Our house is a modest 1177 square feet, but — after living in a 618 square foot apartment and a 795 square foot house — feels like it has space to spare. Nowhere is that feeling of extra space more apparent than in our den — a whole room just for play? What is this madness?


Of course, our den isn’t going to be a den for too much longer. In fact, it’s well on its way to becoming a nursery for our second daughter. Which means it’s time to find new homes for many of the toys that live in that room.

Now, I think we have a less-than-average number of toys. But less-than-average is still quite a few. We have train tracks, cars, a little cart, a play kitchen and wooden food, dress-up clothes and art supplies, a barn and farm animals, a play tent, stuffed animals, doll bed and baby doll, blocks and marbles and musical instruments, puzzles and books and a dollhouse. And that’s just for our almost-three year old; that doesn’t include the rattles and grasping toys that will soon make an appearance again in our house. (Though, given how little interest Frankie had in actual “toys” as an infant, I’m resisting the urge to add anything new to the small basket of baby toys I saved.) I actually think I might get hives if I think too long about the fact that we’re going to be accommodating the gear associated with two very different developmental stages for the foreseeable future. Like, not only do I have two step stools (one for the sink, one for the toilet) and toilet seat insert in my bathroom right now, but I’m about to squeeze a baby bath tub in there, too. Oh God, there’s a hive now. Right there. On my arm.

Because we’ve had the den for almost an entire year, Frankie’s (quite sizeable) bedroom has never had to house toys, not in the way her teeny tiny nursery did in our first house. But! With the den turning into a nursery, it is time to change all that. (Pretty much my favourite thing to do anyways.)

Here’s a photo of Frankie’s bedroom when we bought our current house in March 2017:


And here’s the same-ish angle from July 2018, once we’d removed doors, painted, replaced shelving, added historic woodwork and unpacked:


Though it took us some time to get here (about a year and a half!), I thought this space could do with a rework, especially since, as Frankie has grown, her closet has become sparer and sparer. Gone are the diapers and wastebasket for diapers, the wipes have been moved to the washroom, the swaddles to the den for baby sister, the shoes to the front door, where she puts them on herself. The shelf was no longer holding essentials, but decorations — not a good reason to have a shelf, in my opinion. The scale of the dresser, with its now-bare top, was starting to look all wrong, too.

I thought her closet might be the perfect “new den,” if only it didn’t have to hold things like, well, clothes.


So we did a little rearranging, guys! I brought this much larger dresser in from the hallway (you might remember I was able to fit all the linens it was holding into our tall bathroom cupboard). I painted it pink (Sherwin-Williams Oleander) and reused the pulls from her small dresser. (I then sold the smaller dresser, in case you were wondering.) I gave the updated dresser pride-of-place in her room and left a little room next to it for the ride-on unicorn (like a hobby horse) she’ll be getting from Santa on Christmas morning.


With the dresser and all the clothing, shoes, decor items and dollhouse out of her closet, I had a totally empty den-like space with which to work. How to set it up/which toys to move was a little easier said than done. A lot of the toys taking up space in the den/nursery were big toys (kitchen, train tracks, tent, etc.) and the closet is pretty shallow. I also didn’t want to turn her bedroom into a total funhouse as I think bedrooms should mostly promote sleep and, failing that, quiet play.


Over a number of days I tried all sorts of toy permutations, landing on her kitchen (includes her tea set, some pots and play food) and dress-up clothes in her closet. I painted the closet with the leftover dresser paint (the white looked a little bleh) and added some bunting from her tent as well as a capiz shell mobile that Pierre and I found on our recent “babymoon” trip to Santa Cruz, CA.

Not only did these toys fit well/look good in the space (bonus points for making use of the closet rod), but they’re easily her most-played-with toys, along with her scarves (currently in a basket in the living room, but could easily live alongside the dress-up clothes) and her marbles (which I won’t allow her to keep in her room as they’re a choking hazard). So I’m thinking the location of these particular items will encourage her to play in her room, out of earshot of sleeping baby sister.

Plus — look! — there’s even a place for me to hang out and play, too. If we’d decided to keep the den as-is and move baby in with Frankie (what most commenters felt was the best option), we would’ve had to sell this couch as the best spot for the crib would’ve been on this wall.


This sums up what toys are stored in her bedroom, plus we’ll keep a few of her things in the nursery (I think her doll bed and baby doll makes sense, for example) as I want Frankie to feel welcome in the nursery, even though it’s no longer a playroom. Do you store toys in bedrooms or elsewhere or both? Does your house have a dedicated playroom? I was so reluctant to lose our playroom, but I’m really loving the way the girls’ separate bedrooms are taking shape.



2 thoughts on “CLOSET PLAY SPACE

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