Before & After: Chaos Cupboard to Boy Cave

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When Sara's family moved into this house, they had a long series of DIY and renovation projects to tackle and the closet you see above became their "chaos cupboard" - toys, tools, spare pillows, old curtains, and a de facto staging area for their next project. Sara described it as "an embarrassing vortex of stuff." Then their son Leo seemingly went from a baby to an exploring toddler overnight and rather than find ways to keep him out of this closet, she and her husband decided to make him his very own "boy cave."

Sara gives us the full scoop:

Our biggest prompt was the fact that Leo learned how to walk and open doors in the same week! Talk about a transition: we went from having a mellow, crawling baby to an active toddler on the rampage. Rather than install some kind of baby-lock, we decided to baby-proof the closet itself so that Leo could explore to his heart's content. We'd always loved the idea of having a big, walk-in closet right off of the play-room/family room—it was one of the many reasons we bought this house—and we'd envisioned it as a place to corral toys, games, art supplies, etc. This closet is especially big because one of the previous owners used a wheelchair and had the closet re-built to be fully accessible (e.g. with a wide door and lots of room inside).

Everyone's heard of a man cave, well this is Leo's "boy cave." We kept the built-in shelving and the rack with hangers (since Leo's grandparents use these when they come to stay, as the family room / play-room doubles as a guest suite). Our first task was simple reorganization: we made sure that everything within reach of Leo's arms was baby-safe, and moved fragile items up high into white Ikea storage boxes. We picked up a fun Ikea car-themed play-mat (which also serves as protection for the easily-gouged bamboo floors) and bolted three Ikea Trofast frames to the wall for toy storage. We added the chalkboard (a decal, which we thought might be easier to remove in the future than paint) on the back of the door for scribbles and doodles. I saved a piece of blue painted peg board that had been a pot-rack in our old apartment and turned it into a sensory wall for Leo, complete with steering wheel (from Lowes), spinning casters, a bell, and lots of knobs (from the Dollar Store and hardware left by our home's prior owners). I attached the abacus and luggage strap with zip-ties, so they can be removed and used elsewhere in the future.

The final touch was a whimsical one: a fairy door that I found on Etsy. I blame a childhood obsession with Narnia! But come on: a secret, "magic" door in the back of the closet is pretty great, right? I couldn't resist. We also got a door-stop device that attaches to the gap in the closet door that prevents Leo from pinching his fingers in the hinges or slamming the door on himself. After all, this is supposed to be a fun a boy cave, not a Harry Potter-esque "cupboard-under-the-stairs" scenario. When Leo first saw it, he squealed with joy and wouldn't come out of the boy cave for a couple hours. Of course, we play in there with him all the time, but it's nice to have a space that he can explore independently, on his own, without being told "uh-oh" or "no". He just loves it. He always struts around in there with a swagger in his step.

(Image credits: reader Sara L.)

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Family, Before & After, Nursery & Kids

As Apartment Therapy's Family Editor, Carrie covers design and modern homelife with children. A lapsed librarian, she lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two kids and is in contention to break the record for most hours spent at the playground.