Monday, September 14, 2009

Small Home Improvements

Well, really, a tiny kitchen makeover, or a makeover of the beloved and indispensable play kitchen that lives in our dining room. My boys love this thing, and are horribly rough on it and love banging the doors open and closed, pretending to wash pots and dishes, and otherwise reenacting the organized chaos of Ratatouille with their own variations.

I did most of the shopping for parts for this version of the play kitchen at Ikea, mostly in the as-is dept.

This is a view of our new sink and countertop, which was made from rejected shiny blue kitchen drawer fronts, at 50 cents a pop. The sink is by far the most expensive single part. Its "faucet" is made of the most basic pull handle, anchored at one end, plus two of the very basic knobs. The rest of the wood (the shelf up top, and the stovetop, fridge door and oven door) were more unfinished drawer and cabinet bits from the as-is dept.

Another pull handle makes a handy towel bar, and we used them on the oven and fridge as well. Here you can see the drawer knobs being put to their intended use, albeit an abbreviated version. The drawers are made from stout cardboard boxes mounted inside a frame made from the old cardboard play fridge. This time the cardboard looks good, and is really sturdily reinforced with heavy paperboard shipping corners from a large appliance, so it should last a while. Also, those drawers are really functional. One even holds our current crop of play food cards. The fridge has simple shelves of wood strip that hold up removable baskets.

This is the little stove and oven. The oven is held up with a loop of heavy twill tape and closes with magnets and little steel plates. Any gapping caused by wee fingers means it won't close at all. The burners on the stove are made of the metal plates and rings from the ends of nut cans (or coffee cans if you shop at Trader Joe's), and those stove knobs ought to look familiar. More Ikea. A huge bonus to the peanut-can rings/plates? They are precisely the right size for the Duktig pots and pans, and they have a lip that makes the pans stay in place when little hands are stirring "soup."

For comparison, above is the new kitchen in all its wooden glory, and below is the old "reuse, recycle, rebuild it often as the kids destroy it" version.

Now in the new version, you may notice some zipties. The hutch is actually made from another short piece of the same (non-ikea) modular, peg-together shelving that I have had for 15 years. I ziptied them securely together. It's still much better than the previous hutch of glued together cardboard boxes.

As for the temporary methods of securing the various parts, we'll be moving again, so it's better to keep it easily broken down. Much of the rest of the construction is anchored with hot glue, though there are plenty of screws where there will be stress. The sink, for example, is held in with a bead of hot glue, and hot glue is what keeps the countertop and stovetop from shifting during play. Still temporary, then, but the parts can handle more wear and tear.

Don't get me wrong, its various incarnations rocked for a time, and it was fun to redo periodically, but was always kind of an ugly kludge and was perpetually on its last legs. Of course, a big factor in making the change, from the cardboard play kitchen on a wood frame to a repurposed wood and cardboard on a wood frame version was the fact that I am finding myself short of time for a constantly repeating weekend project. It was time to strip it back to the frame and start fresh, and make it more permanent, yet still easily broken down for moving.

Also, I have just realized that, again, I've done something in red and blue and neutrals. This is my living room. Notice a pattern?

I guess I like red and blue. I blame my early exposure to modernist style via inundation with (now) vintage Creative Playthings toys.

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