Karri Bowen-Poole, Founder of Smart Playrooms
Play is such an integral part of a child’s development. Karri Bowen-Poole and her team at Smart Playrooms are huge advocates of this that can be seen in their residential and communal playrooms that fuses educational principles, design and play-based activities for kids. This includes elements that evoke curiosity and motivate children by creating the ultimate play space for kids to learn, grow, and explore.
As a former teacher, Karri and her teams designs engage kids in open-ended creative thinking and play, while promoting independence, creativity, problem-solving and cooperation. Read on to learn more about Smart Playrooms, how this idea came about, and the process of how these beautiful and functional playrooms come about.
Westchester Family: How did the idea for Smart Playrooms come about?
Karri Bowen-Poole: The idea for Smart Playrooms first came to me in the middle of the night, as many great ideas do. The next morning, I couldn’t stop thinking about the concept of “educational design.”
At the time, I was working as a preschool teacher after being an elementary school teacher for 13 years, and I had a lot of experience watching how kids learn and play. As a parent, I’d also seen some poorly designed, cluttered, and ignored playrooms when I took my kids on playdates. The more I thought about it, the more I knew I was on to something. So, I got to work.
As a teacher, I excelled at helping kids embrace their natural curiosity and encouraged their love of learning. I always provided a balanced approach that combined classroom design with kinesthetic, visual, and auditory learning.
My innate understanding of what kids need and how to address those needs in every lesson is what set me apart as a teacher. In my classrooms, whether it was elementary or preschool, students were eager to learn and developed a strong sense of ownership over their curiosity and their knowledge. I knew I could bring those elements into the playroom.
Westchester Family: Tell us more about your process and what is involved in developing one of your custom educational playrooms – both in residential and communal spaces?
Karri Bowen-Poole: Our team of educators and designers are specially trained in designing custom educational play spaces. We design playrooms to have as many creative educational activities as possible for the children, keeping in mind that “less is more.” Our thorough understanding of child development has given us the experience and education to understand what types of activities excite and motivate children. Our design process focuses on the activities rather than the decor.
All Smart Playrooms are tailored to each client and their children, factoring in the clients taste, style and children’s ages. Our designs will engage children in open-ended creative thinking and play, while promoting independence, creativity, problem-solving and cooperation.
To achieve this goal, we combine interior design principles and functional organizational systems with a complete understanding of child development.
Westchester Family: How long does a project typically take?
Karri Bowen-Poole: For our onsite-residential design process, it really depends on the nature of the project (size and scope) and the customization/ construction involved. Most of the playrooms we design and install take anywhere from 3-6 months to complete.
We also do virtual E-designs all over the US and abroad for families who prefer to take on the purchasing and project management themselves. Once we receive the measurements and photos from a client, we can deliver an in-depth custom playroom design plan, which includes mood boards, drawings (2D and 3D0 and a clickable shopping list, in 4 to 6 weeks. For this option, the client then hires their own contractor and does their own purchasing and overseeing the construction.
Westchester Family: Tell us more about a few recent projects.
Karri Bowen-Poole: We recently completed some incredible projects right here in Westchester County. For example, one family in Southern Westchester had outgrown their somewhat drab basement and realized the large couch area with the TV was not going to be used in the basement. We were lucky to be able to completely redesign the space, focusing on the kid’s interests now and for the next 10 years!
The kids are ages 3, 6 and 8. Neutrals in gray and white were a MUST so we got to work designing an incredible art area with pegboard and custom storage, a sports court, complete with basketball hoops and wall pads and an incredible mat with personalized logo, a climbing ninja area complete with a fort/ playhouses. We are so happy with the final design and truly LOVED working with this family! The family that plays together STAYS together!.
I really love designing neutral rooms that are minimalist. I am truly a complete minimalist myself and my entire house is gray and white.
Westchester Family: How can you help families who might not know what they want?
Karri Bowen-Poole: The first thing I do is to get parents to think about their kid’s ages and interests, and what they want their kids to do in space. Then the design should be focused on activities that speak to that. The design will vary depending on ages and interest of the kids.
Play is so important for helping children learn the skills they need for life and it boosts their self-esteem and confidence. When children are playing, they are learning about themselves and the world…they learn problem solving, taking risks, negotiating, language skills, communication skills, patience while at the same time play helps children use their 5 senses which can also help children feel more balanced. We believe that playrooms should be customized to the children’s needs and can incorporate areas for playing, relaxing etc…
Westchester Family: What are some exciting projects you are working on for 2023?
Karri Bowen-Poole: Business has really taken off (and has taken me all over the country) since the pandemic, it was the one silver lining for me in that families were spending more meaningful time at home, and the demand for residential indoor playrooms and kid gyms exploded. I am currently working on an incredible playroom in Miami and I will be sharing the final space on my instagram @smartplayrooms soon!
But one of my most exciting projects with my business for 2023 is the addition of e-design on my website. Meaning that you can virtually design a Smart Playroom anywhere you live. You can select an option that works for you and your budget. And if you need to speak to me, you can also schedule a call. I love what I do and I am so excited to be able to offer a Smart Playroom to basically anyone in the world (since I can only be in so many places at once). This really allows me to expand!
Westchester Family: What are some of your favorite things to do in Westchester?
Karri Bowen-Poole: When I’m not designing playrooms I love to take Yoga Classes at Lifetime Fitness, you can find me in my favorite cafe, The Granola Bar in town, and hiking in the beautiful parks and nature trails in the Berkshires.
Westchester Family: Do you have anything else to add?
Karri Bowen-Poole: In addition to our on-site design services, we also offer 3 tiers of E-Design services for families that want a Smart Playroom virtually. You can also shop the look of a room you love, and also schedule a call with me. Check out our site for more details. www.smartplayrooms.com @smartplayrooms
Lastly, we promise that WE WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOUR KIDS PLAY!
Smart Playrooms Details:
@smartplayrooms on Instagram