DIY Updating Boring Furniture

Having a baby can be a daunting experience. Apart from the realization that you are now in charge of keeping a human alive, you soon come to realize that although they are tiny, they are expensive and they require a lot of things.

In an effort to be thrifty, my husband and I decided to use an old cube shelf he had from when he lived with his parents. His parents still had it in their home and they had no use for it, so they were more than happy to pass it on to us.

The cube shelf was white and made out of wood laminate, which meant it most likely would not be ideal to paint. I wanted to personalize my son’s space, so I decided to use black contact paper and create a checkered pattern over the front facade of the shelf.

I measured the widths of the borders and then cut out little cubes out of contact paper that would fit perfectly. Once I had all of the little cubes cut out, I simply began attaching them to the cube shelf as neatly as I could without being too perfect about it. Although it was time consuming, it was worth it. The cube shelf ended up looking exactly how I wanted it to.

I think this could be done with just about any furniture piece and in any color you wish (there are numerous options when it comes to contact paper).

I then cut out characters from scraps of Halloween fabric I had lying around and I glued them onto the cubes, with fabric glue.

Then I added all his things and ended up with a piece of furniture that functions as his dresser, bookshelf, storage unit, and decorative piece. I absolutely love it.

Have you modified any old pieces of furniture? Share your projects.

DIY – Cardboard (Haunted) House

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Imagining WorldsAs a child, I loved pretend play. I loved imagining myself traveling to fantastical worlds that existed in my imagination or in the books I read and movies I saw. There was nothing more magical than having a large cardboard box and turning it into my retreat, where I could conjure up more fantasies. I decided I would share my love of cardboard houses with my son, but adding my own twist to it of course.

Inspiration:

I started by looking up real houses I like and I decided I wanted the house to have a Victorian feel and I wanted it to be a haunted house, of course. After that, I just bought several boxes in different sizes and experimented with different heights and different ways of composing the roofs. I didn’t follow any tutorials, I just worked with the boxes and folded them in different ways to get the look I wanted.

Materials Used for Construction:

I purchased Duck Heavy Duty boxes, because I wanted cardboard that would be thick and would keep the house stable for a long time. Especially for a rambunctious one year old. Originally, I was only going to make the house with two main boxes connected to each other, but then I decided that would be much too small a play area, so in the end I bought 4 (18 in x 18 in x 24 in) boxes, 4 (16 in x 16 in x 15 in) boxes, and 2 (12 in x 12 in x 10.5 in) boxes.

I also used Makedo Construction Tools, Duct tape and natural bamboo stakes.

The Process:

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I first began by forming the bigger boxes. I only taped one of the top sides down and left the other side open (to give the house more height). As you can see in the picture (the top part of the box is taped down and the bottom part is left open and taped on the edges where the box is cut so that it can easily fold. I cut a big hole in the center part to allow access to the other side of the house.

At this point, I also decided where I wanted windows and doors and what they would look like. I drew the window and door shapes on the boxes and then used an old knife and cut out the shapes (I found it to be much easier than using scissors and my x-acto knife was nowhere to be found). For the doors and windows that open and close, I left a side uncut to keep the piece of cardboard attached to the box.

Once I had cut out all the windows and doors, I then attached the boxes together. First I attached the base and then the roofs. As I mentioned previously, I originally intended the house to be only two boxes wide (as shown in the bottom pictures). Originally I was using shipping tape, but soon decided that wouldn’t hold up over time.

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After seeing how small and impractical it would be for a growing toddler, I decided I needed to add an additional two boxes to the width. So I purchased more boxes and cut out the doors and windows for those new boxes (the total boxes used, is listed above). I composed the roofs and attached everything with duct tape and Makedo Cardboard Construction Scru’s (I highly recommend those screws, they are magic). I also taped on Natural bamboo stakes to the inside of the boxes (height-wise) to make the house sturdier.

I added a smaller box to one of the main base boxes, then a roof on top of that smaller box (as shown in the image on the left). I wanted the highest part to have big open windows so that I could add lights on the inside and have it be a central feature.

At this point, I decided that I needed to make the ceilings higher, so I cut out the top parts of the boxes so that the roofs would be the tallest part of the house. Each of the four sections is different in height, because the house has different heights at each of the four corners (which was done intentionally to give it more shape and dimension).

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I also wanted to add a secret escape route (it’s very similar to a doggy door). My son loves crawling in and out through that escape route. The escape door is shown in the picture on the right (it’s right below the diamond-shaped window).

I also decided I wanted to add a little art desk on the inside, but I wanted it to fold away so that my son could have more space when he wasn’t using his art desk. To make the art desk, I simply cut a piece of cardboard. It was about 12 inches by 12 inches. I folded it on one side by about 2 inches (leaving the desk to be 10 inches by 12 inches), so I could attach those 2 inches of the cardboard to the house and have the desk be able to fold away.

To make the desk sturdier, I taped a plastic cutting board to the bottom part so that the cardboard wouldn’t bend down. I also added a little shipping cardboard box below the desk, and covered it in duct tape, so that it would keep it in place when unfolded and so he could store his coloring books and crayons in there. Below is a picture of my son, sitting at his desk. This was before I removed that center piece of the house (the piece of cardboard behind him) to give him more room to move around in the house. The long strips of duct tape have the bamboo sticks underneath.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 2.01.33 PM

Once I had the base of the house down, I proceeded to paint. I used cheap acrylic paint and did not try very hard to make the application look polished.

Final Details:

 

I also added doorknobs to the doors and windows. I attached the doorknobs with super sticky mounting tape (usually used to hang picture frames).

I also cut the bamboo sticks in half and then quickly cut up some Halloween fabric I had lying around, and I wrapped it around the bamboo stick (I could have sown it, but instead I decided to put a safety pin to attach them, which made the process really fast). I then taped the bamboo sticks over the windows and tied a piece of string to the curtains to have them stay open.

The great thing about the Halloween theme is that it could have some rough edges, and it doesn’t matter. It actually helps it look creepier.

I added some fairy lights and some pumpkin halloween lights to the top roof part that has a lot of open windows and I also added a fabric ghost, which i found last minute and was perfect for this project. The crow at the front is an (originally) unpainted wooden crow I bought at Joann’s last year. I just painted it and then used double sided tape to attach it to the house.

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The interior is definitely not as polished as the outside, but that’s okay. I can always touch it up with more paint or carve out the inside box pieces a bit more to make the edges smoother, if I wanted to do so. But honestly, I doubt that will be the case. I like it in it’s current state.

Below you can see the desk after it’s been painted (stored away, then out for him to use). To keep it folded, I used a super simple method, I simply taped a hair tie to the actual desk table and used one of the screws to tie the hair tie around it. I did not screw in that screw completely and I also left it unpainted so he could easily see it.

The remote over the desk is for the fairy lights (they are battery operated). And the little coffin next to the window is just a little box where he can add little keepsakes. I painted that and added little Halloween foam stickers.

Once I finished the house, I decided to add a little box next to the desk for easy access to his crayons (they would get all scattered in the box below the desk and get lost between his coloring books). I also added a little shelf over that window to put a little monkey lamp over that. And finally, I added a Victorian looking mirror I bought at target for $3 to one of the doors.

I ended up spending about 3 weekends working on the project. It did not take too long and my son absolutely loves it. He has his legos, coloring books, and dolls in there and he goes in there to play all the time. I love hearing and seeing him in there. And I think as he grows a bit older and starts wanting more alone time, he will use it even more.

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I highly recommend anyone interested in making a cardboard house, to make one. You don’t have to paint it, add curtains, or door knobs. Your kids will appreciate even a large box they can crawl into. If you do decide to make one, please share. What was your theme? What creative additions did you add to make it unique?

DIY Busy Board

When I had my son, Sebastián, over a-year-and-a-half ago now, like many parents, I decided I wanted him to have toys that would stimulate him intellectually. I wanted toys that were imaginative and ideal for a curious baby. While doing research, I stumbled upon these wonderfully inventive toys known as busy boards.

There were quite a few busy boards being sold. Some with zippers or locks, others with different textiles for little chubby hands to touch, all with the intent of helping kids work on their fine motor skills. They looked absolutely amazing. I had to get my hands on one of them, that is, until I saw the price tag for the ones I loved – they were over $100. I couldn’t see myself spending that kind of money on something I could make myself, and make in the style that I like, with personalized messages and images for my son.

I was so excited to get started on the project. I began by doing research and looking at other busy boards out there in the market, as well as DIY projects other parents and grandparents had made for their little ones. I wrote down ideas of things I liked and wanted to implement into the busy board for my son. I knew I wanted a lot of little doors and different types of locks.

The next step was to think of a theme and color scheme. Right away I knew it had to be Halloween themed. I can’t help myself. 🙂 I decided the main colors I would go with were grey, black, white and red.

I then started looking online to find the items I would use for the busy board and started visiting dollar stores and home improvement stores. The bulk of the items I used were purchased on Amazon and Home Depot (I discovered my love of home improvement stores while working on this project).

I arranged everything on the board, to make sure it would all fit. Once I saw where I would be placing everything, I began by attaching the two wooden cutting boards I bought to use as my base (they are heavy and very sturdy). I attached them by using door hinges. Then I painted everything that needed to be painted (the base, the little doors and windows, and the coffin).

After painting everything, I then started drilling things into place or using command strips to attach them. I also drilled the holes for the light apparatus, and for the phone. Below is a picture of how I thought I was going to originally arrange things after painting everything.

As I went along, I changed my mind a bit, about where I wanted things. It took a really long time to drill the holes for the light and for the phone (our drill is really old, so the battery would die every 10 minutes or so).

Below is the final result with the light off. The light switch on the right side actually controls the light, I found a wall/switch light control remote with an outlet receiver on Amazon (before working on this project, I had no clue these awesome inventions existed).

Item details:

For the right side I added a metal W (for his hyphenated last name – I chose not to use the initials for his first name in case we have more kids, I wanted them to be able to use it and not feel like it was only Sebastián’s busy board). I also added a regular light switch that does not have any lights attached to it (I figured he would enjoy clicking it off and on) a call bell, and some metal keys that are attached to a retractable key chain.

Below that I included a door stop, a door knocker, a little wood piece that is painted to look like a window and it is attached with a door hinge (it has a drawer handle and a dial combination lock). On the window I added the secret code with stickers, so he can try and open the lock himself once he gets older. For now, it is kept unlocked.

Below that row, there is an old fashioned phone and phone dial. The phone is held up by a drawer handle and there is a hole cut out in the bottom. The dial is inside a hole I drilled. Next to the phone there are two wooden pieces painted to look like a door. They have two little door knobs, a barrel bolt lock, and a gate hook and eye lock. There is also a magnifying glass. The magnifying glass used to be attached to a retractable key chain, but my son ended up removing it, so I attached it to a long retractable string instead.

On the right side of the busy board I included another wooden door, that’s painted to look like a window. It has a mini door knob and a chain door lock. It is attached with a hinge. There is also a glass jar with fairy lights inside (I drilled a hole behind the jar so I could pull out the plug and connect the lights to the outlet receiver. I also made sure the lights were safe and not the type that become hot). There is also a metal D for the second part of his hyphenated last name.

In the second row there is the wireless light switch receiver, a little coffin that opens, and another window that is attached with a hinge. The little window has a dresser handle and a key lock.

The final row has a wireless stick-on tap light. Next to that is the key for the lock with a retractable key holder. There are two little doors attached with door hinges (they have door knobs and a gate hook and eye lock). Lastly, there is a cheap calculator.

Details inside the doors/windows:

Under the doors I added images. Inside the middle door on the right side that says “Unlock Me. Use the Key”, I added an image of kids trick or treating with letters that say “Candy!”. The little key that unlocks it also says key on the retractable key chain.

The coffin opens up and reveals a skeleton and a ghost.

Below the coffin, the two little doors that say “Tick Tock” show a pretend clock. I used washi tape as the base, then I attached stickers with numbers. It used to have the clock hands, but my son removed them, those need to be reattached and made to be sturdier so he can use it when he starts learning about time.

The door on the top right that says “Open Sesame” opens up to a surreal house with a bridge and hot air balloon. Above that it says “Dream Home.”

On the left side, inside the bottom door that says “Open if You Dare”, there is a plastic mirror and written over it, it says BOO. On the inside of the doors it also says, “Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall.”

The top door that has the secret code for the dial combination lock hides a secret forest with the words “Don’t go into the woods.”

When he removes the phone, it says, “Boo!” below the receiver.

Below where the magnet stands I wrote my son a secret message, it says “I love you. (Heart symbol) Mom”.

Here are some pictures of my son playing with his busy board from when he was only 8 months to 21 months (the age he is now). I think he enjoys playing with it more now, especially since he has figured out how to open some of the doors and windows.

Below is another busy board that I worked on for my nephews. This was before I attached the pieces and added a lot of colorful stickers, plus a fanny pack to hold the magnets, and some images that I placed below the doors. I didn’t take the final pictures, so unfortunately I don’t have the final product to show.

All in all, it was pretty pricey to make the busy board (the cutting boards were the most expensive, especially because I used two of them for my son’s busy board. However, he loves playing with his personalized busy board and I know any future kids we have will also enjoy using it. There is nothing more gratifying than making something that my son loves playing with and that is educational too. 🙂