Q: My stepdaughter has just moved in with her college roommate, and I'd like to turn her bedroom into a play area for our sons, 11 and 9. I plan to use the computer and a TV for their video games, plus a desk, table and chairs, so they can use the room for everything. What am I missing?
A: Do what professional interior designers do: Ask your "clients," your sons. If they help plan their own space, it will come closest to meeting their needs. (You have to be diplomatic, however. My own son once petitioned to paint his room solid black!)
Since you asked me first, I'd suggest that you consider comfortable seating, perhaps a love seat or chair with a hideaway bed for sleep-overs. I'd also pay close attention to maintainability. Everyone will enjoy the playroom more if you build easy upkeep into the design. Some examples:
Washable, durable walls. Vinyl and vinyl-coated wall coverings not only shrug off finger marks and more, they can take abuse that would shatter a painted plaster wall.
Smart floors. Carpet has many virtues -- it's soft, sound-absorbing and can be soil-repellent -- but no floor is as easy on the housekeeping crew as vinyl. It, too, is softer and warmer to young knees than either wood or ceramic.
You also can create custom designs in vinyl, as you can see in the photo we show here, where solid colors from Armstrong's "Components" tiles have been worked into a pattern that plays off the painted cornice design.
Simple windows. Light and privacy control are keys to your choice of window dress. I'd dispense with curtains or other fabric treatments in favor of hard surfaces like shades, blinds or shutters. In the room we show, miniblinds lead up to that fun cornice cut from plywood and painted.
Q: We are adding a room and bath for my mother-in-law, who suffers from osteoporosis.
The contractor has suggested special handrails and other helps, but I want to do everything I can to keep her from falling and hurting herself. Do you have anything to suggest?
A: There is something new under the sun for you to consider: a soft bathtub.
Believe it or not, such a thing is being sold in this country by its Canadian creators, International Cushioned Products Inc. The makers promise that their soft bathtub cushions and conforms to your body at the same time it is slip- and puncture-resistant.
Since it helps absorb the blow of a fall, this might be an answer worth considering -- the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission reports that hundreds of thousands of hospital emergencies every year are caused by falls in hard conventional bathtubs.
For more information on the soft bathtub, write International Cushioned Products Inc., 330 S. Pineapple Ave., Suite 110, Sarasota, Fla. 34236.