Dave and I had an ongoing discussion for a long time about the issue of getting a play kitchen.
On the pro side, it was obvious that both kids liked to mimic the constant activity that they saw going on in the kitchen. We’ve had a bunch of pots and pans and utensils for the kids, stuff that I picked up at thrift stores, and those have gotten a fair amount of use. Like all play, it seems to go in waves, but at times there have been a lot of stir-fries coming out of their pans.
But there were three really good objections to investing in a play kitchen. First, we try to limit the number of “single-use” toys that we get. Dave was more interested in supplying them with a table of the right height, for example, that could be used as a kitchen, a tool bench, a lab bench, or whatever else they might dream up. Second, our kids are tall. The standard play kitchens that we’ve come into contact with are already pretty short for Nathan, and he’s only three. And third, of course, there’s the expense. Oh, there are fairly cheap plastic kitchens out there, but let’s face it: the kind that I was really tempted by were ones like these.
With all the arguments against, as well as the weight of momentum, we did nothing. And then one day last month we finally visited The Rebuilding Center.
We’d heard about this before, along with the Habitat For Humanity ReStore. It had always sounded right up our alley. And finally I guess the time was right, because we headed out to explore the vast wealth of reclaimed doors, windows, hardware, tiles, lighting, and (most importantly) cabinets in The Rebuilding Center’s warehouse.
Dave and I are both decently handy around the house. We have tools, we’ve done some woodworking in the past, we’ve played around with a variety of materials between us, and we’re not afraid to read and try new things. But building an entire cabinet from scratch? Let’s just say that the activation barrier on that activity is high.
Modifying an existing cabinet to fit our needs? That’s just a good time. That’s the sort of thing that we would do together for a date night.
And so the idea of making our own play kitchen, from inexpensive bits from The Rebuilding Center and our own (healthy) store of scraps, blossomed into fullness. The more we talked about it, the more fun it sounded. We could make it tall enough for our kids, we could make it on a much smaller budget than would be required to actually buy one, and we could use some of the delicious tiles and fixtures that we’d browsed through. Browsing through building materials is one of the few kinds of shopping that we like to do: it just cries out for our imaginations to run wild with things we could make.
Here is where we are so far:
We bought a $4 cabinet, brought it home, and shortened it substantially by removing the bottom spacer. It was only $4 because it was missing two of its six drawers. The hole left behind immediately screamed out to us “Oven door goes here!” Shortened, the cabinet is just about perfect for Nathan’s height, slightly tall for Ryan. That’s good; it means they won’t outgrow it completely by the time they’re four.
We stripped the cabinet, removing the dark laminate as well as the rubber strips used as trim and edging for the drawers. Since this is going to be a relatively large and bulky piece of furniture, as play kitchens go, we want the colors used in it to be a bit lighter.
We sanded down the exposed particle board, removing laminate glue and smoothing the surface to get it ready for painting. Although the picture belies this, I actually did a fair amount of the sanding. I mention this only because Dave has been doing the majority of the rest of the work, which hardly seems fair since this project was originally my brainchild. He has been having fun with it, though, so I don’t feel too bad.
He will also do a much better job than I would. This is not intended to be self-deprecating, only a statement of fact. If I was in charge of this project, I would have charged in immediately with stripping and sanding, and then rushed headlong into the tiling, slapping a bed of mortar straight onto the existing top, cramming tiles on top of that, and only them wondered how I could attach a facing to the front. Ok, maybe I would have planned a little more than that, but I sure as heck wouldn’t have taken the time to create this:
Dave now has a to-scale TurboCad diagram of exactly how the finished unit will go together: how the tiles fit, how the faucet (we found such an awesome faucet!) will fit on, how we’ll reinforce the sink, etc. It took him more than a week of daily work to complete this plan, but in doing so he thought through the construction in minute detail. Two nights ago he headed out to the garage to start cutting, and the progress he’s been making has been astonishing.
Pictures of that work, though, will have to wait for the next post. This could well be a lengthy project, especially since Dave is heading back to work tomorrow, so I will share progress as it becomes available. In the meantime we are having lots of fun. I am working on our paint scheme for the base; we have some leftover paint from our walls that we’ll probably use as the base coat, but we’re thinking of splurging on a small amount of colored paint and doing a little stenciling as well. So many options!
Further updates to come…