Turning A Mostly Unused Room Into A Kids Art & Work Space

Some of you will remember that way back in January, Sherry talked about grabbing these wood chairs from Target on Instagram Stories for “a side project we’re working on that we’ll share after we complete the bathroom.” And then the bathroom dragged on for a few more months (you can see the finished product & full budget breakdown here) and somewhere in there this big thing happened too.

So while we’ve been enjoying this completely new room for a few months, we’re excited to FINALLY share the update with you guys. So let’s show you around and tell you why we decided to revamp this room.

chairs | drawers | legs | counter | rug | blinds | similar string lights| wall color: Behr Irish Mist

The space you’re looking at is actually our old guest room, which you may remember looking like the picture below. Around the time we were thinking about redoing the middle bedroom at our beach house, we started to realize we had the exact same issue at home: we had an entire room that was only being used a few days out of the year, if that. Mostly… not at all.

The big couch in our bonus room doubles as a giant bed, and our friends & family prefer sleeping in there because there’s a TV and more space to spread out. Hence our guest room never really being used. We also realized we could always put our kids together in one of their rooms for a night or two to free up an extra bedroom for guests if we needed one (that’s what my family always did growing up). And when we floated the idea of an art room past our kids, they were extremely excited.

So back in January, before this whole moving-to-Florida plan bubbled up, we decided to turn this room into a space that was more useful to us on a daily basis. And I gotta say, with the kids school being cancelled for the rest of this school year (as of an official announcement by our mayor yesterday) and them being at home with us every day, it was pretty great timing, even if it seems like a weird change to make right before deciding to move. We are SO GLAD we did it.

In addition to making that room about 500% more functional, it also relieved some slowly growing sticking points from our own home office downstairs. We’ve generally loved having our kids art space in our office with us, but they’d most definitely outgrown the kid-sized desk we had in there (and those tiny chairs that were only around 8″ off the ground).

And because the desk and chairs were too small for them (and that space on the wall wouldn’t really support a desk large enough for both of them with standard sized chairs), it meant that their crafts and box creations were taking over more and more of the room with every passing month. You can see more of the takeover in the “Real Life” highlights on Sherry’s Instagram profile.

Does every kid or family need a dedicated art room? Nope. But our kids spend a LOT of time drawing, cutting, writing, cutting, gluing, and somehow doing even more cutting. Also taping. So much taping. And when we realized we basically had an unused room upstairs just sitting there waiting to be turned into one of the most hardworking spots in our house, it was ridiculously easy to sell the bed to a friend and list the side tables on Facebook marketplace, which left us with a wonderfully bare room to turn into the space that you see below.

Plus, with a solid door that we can shut to hide the mess (and with it not being the room you see right away when you enter the house) those added benefits have been great too.

So that’s kind of the thought process behind this room, let’s get to the details of how we executed it.

The Oversized Art Desk

The number #1 priority was giving them a more expansive workspace. For EIGHT YEARS our kids have used a small desk that we made out of an old door from our first house. So basically the desk that we made for our daughter when she was one was still going strong (she’ll be 10 in May) but it was getting cramped to say the least. Even her little brother (he’ll be 6 next month) often just drew on the floor because there wasn’t much room for two bigger kids to sit down and work together. Just picture a nine year old sitting on the left side of this desk…

I can’t say that Sherry didn’t cry a little when she sold the kids chairs & our handmade desk to a neighbor with younger kids (it was surprisingly emotional to see those go), and in the new upstairs art room we decided to go wall-to-wall with a desk. That would give our kids plenty of well-separated workspace (emphasis on well-separated) while also adding more surface and drawer space to wrangle paper, markers, and other supplies. The bases of our roomier-desk-for-two would be three of these ALEX drawer units. They come on casters but they weren’t tall enough to make the desk a standard height…

So we hacked them a little, thanks to these $20 sets of metal sofa legs. They come in varying heights and finishes, so we snagged three sets of the 5″ black ones and easily installed them where the casters had been. Super easy and it made them the perfect “table height” to work with any sort of normal desk chairs or dining chairs you might be planning to use.

For the desk surface we wanted something:

  • Lightweight (we didn’t want to stress these Ikea pieces with real stone)
  • Affordable (duh)
  • Durable (we didn’t want to worry about kids making messes on it – that’s literally the whole purpose of an art room)

The solution turned out to be this faux-marble laminate countertop sold at Ikea called EKBACKEN. I know “faux marble” and “laminate” can sound kind of cringeworthy but we were really impressed with it when we saw it in person at Ikea.

Actually, our original plan had been to get this solid-white version of it but the faux-marble won us over in person because it looks so good. And it’s $20 cheaper per piece than the all white option!

We needed 2 six-foot pieces to span our three drawer bases (they also sell eight-foot pieces, but two 6′ ones worked best for our setup). It means we have a seam in the middle, but it’s largely hidden by art supplies, and even if it weren’t, we’re not losing sleep over it. Not a big deal at all.

To secure the countertops we just had to remove some of the top drawers and then we screwed up through the top of the bases, into the bottom of the counters. This not only keeps everything in place, but it also helps to minimize the seam by holding the two pieces tightly together.

Here’s one more shot of the faux-marble counter so you can get a good idea of what it looks like. We heard from a few people after sharing a photo of them at Ikea in IG Stories that some of you have used them in your kitchens and offices and love them. In our experience so far, they wipe up SUPER easily, so even when the kids get marker or paint or glitter glue all over them (yes, that has happened at least three dozen times) we don’t have to stress. It all wipes right off. I don’t think a Sharpie necessarily would, but gel pens and paint and stuff come right off.

The drawers have been perfect for wrangling arts & craft supplies, which was the reason we went for these bases. We grabbed a few of these plastic drawer organizers to keep things separated inside of each drawer. Back when we completed the desks in January, our kids had a blast going to Michael’s and spending some of their Christmas money on various supplies to stock up their drawers. Googly eyes were clearly a must.

Sherry kept most of the drawer organizers in place with her patented move, which is just using some 3M command strips on the bottom (so they don’t slide around). We also left a couple of them free to be lifted out so the kids can put them up on the table or the floor when they’re working on something.

The Display Space

One fixture of the previous art space (aka office) was our giant DIY cork board. We love having a spot to display our kids’ artwork and we know they value having space to show off their creations, so we decided to move that function up to this room as well. Just feels nice to have it all in one place.

We had considered repeating that same giant cork board method (you can see our tutorial for that here), but we opted to try these $15 pegboards that also caught our eye while we were at Ikea. They ended up being a lucky decision because they do a lot less damage to the wall and are easy to move – which is suddenly extremely applicable.

They come in a couple of different sizes and finishes, but we thought the cork-toned ones would add some nice warmth to the room. They each hang on a rail that’s installed behind the top of the board (requiring just two holes each) and they have pegs at the bottom that help them float off of the wall a little bit.

They also sell a variety of pegboard attachments (shelves, hooks, bungees, containers, etc) but we just grabbed white clips to display everything.

Speaking of artwork, we decided to repaint the room a lighter color (Behr’s Irish Mist) just because it was the only dark room in our house, and I think after almost 7 years of that color we were ready for it to be light like the rest of the house. Our favorite rooms always seem to have light walls and colorful art – so that definitely made sense for in here. The kids even helped us paint this room! They both did a great job rolling while we cut in – and we were twice as fast with twice as many hands working away! We did need a lot more drop cloths, but we lived to tell the tale.

The Floor Space

The thing that’s hardest to capture in these photos is that we left most of the floor space totally empty – aside from this rug. Since their favorite activity lately has been to make cities and mansions out of boxes, we wanted to leave them ample space to do that. Or, you know, to take on whatever other activity that requires room to spread out.

They tend to like to build one “box city” for a few days and then start over from scratch (you can see some of their creations here), so we didn’t have much going on back when the room was freshly done. They had turned their attention to making “stuffed animals” for a hot minute by drawing on two pieces of paper they’d cut out and staple together, forming a pocket to be stuffed with a paper towels to make them “puffy.” I believe they were inventing a board game below (the pipe cleaners are the pieces or the money, I’m not sure).

We also grabbed a couple of almost-matching bean bags from HomeGoods because they were begging for bean bags in there too. It was remarkably hard to find good bean bags that weren’t hundreds of dollars (I’m looking at you PB Teen) but HomeGoods came through in the clutch.

Ours actually had LOTS of them and we were able to get two in the same color/material, even though the patterns were slightly different. And they were only about $25 each. The kids use them a ton, so they’re definitely coming to Florida with us, right along with their new desk and chairs. The great thing about not building anything into this room (you know, nothing is attached to the walls or floor) = we can take it all with us!

So that’s a little peek around the guest-room-turned-art-room in our house. It’s now used for hours every day, which feels extremely good considering we created this space and then were like “we’re moving – ahhhh, should we have left that a guest room for resale?!” The answer is: “yes, probably” but thankfully we sold the house right away even with an art room (more on our house-selling process here) – and we printed out an old photo showing that it used to be a guest room to help people picture a bed in there if they wanted to use it that way. All’s well that ends well. Especially if you work in googly eyes somewhere. And string lights. Always string lights.

P.S. To see some other kid-related projects and spaces we’ve done, there’s a whole archive full of that – and here are a bunch of crafting & art related projects too.

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