Kids all have different personalities and needs, so it’s really nice when a play space that’s meant to be inclusive offers places for creative expression and quiet time alongside those for boisterous play. Add high quality adult-friendly design into the mix, and you’ve got a modern “family-friendly” space that’s fun for everyone.

Nook, a modern family brand, creates children’s play and learning spaces with a minimalist and refined feel that fits right into the adult world.

Nook's Modern Play Space in Arlington's Ballston Quarter.

The brand recently opened Nook Ballston, “a curated, gallery-like experience” set in an indoor-outdoor retail center called Ballston Quarter in Arlington, Virginia. Representing Nook’s third installation to date, this play space offers imaginative structures made of carefully chosen materials in neutral tones to facilitate a calming, relaxing environment. Its custom-designed play spaces are made of natural birch wood, gray textiles, and white backdrops by San Francisco-based furniture design studio Mickus Projects.

The space features climbable structures and a ball pit for adventurous physical activity, paper-covered tables outfitted with drawing supplies, a reading area, quieter cubbies full of engaging age-appropriate toys, and areas specifically dedicated to interacting with other children and adults. Many of the play area elements are sensory-friendly, too, providing outlets for fidgeting, picking at things, hiding, and withdrawing — and it’s all designed to keep both kids and parents from feeling overwhelmed. The height keeps kids immersed in an environment that’s built to their scale, and it allows parents to keep an eye on everything that’s happening in the mean time.

Nook's Modern Play Space in Arlington's Ballston Quarter.
Nook's Modern Play Space in Arlington's Ballston Quarter.

“A child in the restaurant nook can turn around and be in the garage nook, and sidestep into the library, while a parent is able to see it all from any vantage point in the space. Visual connectivity extends to the changing area, where a low wall discreetly accommodates a changing table and leads to restrooms and storage in a niche directly adjacent to the main play space. Parents can step in to change an infant without losing sight of older siblings still playing.”

Nook's Modern Play Space in Arlington's Ballston Quarter.

“Absent the overgeneralization and overstimulation of the typical ‘family-friendly’ scene, Nook’s play and learning experiences are centered around design and engagement. We created our play spaces, programs, and online resources in collaboration with a multi-talented team of designers (product, graphic, interior), early childhood development specialists, child psychologists, and parenting coaches. The result is a play and learning experience that all members of the family will not only find enjoyable and enriching, but also empowering.”

Nook's Modern Play Space in Arlington's Ballston Quarter.
Nook's Modern Play Space in Arlington's Ballston Quarter.
Nook's Modern Play Space in Arlington's Ballston Quarter.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with colorful spaces for kids, but Nook’s solutions do offer an intriguing blueprint for modular, flexible components that can be changed or replaced as needed, as well as diverse programming, and the millwork is absolutely beautiful. Designed for kids aged zero through five, their play spaces make it easy for children to manage their own playtime and decide which activities they want to partake in. Parents can choose to either interact with them within these spaces or observe and offer encouragement from the sidelines.

These modern play areas demonstrate a visually pleasing way in which kids’ spaces can be integrated with adult ones, and they’re sensitive to kids who have different ways of learning and interacting with others. Seems like a pretty big win for every member of the family.