2. Design and Furnishings

While you want a room with furnishings scaled for kids, that doesn't mean your playroom has to be a plastic palace. For instance, you can make a nice wooden kid-height table for finger painting or game playing by simply chopping a few inches off the legs of a full-size table. Likewise, wood garden benches can be cut down a few inches—just enough for little ones to be able to hoist themselves up, but not so low as to make sitting difficult for adults—and covered with comfy cushions.

Salvaged materials are obviously green, but they also give a room personality. Dress up windows with wood trim from an architectural salvage warehouse, finished in natural shellac and a coating of beeswax, which are nontoxic and won't off-gas. Distressed painted furniture looks both fun and elegant; just be sure to seal it with water-based, clear topcoats so paint doesn't chip off and into little mouths. Speaking of paint, to give the room a more airy feel, consider shades inspired by nature—water, sky, stone, or sand—instead of the ubiquitous primary colors.

Chances are your children are going to have heaps of toys that will need to have a home when not in use. Baskets, enamel bins, and garden containers set into armoires with the doors taken off make for beautiful, practical storage for toys and craft materials. Built-in seating and toy bins also clear up more floor space for playing and give kids another thing to crawl on and around.

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