I was one of those people. You know the ones. The pregnant women who declares she’ll never let ‘plastic crap’ take over her house, or the new mum who is adamant her child will only play with environmentally friendly wooden toys. If you’re currently cuddling a tiny baby and thinking ‘well, yeah! Who wants a house full of ride-on fire engines and bright orange plastic drums that flash and make more noise than actual drums?’, don’t worry. We’ve all been there. I was one of those people.
I soon learnt, however, that there is nothing more attractive to a toddler than a piece of bright plastic vaguely moulded into an animal shape, preferably with flashing eyes and a voice loop that asks ‘WHAT’S YOUR NAME’ at 100 decibels every five seconds. They cannot get enough of shit like this. It’s a sad truth of parenting that you learn in time, along with the names of all the Little Baby Bum characters. Your hopes and dreams for a perfectly Instagrammable living room featuring a delightful baby in a pristine white cotton outfit playing quietly with a vintage wooden spinning top from 1952 are soon dashed as you realise the only thing that’ll keep your toddler quiet for more than 20 seconds is your iPhone.
But! All is not lost, interior fans. This week I shared a few snaps of Hazel’s new ‘play corner’ on my Instagram Stories and I got loads of DMs from fellow parents about it, so I thought I’d write a proper post about how I created her space and made it fit with the rest of our house.
We live in a pretty standard Victorian terrace house without the space for an additional playroom to house Hazel’s toys, so almost everything is stored in our living room. I wanted to give Hazel her own space within the room without letting the plastic crap take over – my home is my sanctuary and there is nothing less relaxing than the neon glare of My Pal Scout when you’re trying to enjoy a glass of Malbec. The key is in clever styling and storage, storage, storage.
I started out by creating a ‘play corner’ for Hazel. Initially this part of our living room housed just the Ikea kitchen, but there was lots of dead space in the corner next to the piano. With a little rejigging, I managed to squeeze this table and stools set from Aldi (a Specialbuy last summer so sadly not available now) in there too, giving Hazel space to sit and ‘draw’ on her magnetic drawing board, or ‘read’ a book. I taped a few cute prints to the wall and dug out some of her more aesthetically pleasing favourites – the Grimm’s rainbow, Little Feminist books and Aldi baking set.
Hazel absolutely loves this set-up – she’s really into ‘homemaking’ stuff at the moment so will stand at the kitchen and ‘stir’ a pan and ‘feed’ me with a spoon. Behind the kitchen doors there’s loads of pretend fruit and veg in baskets along with more pans and utensils, so plenty to explore and discover.
She won’t sit for long at the table (and I have to remove the stools if I want to leave the room as she is a climber with no regard for personal safety) but she loves a proper seat and drawing will keep her occupied for a bit. What I love most about this is it’ll grow with her as she gets more into reading and colouring, plus once she’s not so reliant on a highchair she can eat her lunch here, too.
At the other end of the room is where I’ve hidden the plastic crap. This is an Ikea Kallax unit with soft storage boxes (also Ikea) which house all Hazel’s toys. I go through everything in here every few months and move the stuff that’s too young for her out to the cellar, so it’s never overflowing. On top I’ve pulled out some of my favourites – the Grimm’s Three in a Boat and Mini Monochrome Tunnel displayed with some artwork and books. The pram is by Ooh Noo and the cute bunny doll is Maileg.
Hazel loves books and likes to pull lots out and flick through them. Rather than keep all her books up on shelves where she can’t reach them, I store them in this Rainbow Box which sits under the window. Similarly to her toys, I go through the books every few months and put any she’s outgrown into storage.
Our final Hazel-friendly living room addition is this fire guard. This was actually one of the first things we set up when Hazel started crawling as she developed a taste for fake coal quite quickly! It’s a BabyDan Fire Guard in XL which comes in black and white and is fully adaptable to fit your space. We took one piece out to make it narrower and it fits perfectly around our fire – when Hazel was less mobile we used foam tiles to cushion the little strip of hearth that sticks out, but she’s much more agile now and rarely gives the fireplace a second glance. We also have a BabyDan gate on the living room door.
Hazel’s larger toys like her Buggly Wuggly ride-on and Little People farmyard live behind the sofa, while her rocking horse and soft toy collection are in her bedroom. When she’s playing, everything is pulled out to enjoy but as soon as she’s asleep we pack it all away so we can reclaim our space for the evening. By choosing kid-friendly pieces that fit with our interior style and hiding the rest away, our living room is a space for Hazel and us. I’m really pleased with how it turned out!