By Sara Lugardo
New trends in home remodeling and renovating have made more people think of ways to improve the quality of life related to home design. While the majority of HGTV and DIY Network shows are dedicated to upgrading bathroom and kitchens, families with small children are much more interested in building a kids’ play area inside and outside of the home. Getting a few tips from a professional carpenter and handyman can be a great way to get some design ideas or think of ways to get the most bang from your buck. Two Chicago professionals offer some insight on how to build a kids’ play area that offers functionality and design style.
Pete D. Johnson
Buckson Construction Company
Mensch With A Wrench
Buckson Construction Company works in collaboration with Fritz Builders and Jeff’s Custom Creations with a combined experience of over 50 years in the business. Pete is a Project Manager with Buckson Construction that works with a team to create unique and custom projects with quality results. Michael Goldstein is an all-around handyman who has been in the business for over 10 years. Michael specializes in everything from small projects and repairs around the house to expertly installed child proofing to ensure play areas and bedrooms are safe for your baby or growing child. Both of these professionals work in and around the Chicago area and offer some great tips for building a kids’ play area.
Be Mindful of the Space
Tight spaces should be seen as a design challenge rather than an obstacle. Pete states, “One of the best ways to add additional floor/play space in a child’s bedroom is building bunked beds.” Lifting the bed off of the floor can free up the underbelly area to include an extra play area that can be filled with whatever activity suits your child, whether it’s an arts and crafts area or room for a bulky train set. With many Chicago residences offering little outdoor space and deck areas, Michael suggests, “If you have limited space like a small city deck, you can double your space by attaching a telescope or steering wheel to the existing railing and the deck just became a truck or a ship.”
Stick To Your Budget
It can become quite pricey when looking to construct or find custom pieces for a child’s play area. However, just as in any building project, it’s important to stick to a budget. Michael suggests, “You can purchase pre-assembled furniture at big box stores like Ikea and then add some trim from a hardware store to customize and dress it up a bit.” Bold paint colors for drawer faces and shelving can create custom-looking storage units to dress up a kids’ play area without going over your budget. Pete suggests, “Stencils, murals and stick-on borders of the child’s favorite cartoon characters can add design to an otherwise boring child’s furniture piece.”
Put Thought Into Materials
Michael states, “If it is an outdoor project, consider cedar. It holds up very well to the weather and unlike pressure-treated lumber, there are no chemicals in it. Also, make sure to use hardware that is rated for outdoor use.” Pete suggests looking into local stores that provide quality materials for a kids’ play area. Some suggestions include green materials through Chicago’s Rebuilding Exchange or lumber at Harry’s Lumber on Northwest Highway in Chicago.
Keep It Safe
Michael states, “Make sure anything that could potentially fall over is properly anchored to the wall, preferably to a stud or structural support. Keep an eye out for sharp edges on cabinets or tables and wrap these in forma or with adhesive-backed covers.” Pete suggests paying extra attention to routing or sanding woods used in your kids’ projects. Pete also states the importance of checking projects for loose nails or screws.
Building something for a kids’ play area doesn’t necessarily mean constructing something with an elaborate design. A great suggestion Pete gave was, “Build and install a growth tree bookshelf with branches as the shelves and the trunk as the growth chart.” Michael suggested some add-ons to a treehouse or fort. He said, “Rope ladders, zip lines and escape hatches are all exciting for kids. Windows that close with latches allow them to re-create the space and use their imaginations that they are on a ship trying to escape pirates or that they run an ice cream shop and you can order at the walk-up window.”