Our Kids DIY Play Kitchen – how it happened

After last weeks reveal of the super-amazing-and-fabulous play kitchen we DIY’ed for the kids Christmas present, I’ve got a little run down of the process for you, along with what we spent.

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First up, I sanded the bedside cabinet (repurposed from our master bedroom) before Andre started measuring and cutting the benchtop, doors etc.

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Note: Safety jandals – check! (Although I opted to forgo the socks with mine…)0108_8858

Andre also made those cute knobs by gluing some square dowel to a hole-sawed round of MDF. Then, round dowel was glued to the back for fixing purposes (more later).

We were a little puzzled as to how to do the legs without spending a stack on large diameter dowel, but then I thought of those old screw in bed legs… hmm! I was lucky to find a set of 4 at the local hospice shop for only $8. It was a bit trickier to cut them straight, because they’re tapered, but Andre did awesome!

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While he was busy with that, I polished up the gorgeous old tap ($5!) from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

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The oven door required a jig and a router late one night, to cut an opening, and then a recess to glue a piece of perspex in behind. I’m so glad for this extra effort as it looks just like the real thing!

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Then, Andre fixed the benchtop to the cabinet with vice grips to cut the sink and tap holes, ensuring they were perfectly in line.

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0108_8869Once all the bits were cut I sanded, primed and painted my heart out.

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The interior of the oven we painted black for realistic purposes. It looks pretty shiny and streaky here but dried matt and looks fabulous.0108_8880

It started to get exciting (rather than just plain stressful!) when we got to the details like the clock, and the oven and stove knobs. 6.05pm? That’s the time I aim to have dinner in front of the kids most nights (because whoever makes it by 6pm on the dot??), so it seemed as good as any time to pick!0108_2215
The knobs are painted black and silver to match the ones we have in our real kitchen.

0108_8886Here’s how things were looking by around 8.00pm on Christmas Eve. Master W was in bed and the legs were screwed on so we could bring it inside to work on the “finishing” touches.
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The legs were just screwed through the bottom of the cabinet… I think these are hex screws??0108_8883

Those legs… they were stained/varnished with a red tinge, which I’m not so fond of. So I did my best to sand them, but gave up after a few tries as it was pretty difficult sanding something so small, round and well varnished just with sand paper. They look a little rough close up, but the overall effect is fine, and at least the colour is toned down. They add to the character and are a nice contrast to the freshly painted cabinet!

From this point, the benchtop was screwed on (up through the top of the cabinet), the sink bowl glued in and the tap fixed. Here Andre is placing the stainless steel base of the stove in place, after gluing the back of it with Maxbond. (Then we did the same with the “elements”, gluing them on top of the stainless.)

0108_8898This is how the mad dash to the finish looked at one point. (Be grateful I cropped this one off the end of the kitchen so you couldn’t see evidence of my chocolate truffle making session everywhere, along with the days dishes stacked on every available bench space.) Andre is attaching the magnetic door catches, after fixing the doors on and attaching the oven handle, clock and knobs.

0108_8905 0108_8903This is how he fixed the knobs in, so that they turn and feel like real working knobs. He drilled right through the stove top/benchtop/cabinet so the “stick” of the knob fits right through. Then he drilled through the dowel-stick, right at the top, and tied some thin wire through it to keep it in place, along with a washer to keep things running smoothly. Clever!
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So things do get a bit ugly on the inside, but I’m not trying to hide the workings of this or how sometimes repurposing means less than perfect!

You can see below how we had to cut into the “shelf” of the cabinet (now wall between the oven and cupboard) in order to fit the sink bowl in a place that made sense from the outside.

Also, you can see the simple door stay Andre made with screws, washers and some nylon cord, so both the oven door, and the cupboard door can’t be opened too far and the hinges busted.
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There was a last minute addition of a couple of layers of paper over the magnetic catches on each door, as they are pretty grunty, and too strong for the kids to pull open. Thankfully, Miss E got curious the other day and pulled that green paper off, so it’s now been replaced with white. Still a make-do solution, but better than green!

0108_9179One last view of the workings! We opted for this fold-down benchtop, allowing for more bench space, but when it’s lowered it keeps the kitchen nice and compact. It also means there is one more “thing to do” for the kids, once they figure it out. I can see this benchtop getting put up and down many times in a day!
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I’ll be honest, and admit there are two things still to do on this kitchen. One is to repaint the bracket in the picture above (it had to be planed a mm or so thinner somewhere around 11pm Christmas Eve, so we lost one side of the painted finish). And we also want to add a shelf into the pantry so there is a little more useful storage. Easy…

I also have plans for some kind of shelving unit for the wall above (for now I’ve just made a mini gallery of the kids art and photos of their friends) to store plates and cups and some decorative pieces. Watch this space!

Now for the cost breakdown. This was a little scary for me to do, because although we really did our best to thrift on this one, I knew that little by little all those few dollars were adding up to something quite different than our cheapest kids project!

So here goes:

– Main cabinet $0 – had already
– Oven racks (cooling racks) $7.00 – Briscoes
– 6mm round dowel for knobs $1.55 – Bunnings
– 10mm square dowel $3 – Bunnings
– 12mm 1200x600mm MDF $14.29 – Mitre 10
– 4.75mm 1200x600mm MDF $6.98 – Mitre 10
– Wooden legs $8 – Hospice shop
– Tap $5 – Restore shop
– Oak benchtop $0 – had already
– Stainless bowl $10 – Briscoes
– Stainless stove base $0 – S.J. Crosbie (these guys were so helpful – I rang to see if they’d have a scrap piece of stainless we could cut to size, but they did it all for me, rounding the corners and all… for nothing. Nice!)

Hardware etc:
– Oven handle $19.77 – Mitre 10
– Hooks for tea towels (robe hooks) $8.66 – Mitre 10
– Cupboard handle $0 – had already
– Nylon cord as oven/cupboard door stay $0.79 – Bunnings
– Magnetic catches $8.46 – Bunnings
– Hinges $13.14 – Bunnings
– Washers & screws $15.96 – Bunnings (multipacks so many of these will be saved for future projects)

Paint etc:
– Maxbond glue $7.65 – Bunnings
– MDF primer $0 – had already
– White Aquanamel $0 – had already
– Black $0 – had already
– Silver $0 – had already
– Cabots timber varnish $0 – had already

Total: $122.60

I didn’t keep a record of the time spent, but I’d estimate it at around 15-18hrs between Andre and I. There was little opportunity to work on this in any solid patches of time, due to busy schedules in the run up to Christmas, and also because there was the obligatory waiting time between paint coats. But the main reason for snatched half hours or hours over a couple of weeks was because this project had to be fitted in around kids (Master W at least) being out of “spoiling the surprise’s” way.

For the same reason, all of the components were completed individually before we put anything together. There was nothing glued or screwed or hinged together until after Master W went to bed on Christmas Eve. Even the tap and bowl sink (total giveaways!) were last minute additions too. Hence it was 1am before we could lay this kitchen to rest (until its discovery in the morning, then it was all go with gourmet meals coming as fast as we could “eat” them!) alongside the Christmas tree.

So this project was no money or time saver – we could have done what most sensible parents do, and gone to buy an off the shelf version for around the same price as we spent anyway. Then our Christmas eve would have been spent as it should – partaking merrily and inhaling pine fumes instead of paint fumes!

But the feeling of satisfaction in seeing something like this come together (especially at the last minute because you’ve not seen all the components together and don’t know if it’s all going to work!) is worth it. And for Andre, there’s not a small amount of pride to be felt – he continues to amaze me with how well he can execute the ideas I have! Not only that, it’s something that fits into our home easily with a style and colour scheme that can’t be bought off the shelf. I also like to think the kids appreciate it a little more, knowing that we made it especially for them. Too much?!

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