From the October/November 2015 Issue:

Destination Playroom

    Writer: Mary Carlomagno | Photographer: Marisa Pellegrini | Architect: Carol Hewit, PE, AIA |

Kid-friendly storage and activity zones give a New Providence addition more function and enjoyment for the entire family


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enlarge | Organization is key to this playroom, which is designed with separate play areas so the owners’ two children can entertain their own group of friends at the same time. The letters on the wall help to personalize the space, while the ottomans and chair are easy to move around the space as needed.
Cindy Fowlis had help from her children, Brandon, 10, and Kayla, 8, when expanding their once baby-friendly space into something more suitable for preteens—and play was a priority.

The original playroom in the New Providence home was so small the kids’ toys would often make their way throughout the rest of the house. “When we had company or play dates, I would panic if the weather was bad because the kids had no space to call their own,” Fowlis says. “While I love having a Colonial-style home, it lacked a devoted kids’ space that you might find in other homes.”

To remedy the situation, the family decided to build an addition large enough that both children could invite friends over and that the two groups could play different games at the same time. They worked with Carol Hewit, a professional engineer and member of the American Institute of Architects in Westfield, and contractor Schumm Remodelers in New Providence.


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enlarge | Window seats with plump cushions and pillows provide out-of-the-way spaces for reading or dreaming.
The Process
Brandon and Kayla had plenty of input into the design —which makes sense because they’re the primary users of the space, Fowlis says. And Fowlis herself is no stranger to renovations after completing an impressive extension that feeds beautifully into the backyard. She sat down with the kids and created a punch list of “must-haves,” explaining that the addition would address as many of those items as possible. One unanimous must-have was storage.

To meet that need, the addition was designed to include a more functional garage; a well-appointed mudroom for book bags, coats and umbrellas; and plenty of built-ins within the playroom to house a variety of games in all different shapes and sizes. “Storage is always tricky in an older home, so we added two closets: one for bulkier toys and crafts and the other for spare cleaning supplies and coat storage,” Fowlis says. Creating a permanent home for items encourages good cleanup routines. When everything has an appointed spot, it’s easier for kids to find what they need when they need it and makes it easier to put things away.

Less frequently used items should be stored. Fowlis opted for window seats that do double duty, providing seating and housing sleepover blankets. The hidden storage keeps clutter concealed and gives the room a clean, inviting look.
Form and function is carried throughout the entire room with every space maximized. Even the bright red tray on the ottoman is a strong visual reminder to keep the remote controls together.


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enlarge | A built-in stocked with snacks, a beverage refrigerator and storage for cups, dishes and other necessities
Snack Time
“I like to be the house in the neighborhood where all the kids want to hang out for hours,” Fowlis says. And hang out they do, because this playroom is always fully stocked with snacks and drinks, housed in a streamlined butler’s pantry. Creating zones where kids may play, snack, craft and watch a movie, all at the same time, was another priority that was fully realized in this home.

The Fowlis family loves to live, laugh and play together, so it’s no surprise they take their play area so seriously. They are looking forward to having many gatherings together with kids of all ages. “You’re never too old to be a kid,” Fowlis adds.

Mary Carlomagno is an author, speaker and professional organizer. Her company, Order (orderperiod.com), is located in New Jersey.

Tips for Your Own Re-Play
Decide on your must-haves. Make a priority list of your activities and let that guide your design decisions. Are you a movie buff, an air hockey enthusiast or a super crafter? Make sure to carve out space for the activities you do most.

Designate areas or zones devoted to specific activities. For example, make sure video games, air hockey and table tennis are given ample space away from the game and viewing area. This allows for children with different interests to enjoy the room at the same time.

Create a soothing monochromatic look. It’s easy to rid a room of clutter with storage bins to house small, hard-to-corral toys. Using one color for the bins creates a unified look and can be an easy addition to existing shelving.

Take advantage of hidden storage. Playroom clutter is inevitable, but giving the room enough storage is essential. Closets and storage space hidden under window seats are great places to stow items that are used infrequently.

Use modular seating. Playtime demands flexible spaces so it’s important to have items you can move around, such as beanbag chairs, stools and pillows. You never know when you might need to break into a game of Twister!

Make a home headquarters. Carve out a dedicated space for coats, book packs and shoes outside of the playroom because hanging these items immediately upon entering the home keeps clutter to a minimum. Create an instant mudroom on any wall with hooks, cubbies and baskets.

Personalize your space. Make your playroom unique to your family by adding personal touches such as family photos in coordinating frames or large initials of each child’s name. Such features give the room a finished look.