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Before and After

How to Create a Useable Kid-Friendly Dining Room

By 04/11/2013February 20th, 201712 Comments

My good friend Barbara Miller has created this awesome video where she shows us step-by-step, how to create a dining room that is beautiful for the 15 days a year when you might use it, and totally functional and attractive as a playroom for children the remaining 350 days of the year!

Barbara Miller: Mess to Yes

Barbara grew up in a house with white wall-to-wall carpeting. There were so many spaces she could not touch as a child that it’s what totally inspired the name of her company Yes Spaces.

Toy room

This is the reason why she also involves the kids even when it’s not just about decorating their rooms.

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 12.22.55 PM

Check out this video on the Design Network to see the final, beautiful transformation!

And, if you’re painting your exterior this season don’t miss my second live Exterior Webinar How to Choose Exterior Colours on Thursday, May 2 at 11:00 am PST time.  It  will be live with me and include question and answers via live chat. It will last approximately 90 minutes to 2 hours depending on the number of questions. I will not have another one again this season.

Sign up here

Related posts:

The Right Chandelier for a Dining Room with a High Ceiling

Round or Rectangle Dining Room: Yay or Nay

Creative Ways to Keep Kids Entertained



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  • Thank you so much Maria! I had such a great time working with this adorable family. xo Barbara

  • Donna Frasca says:

    That’s a faux pas of mine. I would NOT want toys to be the first thing I see when I walk into someone’s home – that’s what playrooms and bedrooms are for. I know the dining room is sometimes a wasted space but what a about a compromise? I put a glass top on my dining room table and that was where the kids played and colored – mostly colored. The only toys around were the few that were on the table and could easily be put in a small bin in the corner of the room. Dining rooms are for dining not Tonka Trucks.

    • Maria Killam says:

      Hi Donna,
      Consider the possibility that the dining room in some homes might have to be the play room too for all kinds of reasons, proximity to the kitchen where mom spends all her time, a small house, etc. Maria

      • Donna Frasca says:

        You’re right Maria but I too had a very small home when my two kids (18 months apart) were little. They played in the LR and DR but I did not allow them to take it over. I still had both rooms with proper decor and furniture while they had their play areas. At the end of the day, toys were put away and cleaned as it should be – until the next morning when the mess took over again 🙂

        • Stacy says:

          Have you seen Darryl Carter’s work? While he doesn’t turn dining rooms into “play areas,” he does strongly promote the idea that dining rooms in general are underused areas and therefore should be transformed into something usable, like a library. He doesn’t just decorate a dining table for looks in a space that’s used maybe a dozen times a year for entertaining; he allows it to become a part of the home or the heart of the home 🙂

  • Mary says:

    Our “dining room” is at the front of the house. You are almost in it when you walk in the front door. It is our play room for our toddler because I can see him from the kitchen when I am doing dishes (no dining table in there now). Although I didn’t love walking into a playroom first thing when I went to others’ homes, it is working out perfect for us. It keeps the living room uncluttered and that is where we would sit with guests over a glass of wine anyway. I figure – we are a family with a young child and that is who we are right now. When our child(ren) is(are) older, we think we might put a piano in there, and maybe make it a sitting room instead of a dining room. We have an open concept house, and use the nook for all of our dining. It works for us.

  • KJ says:

    Great and practical room. I love multi-purpose rooms; it’s great to have a formal dining room but it does really need to do more than sit there looking pretty on it’s days off!

  • Tamara says:

    I think this is a great idea! Yes, it doesn’t look as “proper”, but most families with young kids don’t do much formal entertaining anyway. I’d rather let the kids toys take over the dining room and be able to see what they’re up to when I’m cooking. In two of our previous houses, we converted our formal living room off the foyer into a playroom and never regretted it.

  • Amy says:

    I love this idea…I think it is sad to walk into a home with young children and not see any signs of them. I had children in my late 30s and at first I didn’t want to give up my decorated spaces. But, this is their home and they live here too…and once you embrace that, your life gets a lot easier! And Maria is spot on: when you have toddlers/preschoolers it is important to be able to see them and know what they are doing. There was no way my kids were allowed to be upstairs and out of my sight until they were over 5 years old (I had a neighbor whose 4 year old daughter drank finger nail polish remover mixed with toothpaste when upstairs unsupervised). My dining room and living room were wonderful play areas…perfect for Thomas train tracks and then Hot Wheels Trick-Tracks. Sometimes I let their creations stay out for several days…it was a nice place for ME to be too (way better than sitting on the floor in a toy room). One thing I did was buy nicer wicker toy storage baskets placed discreetly under end tables. Rather than hide them, I made them look like part of the plan. Honestly, I miss all of the tracks criss-crossing throughout. I love it when my 10 year old daughter wants to set up her Littlest Pet Shops or Schleich Fairies in those two formal rooms (I veto Nerf basketball hoops!). That time of having toys and those precious young affects is fleeting. Before you know it all of your formal stuff will be back out and you will be happy to see some Legos on the floor. Like Christopher Robin’s Pooh, you too will watch their toys disappear along with their childhood.

  • mrsben says:

    When my children were small (and those who I also looked after), no area of the house was off limits for play but there were designated areas depending on the activity. As it so turned out, they learned the meaning of the word ‘respect’ on many levels and some organizational skills as well. i.e: What they could touch and what was off limits. There were toy boxes used for storage …. etc. -Brenda-

  • DL says:

    When our kids were teens, we had a piano, full trap drum set, and other various instruments in our dining room, along with our dining furniture. My kids are grown and I now can have my rooms as beautiful as I’d like. But I sure do miss those days of everyone making music together.

    A home is meant to be lived in and shared by all. It should not be the fashion showcase of 1-2 members of the family alone.

  • Nina says:

    I would love to watch the video/see photos but the link doesn’t seem to be working. Help please?

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