Playstands are fun! We love ours! I think with more than one kiddo, they'd get even more use.
For the most part, ours serve as a play-house/carving a nook out for DS in the main living area. That's just naturally how they've worked out so far because I put the play-kitchen in there. But that space is HIS space. He knows it and he likes it and he is in there EVERY day.
I totally agree that keeping the shelves mostly empty is a good idea. We've got a few baskets on the floor, but try to keep the shelves pretty clear. Lately, things have been creeping in, so even now, I'm feeling like it's time to take a hard look at toys in my house!
As for clearing out toys...I started down that path when DS was 18 months old. And I discovered IMMEDIATELY...with fewer toys, more purposefully displayed, he played SO much better. It was too sudden for a developmental jump. He just focuses more and his imagination took giant leaps! He knows where everything goes and exactly where his things are.
I anticipate repurposing his playstands throughout the years. When he's past the play-kitchen, I plan on putting some pillows and clip-on lamp and creating a reading nook.Here is our current set-up.
Like I said before, we're reaching the too-many-toys stage quickly (esp when I think about the few things I've got in mind for Christmas/birthday/Santa/Easter). His best and most creative play is when there is a clear space with a few props he can multi-purpose.
Of course, if I really wanted to, I could throw everything away except for his toy horses! Almost all pretend games are built around them! He cooks for them. He builds block structures for them. They chase the princess from the castle
, they pull carts, etc etc.