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LAB Work: Mollie & Olivia

Working Budget:  $0
Time Spent:  5 Hours
Location:  Albany, CA

Meet Mollie (6) & Olivia (almost 2).
They live in UC Village, a place for CAL Grad students and their families.
Dad is completing his Phd in Law and Mama is a Japanese language teacher.
This is their 3rd year here in the US and their last semester at the Village.

Mollie had attended Bright Star Montessori in her preschool years and mom had always wished to set up a home play space that reflected the preschool environment which encouraged self reliance and independent growth.  Mostly, with 2 girls, she needed a home setup that is easy to maintain and obvious where things are put away.
Sort of like a really flirty & cute haircut that you can just "toss and go."
No mousse necessary.

So we show up for a usual Mandarin Playdate.

Snacks all around, moms are chatting away, but somehow...
HapaLAB strikes again!  *Shock*

Before you know it, mom's got the broom and dad's moving the TV cabinet to a different wall!

So what's the sitch?
Mollie & Olivia have a really spacious front Greatroom in their 2 bedroom apartment.  The space was intended for a living space (carpet) and dining space (linoleum).  The actual dining set was placed into the Eat-In-Kitchen.  This was suppose to turn the Greatroom to a Great-play-room.  But what they ended up with was a GIANT vacuum for clutter, toys, book, 2 desks, and a TV that was miles away from the sofa...in fact, where WAS the sofa anyways?  Oh...found it!  Now if I can only find those binoculars...
Ok, all jokes aside, this greatroom was in need of a little "Fluffing."
Nothing fancy, it's got all the pieces, just displayed in a random way.
Like you've got all the right ingredients to bake the perfect flan, but somehow, you end up with a soupy mess..?
Taste OK, but could look better, yes?
So I must be alittle hungry, and in need of a salon trim, but I press on...

The KEY in this particular LAB work?
Or I should say...NO Budget.
As this is their last semester in the village, they did not want to purchase furnishings for a space they will move out of in a few months.  Also being in their last semester, they have accumulated 3 years worth of "hand-me-down" goodies from all their past village friends.

This is really an excercise in what we need to "take away" instead of "add."
What we took away =  6 garbage bags of future yard sale items.

Here's the BEFORE shot of the future Play Zone:

And 5 short busy hours later....

After:  New Play Zone!

"We enjoy our NEW living room so much!  Mollie is going to have a long weekend (off from school) through Tuesday but she chooses to stay at home to work in her NEW CLASSROOM.  Thank you (Julie), we have such a big change." ~ Lilian

As usual, here's the Grand Tour of their LAB results:

Entry Foyer:
This foyer was much needed as always.  The front door opens into a flight of stairs that lead into this landing before entering the living space.  We've created a shoe rack area, installed 2 coat hooks, and set up all items needed for entering and exiting their home (diapers, socks, hats, sunscreen, keys bucket).  The utility shelf doubles as a "wall extender" to narrow the opening to the living room to attach a safety gate for Olivia. 
Storage Cabinet:
This was previously dad's bookcase turned into junk shelves...A truly PERFECT key piece to display their favorite toys, this is the anchor of the Play Zone.
Each cubby now has a single toy, making it easier for the girls to get to and play with each time.  The extras were stored away, to be rotated out for their turn in the cubby next month.
A red bucket became the front-facing book display, and the pink bucket holds all their favorite stuffed animals and dolls.

Art Supplies:
A three tier wicker shelf now holds all of their art supplies.  This use to hold the components for the television.  Now they have open access to paper, colors, tape, erasers, staplers, scissors, and much more.

Desk Setup:
We swapped out one adult desk for one child's desk from upstairs.  There was an existing small square table.  We mushed these 2 tables together as an "island"...and now there is a dual facing work station so that Mollie & Olivia can face each other while working in the Play Zone.  The difference in desk heights is also helpful as a physical barrier to little "tugging hands."
Desks facing each other.

M returns her backpack to the bag hook...

Cooking session...in progress.
Olivia...hard at work.
Mollie takes her turn.

Zozie takes...well...a Sofa nap.

Speaking of sofa...
For mom & dad, here's a new Living Room that has the TV and the Sofa together...SO happy together...in the same space.  We grouped the various seating in this space to surround a new OLD rug from our own Yard Sale stash to set the living space. The little child size denim armchair can face the TV or face the classroom as a reading chair.

Mom & dad were so giddy after the transformation, they stayed up late watching movies on their sofa last night, trying to enjoy their new space as much as possible!  *smiles*

Mama & Olivia.

Zero dollars.
All existing items, reused.


  1. wow, where's all the stuff! It's really empty in there now. I have to say, you strike again!

  2. you're a space miracle worker if I ever saw one! The place looks really great post transformation! I will admit, I am still a little uneasy about dedicating an out-in-the open space (you know, that people can actually see) for kids. I'm usually just trying to keep all things child related hidden. But I suppose that's why I'm always making myself crazy when it comes time for clean-up. I need to learn to have my kids master the structured play area/time, and handle clean up for themselves. It's going to be a hard road to travel, but one well worth traveling I think...
    I'd love some more tips and thought you might have in getting started...i wish you could come see my space!

  3. Have no fear Kelly! Crazy as it sounds, kids actually prefer order over chaos sometimes:) It never fails, all the different kids use the space more "properly" whenever we do a transformation. Especially when they are this young, they actually love being SHOWN (not told) where things belong! Sometimes if you keep it all hidden and inaccessible, the kids may "binge play" and get super messy since it's not always available. Teach the kids how to fish and you won't have to do all the fishing for them!
    A good starter tip:
    Start with a mini Foyer or Mudroom.
    A few hooks for coats & bags, a shoes rack.
    This gives a great intro to "things have a proper home" idea. You might also see proud faces when they put shoes on the rack or hang their coats, especially when you sell it as "their own hook" or "their own shoe rack."
    This brings order to your home, and is a dedicated "out-in-the-open" kid space too, 2 birds with one stone.
    Let me know how that goes, and we'll move on to the public play area...baby steps Kel, you can do this:)