Monday, March 31, 2014

Empty Closets: Chapter 2

I was lucky as a child to grow up with a perfect back yard. Our house sat on the front half-acre which was landscaped with large patches of lawn, beautiful shrubs and trees, rose gardens, trellised vines, lovely flowerbeds, and a rustic arbor. The back half-acre contained fruit trees, berry bushes, grape vines, a vegetable garden, and . . . my playhouse. When I was about 9 years old, my sweet Dad roped my reluctant but obedient brother into helping him build me a play house. They designed it together, poured a concrete slab, framed it, and built it with reclaimed brick and recycled doors and windows. Mom furnished the inside with child-size furniture that we already had or that she created from scratch. She sewed curtains and cushions, and we accessorized it together. It was magical.

Unfortunately, our much smaller yard doesn't give me the option of building a playhouse for our grandchildren. Fortunately, there are those empty closets. . . . 

One of our bedrooms has an almost room-sized closet, complete with its own window. I considered making it into a sewing room, but I opted, instead, for the less practical but so-much-more-fun option of turning it into an indoor play house. 

Actually, the closet wasn't completely empty. Two of the walls were lined with shelves piled with my fabric and craft materials. However, there was still so much empty floor and wall space, so I began by hanging white sheets from the closet rods to cover up the clutter. (I suspect some day the children will realize that there is something behind those fabric walls, and I will walk in and find massive mayhem.)

Obviously, you don't need an empty closet to make this kind of a play space. A designated corner of any room can be transformed into all kinds of magical places--think pirate ship, tree house, fortress, etc. 

Then came the fun part:

I saw this stove/sink set at Target and bought it when it went on sale. I have seen similar ones at Ikea, toy stores, and garage sales. (There are also creative ideas online for making your own. Here are two sites that I think are fun: or 

I love the red, white, and black and used it as my color scheme for the room. I found the "fridge" unfinished at a craft store, painted it white, added the handles, and drew a line across the front with a Sharpie to create the illusion of separate fridge and freezer doors. 

The fun is in the small stuff: 
The vacuum was a hand-me-down from my kind neighbor. (I wish it really worked; the children love to vacuum, and I could turn that chore over to them.)
I found the mixer and blender at Walgreens. (Elin's husband put colored puff balls in the blender so that the children can watch it work when they turn it on. Love it.)
The microwave and toaster are Salvation Army treasures.
Play food is in the bin under the oven.
Inexpensive pots and pans, utensils, and dishes are available all over the place. I have found them at resale shops, craft stores, garage sales, and in my own kitchen.

Elin had the fun idea of gluing a sheet of metal (Hobby Lobby) to the side of the fridge so that the children could have their own refrigerator magnets. The chalk board above the fridge is also a place that I can leave them messages.

The table and chairs were a very inexpensive, unfinished clearance find from JoAnn's that I painted with high gloss paint to match the sink counter top.

Mary Englebright-inspired fabrics were perfect for decorating--a valence for the window,

wall decorations,

and bedding. (My sister gave me a matching latch-hook rug kit that I will add when I finish it. Don't hold your breath.) In this corner, opposite the kitchen, the furniture includes a rocking chair that my sister made for the little mothers, a doll bed (Ikea), a wooden high chair (Tuesday Morning), and

this relic from that first play house.


  1. Do I recall Seth sleeping in that closet for a bit? You are THE. MOST. AMAZING! I can't wait to implement some of your ideas someday! <3

  2. That's the beauty of being the youngest siblings; Seth and I BOTH have had the pleasure of sleeping in mom's luxurious closets when the rest of the rooms were filled by our older and feebler siblings. While my fiance was sleeping on a heavenly bed at the Westin the night before we got married, I was snugly housed, Harry Potter style, in my mom's closet. Yep. Thank goodness for the dolls; maybe I'll get a bed next time we visit?