How to create a beautiful home that encourages play

Play is one of my favorite topics, and truly, what jumpstarted my career in design. Decorating used to be a hobby of mine, and I engaged in my own sort of play: spending my free time arranging rooms that I found to be beautiful. But once I had my first baby, and directly experienced how the design I executed shaped her (our) behavior, I knew I had stumbled upon my life’s work.

Early in my career, I deep dove into understanding how a child’s environment impacts education and initially became very interested in classroom design. When I thought about my own home and life, I realized that my belief that the home is the #1 classroom drove my passion, and that is where I chose to focus my energy.

Today I am breaking down how I design a space that is made for play–for kids, teens AND adults!


To me, there is nothing more beautiful than a space designed to encourage learning and play, and that fosters interaction. Who knew DESIGN could be so fundamental in development and relationship?


Teen Game Room | The Waterford Project

The first step to creating a space meant for play is to decide what goes in it. We must ask our self the question I always ask when creating any space:

What are we going to do here?

  • Are we going to read with toddlers?
    • add pillows, a soft rug and tons of book storage!
  • Are we going to build with preschoolers?
  • Are we playing board games?
    • include comfy seating for each family member and a table with the right surface to hold up to cards or a game board!
  • Are we watching movies/TV?
    • select sofas large enough to accommodate a crowd, hold up to spills
  • Are we doing homework?
    • add proportional seating and a smooth surface for spreading out books and papers

Once you select what you are going to do in your play space, it’s time to start thinking about what the floor plan is going to look like.

Teen Game/Homework Zone | The Waterford Project


When determining what furniture you need to do the things you want to do, it is important to think about what those pieces will look look like. What shape will they take? How will the pieces you add direct the flow of the room?

Sweet Scenes from my family Playroom in our
St. Louis House circa 2014

We tend to think less is more, so the more free space the better–particularly with kids are young. I am amazed by what my kids can turn an empty space into. From rocket ships, to jungles, to “little towns” built out of trains and magformers, to pillow fight arenas, I cannot stress the impact of an empty space on creativity. I have seen the value in this first hand, over and over again!

So before you start adding a bunch of stuff to fill your room, just pause, and ask yourself this:

What is the least amount of furniture I can add and still fulfill the room’s purpose?

The book “Joyful” by Ingrid Fetell Lee is one of my all time favorites, and she has some thoughts to consider as you start working on your floor plan:

“Angular objects, even if they’re not directly in your path as you move through your home, have an unconscious effect on your emotions. They may look chic and sophisticated, but they inhibit our playful impulses.

Round shapes do just the opposite. A circular or elliptical coffee table changes a living room from a space for sedate, restrained interactions to a lively center for conversation and impromptu games.”

-Ingrid Fetell Lee, Joyful

As you add to your space, think light + bright, circular, soft and minimal.

Play + Media Room | The Primera Project


Now, one of the biggest challenges of all is creating a playspace that is easy on the eyes. Kids come with a host of “stuff” and the colors can be a lot to take in, and not necessarily mesh with “adult decor.” So here is my best advice:

Don’t fight the color! Select a space to house it all and let it shine!

We have plenty of time, before kids and after, to live in our neutral havens. But kids stuff is colorful, so let’s give it space to exist as it is!

Peacock Farm Playroom

How to help kids stuff fit in:

  • Make the room basics neutral, and let the toys and books be the primary source of color
  • Arrange bookshelves by color (also makes cleanup a breeze!)
  • Keep the rug neutral
  • Add colorful curtains
  • Create a gallery wall full of colorful family photos on neutral walls

As our families get older and “play” is redefined, so must our spaces evolve. This is why I believe playrooms should be reevaluated regularly, and hold nothing too precious or permanent–except memories!

“The most joyful people I know manage to hold space for play in their adult lives.”

Ingrid Fetell Lee, Joyful

Styleberry Creative Interiors is a Full Service Interior Design Firm based in downtown San Antonio, Texas, specializing in fresh, relaxed design completed in a thoughtful, caring way. With a team & design process you can trust, we’ll create a space and experience that will help you finally exhale.

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