I blame this project entirely on Pinterest. I was browsing through the “Kids” section when I saw some really adorable pictures of play kitchens people had made for their children by repainting nightstands and attaching faucets and/or burners to the tops. Seriously, these things were cute. And hey, I loved cooking, so surely my 2-year-old would want to be like Mommy, and would need her own play kitchen! Heck, having a play kitchen would probably keep her from trying to use the real stove– making her one was practically a safety precaution!
I immediately started plotting where to find some nightstands of my own, but the local Goodwill was pretty short on furniture and there was a mysterious dearth of garage sales in my area, so I had to look for another option. Plunging back into Pinterest, I found examples of people modifying existing play kitchens (which, as a whole, are pretty cheesy looking in their original plastic glory).
Always preferring to do superficial modification rather than major construction, I started looking for a decent base to start with, and that’s where IKEA came in. Ah, IKEA, a store where the layout doesn’t just encourage impulse buying, it actively tries to snatch your purse before letting you find the exit. IKEA had a basic play kitchen that was just crying out for a makeover, and for once, the fact that it came completely disassembled would be a plus, as it would facilitate repainting.
Honestly, a kitchen doesn’t get more basic and utilitarian than the IKEA one. And sure, my daughter would probably have just as much playing with it, but I wouldn’t have nearly as much fun looking at it every day.
I decided on a turquoise and white color scheme with copper hardware. Having read about how great spray paint was for evenly coating small pieces of furniture, I optimistically purchased one can of spray primer and one can of Krylon Ocean Breeze. I did some light sanding on all of the surfaces except the oven and microwave doors (those would stay white), and started spraying. The fact that it was slightly breezy outside didn’t help, and my downstairs neighbor actually laughed at me (eyeroll) when he saw the patchy layer of primer that resulted. Rather than buy another can of primer to finish the job, I gave in and bought a small can of paint-on primer. Already, this project was turning out more expensive than I’d hoped.
Having failed with spray primer, I was not optimistic when it came to spray paint, but I’d already bought the paint and it was a nice color, so I gave it a shot. This time things looked decent enough that when I inevitably ran out of paint most of the way through, I bought another can to finish the job. Alas, when everything had dried it was clear that the finish was still patchy, and there was a mysterious “dust” effect that rubbed blue paint off on my fingers whenever I touched the surface. Also, my neighbor had left a bottle of olive oil on one of my pieces while it was drying (on his way out to the backyard grill) and it had left an oily circle right in the middle of my freshly-painted surface, so that was shot anyway.
Back to the hardware store, where I bought a sample-sized can of paint (plenty of paint for such a small project, and luckily came in an appropriate color) and a mini paint roller. I should’ve just used the regular stuff from the beginning… it went on smoothly and easily, and there were no patches to be seen once dried.
Once the main turquoise parts were done, I turned to the countertop. Could I have left it at the light wood surface it started out as? Sure, but that would have been too easy. Goaded by another DIY-er who’d done a faux marble countertop on her play kitchen, I used this tutorial to paint mine (including the stiff drink). The bit with the feather didn’t work very well, so I just used a small brush for that, and a plain old wide bristled brush instead of the special “softening brush.” It actually turned out fantastically, especially after several coats of Polycrylic to give it that polished marble feel, and I was literally dancing with glee when I saw the finished product.
As you can see, I also spray-painted the sink bowl and faucet with hammered copper spray paint. The faucet wasn’t originally part of the IKEA kitchen, but I couldn’t help buying it– the shape was so darned cute (it’s called a “teapot faucet”) and I got it for a decent price. No sanding or priming required, just a heavy spray coat of copper paint. I tried the “spray several light coats” technique, but it made little to no impact on the color, so I let loose and just sprayed the hell out of that thing. I also replaced the plastic cabinet handles with copper ones (luckily, IKEA uses a standard handle size)– I didn’t have to paint them, as they came in copper already, but I did rub a little metallic copper paint on them to brighten them up.
You can also see where I added four oven knobs, which started off plain white but which I painted with pink ceramic craft paint and touched up with more copper paint. I also added quarter-round 1/4″ wooden dowels to the inner edges of the oven and microwave doors, painted copper, just to carry through the copper theme. Finally, to add a softer, more whimsical touch to the kitchen, I sewed up a ruffled curtain to use instead of a backsplash, hanging it on a tension rod.
Once the whole thing was assembled, I painted the insides of the upper shelves a nice butter yellow and added a small LED tap light inside the oven (the inside of which was painted charcoal gray). With the tiny cookware set and felt food set from IKEA, the kitchen was complete. We installed it in our own kitchen, and our 2-year-old loved it! She still makes me “soup” (all of her felt vegetables, chucked in a pot, with a ladle inside) every now and then, and she’ll happily stir dry pasta in a pot for whole minutes at a time (quite an accomplishment given her short attention span).
1. Spray paint is the devil if you have any surface larger than 2″ square. Especially if there’s the slightest bit of breeze outside. It costs more than regular paint, it’s harder to work with, and the only thing I can see it being good for is something with lots of little nooks and crannies that would be tough to get into with a brush, and that wouldn’t show patchiness.
2. The faux marble tutorial linked above is awesome. The stiff drink part is important to loosen you up. Don’t overblend, or you’ll lose the definition in your marble veins!
3. Taping off areas to avoid getting paint on them is fine, but take the tape off as soon as you’re done painting, otherwise it might peel the paint off with it when you pull it up.
4. Did I mention that spray paint is the devil?