Problem: Making room for play, no matter what the weather
Becky Scott and Andy Orban’s backyard stretches past several stately oak trees and down to a creek nearly a hundred yards behind their North Downtown home. Their children, Nathaniel and Carrie (3-and-a-half years and 22 months, respectively), are outside nearly every day, now that spring has sprung. With plenty of room to run and dig and explore outside, it could be a challenge when the weather is uncooperative and the siblings are stuck indoors. However, one of the many charms of this 1955 home, besides the big backyard, is a unique arrangement of space on the top floor.
The upper rooms are a straight shot from the side door, easing the transition from outside to in. Upstairs, the sun sparkles through a prism hanging from the frame of a skylight, casting rainbows of light on a crate of blocks, Nathaniel’s big-boy bed and a few of the seven doors that dot the surrounding walls. One door leads to a newly refurbished bathroom, a few lead to storage spaces (closets and crawl spaces) and two more open to reveal a cozy U-shaped playroom that wraps around the top of the stairwell.
When open, the two doors create a loop through the little room, allowing for an indoor track of sorts (on rainy days, the kids will, in fact, run in circles!). The shape and scale of the room, with its low ceiling and narrow walls, is ready-made for a playhouse, fort or perhaps the bow of a ship. So, even when the weather is fine, this hide-away room functions as a place for quiet play and imagination.
A formative part of Becky Scott’s own upbringing was the local preschool that her parents ran until her father retired. Speaking of magic in the attic, she says, “I often go [to my parents’ house] and just raid the attic because they still have a bunch of stuff up there!”
On a recent treasure hunt she came across a collection of vintage toy road signs that now decorate one of the shelves in Nathaniel’s room, adding to the ’50s nostalgia of the house as well as fueling imaginative play.
Much to Nathaniel’s delight when I visit, it is a glorious spring day and he and his dad are digging in the yard. Nathaniel gives me a tour of the garden. “We kind of sowed seeds in there,” he tells me, pointing. “We planted peas!” After taking a ride on the slide we meander back to the house, where Nathaniel excitedly climbs the stairs, ready to play.
A long line of toy cars lines the edge of a low wooden desk in the playroom. Bathed in the light from another sunny window, it’s easy to understand why, rain or shine, this little room has a draw all its own.
“For me, a big part of having the kids entertained and playing is outside,” Scott explains. “And, really, that’s the reason we bought this house: because of the back yard.” Smiling, she says, “It’s nice to have a good space inside, too.”
Use this wire basket ($45, The Artful Lodger), indoors or out, for simple and durable storage. Fill it with stuffed animals (like these from O’Suzannah), inside, or stray sandbox toys, outside. Line the interior with a cloth bag and you have a classy laundry hamper.