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.


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!