Names: James (7), William (5), Lillian (3) and Baby (due any day!)
Location: Lakewood, CA
Room size: kids' room, 145 sq. ft.; parents' and new baby's room, 115 sq. ft.
Greta of Picnics in the Park may be the foremost expert on fitting the maximum number of children into the minimum amount of space. In her home in southern California she has managed to comfortably and beautifully ensconce her three kids into one small room. When the family's next baby arrives (any day now) he or she will join Greta in the even smaller bedroom she shares with her husband. When this baby reaches 6 months, the family will manage an amazing feat: fitting all four kids in a 145 square foot bedroom.
Greta has written about the room re-do on her blog Picnics in the Park, and she offers much more than a glimpse of the kids' space. She also provides lots of fantastic tips on how to manage several kids in a small area, from ideas for organizing toys to using common bedroom elements to the best advantage. The room she's created for her kids is full of beautiful vintage pieces and thrifty finds, and together they all add up to a welcoming, practical and fun place for kids to play and live.
Greta and her family are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their fourth child; when the new baby arrives, he or she will spend the first six months in the parents' bedroom, and they've created a lovely nook for that period. After that, it's into the kids' room, where they will all cozy up together. In the meantime, Greta was gracious enough to answer our questions in between practicing her Lamaze breathing and scouring the oven.
How would you describe the look and feel of this room?
Bright, light, colorful and cheerful. Making a room that feels right for a 7, 5 and 3 year old of both sexes can be a challenge. We chose colors that work for all the kids as well as things they all love. It is whimsical without being decidedly childish. We use real art and beautiful things because we believe that children appreciate beauty just as much as adults do.
What is your favorite piece or element?
My favorite things in the room are the different pieces of art. I am a huge fan of vintage children's books and have incorporated the art work from them in various ways around the room. I've also used lots of other things as art: vintage postcards, a friend's birth announcement, a cross stitch piece my sister made for me when I was little, a vintage travel poster and a mobile made from IKEA fabric. Each piece tells a story and has meaning to us. The kids know that and it matters to them too. I am sure they will carry memories of those pieces with them into adulthood.
What was the biggest challenge decorating this room?
Finding a place for all the furniture and still making the room feel spacious and uncluttered was our biggest challenge. We wanted room for the kids to play in their room. The boys spread out on the floor with their Legos. Lillian makes up meals for her animals and babies in her kitchen. We needed a place to neatly store their clothes and toys. Making the most of the closet space and not having too many clothes or toys helps keep the room feeling spacious and open. Everything has a place. Teaching the kids not to take out all their toys out at once and cleaning up every evening helps too.
What do your friends say about the room? Are they surprised you can fit four children in it?
Our friends love it. Many of them have children sharing a room also. It is always inspiring to see what other families are doing with their space. Everyone has wondered where the new baby will fit, but we always tell them we're more concerned about having 1 bathroom with a family of 6 than we are having all 4 kids in 1 room!
You have a lot of tips for making a small space work for several kids. What do you think is the most important thing to remember?
When making a room work for multiple children, you have to start organized and stay organized. For example, rather than have a few big bins for all the Legos, we separated them by color and placed them in lots of smaller bins. Yes, it takes up a bit more space, but it keeps them from dumping thousands of Legos on the floor to find a particular piece.
You also have to be flexible. We started with the all the clothes stored in baskets in the closet. After 2 years, we decided it wasn't working. The baskets kept the clothes a mess and were difficult for the kids to access.
We moved in a large dresser and even though it is a big piece in the room, the organization it allowed for has been a huge help. It also freed up closet space so we could we could use that space better also.
Most importantly, you can't have too much stuff. Kids have so many toys and clothes. We try to hold onto the things that they really play with and not bring home the rest. It requires editing every few months, but it is worth it to keep the clutter at bay.
You "shopped your house" to help re-do the kids' room. Any advice for people who are looking to do something similar?
Don't assume something has to be a cartoon character to belong in a kid's room. We hung a poster from a trip to Chicago pre kids. It is a reproduction travel poster and the kids all loved it when we hung it in their room. They responded to the colors and the beauty of the illustration. There are probably lots of things around your home that would work wonderfully in a child's room. Stop thinking Bob the Builder and start thinking real art!
If money were no object, what's your dream source?
I love vintage, mid century furniture and lighting. Outfitting their room in those kinds of pieces would be amazing. Amsterdam Modern has beautiful pieces. Anthropologie is a favorite place for unique rugs, textiles and trinkets. Three Potato Four is a favorite shop for unusual and vintage toys, trinkets and art. I also love all of the unique finds on Etsy. It would be so much fun to buy cartloads from all my favorite shops on Etsy.
• Bunk Bed: an unfinished furniture shop near our home
• Dresser: IKEA Malm series
• Lillian's toddler bed: Dream on Me Toddler Bed, KMart
• Play Kitchen: handmade by a friend's dad and saved in my parent's garage for 20 years until I had kids!
• Paint color on walls: Dunn Edwards, Let It Snow
Thanks Greta! Readers, visit Greta and her family at Picnics in the Park.
(Photos: Picnics in the Park)