While Everyone Else Turned Their Garages Into Guest Rooms, This Mom Put Monkey Bars in Hers
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When Los Angeles–based designer Erin Fetherston found out she was having her first child, she joked with her husband that they would need a padded room. Fast-forward six years and two more kids, and they actually have one. While everyone else seemed to transform their garages into guest rooms or offices during the pandemic, Fetherston decided to turn the detached one at her family’s new house in L.A.’s Hancock Park neighborhood into a full-on play gym. It was one of the first renovations she tackled after they closed on the place last December. “Surviving the lockdowns with active boys at home inspired the need for this space. My kids were literally bouncing off the walls!” she says.
With her littlest one’s due date set for February 2022, Fetherston needed the space outfitted quickly (she wanted to keep her two boys happy and engaged once the baby arrived). Luckily she stumbled across Project Playroom, a company that makes it easy for homeowners to build a professional-grade play zone—monkey bars, foam pit, and all—in a residential setting. Fetherston was also drawn to the fact that one of the cofounders has a background in childhood development. “My children, like many, had this huge setback when schools were closed, so I started educating myself about their sensory needs and how they can properly channel their energy and emotions and [work on] their brain-body connection,” she says. Ahead, Fetherston walks us through the key components of her garage–turned–jungle gym, or “the clubhouse,” as her 6- and 3-year-old now adorably call it.
The Landing Pad
With the help of friends, Fetherston’s husband said goodbye to the hard concrete floor and laid down the superthick padding from Project Playroom (the mat is so cushy, a professional gymnast could do tricks on it). Of course, their kiddos are always under a watchful adult’s eye when they’re in there. “My children would need supervision even if they were inside a cotton ball,” Fetherston says with a laugh. Through all the falls and tumbles, she has seen the forgiving surface work its magic.
The Mini Mount Everest
Fetherson hired a handyman to mount the 42-by-42-inch panels that make up the rock climbing wall (she opted for a streamlined, all-white look, but there are five other colors to pick from). After the squares were affixed to 2-by-4s that were attached to the wall, the family babysitter helped screw in all of the colorful holds.
The Monkey Bars
This part also took a bit of engineering on the handyman’s part, and not just because he had to work around the pipes. With the ceiling spanning about 9 feet high, Fetherston wanted him to lower the system with a framework built out of more 2-by-4s so the drop wasn’t so drastic. “I can see how it helps them self-regulate and organize their bodies and coordination,” she shares. “I’m very impressed. My 6-year-old can cross 20 feet of monkey bars with no problem.”
The Endlessly Fun Foam Pit
In the center of the room is an epic container filled with foam cubes that can be accessed easily by swing. Fetherston bought four different types of swings, so the boys can interchange them depending on if they want to test their agility with a trapeze version or lazily spin on a tire.
The Practical Storage
Giving up the garage would have meant forgoing a ton of valuable storage space had Fetherston not partnered with California Closets. On the two side walls, there are cabinets for the children’s other occupational therapy toys, sport balls, and car seats. It’s also where she can neatly stow away all the foam gymnastic blocks (which she snagged from a local kids’ gym that was going out of business) when she wants to do her own grown-up routines in the space. “The floor is perfect for my workouts,” she says. Plus traversing the monkey bars is a fun alternative to lifting weights.