Small Living Room Playroom Combo (Functional Tips For Small Spaces)

living room playroom combo

Small Living Room Playroom Combo (Functional Tips For Small Spaces)

The purpose of this post is to explain how I created a playroom in my living room with tips to maximize a small space and what I’ve learned in the process of doing so. This process will create a more functional living space/play area for your toddler/younger child and your family if you are challenged with having limited space. These tips come from firsthand experience living in an apartment with limited space with a toddler. I hope to provide some inspiration if you are thinking of doing the same.


They say two’s a company and three’s a crowd. So what about 4, 5, and 6 – Crowding?

Yes. Very crowding.

a crowd to show how crowded my apartment is
Does this give you Covid anxiety? I stole that joke from my sister, thanks Tina!
Photo by Rob Curran on Unsplash

Living in a 2-bedroom apartment can be challenging when shared with 2 other humans, a toddler, and 2 adult cats.

How do you decide who’s stuff trumps who’s when everyone in the house loves to horde?

Oh wait…you’re probably wondering why I didn’t include my toddler as a human? That’s because she’s not.

I’m kidding.

Occasionally I’ll hear parents count their babies and toddlers as a half. In reality though, If they need their own suitcase, a diaper bag, a car seat, and a stroller, then they’re definitely a whole and some

…and that was the problem here.

My toddler’s things probably take up half the space of my apartment. This probably wouldn’t be so if I didn’t care for any hand-me-downs, didn’t save her old clothes and toys to sell or donate in the future, and did not have to fulfill a need of what I wished my childhood playroom would have been like.

We actually have a pretty good size apartment with a lot of storage space. We ended up taking advantage of all that storage space, especially when we became a human family of 4.

So when I say my home is crowding, it’s definitely crowded with humans, pets, and storage.

Do you feel the same way about your home?


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Table of Contents

    Several months ago, I decided to create a living room and playroom combo because of my growing toddler and her growing toys. At the time, we had a big living room. However, my daughter was getting older and her needs were becoming wider. So wide that it was taking over our living room.

    Although her toys were taking over our living room, I only wanted more things for her and they weren’t just things. They were things that consisted of bigger toys and kid’s furniture that it wouldn’t make sense to put in a 2 bedroom apartment housing 4 people with already limited space and storage.

    before living room and playroom combo mess everywhere
    See what I mean? Playtime was always fun, but it was the aftermath that would stress me out.

    Because her toys were already taking up half of my living room, I thought it would only make sense to just give her half of it. That’s when I decided to create an actual playroom in my living room.

    Thinking of putting a whole playroom in my living room was kind of daunting. As you can see, her play area was already disorganized and out of place.

    If a smaller play area’s mess was already stressing me out, what would a bigger play area or playroom’s mess do to me?

    I guess what I’m really trying to ask is if it’s really worth having a separate playroom?


    Related: 8 Functional Parenting Tips To Minimize Stress At Home


    Is a playroom a good idea?

    I found that a playroom is beneficial because it creates a dedicated space for just my daughters toys, thus a dedicated space for her mess.

    Keep in mind, that because the room is not actually separated and enclosed by walls and a door, your child still may bring toys out of her playroom into the living room. From this whole experience, I found my daughter would often still bring a few toys out of her playroom into the living room, but the mess was not as horrible as was prior to creating a separate playroom.

    small living room playroom combo mess
    My daughter’s mess contained in one space. This was her current playroom.

    A half playroom gave me the option of having larger children’s items such as a sensory table, book display, tent, dollhouse, etc, because I now had space for them. It also made our apartment look more organized and prevented these larger items from being scattered around the house and overcrowding other rooms.

    A separate playroom also lets my daughter know where she is to play. Whenever she wakes up to start the day or from a nap, she immediately runs to her play area. This also prevented limitations and encouraged her to explore, be creative, and just play in her space independently. This, in turn, created a much more functional space for her and our family.

    As you can see, the play tent and Ikea sensory table take up the majority of my toddler’s playroom, but what’s great about these two items is that I am able to easily break them down and store them away if I decide I wanted to swap them out for something else.

    Because I am working with limited space, I always try to purchase toys and items that are space-saving.


    Related: 5 Best Indoor Gross Motor Toys For Toddlers (Space Saving)


    Having said all of that, yes a playroom is definitely worth it.

    However, some families may not have an available room for a playroom or feel like they don’t have the space for one – like me!

    As mentioned earlier, I was able to combine my living room with a playroom – but it does take planning, a good layout, removal/substituting furniture, and some of your living room to do so.


    How do I combine the living room and playroom?

    There are a few things to consider before you wish to combine the living room and playroom. I say this because I failed after my first attempt without doing so.

    Things to consider

    1. Your family and living room situation – Do a lot of members in your family occupy the living room, and if they do, how often? By doing so, will help you in deciding what furniture is actually needed and what can be taken away or substituted. This will also assist you with how you want your layout to be.

    2. The layout of the living room – Considering the layout of the living room will tell you where you will be able to add a playroom or where you would like to add a playroom. This will then let you know how much space/walls you have to work with and what items you can include in that space.

    3. Space you will be needing/using – How much space do you need for your playroom? Your child may already have a lot of furniture pieces and toys, or you may want to purchase other things that you wish to add to your playroom-to-be. I took this time to create a list of what I wanted in my daughter’s playroom.

    Note, combining your living room and playroom takes commitment. I say this because if you are working with limited space, as I was, you may have to remove some furniture. This is exactly what I had to do.

    After considering the layout of my living room, my living room situation, and the space I needed, I concluded that the best way to combine my living room and playroom was to divide my living room in half. As a result, I would have one side as my living room and on the other side as my daughter’s playroom.


    How do you divide a living room into two areas?

    Before I get into how I divided my living room into two areas, I just want to reiterate that combining the living room and playroom was a commitment for me when working with limited space.

    This is because I had to remove certain furniture pieces that would be more beneficial to us as a family with a toddler who needed the space and wouldn’t be practical for us as a family who didn’t frequent a lot of guests.

    This may be true in your case too.

    Since we are a family of 4, we can fit comfortably on just our sofa – at least while my daughter is still a toddler. This would mean that I could get rid of our love seat and one of our other Ikea chairs if I wanted to create more space to divide our living room in half.

    Doing so would also mean that I would be taking away extra seating for our guests if we were to have any.

    I did consider that and decided that my 2 storage ottoman benches could suffice for the loveseat. This offered our family duel benefits – storage for my toddler’s toys and extra seating for our guests.

    storage ottoman bench for extra seating in small space
    The cover of these benches is cushioned so it’s actually comfortable to sit on aside from the fact it does not have a backside. It also has a lot of storage space.

    Related: A Functional Living Room With Toy Storage Ideas (For A Small Space)


    So going back, I was able to accomplish dividing my living room into two areas by simply using my sofa as the divider. This created a living room on the seating side of the sofa and a playroom on the backside of the sofa.

    ideas for living room and playroom combo
    Here is my sofa acting as a divider. The left side is now my living room, while the right side is my toddler’s playroom.

    This was the beginning of the transition. You will start to see the playroom progress throughout this post. You actually seen a glimpse earlier in this post.


    Other small living room playroom combo ideas to divide your living room

    Note that you may need more than one depending on the size of your living room.

    1. Wardrobe closets – Wardrobe closets are good because it has doors preventing your child from climbing onto the wardrobe decreasing the risk of the closet from tipping over. It also has doors to hide the toys if you decide to use them to store your child’s toys. You can even paint the wardrobe closet doors with chalk paint, which would be fun for kids.

    2. Book cases – High risk of tipping over if you consider using taller bookcases so please keep in mind if you have a child that likes to climb. The bottom part of the book case can be your toy display for which your toddler can easily grab toys to play with.

    3. Room divider – I actually found one on Amazon with a chalkboard that I thought was cool for kids. It’s thinner so it would not take up a lot of space. It may tip over depending on how you use it.

    After I divided my living room into two areas giving me a playroom space to work with, I had to figure out how I was going to build a playroom using a small space.


    How do you build a playroom in a small space?

    This is the fun part folks! However, halt on your excitement and don’t go out purchasing all the items on your list just yet. Try your best to slowly build on your child’s playroom.

    Just like considering the layout for my living room, I had to consider the layout of my daughter’s playroom to best utilize the limited space we had.

    When planning the layout of the playroom, I found that I was further limited because my husband had an Ikea wardrobe he was using for his fishing gear on the side of the playroom along with his fishing rods.

    half living room half play room combo ideas
    I’m not proud of this wall and if it were my choice, I’d fill it with 2 more Ikea wardrobes just so we would have the added storage; however, my husband refuses to build 2 more other wardrobes and I refuse to pay for someone to build it for me. So this is our meeting in the middle.

    I learned that I really had to work with the space I had without letting the space work me. Meaning, I didn’t stress myself out because I was limited to having the Ikea wardrobe and fishing rods in her playroom and instead, just worked with it and tried to find how the limitation would benefit me.

    Example: I really wanted to purchase an easel for my daughter because she loves to doodle, scribble, and paint. Knowing that my husband’s Ikea wardrobe was already taking up space in her playroom; instead of purchasing an easel, I just used that wardrobe as something I can tape paper onto so that she can just use that to paint or draw on.

    toddler using a wardrobe closet as an easel
    My toddler using our older Ikea wardrobe as an easel to paint. You can use Crayola Washable Paint or any other washable paint if you’re worried about it ruining your furniture.

    Planning the layout of my playroom helped me to see that I can use the Ikea wardrobe as an easel thus preventing me from taking away essential space of where that easel would have been placed.

    So if you find yourself in this position, try to see if whatever is limiting your space can actually benefit you in some way.

    Of course, the next thing you would want to do is use every wall, nook, and cranny, but I would suggest doing so in a more practical way because you will be building in a space that is limited.

    What I did was prioritize the need to use items that took up the least amount of space but still offered the same benefits for my toddler. With that in mind, I really had to wean out the items on my list that would not offer any benefits of maximizing a small space.

    This is why I didn’t go out and purchase all these items at once because what would happen is me later finding out that they all don’t fit, or that I could have used something I already had to suffice for that piece as I mentioned earlier about the Ikea wardrobe.

    You’re probably thinking that’s obvious and this should be common sense to measure everything beforehand, but that’s not really what I mean.

    Example: I really wanted to purchase a Montessori shelf for my toddler’s toys; instead, I held back. I ended up purchasing the Ikea dollhouse because I loved the look of it and for the sake of having more room to work with in my daughter’s playroom. In addition, I used her pretend play kitchen and Montessori weaning chair which were both items I already owned and did not take up too much width space in the playroom.

    It was just more practical to do it this way for our small space and even better, I saved more money while doing so.

    You will probably find additional things that is more practical for your space.

    toy display to maximize space
    Toy display to maximize space.

    I use the Ikea dollhouse to rotate specific learning toys. This also helped limit what I displayed so that my toddler does not become overwhelmed by the abundance of toys, which tends to usually happen for my daughter.

    I also like to use our Montessori weaning chair for my daughters holiday/seasonal sensory and role play space.


    Related: Chinese New Year Role Play Space For Toddlers

    Related: Toddler Sensory Play And Role Play For Christmas


    I learned that slowly building a playroom helped me to better utilize the space we had, not overspend on items that may have not worked, and made me work with the space I got. This resulted in not just a playroom, but a functional playroom for my toddler.


    Related: How To Create A Functional Playroom (For Toddlers And Small Spaces)


    Here is the final product after dividing my living room using a sofa. Photography is not my forte okay.

    living room playroom combo ideas. Layout results in half living room half playroom. Great for small spaces
    living room playroom combo

    Here is the final product of the playroom.

    playroom in living room
    playroom in living room
    pikler triangle
    The Pikler Triangle was placed on the other side of our couch to further divide the rooms. The Pikler triangle can be easily folded and put away with the ladder for more room.


    Shortlist on how to create a living room playroom combo for small spaces

    1. First, look at the layout of your living room to decide where or what side you want your playroom to be.

    2. Next, consider your family and living room situation to give you an idea of what furniture you can get rid of or substitute so you can create your desired playroom space. This is also a good time to create a list of the furniture items you will be removing, replacing, and toys you will want to add to your playroom.

    3. After, get rid of that furniture and substitute any furniture you need so you can have a clearer picture of the space you will be left with and how you will be dividing your living room.

    4. Visibly divide your living room and look at the layout of where your playroom will be so you know how you would like to utilize that space.

    5. Then decide on what to use to physically divide your living room and do so. (This would be a couch, book case, armoire/wardrobe closet, and/or room divider)

    6. You will now have an actual playroom to work with. This is where you can start looking back at your list and also consider all the toys your child already owns.

    7. Do not plan on purchasing all the items on your list just yet; instead, start weaning out any items on your list or substitute any items on your list that are not space saving for items that will use up the least amount of space. (look back at post for examples)

    8. Now you can have fun and start decorating your child’s playroom!


    Take away and key points

    A playroom has many benefits for a child. As a parent, the best benefit is having all your child’s mess contained in one space. It’s possible to have a playroom if you are limited space or if you live in an apartment. It just takes planning, a good layout, removal/substituting furniture, and some of your living room to do so.

    Remember to work with the space you got and not let it work you by finding the benefits out of what is limiting you, do not purchase everything all at once, and use items that use the least amount of space but still provide your child with all the benefits of learning and playing.

    If you have other tips and ideas that pertain to this post please comment down below. I am always looking for things and ideas that would benefit my toddler’s playroom.


    how to create a living room playroom combo
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