Wednesday, January 12, 2011

But, Mom! I Told You I Don't Want a Play Kitchen!

This is Betty.

I have a bad habit. I mean a really bad habit. Brilliant ideas come to me at the worst times. Take this adorable little play kitchen. Betty was a vision that didn't appear in my head until, oh, Thanksgiving. I had decided I wanted to get the girls a play kitchen for Christmas and I wanted a wooden one for them. You know, so it would last a long time. And because the wooden ones were sooo much cuter than the plastic ones (I'm well aware that I'm not supposed to begin a sentence with "and," but it's my blog and I'll be grammatically incorrect if I want to). I had actually tried to convince Bean that a play kitchen is what she wanted for her 3rd birthday. After all, whenever we went to the home of a child with a play kitchen, that's all she wanted to play with! But, she begged for a Barbie Jeep instead. Yeah, she wanted a Barbie Jeep and ended up riding it maybe five times. It worked out for the better in the end, though. Bean refused to ride that Jeep, so I asked her if I could give it away. She enthusiastically told me to just give it away. So, I sold that Jeep and used that money to buy pretty much everything we needed to create little Miss Betty. 

Right around Thanksgiving, I stumbled across "DIY Play Kitchens" in several places online. From play kitchens made out of Ikea furniture to cutie pie kitchens made from nightstands like this one, I was in creative Heaven. Then, I stumbled upon this website (scroll down to the one made by Blue Eyed Yonder....she's my very favorite). It was all over after that; the wheels started turning. (By the way, if you're at all interested in learning to build anything yourself, I highly recommend you check out Ana White's entire's awesome! I can't wait to venture out and try to make some things with her instructions.) Oh, and I can't forget Ohdeedoh! They had a whole slew of play kitchens that provided loads of inspiration! Why spend $200+ on a wooden play kitchen when I can build one myself?! Myself. Yes, that was the original plan. We'll get back to that in a minute. Instead of buying and building from scratch, I decided to do the "green" thing and find an unloved piece of wooden furniture somewhere and just make a kitchen out of it. So, what did I do? Why, I begged Hubs to drive me around for days on end until I could find the perfect piece of unloved furniture, of course! We spent several days (and WAY too much gas...yeah, that's not really green, is it?) driving until we finally ended up in Greenville, South Carolina one Sunday. At our very last thrift store, I ran in ten minutes before they were to close. 

And there she was. 

I don't know what Betty was in her previous life. But, I knew the second I saw her that she was going to be my babies' play kitchen. She cost us $20 and was made from very solid wood. To make her even sweeter, there was this note on the back:  

25 years ago, Betty was a gift made for a little girl (ok, so maybe she wasn't little, but in my mind, she was a cute little girl with blonde ringlets and blue eyes...) by her sweet daddy for Christmas. How precious is it that she was about to be transformed for a couple of sweet little girls for Christmas by their parents?! Betty had a sweet destiny.

Remember when I said before that I was going to do this project myself? Yeah, I quickly realized I was in over my head. Determined as I am, I didn't want to ask for help. But, B, being the sweet husband that he is, jumped in and saved me. He really is the best. This project could not have been done without him. In fact, I bet Betty would have ended up in a landfill somewhere eventually if B hadn't helped me rescue her.

So, right after Thanksgiving, the work began. I drew out a plan of exactly what I wanted - a retro 1950s style, sassy little kitchen. Stripping paint and knocking out sections were the first jobs. Thankfully, Grandma G and Meme were our lifesavers and helped us with the girls so we could work. 
 Stripping paint on a very, very cold evening
B nailing the new divider in that separates the oven and under-sink compartment

So, why do I complain about not having free time when I obviously have plenty of it? I mean, we had enough time to build a play kitchen, so we must have too much time on our hands, right? You see, that is the big misconception. My grand plans of projects and ideas don't usually take into account the fact that we really don't have the time to see them through. But, the "best" ones keep me awake at night until I finally can't avoid them any longer. Did I mention that B is also a full time student at night? That meant that our work time was confined to the evenings when he wasn't in school and weekends. We spent every free moment (and I mean every free moment) between Thanksgiving and Christmas working on our project. We even hid it in the basement of Meme's house (that's B's grandmother) during the annual C Family Christmas Weekend (the weekend before Christmas) and worked on it during "down times." We also left it at my mother-in-law's (Grandma G) house for a few weeks and worked on it as we could (mostly painting) there. She would keep the kids for us while we worked in the garage. Not only that, but she ended up painting some for us when we weren't there, too! Speaking of paint, I spent about 30 minutes in Lowe's hemming and hawing over what color green/teal to choose. I knew I wanted it to be a green/blue color because I wanted any future children of ours, even boys (if we ever have any boys, ha) to be able to play with it. The little sink skirt is velcroed on, so all I have to do is remove it and put a more gender neutral fabric on. Anyway, Grandma G and B's step-dad, Papa G, were so helpful through all of this. Papa G is a general contractor, so he helped B learn how to use a router and things like that.

In the last few days, my biggest "job" was to find all the little finishing accessories. I found mirrors at a Dollar Store to use for the "window" ($4). My sweet and precious friend, Holly, made the little sink skirt and window valance for me (I can do a lot of things, but sewing is not my forte. Maybe I will fix that later, but I definitely couldn't figure it out in the amount of time I had). They totally pulled the piece together! The fabric cost me about $10 total, if I remember correctly. She also went with me to Hobby Lobby, where I found the adorable little knobs that were used for the oven.($6 total for all 4 knobs). as well as the shelf that hangs on the back ($6). My living room coasters got some black paint slapped on them and painted dowels on top to bring them to life as gas stove burners ($.50 for the dowel). We found perfect hardware for the refrigerator and oven doors at Ace Hardware and Lowe's ($15 for all 3). We used a dog bowl for the sink  ($3) and found the faucet at a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store ($6 for all 3 pieces). We put an LED push light in the oven ($1 - we bought a 4-pack for $4). Between paint and other miscellaneous items (chalkboard on side, oven rack, etc.), we probably spent an additional $25. For just the kitchen itself and without the accessories I bought for it, we definitely came in under $100. Not too shabby! It's solid wood and built to last a loooong time. I hope to watch my grandbabies play with it in many, many years. :)

 I fell in love with this little wooden mixer! It's made by Kidkraft. I happened to have a $20 e-gift card to Target, so I only paid a couple of dollars for it. Score!
 Close up of the sink skirt Holly sewed for me.
 Inside the fridge/freezer. All the wooden play food is made by Melissa and Doug.

 This little teapot is very breakable, but it was $3 at TJ Maxx and oh-so-cute! It hasn't been broken yet...knock on wood.

On Christmas Eve, we stayed up pretty late just putting the finishing touches on it. I could hardly sleep I was so excited. However, I told Hubs weeks before that I just knew what Bean would say. I told him I'd just about put money on her saying, "I didn't ask for a play kitchen!" You see, Bean is three and brutally honest. Even more than that, she just has a firecracker of a personality. She kept going back and forth for months. One day she'd say, "I want a play kitchen." Then, when I'd ask her if she still wanted one, she would reply, "No! I want [insert random 'made in China' toy here]!" In the few weeks before Christmas, she had made up her mind that she did not want a play kitchen. Well, fast forward to Christmas morning. Bean walks in the living room and immediately spots all the goodies that Santa brought for her (they were on the couch, which was across the living room from Betty). She spent a good 5 minutes ooh-ing and aah-ing over all of that before she noticed the play kitchen. We actually captured her on video saying, "But, Mom! I told you I didn't want a play kitchen!" Hubs and I laughed hysterically because we knew she would say that. But, in typical Bean fashion, she changed her mind as soon as she saw her little sister playing with it. We captured this lovely picture about 15 minutes later...

So, there you have it. That's the {very long} story behind Betty and how she was brought back to life. I couldn't be any more happy with how she turned out. Big, HUGE thanks to Hubs, Grandma G, Papa G, and Meme for helping us out on so many occasions! My little dream would never have come to fruition without all of your help. 


  1. Beautiful Amber! The blog is fabulous! I am uber-impressed... :)

  2. Thank you, Lauren! It's a fun way to release some pent up creativity. :)

  3. I'm so glad you decided to finally make a blog :) I'm going to love reading all your stories about your crazy little girl! lol

  4. I'm a first-timer, visiting from Ohdeedoh.

    What a gorgeous kitchen! And well done, I love that you converted it from a thrift-store find.

  5. I'm inspired! I'll be following your blog! Here is mine!

  6. This is just so great! You did a fantastic job!

  7. Love the play kitchen. I did the same thing two weeks before Christmas using an old entertainment center we had. Like your daughter my 4 year old kept saying she didn't want a play kitchen, but now plays with it everyday!

  8. Love love love it! We did the same!

  9. Awesome, awesome, awesome! I just love what you did with a thrift store find, and how sweet is it that it was once a gift too. Thanks so much for the mention, you're too sweet! xoxo

  10. Love what you did here! Found your blog while searching kitchens. Great job!