DIY Art Activity Center

The Art Activity Center. Which is about 75% finished.

Okay so this is one of my projects that J gets the most use out of!  It’s also one that isn’t quite finished yet, haha.  We just refer to it as our “Art Activity Center” for lack of a better term.

I saw this on Pinterest a long time ago and fell in love.

Pottery Barn Kids Schoolhouse Utility System

I mean, how cool is that??  My plan was to hang it on the wall in whatever room all of my craft stuff is, then J and I can work on “projects” at the same time!  Brilliant!

As you can imagine, they’re crazy expensive since they’re sold by Pottery Barn.  After searching around I found some good DIY posts on making your own (see here and here).  However, once I showed my finds to Hubby he told me absolutely not.  Something about in order to hang something that heavy it’d need to be anchored to the wall and that creates holes and we move a lot and always rent and yada yada yada.  At that point I tuned him out.  He suggested one of the easels you normally see–a whiteboard or paper on one side and chalkboard on the other; like this.  But I wanted three things so that wasn’t going to work.  I just like to be difficult.

So, we brainstormed together and came up with an idea that wouldn’t have to be anchored to the wall.  There are definitely some advantages to this system.  As I mentioned, we move.  A lot.  So having something that doesn’t need to be hung on the wall means:

a. No holes (that loud cheering you hear is Hubby celebrating one less hole to fill in)

b. It takes up a lot less space.  So regardless of what house we’re in or the setup of the rooms we can always find a home for it.  Having an art station hung on the wall means not only losing wall space, but also a big empty spot right in front of it so the kids can actually use them.  Plus you also need a home for all of the supplies that go with it.  Like now that I’m looking at the Pottery Barn picture, where is the kid standing to use this stuff?  On top of the shelving?  That doesn’t exactly seem safe.  Not to mention all the climbing up and down the kid is going to have to do–with paint covered hands!!  I mean, how is he getting to the bathroom to clean himself off without touching anything??

c. It’s portable.  In our last house we had it in my craft room originally and she never used it.  When we visited my in-laws house for Christmas that year they had an easel and she used it constantly during the 3 days we were there.  So after we got back to our house we moved it down to the living room and low and behold she was on it all the time.  So if we had hung it on the wall up there like I wanted to it would’ve been a lot more difficult to move to a new space, both because of the holes (gasp!) and finding enough space.  So Hubby was right.  Man I hate saying that!

So this is what we came up with.  And by “we”, I mean I told Hubby that I wanted something with paper, something with a chalkboard and something for felt.  Go.  He’s such a good sport.  He built a box that has a side for each of my requests.  Then I painted each one a different shade of blue with the paint we had leftover from my daughter’s bedroom suit.

This is the paper side (obviously).


We bought the paper roll from IKEA and it fits perfectly.  Although I read somewhere that newspapers often have leftover rolls of paper that they’ll give you for free.  Of course I still haven’t gotten around to calling our local paper to see if that’s true.  Oh well, it’s not like the IKEA paper is all that expensive and there’s a ton on a roll.

The white tube that holds the roll is removable so it’s simple to slide the paper off and on.The paper then slides under the top piece, over the wood backing and under the bottom piece.  The Hubby made it so the bottom piece of wood detaches on just one side to make it easier to slide the paper down.

Art-Activity-Center-Paper2 Art-Activity-Center-Paper3

And then when she’s finished with one masterpiece I simply have to slide the paper down and tear it off of the bottom edge, which is nice because it’s a clean, easy rip.  And voila!  Masterpiece complete!  She mostly uses markers but will occasionally pull out the paint.

Next is the chalkboard.


This one is my favorite because it’s both a chalkboard and magnet board.  Not that she’s ever actually put magnets on it (I don’t think I ever even told her it works that way as well, haha) but the option is there!  For this side Hubby mounted a galvanized metal sheet from Lowes (like this) and then built the sides around it.  Then I logged onto my favorite website, Amazon, and purchased some Chalkboard Paint by Rust-Oleum.  I painted several coats right onto the sheet.  I followed the advice from some of the reviewers and had absolutely no problem with the paint.  I also bought the Melissa & Doug Eraser and Chalk Bundle and she was ready to draw!  We’ve owned this for about 2 years now and as you can see it works great!

This side is the one that isn’t finished yet.


Eventually I’m going to tack up a large piece of felt and then make a bunch of felt pieces so she’ll have a felt board.  Wow I said “felt” a lot of times in that sentence.  Anyway, that idea moved to the back burner when I discovered Quiet Books and became addicted to making pages for them.  But I really want to do this one soon!!  She loves all of the princess stories and we spend a good chunk of our day reenacting them, so I think it’d be neat to make a castle and have a different set for each princess story.  Now I just need to set aside the hours upon hours it’ll take me to do that…

And here’s the final side.


As you can see, it’s open.  Originally I wanted to have a shelf or two built inside because it’d be an easy place to store all of the materials needed for the different sides.  I was worried that it was going to turn into a disaster area on top, and I was correct.  Look at that mess!!!  Drives me batty.


But I got vetoed on that idea (“That will make it too heavy. Blah blah blah.”).  So this is the side that is up against the wall and you can’t see it anyway.  I told him to leave it open like this that way I can do absolutely anything with it if an idea ever strikes.  Which it may have now that I’m just sitting here staring at it…  Maybe I could screw some hooks inside and hang up all of the little buckets there?  And maybe on one side Hubby could build a shelf that’s just wide enough to hold the paint containers?  Hmm, I’m going to talk to him about that tonight.  Stay tuned for a possible future post!

Aesthetically I still like the Pottery Barn ones ten times better.  They’re just so cute!  But the one Hubby built definitely has its advantages.  She loves it, and at the end of the day that’s all that really matters.  That and we don’t have any excess holes in the wall 😉

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