Tomorrow is Christmas and we finished up kids’ gift just in time: a play kitchen built from scratch!
Originally I hoped to re-purpose an old TV entertainment center, but after spending hours scouring Facebook marketplace and multiple thrift stores around town, I came up empty. With only two weeks left before Christmas, I was too crunched for time to keep searching. So instead, we decided to build one!
My brainstorming session started with a Pinterest search, where I found this play kitchen from West Elm. I fell in love with the look, but definitely not with the price. I knew Justin and I could come up with something similar for a lot less than $600.
So with that as a starting block, here’s where we ended up!
I’m so incredibly pleased with how this turned out and I can’t wait for our kids to see it tomorrow morning!
If you’re interested in how we created this play kitchen from scratch in just under two weeks, buckle up, because I’ve got all the details below. 😉
How We Created Our DIY Play Kitchen
-5/8″ width plywood
-1/2″ width plywood
-2″ dowel rod
-3 door handles
-5/8″ edge banding
-3 wooden knobs
-3/4″ drain pipe
-8×8 nonstick cake pan
-1 small knob
-black spray paint
Tools we used included: miter saw, nail gun, circular saw, drill press, jig saw, and kreg jig. We also used a few pieces of scrap wood throughout the project.
We started out with a simple outline I drew up. The nice thing about building from scratch is that I could choose exactly the dimensions that would work for our space. I decided on 36″ high and 48″ wide (divided equally to make the fridge, stove, and sink each 16″ wide).
I highly highly recommend sketching up as much as you can beforehand; it helps you visualize what steps you need to take to make everything and also what materials you’re going to need. Below you can see how I sketched out the frame and all the shelves and marked where all the kreg jigs (KJ) would go. On the right you can see where I calculated how many pieces of each length of board I would need. This didn’t take long to sketch up, but was really helpful in calculating materials and forming a plan of attack.
We started with a sheet of plywood in a 5/8″ width. The sheets are 4’x 8′ and because of my sketches and planning, I knew that we could make the entire frame out of one sheet. Justin set up a guide using a long piece of oak to make a super straight cut and piled a few pieces of old laminate and scrap wood to add weight to make sure the plywood didn’t bow at all.
He used a circular saw to the sheet of plywood into three equal strips – because the width of the saw blade takes away a fraction with each pass, these strips ended up being just under 16″ wide. Then he used his miter saw to cut each strip into the lengths we needed.
Justin started out by building the frame of each section, using kreg jigs to connect each of the pieces together. He also used wood glue and clamps in a few places to make the frame extra secure. (Also, I always feel like I need to preface pictures in our garage by saying we’re not really Nascar fans haha. That sign is leftover from the previous owners and we just never took it down).
After the frame was finished, Justin cut down an old piece of 1/4″ thick plywood to create the backing.
He attached this plywood to the back of the frame with a nail gun. (Can we take a moment to appreciate the outfit? 😉 It was COLD in that barn!)
Justin also cut down a scrap 1×3 and attached it underneath the “countertop” in the sink and oven sections using another kreg jig. I needed this piece so I had a space to attach oven knobs, and it just visually made sense to also have one in the sink section as well.
Next up was the shelves! Originally we thought we’d atttach these with more kreg jigs, but instead Justin just cut each shelf down to size and attached them with a nail gun.
Notice that he specifically cut the shelves so that they stopped short of the front edge – this is to accommodate the width of the door so the doors could be inset (flush with the sides).
After all the shelves were in place, we moved on to the legs. Justin bought a 2″ diameter dowel rod and cut it down into four 4″ long pieces. He measured out the center of each dowel rod and used a drill press to predrill a hole in the center of each one.
We marked out where each leg was going to go and Justin predrilled a hole in where each one was going to go.
It’s possibly overkill, but we used 3″ screws to attach the legs. We wanted them to be very secure and this definitely did the trick!
For the doors, Justin used a 1/2″ sheet of plywood to cut each size we needed. Because that width is hard to attach hinges to, he cut down a piece of scrap wood and screwed a small block to the door so he had a place to attach the hinge. If you want to avoid this extra step, you can just use a wider board to make the door.
With the frame, shelves, legs, and doors in place, it was my turn! I used my favorite Kilz primer on the doors and then painted two coats of Sherwin Williams Dot to Dot in Satin. I had this paint leftover from a previous project and it worked perfectly!
Next up was to put edge banding on all the front-facing plywood boards. I appreciate the lightweight nature and inexpensive cost of plywood, but not the look haha! I bought this 5/8″ edge banding to create the look of a solid piece of wood. It comes with a dried adhesive on the back that is heat activated. I heated up an iron to the “cotton” setting (a fairly high heat), held my edge banding in place against the side of the plywood, and ran the iron over it to activate the glue. I worked in roughly 4-6 inch sections and ran the iron back and forth over each section for about 20 seconds or so. It was a slower process, but look at the difference it made on the left vs. right!
The best part of this edge banding is it is paintable and stainable, so I could give it the same look as the rest of the plywood. I tested out some stains that we already had and quickly settled on this one.
On a trip to my local Habitat for Humanity ReStore, I hit the jackpot with some inexpensive finds to complete the kitchen. I found some simple rounded silver handles for 50 cents each that were perfect for the doors, some wooden knobs that I thought would make cute oven knobs (pack of 5 knobs for $2!), and a drain hose ($6) and knob (50 cents) for the faucet. For less than $10, it was such a great score!
I spray painted the wooden knobs and settled on three for the front of the oven. I measured out and drilled three holes in the front and LOVE how they turned out.
To create the look of an oven, I made a 10″ x 7.5″ rounded template on piece of paper and traced it on the back of the oven door. Justin then used a jigsaw to cut out a hole and sanded down the edges.
I then took the plastic inserts from from a large Ikea frame I had (I don’t like the shine it creates on my pictures!) and cut down two pieces to 12″ x 9.5″ to have some overlap. These cut easily with scissors, but I would recommend trying out a small test piece first because there’s a learning curve to how you need to hold the plastic and cut in order to not have a chipped edge.
I spray painted one piece black and left the other clear. I used gorilla glue to glue the black one down first (keeping the spray painted side facing away from the hole of the oven door). Then I glued the clear piece on top of the spray painted side to keep the paint from getting scratched during playtime.
Next up was the burners! I took a long piece of scrap shiplap that we trimmed off when working on our office project and cut it down into 16 pieces just short of 3 inches each. I spray painted each strip black and after they dried, I squeezed a very thin line of wood glue onto the back of each one.
I created a little asterisk pattern with these strips to create two little burners. I think they turned out so cute!
Last up was the sink area! Originally, I bought a small plastic tub that I was going to create a sink but I didn’t realize it had a small lip that would prevent it from laying flush. So we quick did a curbside pickup for a little 8×8 cake pan from Target to use instead. We traced an outline right on the countertop (the smaller one is from the first plastic tub we didn’t use, the larger one is from the cake pan we did use).
Justin used his jigsaw to cut out this hole and the cake pan fit in perfectly!
To create the faucet, we used this 3/4″ drain pipe tube that I found at the ReStore. Can you see how one end is already perfectly formed like a faucet?
I used painters tape to mark where to cut the hose at and used a utility knife to create a clean cut.
We marked where we wanted the faucet and Justin used a 1″ drill bit to create a hole.
This next part felt very MacGyver-y. We cut the tube to length so about 2 inches would stick out in the bottom sink cabinet. We then spliced the part that would be under the counter into four pieces.
Justin screwed each spliced section up into the bottom part of the cabinet so that the faucet couldn’t be pulled out the top. We also stuck a small piece of scrap wood in the tube to help keep its upright shape.
Then he screwed a scrap piece of wood under all the spliced sections – the purpose of this was to keep the faucet from being pushed down into the hole.
It might not look pretty, but will keep the faucet in place securely now. It can’t be pushed down or pulled up!
Lastly, I spray painted the little gold knob that I bought for 50 cents black and we drilled through the tube (and wood inside) to screw it in place and create a little faucet handle.
All in all, I’m VERY pleased with how this project turned out! And because we thrifted a ton of materials and already had lots of things like the stain, paint, screws, scrap wood, etc, the project ended up costing us around $80.
The kitchen has already been tested out and if Justin is any indication, the kids will have fun with this tomorrow morning. 😉
(Note: Most of what I used was thrifted or scrap material, but here’s what I used that I have sources for!)
-Paint: Sherwin Williams Dot to Dot in Satin
–Cake Pan (for sink)
–edge banding (affiliate link)
-the plastic inserts came from these Ikea frames