Laura Kellerman Photography | [My Life] DIY play kitchen

[My Life] DIY play kitchen

March 13, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Well this post is only about 10 months in the making!  I get asked quite often about how I made my daughter's play kitchen.  I usually answer by snapping photos on my phone, texting them to someone, two-thumb-typing all my little tips and tricks and caveats, and by the time I'm done I kick myself for not having a link I can just send to them.  I think I've been waiting for a good opportunity to go back and photograph all of the elements that I feel need a visual explanation... but this is as good as it's going to get, folks. :)

DIY play kitchen

We — and by "we" I mean me and the handsome guy who watched from the garage window and did a gold-star job keeping my kid distracted and my coffee refilled — decided to make this for our daughter's second birthday.  

I had a few goals in mind for this project:

  1. Use the old cherry-esque Target nightstands that, once assembled, two young newlyweds realized were probably intended for a child's room.
  2. Make it fashionable enough to keep it in the kitchen and functional enough to justify it as a birthday gift for someone else when, in fact, I'm the one who really wanted it.
  3. Prove to Mr. Handy-less-man that I'm not kidding when I ask for power tools every time a gifting holiday approaches.

Check, check, and check! (Well, I may have proven that I'm good with power tools, but I still don't own any.  Darnit.)

So, onto the how-to.  The thing is, though, there's no real tutorial for this.  All I can do is share how I used what was around my house and made it work for me. 

Let's start with the nightstands, which I painted with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Duck Egg Blue, sealed with Clear Wax. They were identical with two pull-out drawers each, a cardboard backing and a flimsy bottom. Storage is key, a friend hinted to me, and she was right. Because those billion plastic food-ish items are NOT cute stashed all over the kitchen, lemmetellya. I decided to leave one drawer, replacing the knob with an acrylic one that mimics my glass knobs on the other side of the kitchen island. The one underneath became the oven, then both drawers were removed from the other side to create a little storage cubby and accommodate the bottom of the sink.

For the tip-out oven, I removed the drawer front, got rid of the sliders, and eventually added hidden tip-out hinges.  DON'T refer to the photos here — I initially used the wrong type of hinge and it wouldn't stay closed. After much trial and error, the tip-out hinges finally worked. Be sure to get ones with a 90-degree pivot so the oven will open all the way, then lock in position without flopping to the floor. Picture how a real oven works. :) I stuck an old wire cooling rack in there for fun, but I'm the only one in the house who gets a kick out of it.  I filled the original drawer pull hole (not that well, though) and used Frog Tape to mask off a little window. The oven window and the "burners" are Chalk Paint in French Linen. (That's also the color I used on the kitchen island...and the paper towel holder...and the knife block...and a dresser in Kate's room...and accents on the wine cabinet. It's a love affair.) New holes were drilled for the oven handle, which came from the cabinet hardware department at Home Depot. I'm glad I don't remember the exact price, because it was WAY to much. 

 Photo tip: Use natural light! I raised the blinds and turned off all the overhead lights for this shoot. See the orange glow in the background? That's caused by a lightbulb in the hallway. Her face would be orange if lights were on in the kitchen.

How cute is she?!?!

For the curtained cabinets, I got a little spring rod and then cut a Target dish towel in half and hemmed a little rod pocket on the cut edges with some no-sew tape.  I had recently purchased that dish towel set for my "real" kitchen, so I went back for a second set in the spirit of tying things together. The advantages of using dish towels or cloth napkins for this type of small project are that they're heavy, they come in cute small-scale patterns, and they're already hemmed!

Moving up...

 Photo tip: Discard any out-of-focus shot unless it's special to you. This would be a throw-away if not for the fact that it shows how the sink works.

The sink is actually a dog bowl from Kroger Marketplace — a tip from my crafty friend Amanda at Urban&Proud — which has a wide, flat lip on it that helps keep it in place. I cut the hole for it with a borrowed jig saw somewhere in between the outer circumference of the lip and the widest circumference of the bowl itself. I hope that makes a lick of sense. I opted not to glue it down, and Kate enjoys taking it in and out.

DIY play kitchen

For the faucet I considered doing some sort of crafty upside-down wooden J spray painted silver with two knobs, yadda yadda yadda, but the $10 price tag on a bathroom faucet at Home Depot convinced me otherwise. It's just like this one, but was cheaper. I've never messed with plumbing before, so I didn't know what to expect in terms of attaching it to the "counter," but all it took was drilling two 1-inch holes for the little plastic stem things to stick in. It turned out to be another good puzzle for Kate so I didn't affix that one either, and it still stays nicely in place.

 Photo tip: I used a wide aperture and focused on the front edge of the counter. I should have used a smaller aperture or focused on the roses for a sharper shot.

The back board is our old tri-fold fireplace screen painted with Rust-Oleum Copper Metallic spray paint. (Don't tell Santa, but the Kellermans don't have a fireplace anymore.) I have a lot of copper accents in around the house, and if I can't have a copper backsplash in my kitchen, by God, my kid will have one in hers.

The stove knobs were a must-have. I found those adorable ones at Hobby Lobby, and the bolts are at least three inches long. That means Miss Fidget can turn them all day long without pulling them out. Now, it doesn't keep her from spinning the glass knobs on the island like I thought it would,  so I'm still sprouting gray hairs daily. Most of the other stuff came from the unfinished wood aisles at Michael's and Hobby Lobby.  The circles are each attached with two short screws from underneath. I wanted to paint some sort of spiral or X to make the circles look more like burners, but I never got around to it.  I also never got around to waxing the right-hand burner and it's nice and scuffed now. Good thing I have more French Linen on hand. Oo la la! I stained the crate and the cutting board with Annie Sloan Dark Wax.

The cutting board-type thing was a long paddle from Michaels which I cut down to fit the top of the counter to cover the seam between the two nightstands. When originally butted up next to each other, the beveled tops stuck out, leaving a four-inch gap between the legs.

Since I wanted this to look like one piece, I hacked off the top edges and covered them up with the wood, affixing it only with some silicone adhesive we had on hand. It eventually peeled off, so I'm constantly shifting it back into place. We didn't want to bolt these pieces together or do anything that would make them hard to relocate.

 Photo tip: Use a fast shutter speed with kids, especially when trying to catch them in their element. If the shutter's too slow, they'll be blurry. 

Since most people knew we were doing this for her birthday, we didn't get her any accessories for the kitchen ourselves. The adorable pots and pans were a gift from the couple across the street, and I still love them. (These pictures were taken the day after her birthday, but before her little party.) Some other cute birthday gift hits were Melissa & Doug pots and pans, party cake and cutting food, and some felt veggies from Ikea, which are even cuter in person.

 Photo tip: Try shooting your subjects from above for an interesting perspective. Standing on a chair not only helped capture the excitement of a tiny little person and her tiny little kitchen, it got her attention and made her laugh.

So how does she like it, you ask? It was a big hit for the first week or so (I mean, look at that face!) but after the newness wore off Kate didn't show too much interest in it for a long while. Once she passed the 2.5-mark, she got much more into pretend play and now LOVES making soup, cake, and washing her hands. Come to think of it, I love making soup, cake and washing my hands! That apple, man.

***If you plan to purchase any of the items I've linked to -- beware! I didn't do any price comparisons. I just wanted to provide ideas for the types of things I landed on.***



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