I wanted to get Olivia a kitchen for her 1st birthday. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been forced to play trains, cars, and trucks for the past 3 years but I am hard up for some good play kitchen action. There are some people that might point their ‘bad mom’ finger at me for subscribing to gender norms instead of giving her a PlaySkol “My Oval Office” set instead but I give zero Fs about it. I grew up playing with a toy kitchen that I loved. I also got down with Barbies and My Little Ponies yet somehow grew up to be a woman that loves to bake and has several fantasy football championships under her apron strings.
Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let me continue. When I thought about a kitchen set for my soon-to-be 1-year old I couldn’t help but drool over the Pottery Barn Kids kitchen play sets. Every time a catalogue came in the mail my pulse would quicken and my insides turned to goo as page after colorful page showed gorgeous kitchen play sets that could have been featured in HGTV magazine instead. However, these kitchens cost about as much as a real kitchen renovation. I may have considered forking over the money if it came with the promise that my children would be as well-behaved as the kids serenely playing in catalogue photo, but realistically that is a promise that not even the pristine gods at Pottery Barn Kids can keep.
With that option ruled out, I spent the 20 minutes when the kids’ naps happened to overlap and I browsed Pinterest instead of doing something ridiculous like cleaning. I got inspired. I hatched a DIY plan and began pinning examples until my thumb started to blister. I felt like the Grinch and got a wide grinchy grin “If I can’t BUY a Pottery Barn Kids Kitchen, then I’ll make one instead!” (The Grinch’s line is(“If I can’t find a reindeer, I’ll make one instead!) Want to see my husband squirm and sweat? Over dinner after he’s worked all day, have me utter the words “So…I have an idea…” and the sweat instantly beads on his brow as a heavy sigh falls from his lips.
The more I thought about it the more I loved this idea. I could put my blood, sweat, and tears into customizing something for my daughter while distracting myself from the fact that SHE IS TURNING 1. I also started to get the feeling that Joe absolutely needed more things on his To Do list and thought I would be helpful and make sure it didn’t get too short by adding this. Always living by the “happy wife, happy life” motto (or maybe Happy Wife, QUIET wife) he agreed to do it.
The first task was to find a used wooden kitchen that we could rehab. Thankfully, I am connected to some resourceful people and a friend from AJR’s playgroup had a hot lead on a kitchen from a Facebook buy/sell page. This was said kitchen:
If you’ve ever tried to buy a used item from an online garage sale type group then you know how quickly moms in search of a bargain will pounce on a hot item. Never underestimate a mom trying to get a deal – within 30 seconds there will be 20 comments on a $10 water table with a slow leak in it . Somehow, some way, the kitchen went completely under the radar and victory was ours. Until I sent Joe to pick it up. He went while I put the kids to bed and when he brought it home it was not in the condition I thought it would be. There were huge chunks of wood gouged out of the sides, the refrigerator door was missing entirely, and there was no sink – only a large gaping hole. I know, I know. First world problems. But now this casual DIY project was going to be more work than I had originally thought. After that realization my Do It Yourself Project had morphed into a Do It, Hubby project so I showed him my vision board (inspiration pictured below) and paint swatches while he tried to sound engaged as he played Two Dots on his phone.
We very quickly settled into our respective roles: Me, Creative Director, and he, manual labor. Side note, I am not an easy-to-work-with creative director. I mean, just the fact that I gave myself a title should indicate that fact. To be fair, Joe knew what he was getting into when he agreed to take this on. His first taste of my need for flawless execution of my vision came the day before our wedding while we were visiting our venue and there was a pile of gold napkin rings near our stuff. He jokingly said “Hey, maybe we can use these on the tables!” I whirled on him, transforming into an overbearing Bridezilla, and hissed “Um, we have a SILVER theme.” They. Were. Napkin. Rings. My sister and BFF were there to witness it and wore an expression of horror mixed with “sort of not surprised” and “please still marry her, we can’t deal anymore.” Not my proudest moment but in my defense I did apologize IMMEDIATELY afterwards. and we still got married. Anyway, I share this little anecdote to give you an idea of what it’s like to work with me in a creative/high pressure capacity.
Thankfully, there weren’t many opportunities for my crazy raptor side to come out. I did shoot a few “did you seriously just ask that…” looks when he asked me if I needed to have the burners pray painted gold. OF COURSE the burners needed to be spray painted gold because apparently this time around we have a gold theme. Get with the program! And then there was the project-halting color mismatch of the fabric and paint that WOULD NOT DO.
Honestly, this is not intended to be a step-by-step blog post about how we transformed the kitchen. Mostly because I didn’t take pictures of every step and also it’s not much more complicated than throwing on a few coats of paint and copying what those before us have done. Here’s a bulleted list of what we (mostly Joe) did, but if you want more details feel free to reach out:
- Cleaned down a filthy hand-me down kitchen from a hoarder.
- Removed everything & paint it white.
- Put gold spray paint on everything. Even the burners.
- Replace microwave “glass” with unscratched plastic.
- Buy a toaster oven pan from Amazon to serve as the new sink after two desperate calls to KidCraft to purchase a new sink went nowhere.
- Lay marble contact paper for the countertop and backsplash. Because granite is so gauche
- Use Stitch Witch no-sew tape to create a curtain in lieu of the fridge door after realizing that I have zero sewing skills to speak of
- Repurpose mint green paint from Olivia’s nursery for accent doors
- Paint one side of the kitchen with chalkboard paint (Joe’s idea)
- Reassemble everything
- Stage the kitchen with dangerous looking accessories for the sake of taking pictures and then remove them so our children don’t cause themselves bodily harm
The finished product by far exceeded our expectations. After amassing many a Pinterest fail in my day it was a relief to finally put one in the win column. Once the last door was screwed back on and the curtain hung, I stood back and teared up like Chip and Joanna Gaines did a “Fixer Upper” play kitchen episode featuring us, minus the shiplap.
Patience is not a virtue of mine so we’ve already “given” Olivia the kitchen set. Which is probably for the best considering it was in our garage and I’ve almost hit it with my car about 48 separate times. While I don’t think it’s something she will fully appreciate just yet (or ever, because, kids), both her and her brother seem to be enjoying the novelty of having something new in the living room. And future Mrs. AJR, you can thank me now for teaching him the merit in knowing how to cook. Even if his specialty is “cookie soup,” which is delicious by the way. Take that, gender norms!