5 Creative Organizing Strategies for Kids, From a Prop Stylist’s Own Apartment
And her must-have storage essentials.
Published Oct 22, 2020 5:35 PM
As a prop stylist whose clients have included Warby Parker, Sesame Street, and The New York Times Magazine, Randi Brookman Harris is no stranger to the power of a well-placed object. In her 1,400-square-foot apartment in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood—which she shares with her husband, Jacob, and 9-year-old son, Marlowe—pens, Post-its, and everyday art supplies reside on a handsome wood pegboard; favorite books are arranged on acrylic ledges beside a bed; and in the kitchen, white and cream dishes appears in gleaming succession on open shelving.
One might assume that for someone so innately attuned to balance and composition, any suggestion of disarray would be out of the question, cropped from the frame as it would be in a perfectly styled photograph. But for Harris, a little contradiction is just a part of the bigger picture. In this household, Saarinen cohabits with Snoopy; saturated colors intersect with soft neutrals; and plastic toys live alongside marble, linen, and sheepskin. A closer look at a potted plant reveals a tiny Lego clubhouse nestled amid the leaves.
Of course, in such capable hands, these collisions seem effortless. But the stylist makes it clear that the key to blending a kid-friendly vibe with grown-up sophistication is organizational smarts and a measure of good-natured flexibility. That, she explains, is what allows the space to tell her family’s story. “I like being able to see the arc of Marlowe’s creativity on display,” she says of her son’s Legos, which are proudly exhibited (as well as impeccably sorted and stored) in the living room. “It’s fun to follow where his brain takes him as he learns more about the world.” Here’s how the mom set up her space for everyone to enjoy.
Organize From Every Angle
In the living room, four streamlined storage lockers keep both not-so-pretty tech (a printer and router, for instance) and a selection of Marlowe’s most-used toys, games, and puzzles stowed out of sight. But the cabinets’ multitasking storage capabilities don’t end there. Underneath, a tidy row of coated linen bins corral his growing Lego collection, while the top serves as a canvas for his meticulously constructed (and ever-expansive) masterpieces. The latest? A colorful take on a rambling cityscape, which lends a touch of whimsy to the gallery wall above. “A small initial commitment to order makes play a much bigger joy,” says Harris of the setup.
Group Like With Like
Organizing the Legos by color family—yellows and oranges in one bin, pinks and reds in another, all with handwritten labels—can be tedious, admits Harris. “We’re up to 13 bins,” she says, “but it was a way for me to devise a system for us to clean up,” especially for two visual brains. In Marlowe’s bedroom, custom paper bins, found on Etsy, serve a similar purpose, but for dress-up items and stuffed animals. And IKEA wardrobe cabinets sit atop a custom bench, which allows for additional toy storage underneath.
Stick With Shallow Shelves
“A shallow shelf, especially one low to the ground, is a great way for kids to display their collections and doodads,” says Harris. Marlowe’s own vertical storage system allows him to exhibit prized possessions. Meanwhile, a neighboring bookcase houses treasured Harry Potter books and a selection of Muji boxes full of artwork close at hand (“save” and “go through” files keep the drawings manageable). Marlowe’s various containers hold everything from Polaroids and Pokémon cards to fake mustaches and finger skateboards. “It’s not a museum,” Harris explains. “It rotates; it gets messy. Sometimes we’ll pull everything down and style it back up together. That’s a good way to dust things off, too!”
Store Snacks at Kid Level
“Until very recently, the open shelving in our kitchen was just for my husband and me,” explains Harris. “But Marlowe is really into preparing his own food, and now that he’s 9, he just climbs up on the counter to get what he needs.” (A slim-profile step stool helps the budding chef get a leg up.) Even so, the stylist keeps a collection of Danish melamine (aka unbreakable) dishes in an easily accessible drawer, while, during the school year, granola bars, fruit leathers, and more snacks live on lower pantry shelves in a divided office supply tray.
Show Off Your Work
“Having a workspace in a family area can be a challenge,” admits Harris, whose custom marble desk is mounted to the wall behind the living room sofa. “But I think it’s good for children to see their parents working.” The surface’s notable length also allows for mother and son to sit side by side, and a wood pegboard (left over from a photo shoot) keeps collected bits of creative inspiration at eye level. “He’s very interested in my styling,” she says. “He tries to do it on his own sometimes, which makes my heart want to explode. He’s seeing me and I’m seeing him. It’s a wonderful feedback loop.”
To read the full story, which appears in our first-ever Domino Kids issue, order your copy here, starring Drew Barrymore and featuring colorful organization tips, small-space design that solves the toy-storage puzzle, and more creative living ideas for the whole family.