When a kid's clothes are outgrown, pass them on when a kid's room gets too small, exercise ingenuity

June 20, 1993|By Ro Logrippo | Ro Logrippo,Contributing Writer

A room for children that no longer fits their needs is much like a pair of outgrown jeans. But unlike clothing that's too small to wear, spaces that seem too confining can be redesigned to be functional and flexible.

Accommodating a child's living needs in tight quarters is often an exercise in ingenuity. Sometimes it takes being creative with storage solutions. Or it requires two-for-one strategy so a single furnishing performs two functions.

Easing the frustration in a room that stifles work and play may depend on a visual trick or two. But more on that later.

Finding sufficient storage is the biggest hurdle to overcome in a squeeze situation. To survey the scene at its maximum potential, remove all the clutter to another location. Before stuffing everything back into original resting places, stretch your imagination by considering some of the following stowaway options. All these can promote orderliness -- an easier task for children if they help decide what goes where.

* Under the bed: So much childhood play takes place on the floor, why not put dead space under a bed to work by keeping playthings there in containers? Deep plastic basins or cardboard boxes work fine, but the easiest containers for a child to use are roll-out bins made for this purpose. Sold at furniture stores, bins come in varied sizes. Since some may not fit under your child's bed, measure available space before investing in one.

* Over the bed: a headboard featuring concealed storage compartments can house everything from extra bedding to books and a radio. Above the headboard hang narrow shelves for stuffed play pals and other lightweights that can't harm a sleeper if toppled.

* By the window: In a window alcove like a bay, have a handyman build a lidded enclosure and use it as storage space. Cushion the top and it transforms into a window seat.

* Behind a door: Many household organizers fit behind doors and can corral kid stuff just as easily as everyday items. One catchall that's fun and functional is a hanging shoe pocket used for school supplies and whatnots.

* Odd nooks: Is your child's room under the eaves? Turn that slanted cranny into open storage with shelves angled to fit. Are there a few inches between an entry or closet doorway and wall? Put them to good use with narrow floor-to-ceiling, made-to-fit shelves just right for storing tiny treasures.

Look to the closet for more hidden storage opportunities. Remove the door, revamp the insides and discover a gold mine in usable space. Budget permitting, consult a space organizer to make the most of this area. Otherwise, take matters into your own hands after scouring decorating magazines and books for ideas.

A doorless closet opens up a room, but if it's too chilling to contemplate open storage, rest easy. With a pull curtain on a rod or vertical blinds, contents can be hidden when necessary.

To make a closet space-efficient, consider these details:

* Two adjustable clothes rods hung 30 inches apart and raised as dictated by your child's growth.

* Storage drawers lined along the floor.

* A closet divided in two with split-level clothes rods on one side and open stacked adjustable shelves on the other. In a double closet with sliding doors you might even allocate half the area for the dresser to free a little floor space in the bedroom.

For a very young child, the closet is enticing play space. Reinforce the top shelf and it becomes a play loft when a cushion, safety bars and a ladder with sturdy dowels are added. Take advantage of loft storage possibilities by keeping stuffed play pals here. Under-the-loft space-saving ideas include a study area made by bridging storage units with a painted or laminated board.

Dual-purpose designs

Put twofold furnishings to work for more breathing room.

Like building blocks, modular units assume split personalities depending on configuration. Used singly, they act as low storage; used one upon the other, they turn into wall units.

A high bookcase placed well becomes a room divider. Custom-built with 12-inch sides that are stepped, it shows another alter ego -- a play staircase. Other dual-purpose designs include:

* Futon chairs that flip open as sleep units or padded tumbling mats.

* Low chests and trunks topped with a pad for seating.

* Free-standing cupboards like armoires that serve myriad uses, from storing belongings to accommodating electronic gear.

* Loft beds with built-in study areas below and platform beds supported by storage drawers; these are ready-made for multi-use.

Waving that magic wand

Practical considerations aside, there are whimsical ways to deal with this issue. A few decorating ploys, like art that appears three-dimensional, fool the eye into believing a room is bigger than actual size. In tight spaces, they spell relief as well as magic.

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