With years of design experience tucked away under her tool belt, DIY Network star Anitra Mecadon knows a thing or two about creating great spaces for the whole family. With the winter months rapidly approaching, Examiner caught up with the bubbly “Mega Dens” host on Sept. 28 to get her tips and tricks for creating super-cool, cold-weather kid caves, and to find out which of her made-for-TV projects she’d like to move to her own backyard.
Sherry Wight: So let’s get the lingo down: what exactly do you mean by a kid cave? Is it like a man cave? And how do we make a great one?
Anitra Mecadon: The kid cave is a room made specifically for your kids. It’s where they’re going to go have fun and play, even study and hang out. It’s going to be the place where all their toys go. I have some tips and tricks for creating your own kid cave and there are some definite do’s and don’ts, but I would say the overall goal is the same: to create a room that your kids actually want to hang out in.
One of the ways I like to do that is to break up a space into separate zones: work zone, study zone, play zone, gaming zone, movie zone, even a reading nook. I use colorful rugs, lighting, even shelving to help designate those specific zones. By breaking up the space… you’re going to make the room feel larger, it’s going to have better flow and function, and it’s going to be much more pleasing to the eye.
SW: We can all probably figure out what our kids would like to have in their rooms, but what are some don’ts that we need to keep in mind while undergoing the implementation of the room?
AM: [Parents will often] make the space for them and not for the kids. So my advice would be to use color. Your kids are not digging your beige wall. I recommend going and buying a gallon of paint! The space should be fun, it should be colorful. It should be a space where kids feel comfortable being exactly who they are. And not only do you want your kids to hang out here, but you want their friends to want to be here too so you can keep an eye on everyone.
SW: As I look up at my beige walls….
SW: Oh well. So how do we protect those kids who seem bound and determined to hurt themselves; you know, the ones who hang from the curtain rods and get in the dryer?
AM: Yes! I do know those kids! I have a couple nephews. Kids are going to horse around in the house. [Holds up a lacrosse stick] It takes all of a split second for a lacrosse stick or a baseball bat to go through the wall. So if you’re building your own kid cave or updating a space into a kid cave, I recommend using Purple High Impact XP Drywall by National Gypsum, and here’s why: a bat is going to leave a giant gaping hole in standard drywall, and that can be costly and time-consuming to fix, right? But Purple High Impact XP is basically ready for life. It’s ready for anything you or your kids can throw at it. It has this mesh embedded into the core of it making it super strong…. It’s also much more durable for hanging things, like curtain rods and cool collage walls, and one of my favorite parts about it… [is that] it’s moisture, mold, and mildew-resistant. And a[nother] bonus that I love is that it’s made right here in the States.
SW: Sweet. All very positive things, especially if you have allergies.
AM: Oh yeah. And it’s a Green Guard certified product, so that’s another huge thing.
SW: Totally. Now we’re talking about kid caves, so take me back to your childhood. What would your amazing kid cave have looked like?
AM: My parents were kind of genius. I think they were ahead of their time. They actually built an arcade in our basement for all of us and our friends, so we weren’t hanging out at anyone else’s house: everybody was at our house all the time, and my parents knew what was going on in our lives and were privy to all that stuff and I think it kept us out of trouble. We had Ms. Pacman and Frogger games, there was a pool table. My parents weren’t worried about getting anything spilled on the floor or broken. It was literally a space they created for life, the life of a kid.
SW: Okay, you just said something that caught my attention. What about the flooring in the kid cave? I have carpet all over my house and my kids have destroyed it. What kind of flooring do we need to have in kid caves?
AM: That’s a very common question and a great question. Carpeting is kind of softer and helps absorb noise. If you’re into carpet, you can always do carpet tiles on your floor, which are great because if you spill something, you just take out a tile, clean it or replace it, and it’s not that big of a deal. But vinyl wood planks have come a long way…. I’ve seen crazy beautiful colors. You can create patterns and made it a totally kid-friendly zone. These things even hold up to bleach now. It’s pretty impressive.
SW: Wow, clearly I need to get some of that. So, “Mega Dens.” What’s one room renovation that you’ve done that you’d kind of like to have for yourself?
AM: I’ve done a few that I’d kinda like to have for myself. One of my favorite “Mega Dens” was actually outdoors, which is sad, because we’re talking about getting everyone indoors since the winter’s coming! But we built a backyard movie drive-in. We did ’52 Studebakers for the love seats of the drive-in. It was so crazy! But you can bring those ideas that we did outdoors, indoors. The whole concept is get creative [and] get your kids involved. If you know your kids and what gets their engines running, you can figure out how to create the ultimate kid cave. And don’t be afraid to let them help!
SW: Let’s say the DIY Network said that you could create any show that you wanted to create, wherever you want, right now. What would you do?
AM: For me, I am all about the kid space. Give me a giant room and let me dream, and just walk away. I could do some really fantastic things. Indoor treehouses, slides, oh gosh, I would love to do a slide that came from one floor to the next, wouldn’t that be awesome? I could get you in trouble. Kids tend to love me because of my kooky ideas.
SW: You’re just fun. Nothing wrong with that! Everybody should have a fun side. Okay, Anitra, where do we go for more kid cave and DIY info?
AM: Purple’s website has great ideas for you guys to create your own kid caves, including tips, tricks, and even how-to videos.