The owners disliked the staircase between the two levels but rather than spend £3,500 on a new one, it became a feature, with the banisters and steps painted in four different colours picked out from Harlequin’s What a Hoot wallpaper on one wall. Under the stairs there was more open storage space. The upstairs level became the sleeping area, with carpeting, blackout blinds and alcove cupboards. A large stencil in the shape of a tree, forming a backdrop for the bed, was a real hit. “The parents told me that their little girl wanted to go to bed early so she could read to the birds in the tree,” says Claire.
Designer Viki Lander of Ensoul Interior Architecture comments, “You don’t need loads of money, just MDF, paint and creativity. People don’t know what’s possible.” Viki also advocates flexibility, so a playhouse can be replaced later with age-appropriate furniture, allowing a space to morph into a teenage zone later on. Easyclean fabric on the sofa, built-in storage, cork or timber floors, artificial grass outside to put an end to muddy feet traipsing inside and a sunken trampoline flush with the ground are just some of her tips. She recently finished a space for two footballmad boys. “Arsenal’s iconic colour scheme ran through the bedding,” she says, “and I used wall stickers that come off easily so you don’t have to repaint the walls. Every detail is thought through,” including wiring the space for surround sound and cinema usage later on. “You can kidify your home without compromising its design,” says Viki.
Go underground – basements make great kids’ spaces. Dig deep or, if you don’t have the space, go under the garden, which is structurally less demanding and enables roof lights to bring in lots of light.
Mezzanine platforms – these can be interesting spaces if you have the ceiling height
Bring the outdoors in – swings can be fixed to ceilings, slides can be built off mezzanine platforms and ropes and wall bars can be fitted to walls. Climbing footholds can be put on justabout anything that’s load bearing
Furniture – invest in interesting or even bespoke pieces. Use adult furniture that will last well, but balance this with decorative accessories, fabrics and wall coverings that appeal to kids
Lighting – for a fantasy experience, fit woodpeckers sitting on a branch in an indoor treehouse, ceiling lights that look like balloons or make clouds and illuminate with LED lights behind them
Wall art – murals are great (choose classics such as Paddington Bear or Winnie-the-Pooh); wall decals and wallpaper murals are cheaper alternatives
Storage – this is key. Built in looks great and can hide a multitude of sins. If the room is small use nooks and crannies to create storage, or furniture that doubles as storage
Family life without walls – install glass sliding doors, an aquarium, low-level sofas or shelving units to separate areas within an open-plan space
Materials – cork is a great acoustic insulator for floors and walls. Carpet is great on stairs and consider timber floors rather than stone. Lino is great for playrooms
AV – install an easy-to-fit sound system such as Sonos, which is discreet but offers great sound quality. Big TV screens and gaming equipment are better in a dedicated room. Hidden cabling and hardware is essential: centralise your AV hardware in a lockable cupboard and channel all your cables back to it
Outdoors – design easy access to the garden from the ground floor or lower-ground living space via glass sliding or bifold doors. In-ground trampolines don’t spoil the view. Basketball hoops are another easyto- install winner with kids
Artificial grass – eliminates the need for cutting, is pet friendly and looks great 365 days a year. Treehouses and multistory playhouses provide endless entertainment