Once this small building was, literally, for the birds. It was a pigeon coop, abandoned long ago, and it was falling to the ground. But it sat at the end of the lawn and screened a view of the neighbors’ yards. The family wanted a play area for the kids, so it made sense to save it. Now there’s room to relax on a daybed with a book, draw on a chalkboard, or play at a kidsize table. Later the family may turn it into a studio, office, or guest house.
A functional seating area, placed in a U-shaped configuration, encourages conversation. Artifacts from family travels reflect the personalities of those who live here, while the fireplace and television anchor the space.
Thomas J. Story
4 of 15
Thomas J. Story
Magnetic paint creates a fun display board in this cheerful playroom.
Want to keep your space uncluttered and your home life pared down? Take a cue from this home. In the playroom, there are four bins of toys. The rule is simple: If the boys want something new to them, it needs to fit in the bins. If the boys outgrow something, it’s donated, sold, or re-gifted.
By turning a sloped plot into a modern play den, a designer created usable family space where none existed before. In this Greenbrae, California, front yard, Ive Haugeland () placed concrete planters along the sidewalk, and filled them with ‘Firebird’ phormiums to create friendly screening without totally blocking off the yard. The raised patio is edged with concrete to help level the area and create a flat lawn and distinct spots for the family to dine, entertain, and play.
With the help of landscape designer Mark Tessier, Rika Houston and her architect husband Brian Ten overhauled their yard to create a gathering spot for the family, which includes 9-year-old daughter Maya and teenage sons Cole and Taro. With a simple set-up, they transformed it into an outdoor movie-screening space. As movie night took off, the neighbors started to join in. Sinking into the cushy sofa with lanterns lit overhead, guests watch The Birds or The Sound of Music on a screen nearly as big as the garage wall. “In the summer, every Friday is movie night,” says Houston.
By adding an extra story to this Craftsman-style home in Oakland, CA, the homeowners created enough space for an extra room. Now it serves as a playroom for their daughter, but later it could turn into a library or studio.
Need a little more room? A pared-down modular prefab project provides a bit more square footage without the need for an over-the-top home addition. Rooms are highly flexible, including this 4- by 51/2-foot prefab playhouse.