Play Kitchen Remodeling: 101 - IKEA style

When we were brainstorming what the little lady's big Christmas gift would be, I really only had one idea.  A play kitchen.  I remember crying the day my mom said she was giving away our brightly colored Fisher-Price version.  I had to have been 12.  To be sure I wasn't still playing with it, but I have always been a sucker for memories and that kitchen was tied tightly together with so so many adventures with my sisters.  

There was no better gift in my mind for my 18 month old.  It was prime time to add it to our living room to get the max memories possible in the next few years.  

And there folks, was the problem.  We don't have a separate play space, so the main living area holds all our big toys.  And there was no way I was going to be even halfway satisfied to have a crazily colored plastic monstrosity become the focal point in the room.  I just couldn't do it.  I ADORE the Pottery Barn play kitchens, but HELLO - I do not have hundreds of spare dollars lying around for a TOY.  Lord have mercy, I'd need a benefactor to get one of those for her (insert reminder that expensive toys don't equal more love).  I considered building one, but I knew the time I would have leading up to Christmas for that would be way too limited.  

And then it hit me.  IKEA.  So thanks to family friends who passed one on their way to town for Thanksgiving I became the owner of the IKEA DUKTIG play set.  

I actually like the simplicity of it out of the box - but my eyes were focused in on how I could DIY it into a one of a kind masterpiece.  A present for her, a present for me - what more could we want?  

There are other updates I wanted to do, but ran out of time for - but just like any home remodel, I'll keep adjusting as I go and as she grows into it!  

I'd suggest coming up with a general idea for the color scheme and design style you want before you begin any assembly.  I had thought about trying to make it match match our current kitchen, but it's pretty neutral.  And it it was neutral out of the box, so I decided to be bold and make changes I would never have the guts to do in a real kitchen.

I wanted to "install" a back splash so my first step was to decide on something eye-catching.  I hunted for a cute vintage wallpaper scrap to no avail, but ending up finding a cute pattern in a roll of removable wallpaper at Michael's (with a 50% off coupon of course), and that became the central theme of our second kitchen.

Without further ado, here's my supply list & some do's & don'ts I learned along the way.

  • Thin MDF (approximately 26.7 inches x 13 inches)
  • Wallpaper (the peel & stick kind is perfect for this project)
  • Paint (I used half of a pint of Indoor Satin HGTVHome paint from Lowe's)
  • Knobs of choice 
  • "Marble" contact paper
  • Painters tape
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint stir stick

I started by painting my cabinets navy to coordinate with the wallpaper.  WARNING: You may need two coats.  Sigh.  This was the longest part with many pieces needing both sides to be painted with multiple coats.  If I had done this during the summer the process probably would have gone faster due to a shorter dry time.

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I decided to keep the back wall of the bottom cabinets, inside shelves, and the microwave area the original colors as packaged from IKEA.  Be sure to clearly tape off what you want kept in the original color.  I may have a navy-ish drip spot in the middle of the bottom of the microwave much to my chagrin.  Lesson learned.  

Next up was to cover the counter top with with marble contact paper.  There are tons of options for countertops - above is a quick peek at what I could find at my Lowe's. (PS they had the best selection locally of contact paper, but Amazon is another great resource).  I wanted the marble and headed to Amazon (I've included a link above for your convince).  I thought it was the most "high-end" looking of them all, and doesn't every child deserve a top of the line kitchen?

A few helpful hints:

* Make sure the contact paper goes on smoothly without bubbles as you roll it onto the countertop.  It's so much easier to fix it as you put it on rather than to try to rub them out afterwards.  

* Don't leave lots of excess paper around the edges - or if you do, be sure all the holes are exposed!  You can punch through the overlapping contact paper on the back where all the holes are then, or trim back the paper.  Don't do what I did and spend WAY TOO MUCH TIME trying to find them days later when I tried to assemble the whole kitchen.  Talk about a nightmare.

* When you go to wrap the corners, cut a slit from the edge of the paper towards the wood edge in at least two places.  This lets you pull up the contact paper in small chunks to wrap it smoothly around the corner.

I had considered covering the stove & microwave cabinet with a stainless contact paper. I bought it and everything.  But as I got ready to start assembling, it was painfully clear that it would be a nightmare to do, and do well.  I wanted the inside of the cabinets to look nice too, and I just couldn't figure out how to do it neatly.  Free yourself from the pressure too if it's too much!  I'm glad I left those areas white after all - it really helps lighten up the whole thing with the dark cabinets.

And then it's enlist your other half and assemble it per the instructions from IKEA.  Once it's done, use small finish nails to attach the MDF covered with wallpaper to the back of the unit and voila!  A finished product.  I bought knobs to drill in to serve as oven dials, but Santa completely forgot to do that part until he realized on Christmas morning.  The kitchen was immediately occupied by all kinds of pots, food, spoons, and even TsumTsums, I haven't had the heart to take it outside to drill holes just yet.  But one day I will.  And I've got high aspirations of grabbing a touch light from the dollar store to put underneath the microwave.  I know - big spender. 

There are so many easy & affordable ways to put your stamp on IKEA's play kitchen.  If you decide to take on a version of your own, let me see your finished projects.....we can be play kitchen soul sisters!

Colonial Williamsburg Christmas Wreaths - Inspiration & an Easy DIY

williamsburg wreaths

Ever since I was in elementary school, I loved taking a trip to Colonial Williamsburg (CW) around the holidays for two very important things that have created traditions lasting all these years:  gingerbread & Christmas wreaths.  I figure I can't be the only one who loves their decorations, so up today are my favorite wreaths from this years pilgrimage, along with a few tips to create your own.

CW was restored and continues to be maintained as a historic site thanks the the Rockefeller family.  Yeah those Rockefellers - with the big tree in New York.  They must have a thing for evergreens.  Back in the 1700s, the homes in the town weren't decorated with greens & natural ingredients like these wreaths.  That tradition started in the 1930's as a way to attract visitors to the site.  And now that I've ruined all the illusion....

Consider this your warning that there are entirely too many pictures in this post.  Disclaimer: I don't care.  There were too many ideas on these wreaths to leave any out - trust me, I skipped over more than a few handfuls of excellent ones!  I'll highlight in the captions why I love each one.  

This one is unique with it's partially exposed wreath, but it keeps to the symmetry principle.  The deconstructed pinecones into "flowers" is my favorite part!

This one is unique with it's partially exposed wreath, but it keeps to the symmetry principle.  The deconstructed pinecones into "flowers" is my favorite part!

This wreath was HUGE and actually displayed at the top of a barn.  It was completely covered with flowers and flower pods - no fruit here!

This wreath was HUGE and actually displayed at the top of a barn.  It was completely covered with flowers and flower pods - no fruit here!

These two wreaths both are made of completely dried out materials - corn on the right, and okra pods, pomegranates, & sunflowers on the left.  Just as beautiful as the greenery wreaths but you don't have to worry about them drying out in the sun or dying before Christmas.

These two wreaths both are made of completely dried out materials - corn on the right, and okra pods, pomegranates, & sunflowers on the left.  Just as beautiful as the greenery wreaths but you don't have to worry about them drying out in the sun or dying before Christmas.

I adore this one and it's simplicity - magnolia leaves, pinecones, and it looked to me like dried thyme.  Or maybe lavender.  Either way - awesome. I love the look made by combining the front & backs of the leaves to give extra dimension.

I adore this one and it's simplicity - magnolia leaves, pinecones, and it looked to me like dried thyme.  Or maybe lavender.  Either way - awesome. I love the look made by combining the front & backs of the leaves to give extra dimension.

I've entitled this one 'Oranges 3 Ways"- whole, dried whole, and sliced.  Or maybe it should be the circular cornucopia. Apples, oranges, limes, lemons, walnuts.  All I know is it's beautiful!

I've entitled this one 'Oranges 3 Ways"- whole, dried whole, and sliced.  Or maybe it should be the circular cornucopia. Apples, oranges, limes, lemons, walnuts.  All I know is it's beautiful!

Seriously - don't you just love the mind that created this one?  It's on a styrofoam form, so super easy to attach the flowers and insert the dried okra pods and flower stocks.  It's almost a star if you use your imagination.  

Seriously - don't you just love the mind that created this one?  It's on a styrofoam form, so super easy to attach the flowers and insert the dried okra pods and flower stocks.  It's almost a star if you use your imagination.  

This was on display for purchase in the garden shop at CW.  I love the flowers they chose - a very un-Christmasy feel - which is a great reminder that natural ingredient wreaths aren't just for Christmas!

This was on display for purchase in the garden shop at CW.  I love the flowers they chose - a very un-Christmasy feel - which is a great reminder that natural ingredient wreaths aren't just for Christmas!

Another magnolia wreath (I'm partial to the name of course!) for good measure - I love the simplicity of it!

Another magnolia wreath (I'm partial to the name of course!) for good measure - I love the simplicity of it!

For years I've had aspirations of drying out fruit myself and making my own wreath.  And finally this year I woke up, realized I don't have unlimited time, and IT'S OK TO CUT CORNERS.  Can I get an amen on that one?  I can still do-it-myself if I buy all the parts and put it together.  Don't make something harder than it has to be!

So here was my first (not nearly as beautiful as CW's, but made with as much heart!) attempt at a natural wreath.

I bought dried limes and orange slices last year during my visit to use in my wreath - you can see the lineup of products they have in their garden shop to take home and use to DIY your own!  I bought red peppers and cotton to use with my leftover fruits in next years wreath.

That green book 'Colonial Williamsburg Decorate for Christmas' has lots of tips on drying your own fruits and constructing your own wreaths.  A great tool if you plan to make your own!

That green book 'Colonial Williamsburg Decorate for Christmas' has lots of tips on drying your own fruits and constructing your own wreaths.  A great tool if you plan to make your own!

If you ever get a chance to visit CW around the holidays, be sure you take the Christmas Decorations walking tour.  It takes about an hour and you get to see the finest wreaths that year, including those that won in various categories.  It's worth the extra ticket (PS - they usually sell out so reserve a time before you leave home)!

Happy wreath making - I'd love to see if you make your own - comment with a link to your picture or email it to me & I'll update the post to share your great examples!

The Kid-Friendly Christmas Tree: Low on Cost, Time, & Broken Ornaments

I'll be honest, it was a workout to get out all of the Christmas decorations pulled out before having a little helper.  And the thought of spending tons of time decorating trying to kid-proof my favorite ornaments and such just didn't seem worth it this year.  I love the beauty that is my living room late at night with the lights off watching the glow of the tree, but I wasn't interested in policing the tree 24/7.  

Having the bottom half of the tree ornament-less just wasn't going to work for me.  Call it OCD, a controlling personality, whatever you like.  But I needed it to be beautiful - having a toddler wasn't an out for my inner decorator.   

So here's how it went down.

Our tree went up out of the box.  All the while contemplating whether to decorate as normal and install a huge baby gate around the tree, or just decorate the top.  The hubs and I headed out later for a date night that included the finest of Indian (give me all the Naan) and a trip to Michael's.  I know - we are such romantics.  It was a perfectly timed trip & the inspiration hit.

Michael's had a whole wall full of laser cut wood ornaments that were meant to be painted and glittered and whatnot.  But we fell in love with the "natural-ness" of them.  Add to it that they were all 70% off that one night (how lucky were we!), so for 30 cents or so each, we loaded up on a variety of wood and cardboard ornaments and a roll of christmas plaid ribbon.  For less than $40 we had enough stuff to easily cover our 7 foot tree.  Top to bottom.   Success.

wood ornament christmas tree

Baby girl can take them off and move them around.  Cart them around the living room (and she has).  Heck - she could break them and I wouldn't care.

The best part - the tree is beautiful.  I can leave the room to switch the laundry without fear of broken glass when I return.  Or her climbing up to to reach the Mickey Mouse ornament.  Honestly, if I was still single and kid-free and looking for a cheap way to decorate my first Christmas tree - I would do this same thing!

It's the best of both worlds - all the ambience I want and yet something the little one can enjoy equally (& safely). 

For the next few years we may stick with this natural themed tree for the sake of my sanity if nothing else.  Sure I miss reminiscing over trips and family moments when unpacking special ornaments - but they haven't gone anywhere - the boxes in the garage are constant reminders of that.  They'll be back one day and thankfully all in one piece. Can I get an amen?  For now I'll keep my focus on the real reason for celebrating and enjoy moments filled with memories, cider, cookies, and the best of Christmas movies in the glimmer of beautiful lights.  

 

P.S. If you are looking for a little something to jazz up your decorating - grab the most beautiful free printable from HappyGoStuckey over here.  It's a great reminder that as we gather with loved ones this month, that it's less about what we are doing, and more about who we are doing it with.