Ella's $5 Play Kitchen from a Nightstand

Let me tell you straight up: I don't know anything about woodworking. I'm not being modest here; this is 100% honesty. I don't know the different names of screw heads, I didn't know there were so many levels of sandpaper, and I've never used primer in my entire life.

Based on that knowledge, it's a miracle that I'm writing this as we speak.

I had already decided months ago that I really wanted to get a play kitchen for Ella's first birthday. Not just any play kitchen, mind you. If I was going to have a play kitchen for all to see, it was gonna be cute and small.

After scouring Pinterest for ideas and reluctantly realizing that Ikea Duktig play kitchens were way too expensive, I began to entertain the thought of making my own out of a thrifted piece of furniture.
Crazy, no?

Inspiration 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Oh, Pinterest. You never fail to convince us that anything is possible. But honestly, there are so many cute play kitchen makeovers for anyone scheming to do their own. I spent almost five hours trying to narrow down the essentials I wanted on Ella's kitchen that were cute, practical, and budget friendly.
Not-So-Pro Tip: In order to find your dream piece of furniture, it helps to sketch out a rough idea of your creative scruples for a play kitchen
The first day of searching for my dream nightstand, I parked outside the local Habitat for Humanity Restore and accidentally locked by keys in the car.
After blowing $40 for the five minutes it took the locksmith to unlock my car, I lost all interest in spending any more money for the day.

After a few months of not finding a nightstand I felt comfortable enough purchasing, I started to lose hope in this whole crazy idea. It was on my last hope trip to Goodwill when I saw it:

The most hideous nightstand in the history of nightstands for a whopping $5.
After circling back and forth throughout the store debating whether or not to buy it, Ella accidentally pulled the "claim me" tag off, so I took it as a sign.

When I got home, I was bummed to discover a decent amount of water damage (it was peeling on the left side) and the drawer bottom was warped out of shape.

It took me about four hours to take the entire nightstand apart because I had to pause to Google "different screw heads??????" and "how to unscrew an allen screw without a screwdriver."
I *also* spent a good thirty minutes digging through the tool bag and pretending I knew anything about what I found in there (shocker: I didn't.)
Inspirational Quote of the Day: Anything is possible with Google.
After measuring and labeling all my pieces, I revised my dream kitchen sketch and tried to keep it realistic with my meager skills/tools for the job.
(I have a list of all my supplies at the end of the post!)

Crazy enough, most of my supplies were second-hand or from the dollar store (minus the sandpaper and rather pricey paint from Walmart.) I'm pretty sure the lady at Dollar Tree thought I was insane when I brought my haul up to the check-out aisle (including goldfish for a really crabby 11-month-old.)

I had a lot of anxiety about cutting a hole for the sink, but Google has the answer for everything (especially when it comes to woodworking with tools you shouldn't be using for woodworking...) This circle took about two hours of Buzzfeed Video and Good Mythical Morning to complete. ;)
HOW TO CUT A CIRCLE WITH A PATHETIC HAND SAW: By hand or (preferably!) with a drill, insert a screw along your pre-traced sink guidelines. You'll be left with a teensy hole that you can enlarge by moving the tip of the handsaw side to side for a good fifteen minutes. 
Aidan would be so proud of my really efficient arm workout. Not so proud about the sawing in the living room deal, though.

My favorite part of this project was the marble contact paper I found at Walmart for $5! The moment I put it on the "counter top", I felt so much better about the disaster I had got myself into. I think this is the secret for making the play kitchen way more chic than it actually is.

Not pictured are the two days I sanded everything *BY HAND* and primed and painted while running one season of Bones in the background.

Since screwing screws by hand is an overrated waste of time, I used super glue for everything and my husband's muscles for breaking off things. I also almost blew up our house in a moment of really bad judgement. How, you ask? I spray painted the stove knobs in our basement RIGHT NEXT TO THE FURNACE. Thank heavens that God is gracious, that I'm too frugal to keep the heat on 24/7, and that our basement was well ventilated once I opened all the storm windows (and inadvertently let a mouse in. *sigh*) Much to my chagrin, I'm letting everyone know that it is NEVER a good idea to spray paint in a basement. Okay?

Finally, after a week of hating my super messy house:

Oh, glorious was the day when I finally put it all together and saw my dinky little sketch come to life. I DID IT!
AND THE COLORS?!?! *swoons*

It's definitely not flawless, but I love it more than any plastic play kitchen that's out there and I almost started crying when I saw how thrilled Ella was as she scooted around inspecting it and taking apart the sink.

Now for the details:

The oven door is actually an old picture frame that I had sitting around which miraculously measured the exact size I needed. I added some plexiglass from a dollar tree picture frame - but it tragically became the victim of a freak super glue disaster, so the oven door is currently frame-less. I spray painted the old drawer pull gold, and moved it on the oven door for a handle.
(Extra points for installing a magnetic clasp to hold the door upright!)

The blue contact paper was leftover from when I redid our kitchen fridge.

I didn't divide the oven because 1) sawing by hand is the absolute worst and 2) I didn't have wood on hand and 3) I'm not brave enough to buy lumber from scary guys at hardware stores. Instead, I spray painted a spice rack and Ella will have to make due with an open oven. ;)

Let's talk about the stove top! I ran out of ideas (and $$) to create a bigger stove, so I spray painted the back of my picture frame and added some chalkboard circles for the burners. Since the kitchen is already a little small, the tiny stove top allows extra room for whatever else Ella throws on top of there.

The sink is a dog bowl, an over-the-door hook for the faucet, and two drawer knobs I found at the Restore for the faucet handles. Aidan saved the day by breaking off one of the two metal hooks on the "faucet" with his brute strength. ^_^

I kept the drawer functional to hide extra kitchen tools. The oven knobs were from extra dresser pulls that we had lying around. Spray painted gold, of course!

Chalkboard - $1
Mirror - $1
Spice Rack - $1
Door Hook - $1
Dog Bowl - $1
2 Hinges - $.20
2 Dresser Pulls - $.50
Chalkboard Circles - $.99
Measuring Spoon Rack - $.50
Nightstand - $5
Rust-Oleum Metallic Spray Paint - $3.96
Rust-Oleum Clear Gloss - $3.96
Duct Tape Marble Contact Paper - $4.97
Waverly Chalkboard Paint - $5.97
Magnet Catch - $.97
Grand Total of $32.02!

And there we have it - another Pinterest win for the books. I am definitely never doing this again (or allowing myself to touch another bottle of super glue ever) but it was worth it in the end and it turned out super cute! Ella likes to tinker around with it a bit, but she's more into unplugging computer cords and tearing apart the actual real-deal kitchen, rather than playing with toys.

Moral of the story: anything is possible with Google, a few weeks, and a whole lotta of binge watching your favorite TV show for company.



  1. DUDE

    this is the best thing on the planet. omw. SO CUUUUTE. good job!!

    1. Shucks. I don't know about that, but I'm flattered. ;)

  2. Replies
    1. All thanks to Pinterest, because without it I wouldn't have a brain. :P

  3. It is so adorable! I love it about as much as I love reading your blog!

  4. wow that is super cute!! I'm soooooo making one when I have kids:)

    1. I would SOOOO recommend having somebody along who knows how to use tools (to save some unnecessary heartache! lol)

  5. This is the CUTEST play kitchen ever! And functional too -- keeping the drawer in for storage was brilliant. So much nicer than those plastic play kitchens.

    1. Ella and E will have so much fun tinkering around on this together! *my heart*

  6. This is AMAZING!!! I LOVE it! I want one! How much? Lol

  7. Man, can I just say I LOVE PINTEREST.
    Like, this is the cutest thing ever AND ELLA IS ONE LUCKY BABY GIRL. Oh, and the rose/gold....ON POINT.

    ♥ Emma Joy

  8. I'm in awe again.

    What I love most about this is the time you spent making it for Ella. When she's older she will look back and realize how special this really is. ❤️

  9. I just found your blog and I adore it!! :D
    Greetings from Australia!


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Maira Gall