood dresser that is 17.75″ wide and very little other furniture because my room is tiny (6″x7″), but my roommate has assembled a lot of flat-pack furniture in hers that may one day have to be lowered out the window.

    1. meramatthews

      NO WAY. That is crazy! It’s like the horizontal version of the 7 1/2th floor in “Being John Malkovich”! Thanks for providing some much needed perspective (and I’m digging the yellow!).

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