In a home, it’s rare for one room to function for two completely opposite purposes, yet, when your children's playroom must double as a guest room when your in-laws come to visit, you end up with this exact decorating conundrum. Give up any ideas of a huge wall mural dedicated to jungle animals or fairies, as well as any notions of creating a hotel-like space. Find a balance between these two extremes; once struck, you will have a multi-functional space in which all ages feel comfortable.
In any space that children will use, safety measures are essential. Secure bookcases, tall storage and any other pieces that could potentially tip over to the wall with brackets. Paint with low-VOC products to minimize fumes and opt for easy-to-clean flooring, such as cork, hardwood or tile. Install outlet covers for younger children and keep cords and strings well out of reach. These features are easily hidden from your guests’ view, yet help to ensure the playroom is safe for kids.
Paint the combined playroom and guest room a cool shade to keep the space adult friendly and serene enough to sleep in comfortably while still providing a crisp background for your child to play. Soft gray or bright white make for versatile neutrals, while a gray-leaning blue or light green are modern choices for a guestroom as well as colorful and fun for kids. Instead of a bright accent wall, opt for sophisticated, yet interesting, wallpaper: a birch tree motif, an over-sized damask or quirky bird print can all be child appropriate when paired while being visually appealing to an adult.
Choose well-made, quality furniture throughout the room, even for items specifically meant for kids. Opt for a wooden drawing table, an oversized chair with a lamp for reading and storage units that look more like bookcases than as a place to hide toys. Choose traditional, well-made furniture that is not only durable, but can be used by your guests as well.
Incorporate a bed that’s comfortable enough for guests yet still can function as a part of the playroom on a day-to-day basis. A sleeper sofa or wooden futon are obvious choices, but they are not very comfortable. Instead, place a double-size or larger bed with the headboard and one side along a wall. With bright throw pillows in a mix of prints and patterns along the back and a thick fitted sheet on the mattress, this kind of bed works doublet-time as a deep, comfortable couch for kids. When guests arrive, get rid of the throw pillows and replace the bedding with high-quality linens and a comfortable quilt or duvet. If you lack floor space, consider a Murphy bed, which folds into the wall, as an excellent alternative.
Well-planned storage is essential in any playroom, but you don't have to hide the kids' toys. Instead, display books, board games and puzzles on shelves and bookcases, and tuck bulky plastic toys and tiny building blocks or figurines in cabinets and bins to reduce clutter and keep the space open and airy. A floor-to-ceiling built-in system with various shelves, cubes, doors and drawers provides many options and adds architectural interest to the room. Outfit the shelves with solid or printed baskets or bins to add color and make collecting toys during cleanup easier. For guests, designate at least one two-drawer dresser or bedside table for clothes or personal items during their stay. Having a separate space helps guests keep items separate from the children’s, and prevents your having to empty drawers filled with toys to make room.
The right accessories liven up the space for kids without overwhelming guests. Go for quirky, somewhat-kid-friendly pieces of artwork such as a black-and-white print or watercolor canvas of your child’s favorite character. Choose classic movie posters or framed pieces of your kids’ creations. Avoid overly childish pieces, such as a candy-colored unicorn, or family photos, as more than one or two near the main play space may make your guests uncomfortable. To dress up the decor a bit, frame everything in quality wood or metal frames. Place a lamp on the bedside table or dresser and a floor lamp near an overstuffed chair to allow for enough lighting. Choose pieces with colorful or interesting shades or overall shape; for example, opt for a table lamp with the shade a brighter, more saturated version of the color on the walls. Install layered window treatments, with an interior sheer panel or shade and thicker, light-control panels that allow for plenty of light to play by during the day and privacy for guests at night.