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LAB Work: Madison

Work Budget:  $300 ish
Total Time:  3.5hrs + a trip to Ikea
Location:  Albany, CA   

Just shy of 3, Maddie is without a doubt, one of the "dolliest" of Zozie's friends.  
Yes, she literally looks like a Japanese animation doll.  Like the one on her shirt.  
Or "Boo" from Monsters Inc... but even cuter.

Maddie has a Beautiful & Cozy Home.  
The front living & dining room space is smaller, like Maddie herself, but just as sweet and full of potential!  We are determined to carve out a dedicated play/work space for Maddie.  Tight spaces really gets the LAB going...there's ALWAYS room for a kid's area, even when there's no room, we make our own!

The Before
Previously, Maddie's play area was fun but limited to the space between the living room sofa set and the dining room table.  Let's see about expanding this alittle to give more function to this multipurpose front room.

The Transformation
We started by shifting the dining buffet off the wall.  
By placing it in the center of the space, it acts as a room divider for the new dining area and Maddie's new playroom.  Since the dining set is typically a traffic "island", people approach dining seating from all sides, the set did not need to be against a wall.  This made it a perfect candidate to "float" in the front room.  The accent mirror moved over to the new dining space, setting the new identity with the buffet as the backdrop.  One of the existing downlights is now about center over the dining table, which could be an easy conversion to a new pendant light later if wanted, further marking the dining area.

The After
So what did we do to Maddie's space?
Shifting the buffet off the wall opened up a whole new Montessori-Inspired Corner in this compact front room.  We set up a toddler sized table and chair set and moved the existing chalk board into the play space for her use.  A new lamp illuminates this new area.  A basket now holds her guitar and a work mat.

The Food Station
It was important for Maddie's mom that she have the opportunity to practice her practical life skills at mealtimes.  Three small glasses hold the various cutlery utensils, good for gather at meal times and sorting after dishes are done.  Large & small plates sit on top for easy access.  Freebie wooden wine crates were used to help separate the various dishwares.

The Drink Station
How many times does your toddler ask you to get them a drink?  Giving them the chance to help themselves, helps the parent out, and well, helps themselves!  Very empowering, this pint-size pitcher with lid is perfect for small hands.  Pair that with some Ikea glassware and you're good to go!  At only 3 for $1, no worries if there's a casualty or two along the way...

The Clean Station
Every LAB transformation has to have a Cleaning Area
A simple dust pan and broom.  A simple metal flower pot converted to trash can.  Both tug nicely into another freebie wooden wine crate. Kids are naturals at making messes.  They also, unexpectedly, like to clean them up!  We just don't give them as much opportunity to do so.  Just like riding a bike, the more practice, the better!  With a broom readily accessible and a trash can in plain sight, this simple life habit can be easily learned and practiced.  And trust me, this is one habit that WILL reward them over and over again into adulthood...

The Storage
We added a new 2 x 2 cubbie bookcase with 2 wicker baskets.  The cubbies provided display space for new activities and games while the baskets conceal old or new supplies for mommy.  A 3 shelf standard bookcase was also added to provide more display space for larger items.

In Action
You know a space "works" not just because it looks cute, but if your child goes right to it.  Although looking cute is a welcomed bonus, the real test of the space flowing well is that it is a "teacher itself."  Things should look obvious & logical to a toddler so it is self-explanatory:  a road map as to how thing work.  In our LAB experiment, both Mad & Zo were both immediately curious about the new space and gravitated towards the various tools and setups.  The playroom offers 2 work surfaces, one at the table, one on the floor with a work mat.

Stamping at the new table.

Apple Sorting.

Threading on the work mat.

New playroom in full swing.
Maddie's mom continues to add to this set up...the newest addition being a metal magnetic board for the back of the buffet!  Wonderful use of space mama!  Thanks for letting HapaLAB participate in this newest transformation.


  1. I just had to say what a great job you have done here, it looks so welcoming and attractive. I am currently in the process of moving my 2 daughters (aged 2.5 and 1) into the same bedroom so that we can have an area like this. We have very limited space and I want take advantage of every area.
    If only we lived closer (I'm in Australia), I don't suppose I could get some advise via email and photos??

  2. Why not Grace? Email at HapaLab@gmail.com and send pics! Sounds like a fun project for your 2 little cutie pies!