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Designing the perfect playroom on a shoestring budget

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Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010 12:00 am | Updated: 10:25 am, Thu Mar 31, 2011.

(ARA) — Playrooms are ideal spaces for encouraging children's creativity, providing them with the stimulation they crave and helping them create a connection with others. The great news is that you don't have to build an addition onto the house or set aside your family vacation fund to create a great playroom.

Many unused extra spaces in the home can function as playroom spaces. Whether it's a sewing room you no longer have time for or maybe an extra bedroom that isn't being used, make sure the space is safe and secure for the ages of children who will be playing in it. Spaces under staircases and large closets can make great play areas and give an almost fort-like feel for your child to play make-believe in.

Your next step is to define a goal for the room and take into account who will be using the space. Need some direction? Review online resources for playrooms or visit stores that offer playroom ideas. Places like Ikea, Target and the like can be great resources for fun, functional and inexpensive ideas and designs.

"Create universal spaces that will grow with your children," encourages Nancy Bohnett, academic director of Interior Design at The Art Institute of Las Vegas. "Your first child may be a 3-year-old girl who loves princesses, but she may outgrow her love for pink in a few years and gain a baby brother who will also use the space as he grows."

Once you've got an idea of how you want the room to function, you'll be able to make a list of the items you'll need and want, whether it's an easel for your little artist, bins to store a large collection of blocks or a table for the perfect tea party. You may find that you have many of the items you need, whether they are crammed into your child's current space or stored in the garage.

For the items you need to purchase, take advantage of places like Ikea, peruse a garage sale, check the listings on Craigslist, find some treasures on eBay or visit a recycled furniture store to pick up pieces you need. With a little TLC and some paint, any piece can make a great addition to your playroom. Closet sweater stackers and over-the-door shoe organizers are great places for coloring books and art supplies.

When it comes to the walls, playrooms should be bright and cheerful, but there's no need to go overboard with paint. "The reality is that children's tastes change as they grow. Creating an accent wall in a favorite color is a great way to bring color to the space and save money. It can be something your kids help with, putting their handprints on the wall or something fun and can be easily changed over time," says Bohnett.

In fact, Bohnett encourages restraint in all the decor. "Be careful not to choose a theme that will be outdated in a short period of time. Allow the toys and creative pieces your children create in the room to dictate the space. You'll save time, money and frustration in the long run," she says.

When it comes to flooring, hard and washable surfaces are ideal for these spaces. "Having floors that can withstand the rigors of childhood play is important for a parent's sanity," says Bohnett. "Not only do children play with many things that roll along the floor, but they also play with messy things like paints, clay and Mommy's nail polish."

Don't let a small space rain on your playroom parade. "There are simple ways to make a room feel larger," Bohnett adds. "Do simple things like add a mirror to the room. It can be used for dress-up time and helps the space feel larger." Children can also use washable markers and paints on the mirror, which can easily be cleaned once playtime is over.

Lighting for the space can be a breeze as well. Overhead lights that are already built into the space, daylight and some indirect light are all you need. Grab an old lamp from the garage and paint it to match the new scheme. It's a great way to personalize the space and an inexpensive alternative to a custom child-themed lamp.

Last but not least, don't forget that even in a kids' space, parents need a little room. Make sure there's a comfortable place for you to sit and supervise your children and to have the materials at hand you'll need for the space. To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit www.artinstitutes.edu/nz.

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