mindful living, effortless style

How to use your formal dining room as an art center for your kids

Why You Should Make the Dining Room an Art Room

I finally did it – I got rid of the old green couch (which was essentially a glorified dog bed) in our play room and replaced it with the mother of all tables and some clever storage benches.  Thus creating the play/art/entertaining room I’ve been pining for in my head for months, nay YEARS now! I’m pretty darn excited to share it as part of Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life month – can you tell?

Let me tell you, it was no small feat convincing my hubby to let me chuck that couch.  It was the first piece of furniture we bought for our first house (a 900 square foot 1930’s home in Nashville) so it definitely had sentimental value – so much so that we hauled all it the way here to Seattle when we moved four years ago.  Plus neither of us are really the kind of people that can easily get rid of large scale furniture.  I mean it’s a couch! We’re bound to be able to use it somewhere in our next house, right?

Nevertheless, the couch’s time had officially run out.  When I spotted a mammoth modern table (and 6 microfiber chairs which we now use in the kitchen) on Craigslist for only $180, I knew it was my time to strike.  I’m positively ecstatic about the way the room functions now.  Want a tour? I thought you’d never ask…


First up, the pièce de résistance – our new art/entertaining table.  We leave one leaf in all the time and it pretty comfortably seats 8-10 people.  There’s also an extra leaf that stores inside the table, which was more than enough for our group of 10 at Christmas.

Since we have an eat-in kitchen, this table gets to serve as an art space for the kids 90% of the time. Which means a big piece of clear vinyl and several rolls of craft paper permanently reside on it.  I can’t tell you how great it is to have a spot where the kids can stretch out and create, and then leave their masterpieces for completion another time.  I love that our dinner table no longer does double duty as an art table.  This setup has simultaneously increased the little’s creative impulses and decreased my stress level all at the same time.

Plus, after 4 years of living in this house, we finally have somewhere to have people over to eat. (The four person table in our kitchen just wasn’t cutting it!)


Almost as fabulous as the table itself, is the new seating that rests against the wall.  I’ve had my eye on these IKEA STUVA benches for quite a while now (they’re on sale right now for IKEA family members too!).  Not only do they serve as perfect bench-seating, they also provide a ton of storage space.  We have two: one full of dress up clothes and another stacked with puzzles, extra art supplies, and my personal stash of crafty stuff.


On the same wall as the benches, our original creativity center is still there but I’ve extended the idea across the entire space.  The three shelves directly above the benches are filled with the kids’ creations, more art supplies (there’s actually something really inspiring about a blank canvas out on display in an art space), and one of my favorite prints – the spirit of which I think is especially appropriate for this space.


On the adjoining wall rests our red retro play kitchen (one of our best purchases ever, by the way, the kids still play with it daily and the look is so chic I don’t even mind having it in a room where we have guests for dinner).  Our old changing table has been converted into storage for kitchen food and DUPLO blocks down below. On top there are loosely defined “craft kits” and a “clay” bin.

The craft kits include fun art books like Herve Tullet’s Doodle Cook and Ed Emberley’s Fingerprint book as well as some of the Babbaco projects we haven’t gotten around to yet and a few of C’s LEGO kits (we keep them separate from our big box of general LEGO pieces). The clay box has homemade playdough, our big barrel of play dough tools, and a bunch of playfoam.


On the third wall we have more toy storage, including some baskets full of games, balls, and even blankets in the fireplace.  At this particular moment, we also had a little man too active to sit still for the camera and a mangy old dog badly in need of a brushing.

So that’s pretty much it.  Not the most conventional of dining room spaces but such a good fit for where we’re at in life right now.

Tell me, would any of you consider converting your dining room into a hybrid space like this?

This post is part of MPMK’s “Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life”. You can read all about it here, check out all of our projects here, and join thousands of POYEL facebook group members here.



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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Louise January 3, 2013 at 7:07 am

Oh my goodness! I love it. All of our rooms seem to be hybrid spaces, but none works as well as this one. Can you come to my house and help me get rid of all the old junk replace it with wonderful, functional, adult- and kid-friendly pieces that fit in our space?!


mpmk January 3, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Sounds like fun 😉


MultiTestingMom January 3, 2013 at 8:12 am

Our kitchen/dining room is one large open space. It is our multi-purpose room. We have toys, crafts, food etc. all in one place. There is artwork all over the walls – it practically looks like a Kindergarten classroom, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!


Kris January 3, 2013 at 8:47 am

We chucked our formal dining room for a playroom too! Instead of being used twice a year it is played in daily. I love yours! So bright and inviting! Great inspiration.


mpmk January 3, 2013 at 2:28 pm

Thanks Kris!


Jessie January 3, 2013 at 9:23 am

I LOVE this! We are moving in a few weeks and planning on using the dining room for the exact same thing. I love seeing how you have organized yours–great inspiration!


Molly January 3, 2013 at 10:05 am

Love how you are displaying the art work and supplies! Our dinning room is already our craft space! We have pretty big buffet and had nothing to put in it so I organized it into a craft supply/office supply space. My little guy’s crafts are accessible to him and it makes for easy clean up when we have company!


Leslie January 3, 2013 at 10:33 am

First – I LOVE what you did! Second – It wouldn’t work for our dining room, but, I’m now inspired to create a creative corner like this in our home office! LOVE IT and I cant wait to get started on ours! 😀 Thanks for sharing!


mpmk January 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Would love to see it when you’re done!


lynn January 3, 2013 at 11:45 am

my dining room transformed into a creative space last year-we love it. and we still use the table for dining. it works for us!


lynn January 3, 2013 at 12:26 pm

where is your tabletop paper roll from? thanks.


mpmk January 3, 2013 at 2:29 pm

Sorry I forgot to mention – the roll and paper are also from IKEA


mpmk January 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm

Yay! I’m so glad you guys are as excited about this idea as I am! We’re actually sitting at the table right now – I’m typing while the kiddos are painting with the liquid watercolors Santa brought in their stockings :).


Rhyll January 3, 2013 at 6:12 pm

I would love to invite you to sunny Canberra (Australia) to have a go at my place! We have just moved from a small 3 bedroom home to a massive 7 bedroom house. It is great having all the extra space and room, but it seems we still can’t fit anything in :o~
I know that I need to do a big toy cull and will follow some of the steps that you offered in Tackling the Toy Box, but perhaps I will also have to consider the hybrid dining space too! It does look fantastic and I am loving your site :o) Thank you for being an awesome Mum and great ideas women!


Lyn January 4, 2013 at 8:31 am

Can you give more details on the vinyl? Is it foldable? I need something like that for my dining table but because we only have 1 dining space it needs to be easily put away at dinner time.


mpmk January 4, 2013 at 8:41 pm

It is foldable – its simply clear vinyl I picked up at our local craft store


Missy January 4, 2013 at 1:45 pm

This is so inspiring! I have a dining room that is rarely used, except for parties and large family dinners since we also have an eat-in kitchen. Its this huge room that just sits there empty and unused most of the year, while I have so many different activities crammed into the kids bedroom. GREAT IDEA and I’m definitely going to start working on my dining room asap!


Laura January 4, 2013 at 4:57 pm

We also replaced the dining room with a playroom. Gets much more use & is a great spot for the kids. Envious of the table you got – we don’t have a big table in the playroom now…..thinking of ways to remedy that!


Molly Paola January 4, 2013 at 8:32 pm

Where is the vinyl that tops the table from?
Great room – I love it!


mpmk January 4, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I just picked up 2 yards of thick clear vinyl from our local craft store.


Danielle @ 2 Little Superheroes January 4, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Love this. I also turned our dinning room into a playroom, but ours is not nearly as organized and beautiful. Maybe for 2013 that will be goal.


Jessica January 4, 2013 at 10:50 pm

Love it! We’ve used our dining room as a play room since we lived in a rental. We liked it so much that we have it set up that way in our house too. Totally worth it! If the playroom was in the spare room (which was our other choice) I wouldn’t see them!


eryn January 5, 2013 at 9:00 am

What a great space. I love the idea of fully utilizing the rarely used dinning table.


Janssen January 5, 2013 at 11:45 am

This is gorgeous! I love that you’re using your house for YOUR family, not how some builder imagined it.


katepickle January 18, 2013 at 12:11 am

This space is so lovely… it just feels so warm and inviting for everyone!

I especially love that you re-purposed the change table… now I have plans for ours!


Cerys @ Rainy Day Mum January 18, 2013 at 7:50 am

This is our to do this year – currently we have a used every day dinning room but the table is large and can seat up to 8 most of the time there is only 4 of us so we are getting a smaller table and then using the space for the kids I’m really looking forward to the makeover and have been buying things and storing things up to do :)


Rachel March 26, 2013 at 10:54 pm

I just stumbled across your blog and this just happens to be the first “entry” I’ve read. I am so excited to see someone else giving up the traditional dining area in lieu of an art room. Last year, we ditched the dining table all together, as our kitchen has a breakfast bar. Now we have an entire project room for Dad and kids (I’m the DIYer, not the artist) to create and I LOVE it! Best way for the family to hang out together.


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