Chattanooga Ronald McDonald House Playroom Redesign: Design Plan + 3-D Mockups

While I wait anxiously for the team’s feedback on my playroom re-design proposal, I wanted to share my ideas with you – and see what you all think!

If you’re new to this project (or to, be sure to read last week’s introduction and see the “BEFORE” photos to catch up. In short, I’ve been invited by Thirty-One Gifts to re-design the children’s playroom at Chattanooga’s Ronald McDonald House. Both are amazing organizations that contribute so much to our community, so of course I said yes.

Current Design Dilemmas

As I mentioned last week, there is lots of room for improvement in the playroom. Based on my conversations with the team that is helping me with this project, our three main design dilemmas are:

  1. The room is in a constant state of disorganization and often feels quite chaotic. Many of the toys are old and/or damaged, and they rarely stay organized. Smaller figures and toys tend to quickly disappear, resulting in incomplete play sets.
  2. The fabric on the current armchairs has stains and is not very kid-friendly. Wipeable fabric is a high priority on our must-have list.
  3. Because of the dark wood, dark carpet and dark brick in the room, the overall aesthetic is rather dark and gloomy. The room has far too many toys and too many disjointed, overstimulating colors – which only adds to the chaos.

The creative solutions I came up with for these dilemmas are:

  1. I proposed upgrading many of the larger, plastic activity sets to newer, wooden alternatives that are 1) more durable and will last much longer than their plastic alternatives, and 2) aren’t as loud and obnoxious in their aesthetic but still engaging and stimulating for the children, promoting creative play and discovery.
  2. Custom Sunbrella upholstery for big-ticket items like sofas require a minimum of 8-12 weeks lead time. Given our tight deadline, that’s simply not an option. However, leather is a more readily available fabric and is durable and kid-friendly. You can easily wipe it down in the event of spills. Plus, it’ll only look better with regular use.
  3. Because the beams, red brick, carpet and window frames must remain the same as the rest of the house, I suggested freshening up the walls and ceiling with a soft white paint with maximum wipeability. I also proposed demoing the current built-ins and replacing with new ones in white and without any countertops. An overall monochromatic color palette will help create a more comfortable and relaxing atmosphere while still encouraging creative play and being stimulating enough for the little ones.

3-D Playroom Mockup + Rationale

And now, prepare to feast your eyes on everyone’s favorite part of the design process: 3-D room renderings!

More often than not, the grandparents (or aunts and uncles) are the ones using the seating area. They watch the little ones play while the parents eat in the dining area nearby. I aimed to make this area as comfortable for adults as possible without taking away from the fact that it is a playroom. So, lots of patterns and textures are at play to make the space interesting.

In the center we have a beautiful, gray sofa made of Italian leather. As I previously mentioned, leather is one of the best readily-available, kid-friendly fabrics on the market. Natural color variations, wrinkles and creases are part of the unique characteristics of this leather; it will only look better with regular use, as it develops a lovely vintage look. Perfect for a playroom, wouldn’t you agree?

In my design, fun and playful chandeliers replace the current fluorescent lighting situation. While perfect for a playroom, the chandeliers also fit the lodge-style design of the rest of the house thanks to the vintage milk glass orbs and the oil-rubbed bronze details. These chandeliers are also LED-compatible and dimmable – a major bonus.

We will remove the chair guard moulding from both sides of the room, as it doesn’t really add anything to the space – only makes it look choppy and disjointed. Instead, this particular wall will feature a subtle geometric-print wallpaper to make it feel less like a commercial space and more like a home. An advantage of this particular wallpaper is that you can install it using an easy peel-and-stick application, and its adhesive backing allows for removal with zero damage to the wall.

The black and white striped rug helps ground the seating area, making it feel more comfortable and reminiscent of home. I specifically chose a rug intended for outdoor use, because it’s easier to clean. Plus, this one in particular features a reversible design for extended use.

Now, so many of you were excited to see just what I come up with for the mural honoring Thirty-One Gifts and its mission and involvement in the project.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, the company will be celebrating its 15-year anniversary in correlation with the playroom reveal. Thirty-One was founded right here in Chattanooga, so working specifically with the local Ronald McDonald House was only natural.

So, in honor of the 15-year anniversary, the mural will feature numbers 1-15 printed on Thirty-One 12×12 canvases. Each number will then be decorated and personalized by local sales consultants and employees to showcase what Thirty-One Gifts is all about: working together to help our community.

This mural will serve as a forever memory of this collaborative project and double as a fun, educational tool for the children that play here.

A couple other additions: the plant(s) on the left side of the room are a great way to add life and interesting texture. Boston ferns are fairly easy to grow and are a non-toxic, classic plant that does well indoors. Also, I replaced the large, colorful ottoman with a more compact pouf. Incredibly versatile, you can use the pouf as a seat, table or foot stool.

Beyond the sitting area is where the design really gets interesting. I aimed to add several different play areas for children to choose from. To minimize chaos, I focused on activities that don’t involve too many small toys.

I wanted to add some sort of playhouse to this side of the room that encourages creative play. Larger nursery gyms were, unfortunately, out of the question because of the limited space. Then, I came across this Scandinavian-inspired wooden playhouse – and instantly fell in love. It’s the perfect little getaway for playing house or creating a cozy reading nook. A custom Sunbrella floor cushion will provide comfortable seating for the littles; fun garlands will add a bit of whimsy to the beams.

On the wall directly behind the playhouse you see chalkboard wall decals of various sizes. A fun addition to a playroom, these decals are perfect for writing messages, drawing pictures or just playing tic-tac-toe. It’s a simple addition that provides loads of fun for the kids; plus, you can easily wipe them clean with a damp cloth.

Next to the playhouse is a ball pit. It’s not only fun but also great for developing both gross and fine motor skills.

Typically, no more than one or two children use this space at one time. Yet the current table and chair sets eat up a massive portion of the room. I proposed a more compact table and stool set that can even accommodate parents, if needed. The broad surface is ideal for reading, writing and arts & crafts.

There’s also a small-space wooden kitchen, with a pull-out counter, extra shelf and a chalkboard sign on the back. Because it’s double-sided, it also functions as a play store. Not included in the 3-D renderings is a wooden toy tool bench.

I suggested a couple more products for the room: jumbo building blocks, a wooden dollhouse, and several other wooden toys like a jumbo bulldozer and toy doll pram. Most of my suggestions are crafted from heavy-duty wood and will survive years of playtime wear and tear. And all of them are fantastic developmental toys, perfect for promoting imagination, motor skills and overall coordination.

Toy Organization

Because organization is such a high priority for the space, I’ll briefly touch on that too.

All current toys (there are so many!) will be de-cluttered and organized into personalized Thirty-One bins with each one clearly marked with what’s inside. Thirty-One offers lots of fabric selections, and I chose a cozy plaid fabric because 1) it fits our overall color scheme, 2) it ties into the lodge-style design of the house, and 3) it’s gender-neutral, unlike many of the colorful options.

The “Your Way” rectangle bin has a corresponding lid, which allows you to stack the bins on top of each other. Stacking allows you to maximize the built-in space, as you can easily fit six bins into one cubby. Plus, the lids help contain (or at least hide!) some of the messes.

We’ll also have art supplies either near or on top of the children’s table. These will be housed in the “Double Duty” caddy and “Your Way Display” bin, both in the polka dot pattern.

Over the years, people have donated many, many books to the RMH. The books will be stored in marked bins. A couple, however, will be displayed in the “Catch-All” bins (also in cozy plaid) and stored right next to the reading nook, as well as next to the leather sofa, for easier accessibility during reading time.


As you can imagine, planning out a multi-functional space like a playroom involves a ton of detail. But I’m afraid this post is becoming quite lengthy. Thank you for taking the time to follow along with this project, and thank you in advance for sharing your thoughts on the design plan!

Also – because I know many will ask – I will share the sources for every item in the room once we’ve finalized and ordered everything. I don’t want to run into the issue of you all loving something so much, that you buy it all – and there’s none left for the playroom, ha! A complete source list is coming to the blog next week, so stay tuned.

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