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Ethan’s “Manly” DIY Play Kitchen

2013 January 6
by Becky

If you’ve been around me in the last few months, you’ve surely heard about Ethan’s Kitchen. It kind of consumed my life for a while there!

So, what do you think?

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diy play kitchen, manly play kitchen, play kitchen for boys, do it yourself play kitchen, recycled play kitchen, build your own play kitchen, toddler gifts, two year old gifts

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diy play kitchen, manly play kitchen, play kitchen for boys, do it yourself play kitchen, recycled play kitchen, build your own play kitchen, toddler gifts, two year old gifts, play kitchen accessories, play kitchen burners, play kitchen knobs, play kitchen oven

diy play kitchen, manly play kitchen, play kitchen for boys, do it yourself play kitchen, recycled play kitchen, build your own play kitchen, toddler gifts, two year old gifts, play kitchen accessories, play kitchen burners, play kitchen knobs, play kitchen oven

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That’s right, I made my two year old son a bitchin’ kitchen, inspired by the likes of Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, and Anthony Bourdain (who’s kitchen I’ve never seen, but I can only imagine). The kid loves cooking SO much, I knew this would be a home run gift he would enjoy for years.

But of course I couldn’t just buy one and put it together—where’s the fun in that?!

So in parallel with the train table project, I was hunting down gently used furniture I might be able to turn into a culinary haven. I was inspired by DIY kitchens like this and this and this, but had lots of my own kitchen dreams in mind too. After scouring craigslist and sending lots and lots of emails, I finally scored two Ikea Malm nightstands.

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True to my style, I won’t lie about any part of this project, especially since it was a bit of a doozy.

First challenge? Little to no work space. We have a tiny basement and no garage to set up tools or a work table. And with the winter weather on our heels, the driveway/backyard weren’t awesome options. We were scrunched, to say the least.

Second challenge? It was not my intent to get two different cabinets. I got the small one first, then a week later picked up the bigger one, immediately realizing the problem. They were both “Malm nightstands” but I should have asked for measurements…lesson learned. Though at $20, I decided I could make it work and bought the big one anyway, hoping to solve my height variance issue later.

I moved forward with paint. After sanding everything down (just to rough up the shiny veneers), everything got a coat of my fav primer—it adds more “stick”. I then sprayed the small cabinet with aluminum paint and brushed the big one with white trim paint, the drawers with black chalkboard paint. Everything but the aluminum was leftover from other projects, saving me big $$.

diy play kitchen, manly play kitchen, play kitchen for boys, do it yourself play kitchen, recycled play kitchen, build your own play kitchen, toddler gifts, two year old gifts, play kitchen accessories, play kitchen burners, play kitchen knobs, play kitchen ovenNot shown here is the tiny bottle of red craft paint I used for the “professional-style” burner knobs.

When all painting was complete (which seemed to take FOREVER) I hit everything with a coat of polyurethane …especially the oven. The aluminum had a tendency to rub off on hands/clothing/anything and I wanted to be sure it stayed put. I hit the knobs and burners with poly too.

Third challenge? The tile backsplash. It took me about a minute to find the tile I wanted, a glass, greenish, subway variety at Home Depot that I’ve been drooling over for years.

Oooooo so pretty….

diy play kitchen, manly play kitchen, play kitchen for boys, do it yourself play kitchen, recycled play kitchen, build your own play kitchen, toddler gifts, two year old gifts, play kitchen accessories, play kitchen burners, play kitchen knobs, play kitchen ovenSaving $$ wasn’t on my mind with this stuff, three sheets at $9.95 isn’t bad but isn’t “cheap”. 

But since we haven’t done a tiling project in about 7 years, we were supply-less—there in lies the challenge. So there I was, Ethan in the cart, wandering through the tile aisle when a nice Home Depot employee approached to see if I needed any help. I told him about my project and asked him about adhesives, grouts, and cutting glass tile before he stopped me. “Just bring it in, I’ll do it for the Little Guy.” My jaw must have hit the floor because he repeated himself and give me a day and time to bring in my tile and backer. I resisted the urge to hug him and ran out the door before he could change his mind.

Sure enough my Christmas miracle, Raj, head of the flooring department, was waiting for me when I returned on our agreed upon day. He used my backsplash as a learning tool for his staff and did a PERFECT job. Scored and cut the tiny glass tiles and everything. I loved the place before, but this seals the deal—I’ll be a Home Depot shopper for life!

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The finished product was glorious. After dropping off some homemade cookies, I was headed home with my lovely backsplash. I propped it up behind the cabinets as soon as I got got it in the house. Next I attached the top shelf and hanging bar.

I couldn’t stop staring. It was really coming together. (And Stu finally realized I wasn’t completely insane)

diy play kitchen, manly play kitchen, play kitchen for boys, do it yourself play kitchen, recycled play kitchen, build your own play kitchen, toddler gifts, two year old gifts, play kitchen accessories, play kitchen burners, play kitchen knobs, play kitchen oven(The “oven” cabinet was partially backless, so I painted the plywood black to close everything up.) 

Which brings me to the Fourth Challenge. The oven door.

Let me start by saying we are in NO WAY wood-workers. (Pretty sure that will be eminently clear in the next paragraph) While I’ve been reading and learning from the likes of Ana White, I’m long from being confident with this fine art.

So if you  think it’s possible to cut a hole in the middle of a piece of oak plywood (leftover from a train project of some kind), you’d be dead, dead wrong. Believe me, we tried, and failed miserably. We hurled the result in the trash after two days of attempting some emergency wood-filler-and-primer surgery…it was so bad I didn’t even take a picture.

It caused some major frowny faces, arguments, guffaws of frustration, some reading time on Ana White’s website, and another trip to Home Depot where I took up a whole aisle laying out my pieces and measuring everything at least 10 times. Luckily the weather cooperated so we could work outside on “Oven Door Part Deux”.

The results were PERFECT. 

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Luckily, there were a few “piece of cake” parts. Like the sink (a dog bowl from Amazon), faucet (recycled from Stu’s grandparents), burners (wood discs and dowels from Michael’s), knobs (painted wood discs from Michael’s), and oven legs (large wooden dowel cut down) all came together with no problem.

A few touchups, some hinges, handles, oven rack, and knob attachment finished the project. I found this cute design for my knob inspiration. I couldn’t help but make them Wolf red.

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The piece behind the knobs is actually an original drawer cut down and gorilla-glued to the top of the oven opening. To attach the knobs we drilled holes slightly larger than our screws. A tiny pilot hole in the back of the knobs helped the screw go in without cracking the wimpy wood disc. The knobs turn freely without falling off. 

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I originally built the oven rack out of spray painted wooden dowels (shown above) and small trim pieces. I quickly realized these dowels would be kindling in a toddler’s hands, so yesterday I switched them out for a small metal cooling rack (one I inherited from my mom at least 10 years ago). A couple screws (which I painted black) hold it in place nicely.

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A piece of plexi finished the oven door (easy buy at Home Depot but I had to cut it down myself). I was sure to drill pilot holes in the plexi AND wood to prevent cracking. A magnet holds the door closed. And, my favorite part, I added a cheapy motion sensor light that turns on when the door is opened. Fabulous!

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Glue, scissors, and some paint made the burners look like they could pack some heat.

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I used my favorite drawer pulls from Ikea, the same ones we used in our St. Louis kitchen (oh how I miss it!!). They make perfect tea towel holders too!

It was all I could do not to give Ethan this gift early. I COULDN’T WAIT!!! Even Stu took every visitor downstairs to show off our handy-work.

So on his birthday, after his rockin’ school bus party and a nice long nap, we did the “big reveal”. We set it up in the middle of the living room amidst the mountain of other presents so it was in plain sight when he came downstairs.

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When we reached the bottom of the steps and Ethan got a glimpse of the kitchen he immediately said, “Kitchen!”

He barely let me set him down before running over to start checking it out. He reached for the faucet first. Then the red bucket of utensils.

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Then the oven. He was pumped when the light came on. With a twist of a knob, he was baking up a storm. (Dewy was in the photo bombing mood that day). 

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Our favorite part of the day was when Ethan grabbed the towel to use as a pot holder when removing a “hot” pan from the oven. It was like he did it every day of his life! The kid has clearly pick up some tips in the kitchen. We could not stop laughing.

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And since our whole family and all our friends were in on the plan, many of his gifts were kitchen themed…he had a baking set, working hand held mixer, toaster, stand mixer, and a crate of Melissa & Doug “cutting food”.

Before long, we were all getting in on the fun!

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He’s had the kitchen over a week now and I’ve never seen Ethan play with toys so much. And when he’s not mixing, baking, toasting, or cutting he’s playing with his train table and other wonderful Christmas/birthday gifts. I love the mixture of cooking, trains, trucks, and dinosaurs in my living room…he is officially a well rounded kid.

Here is a little video recap of the reveal:

So there it is. If you’ve heard me yammering on about this thing for WAYYYY too long, I promise, I’ll stop now (until we add on a microwave and/or fridge next year). We’re so pleased with the turnout and can’t wait to try all the yummy food Ethan will make us!

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(Here’s it’s permanent home in our living room)

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Product list
Tile:
Home Depot; Cutting Food: Melissa & DougToaster: Hape; Stand Mixer: Hape; Utensils: Ikea; Pots & Pans: Ikea;Handheld Mixer: Pottery Barn Kids; Red Hanging Bucket: Ikea; Hanging Rail: Ikea; Drawer Pulls: Ikea; Cabinets: Originally Ikea, found on Craigslist; Faucet: hand me down; Sink: dog bowl from Amazon; Burners: DIY; Knobs: DIY; Wooden Crate: leftover packaging from christmas gift; Oven Rack: already owned; Metal pitcher: Ikea; Espresso Cups: Ikea; Baking pan set: Pottery Barn Kids; Aluminum Spray Paint: Rustoleum. 
 
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I’m linking up at I {Heart} Nap Time, DIY Show Off, Under the Table & Dreaming, My Repurposed Life, A Bowl Full of Lemons, and we were featured one DesignDazzle.

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52 Responses leave one →
  1. Dorice permalink
    January 6, 2013

    the play kitchen is absolutely awesome! and the backsplash – it’s nicer than our own kitchen’s backsplash! :) do you mind me asking which home depot this is – is this the one in falls church off of arlington blvd?

    • Becky permalink*
      January 6, 2013

      Thank you! I had my dream kitchen in mind when I chose the tile…LOVE. I went to the one in Hybla Valley, on Hwy 1. I believe I saw the tile at the South Pickett Home Depot too, off Duke Street? Good luck finding it!

  2. Maddie permalink
    January 6, 2013

    The play kitchen is awesome! I need to record video of my kids watching the video of Ethan playing. They were very concerned that he couldn’t reach the utensil holder and couldn’t get the towel hung up!! It was so cute.

    • Becky permalink*
      January 6, 2013

      Ha! That would be amazing to see! Tell the kiddos to rest easy – we moved the red bucket to the oven side (which is shallower) so Ethan can reach them more easily. So glad you guys enjoyed the video!

  3. January 6, 2013

    wow, it’s amazing! and kudos to your friend at home depot, what a nice thing to do!
    Dara recently posted..My Hasbro Game Night House PartyMy Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      January 6, 2013

      Tell me about it! Nicest guy ever.

  4. January 6, 2013

    Looks so awesome Becky (and Stu)!!! We’ve been waiting in suspense to see the finished product :-)

  5. Grandma Johnson permalink
    January 7, 2013

    Priceless!!!

    It turned out amazing!!

  6. January 7, 2013

    Raddest. Kitchen. EVER!
    Carla recently posted..ThreeMy Profile

  7. Shannon permalink
    January 7, 2013

    I’m totally impressed!! Love the backsplash and all the little touches. I am really trying to convince Kev that Sully needs a kitchen. Also, so great to hear about how awesome Home Depot was!

    • Becky permalink*
      January 7, 2013

      Well come over and try ours out and have Sully tell Dad all about it! Those sweet eyes will send Kev over the edge. :)

  8. January 7, 2013

    Best gift ever! Great job. Have to go on a diet after eating so much in Ethan’s kitchen. He’s a great cook!

    • Becky permalink*
      January 7, 2013

      He loved making you food! Glad you were here for the big reveal.

  9. January 7, 2013

    Freaking fabulous. Between this, the train tracks, the bus party = get out of jail free card for the rest of the year when it comes to any parenting snafu’s. Awesome job!
    Jen recently posted..my favorite Etsy shops of 2012My Profile

  10. January 7, 2013

    Oh man, Ike totally needs a manly kitchen! Pinning this for the future!

    • Becky permalink*
      January 7, 2013

      I would LOVE to see the spin you put on a project like this one. :)

  11. Lauren G permalink
    January 7, 2013

    I really can’t believe you tackled this project and the train set! I’m a little bummed that Ethan didn’t get an apron – we thought someone would be planning to get him one already (yeah for Everybody Poops though :-) Glad you brought up the Zinsser – I was trying to figure out what you’d suggested for primer on window frames and I think this was it. After all this, can’t wait to see what’s next!

    • Becky permalink*
      January 7, 2013

      Oh yes, Zinsser will make your job SO much easier when painting that wood. And yes, Ethan needs an apron, though we bought him a toque when in NYC and he refuses to wear it, so maybe the “outfit” is down the road still. :)

  12. January 8, 2013

    LOVE! Thank you for doing this. My three year old son loves to cook (like daddy). I was so disgusted by all the pink girly, cheap plastic stuff on the market. Why is there nothing for boys? Heck, I would not even buy the pink plastic stuff for my daughter. Why can’t companies make a gender neutral and realistic kitchens? Bleh!

    Anyway, I found a decent and gender neutral kitchen for my son at Ikea. He absolutely loves it.

    BTW, Ethan is adorable and I love how much he enjoys his kitchen.

    Fantastic and amazing work! Be proud. :)

    • Becky permalink*
      January 8, 2013

      Thank you Julie!! And I agree, the pink stuff is not for me either. There is actually a thing going on with Hasbro right now where a teenage girl asked them to make a totally gender neutral Easy Bake Oven and they listened. Here is the article! Maybe I should send them a picture of Ethan’s kitchen as inspiration? :)

  13. Mary Weimer` permalink
    January 8, 2013

    Becky- You and Stu did an amazing job on Ethan’s kitchen. Wow! I’m impressed!

  14. January 10, 2013

    oh how awesome is this play kitchen! y’all did such a super job! Love all the extra touches!
    gail

    • Becky permalink*
      January 11, 2013

      Thanks Gail! The extra touches are always the most fun, aren’t they?

  15. January 11, 2013

    Stopping in to pin this kitchen. And everyone knows us ladies love a man who can cook!

    Bliss

    • Becky permalink*
      January 11, 2013

      Totally!! Ethan will impress the ladies some day for sure! Thanks for pinning me. :)

  16. January 12, 2013

    So cute! The tile was a nice addition – wish I had it in my kitchen :)

  17. January 13, 2013

    That is beyond impressive! You did an amazing job!
    Allison

  18. January 16, 2013

    I saw this on the Design Dazzle blog and I just wanted to say this is an awesome idea! My son loves to cook with me and is always dragging his tool bench into the kitchen using it as an oven. I would love to make this but he’s six now, and I don’t know how much longer he would use it. I still may because I think I would play with it, lol. He always wanted a kitchen but everything store bought is geared towards girls. You did an awesome job. Definitely pinning this.
    Vanessa recently posted..DIY: Cardstock and Ribbon BannerMy Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      January 16, 2013

      Do it! I’m sure he’d love it. I think there actually are a bunch of gender neutral options out there (I wavered on our project a couple times and shopped around) but none have quite the details I was looking for. None have real tile! Please let me know if you make one!

  19. Joni permalink
    January 16, 2013

    Fantastic! We got a (not-nearly-as-cool) play kitchen for my son when he was about 18 months, and at 3 years old he still plays with it a lot, so Ethan should be cookin’ for a long time :)

    • Becky permalink*
      January 16, 2013

      Great news! I hope mine lasts as long as yours!

  20. January 17, 2013

    My kid is all grown up now. But this is a really great project and a good writeup.. can really see all the enthusiasm and bonding. Awesome.

    …and I can totally agree with not cutting up a solid wooden work top myself. My projects got some little help from friends with the right tools ;)
    Dennis recently posted..Wires no more.My Profile

  21. January 17, 2013

    This is soooooo awesome! The size difference in the nightstands is one thing that makes it perfect! The colors of the whole thing and the tile are perfect. It’s all soooo prefect! I LOVE it! Really well done:)

  22. Leigh permalink
    January 25, 2013

    oh my, that is just precious! so impressed that you DIYd so awesomely all from your own ideas!
    You mentioned expanding it and i don’t know if you ever read the DIY blog Young House Love, but they had made a similar mini-kitchen for their daughter Clara last year and added a DIY “fridge” this year. Super cute too, if you want to see how they did it. Just wanted to pass along the fun! keep up your cool work! I know Ethan is thrilled!
    here’s the link i was talking about: http://www.younghouselove.com/2012/12/one-cool-christmas-present-for-clara/

    • Becky permalink*
      January 25, 2013

      Thanks Leigh! I actually love YHL and was dying when they revealed fridge because Stu and I talked about adding on a fridge/microwave (college dorm style but more industrial) in the future! Check out this post where I met John and Sherry here in DC! They are crazy-nice and so fun.

  23. February 4, 2013

    Great kitchen! Play kitchen for boys are great, we made our two year old son one for Christmas (http://exexp.at/post/40161625620/diy-play-kitchen) and he absolutely LOVES it :-)
    Jenni recently posted..Discovering Berlin: The Currywurst MuseumMy Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      February 4, 2013

      Thanks Jenni! I just checked yours out and holy-cuteness!! Love your little guy’s curls.

  24. February 5, 2013

    SERIOUSLY impressive.

  25. April 16, 2013

    That is the coolest toy kitchen I’ve ever seen :) Can’t believe you MADE that. It looks so professional, and Ethan look’s like he’s having an awesome time with his ‘manly’ kitchen :)

    That’s actually one thing I like about Thailand, parents aren’t so hung up on ‘boy toys’ and ‘girl toys’. Kids are pretty much allowed to play with what they want and be who they are. Very refreshing :)
    Rachel recently posted..How Much are Electric Fans in Bangkok, Thailand?My Profile

  26. Abbie permalink
    September 27, 2013

    Hi! I love your kitchen! Question, how did you cut the tiny wood circles for the knobs? Seems scary with the jigsaw we have… Thanks so much!

    • Becky permalink*
      September 27, 2013

      Hi, thanks! Not sure what exactly your question is so I’m going to answer two possibilities: 1. I bought the small discs at Michael’s Craft Store, so no cutting there, then 2. We cut the discs in half using a hand saw. They are pretty thin and we only needed to cut two. Hope this helps!

  27. November 3, 2013

    I am just wondering:
    1. How tall is it (without the backsplash part)? We have cabinets that we are re-purposing and they seem tall.
    2. Do you remember what the motion light was? Brand, ect.
    Thanks! This is the best idea ever. I love your masculine twist on it!

  28. Echo permalink
    December 1, 2013

    Hello, do you happen to know what name/brand of hinge you used on the stove? Thanks! Love your son’s kitchen!

  29. August 11, 2014

    My wife and I ordered these kind of kitchen tools for the 2 year aged for Love Day
    to be along with the Melissa and Doug Kitchen space he gotten for Holiday.i’m
    also discovering that my Extra choosy oldest daughter is actually looking new stuff to take mainly because he is extremely fascinated by the act of cooking.
    kitchen outside playsets for toddlers recently posted..kitchen outside playsets for toddlersMy Profile

  30. September 23, 2014

    Hi!

    Loved reading your kitchen making journey. I am starting this kind of journey too and wanted to let you know you inspired me! Hope to be able to show you our end result soon.

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