How to Design a Shared Family Room and Playroom

Like many families, we spent much of our summer outdoors - exploring the mountains, walking to the park, and playing in the backyard. But now that fall is here and winter is right around the corner, we are spending much more of our family time indoors, specifically in our basement family room, which also serves as the kids playroom. 

Today I'm sharing my five of my best tips for creating a shared family room and playroom that is comfortable and works well for the whole family. I am grateful to The Carpet and Rug Institute for sponsoring this post, but as always all opinions are my own. Like me, The Carpet and Rug Institute is dedicated to helping families choose finishes that make home more beautiful and stylish, while also emphasizing comfort and safety. 

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TIP 1: If Space Allows, Divide the Room Into Zones

Family rooms come in all shapes and sizes, but when space allows, my number one tip for creating a shared family room and playroom space is to divide the room into zones. In a large room, use furniture to divide the space, and in a small room, you can carve out a space for the kids by dedicating a corner to play or by simply using double duty furniture to provide toy storage that is hidden in plain sight.

If your family room is large enough, a couch is perfect for delineating a portion of the room for conversation, reading, and tv watching, and behind the couch you can create a designated space for play. 

Our basement family room is a long, thin open space. When we moved in, I envisioned that we would use one end of the room for tv and movie watching and the other end for a game table, with a pool table in between. My parents gave us a pool table as a Christmas gift...

But the game table was never in the budget, so the far end of the room sat empty... 

A few years later when we had kids I was glad that the game table had never come to be because it left us the perfect space to create a playroom in the family room. And you'll notice that the pool table also serves a new function - draped in a tent made my mom, it's one of the boys favorite places to play.

How to make family room function as a playroom

Tips for a shared family room and playroom

Of course, I realize that not every family room can be divided into two distinct zones like ours. I have created a Pinterest board called "Shared Family Room Playrooms with Style" where I have saved lots of ideas for creating play zones in family rooms of all sizes. But don't go yet, I have lots more tips for you!

When designing your shared family room playroom of any size, also be sure to leave plenty of open space for play! Our kids are young, so we decided to skip on a coffee table for now, instead leaving the floor space in front of the couch open for the kids to dance, build, and even ride trains. If your kids are older, a space to play might instead mean a large, durable coffee table perfect for playing games.

Tips for a shared family room and playroom

Keep in mind that even if you create designated adult and kid zones within your family room, the kid stuff will inevitably spill over into the adult areas from time to time.

Play space in basement family room

TIP 2: Choose Double Duty Furniture & Opt for Adult Styles

No matter the size of your space, choosing double duty furniture is the key to keeping the sanity in your shared family room and playroom! 

Two things you can never have enough of in the family room are storage and seating, so storage ottomans should be high on your list of furniture must haves! This could mean one large ottoman in front of the couch, or in our case, three small ottomans tucked against the wall that can store extra toys and can be pulled out for seating or putting our feet up.

Use ottomans for toy storage

As I mentioned, we chose to forgo a coffee table in favor of more open floor space, but we still needed a place to sit drinks and remotes, so we choose a few light weight Sally stools, and we keep two of them next to the arm of the couch most of the time, 

Sally stools as side tables

But these stools are so lightweight that they can easily be moved around to serve as side tables or as additional seating {or even as drums, as my 3 year old discovered}. 

Sally stools as side tables

When it comes to choosing furniture for toys storage, it can be tempting to shop for children's furniture, but especially in a shared family room/playroom, adult furniture that can adapt with your needs as your children grow is often preferable. Large bookcases or shelving can be perfect for storing those large toys would otherwise clutter the floor.

Bookshelf for large toy storage

Here's what that same set of shelves looked like in our basement pre-kids {and in our prior home the shelves both stood upright on either side of our entertainment center, so they have been very versatile for us}.

While the large open shelves of the bookcases are perfect for storing bulky toys, I recommend keeping smaller toys contained in baskets or behind closed doors. Here again, we opted for an adult piece of furniture to do the job. Rather than buying a toy cabinet, we picked up an affordable and stylish sideboard. The top is perfect for a few more large toys...

Use a sideboard for toy storage

And the shelves inside are perfect for storing lots of smaller toys. But best of all, by choosing a sideboard rather than a toy box, we can easily relocate this piece of furniture to another room of our house in the future.

Use sideboard for toy storage

This is not to suggest that you should never chose any kid-specific furniture, or course. In our family room play area, we wanted the kids to have their own table for puzzles, games, and art projects. But even then, we chose a table that would do double duty thanks to it's large storage compartment on the bottom that corrals a large stack of wood puzzles. And we did our research to choose kid size chairs that are strong enough to hold adults as well so that mom and dad can get in on the play action.

Play table in family room

In addition to the bookshelves and sideboard, we do also have a set of stacking toy box bins in the basement family room.

Stacking Toy Bins

To minimize the visual impact of all of this toy storage, I oriented these toy bins so that only the white side is visible from the majority of the family room.

Stacking toy bins in family room

TIP 3: Choose Soft Surfaces

Choosing furniture and flooring that will keep kids safe and comfortable is obviously of primary concern. Since kids spend lots of time on the floor on the floor, carpeting and rugs provide a soft surface for playtime. 

I used to worry, however, that the carpeting in our basement might not be the best choice for our family because our older son has Reactive Airways Disease {similar to asthma} as well as some seasonal allergies. I had heard the rumor that hard floors were better for those with allergies, but I recently learned that this is false. Research {such as this study} actually shows that carpet and rugs support healthier living spaces for everyone, including those with asthma and allergies.

Play tent over pool table

Allergens such as ragweed and mold can easily be carried indoors on shoes, clothes, and pets, and those allergens then rest on top of hard surfaces flooring where they can be easily disturbed and kicked up every time someone walks through the room, scoots a chair, or drives a toy car across the floor. Research shows that carpet, on the other hand, acts as a filter that traps allergens until they can be vacuumed up, resulting in fewer particles in the air. Of course, regular vacuuming and cleaning of carpets is a must, and we avoid wearing shoes in our basement family room and play area in an effort to bring fewer allergens into the space.

It's also a good idea to look look for carpet certified by The Carpet and Rug Institute's Green Label Plus program, which indicates a low-VOC (volatile organic compound) product.

Is your family room in need of an update? If so, you're in luck because The Carpet and Rug Institute is giving away a $500 Visa Gift Card to one lucky reader! Click over to visit CRI and enter the giveaway at the bottom of the page to enter for a chance to win! 

TIP 4: Coordinate Colors

Its inevitable that any play area will wind up filled with wood and plastic toys in a rainbow of colors. Using baskets and bins, and hiding toys behind closed doors is always my first line of defense against primarily colored toy overload, but the reality is that some toys are just to large or odd shaped to easily be kept out of sight all the time. The best solution is to choose a color palette for the space and tie it in through both the adult and kid spaces to create a cohesive look, and then let the other colors become accents.

The color palette I chose for our basement family room is orange, grey and white. On the family room end of the space, the orange shows up in pillows and art work. On the kids side of the space, we chose a fun orange and gray alphabet rug and orange chairs for the play table.

Play table in basement playroom

Despite the business of the colors of the toys on the open shelving, choosing to display a few toys with orange accents helps to make the space feel more grounded and the color palette more defined.

Toy Storage In Basement Family Room

TIP 5: Make Clean Up Easy

Keeping most of the toys within easy reach of the kids and giving everything a designated place makes it much easier for kids to put things away and to participate in clean up.

Our family room play space becomes a disaster on a semi-regular basis, but a few key organizing tips have made it possible for us to clean up the whole space in just five to ten minutes {when it's a joint effort between mom and kids}. 

Bookshelf for large toy storage

Be sure to pin this for later so you can find your way back to these five tips...

Creating a shared family room playroom

In addition to dedicated one end of our basement family room to the kid's toys, we also create a fun, rock and roll themed play space for the boys around the corner under the basement stairs.

This post is sponsored by The Carpet and Rug Institute, but all content and opinions are my own.


  1. So many of us face this exact dilemma! Super tips!

  2. Awesome tips!!! You've covered my questions...lol

  3. Your room is my goal. I love the colors, style, and flow of everything. Did you do this all yourself or with the help of a designer?
    I just love it!

    1. Thanks, Amberlyn! I did it all myself. The space isn't "done" yet... lots of things on the to do list, but we really enjoy spending family time down there.

  4. If I was a kid again, this room would be the ultimate setup. It looks like that room was made for the pool table, and nice to change it up with the cover.

    1. Thanks, Clayton! The long thin layout of the room really did lend nicely to the pool table, and I love that it now does double duty as a playhouse as well!

  5. any suggestions on how to either make the tent cover for the pool table or buy something?