It was that time again. Nights were getting cooler. Flyers were advertising fresh pencils and pens. Letters from teachers were arriving in the mail. It was time to go back to school time and mom had plans. Plans that involved upgrading the playroom from a place filled with toys and primary colors to a place that would allow focus and learning and productivity. I wanted a…Homework Station.
From Playroom to Big Kids Playroom
My children are 9, 7, and 4, so there’s still a lot of playing, but not as much as a few years ago. They are in school a lot and when they’re home, their playing has changed.
Planning Our Homework Station
List of Must-Haves
Once I saw a number of homework stations, I thought about what ours needed to have. I created a list of must-haves.
I wanted to make sure the space had:
- enough room for three (growing) children to have their own chairs and work space—and potential to someday hold a computer or three.
- paper storage for study guides and long-term homework
- a display board for tests and artwork
- school and craft supply storage
- a simple, more sophisticated look
Can we use what we have?
I toyed around with some ideas for repurposing two different tables we already had. Unfortunately, both possibilities would have made it awkward for 3 children and chairs. We decided if we were going to redo our room and if we intended for our children to use it for years to come; it was worth spending a little of money on a new surface.
We headed off to Ikea, which is, by far, the best place to get inspired for a project like this.
When I saw the Karlby counter and fell in love. I loved the wood, the stain, and the simplicity. It was exactly the look I was aiming for. I was a little disappointed when I found out it was not solid wood all the way through like some other butcher block options, but it was the perfect length, so we wouldn’t be exposing any of the inside. Plus, this can be sanded and refinished, if needed. The particleboard inside makes the counter lighter, which was helpful for how we intended to install it — mounted to the wall with legs for support.
We decided to use the legs to help emphasize the three separate work stations. We purchased 4 inexpensive table legs. We planned to one leg on either end of the counter and install 2 additional legs in the middle, creating spaces for three chairs and, more importantly, clear boundaries for children.
After getting the Karlby counter, my vision came together. I was going deep and dark with the wood and the walls, and I’d rely on white and gold accents and natural light to brighten it up.
I decided on Gauntlet Grey by Sherwin Williams. It’s on the darker side but not too dark, it’s oh-so-pretty and is in the same pallet as Mindful Grey, which is what many other parts of the house are painted.
Fun Fact: Home Depot will mix any color paint, regardless of which company created it. You can save a boatload of money and still get the exact color you want.
Installing the Homework Station
After the painting, it was time for the installation.
The first thing installed was a 2″x2″ ledger board that was 5 feet long onto the wall. Since the counter was 7 feet long, we cut the ledger board to 5 feet so it wouldn’t be seen from the sides of the homework station. We calculated how high we wanted the table to be, then subtracted the thickness of the table. We also made sure the ledger board hit multiple studs so it would provide enough support for the countertop.
After we had the ledger board in place, I painted it grey. This step was probably a little excessive, but it ensures that even if you can see the ledger board, it blends in with the wall and doesn’t stand out like unfinished wood might.
Installing the Legs
Now we were ready to focus on the surface. To install the 4 legs, we flipped the Karlby counter upside down. We measured carefully, installing two legs on either end, then two evenly spaced in the middle. This left us with three perfect spaces for three little chairs for three children to sit.
Mounting the Homework Station
We flipped the countertop with the legs attached back over and centered it on the wall about the ledger board. We got 2.5-inch screws — this was important.
We got under the counter and screwed the screws up through the ledger board and into the bottom of the homework station. This was essential to not mark the top of the counter.
Screw length was essential. Longer screws would have poked out the top of the homework station. Shorter screws wouldn’t have been long enough to hold the homework station in place.
Organizing & Decorating our Homework Station
Homework Station Storage
I decided on wire wall-mounted baskets for the storage. I purchased one for each child and mounted them directly in front of their space.
Using my cameo silhouette, I cut out vinyl labels for each basket. Not only does this look nice, it designates an area for each child.
Metal Grid Display Board
I then selected black metal grid boards for displaying children’s artwork. The clips seemed safer than tacks, and the black grid contrasts nicely with the wall color.
Displaying kids’ artwork isn’t essential, but it does support your child and help boost their self-esteem. Plus, this is a playroom and the art is… art!
We brought in a Raskog Cart for supplies and coloring books.
I looked around my home and used what I had for storing all the art supplies. I had metal buckets left from a birthday party and then grabbed some mason jars for skinnier writing utensils.
UPDATE: The cart wasn’t a great solution for us. A few months after this post, I purchased a cube shelf from Ikea. Here’s how I organized it with all our supplies.
Homework Station Decoration
The homework station was a fun spot to decorate. I kept most of the decor black and gold, which looked great on the wall. I also tried to keep it educational-ish.
To create a cohesive look, I stained a wooden board to match the Karlby counter — it’s not perfect but it’s close. I used simple black brackets from idea.
Mounting a shelf up top provides an out-of-the-way space for decor. It also frames the space nicely.
I added a simple letter board like this to write “encouraging” messages, a black globe (Ikea) that’s more decorative than educational, a geometric wire shape (Ikea), and some plastic plants in gold pots (Ikea).
I used chairs from tables we already had in the basement, so those were free. While they aren’t a perfect match, they are good enough for now. Maybe someday I’ll refinish them someday.
I added black seat cushions (Ikea) to keep little tushies comfortable.
I kept things simple on the walls. I created a few designs myself and cut heat transfer vinyl using my cameo silhouette.
I also hung a fun map of the US up on the wall. Mine is from Hobby Lobby and no longer available, but here’s a similar map with a fun look.
I found gold desk lamps at Walmart that perfectly matched the gold flower pots on the shelf. The lamps were less than $7 each, so grabbing three was an easy decision.
Homework Station: The Final Look
Overall, we spent about $350 on this space. $200 was for my best friend, Karlby, and his legs. The rest was the cart, storage baskets, grid panel, lamps, and paint. Overall, I’m very pleased with our choices, although I think if you were on a tighter budget and got more creative you could do a similar space for less money.
Using the Homework Station
We finished this project up just as school was starting in 2019. I have never seen children so excited to do their homework. All three kids happily sit here and do their homework. When homework is done, they stay and color or create art projects. This space gets quite messy, but with systems in place, it’s simple to clean up.
I think this space will be really useful for our family in the coming years. There’s room to work and room for computers, should they be needed. For now, though, we’ll stick to art projects and homework.
2020 Update: Virtual Schooling at the Homework Station
Little did we know in the summer of 2019 exactly what was in store for us in 2020. This homework station got A LOT more use than anticipated. All three children used this space regularly when schools were closed in March of 2020, although only two children used it for school.
My preschooler sits in the middle seat, so when her spot was vacant, my two older kids had space for small laptops (and headphones) and some work space in between.
Virtual Learning Modifications
To accommodate additional cords without having them in the way, we drilled two large holes in the work surface and installed desk grommets.
We had removed the Raskog cart since it wasn’t ideal for all our art supplies, but we brought it back in for virtual learning because it WAS ideal for storing books, folders, and papers.
My kids are in school most of the time now, however they do occasionally switch back to virtual school when the school is concerned about an outbreak. The homework station is available for them and they will often work there, however if they prefer, they may work at the kitchen table or in their bedroom, as well. The homework station still gets used daily for crafts and coloring.
Love it? Hate it? I’d love to hear from you!
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