Step Seven: A Brand New Desk

I had a really difficult time figuring out what to get J for Christmas this year.  Last year with did a kitchen theme:  Hubby made a DIY kitchen and I painted it (you can see it here) and then went crazy buying food, pots, pans, etc.  At the time she wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about it, but she’s gotten a ton of use out of it the last year.  Although I do admit that she would’ve gotten even more use out of it if she’d received it the year before instead.  But that’s okay…she uses it and that’s all that matters!

But this year I was at a complete loss.  She has a bike and a scooter.  She was obsessed with Barbies last year, but hasn’t played with them much the past few months.  I’m really strict on TV so there wasn’t even a question about giving her something like that for her room.  She rarely plays with her LeapPad.  Even dress up clothes have been on a decline since she started school.  For all of November I fretted about what to do.  Although I could just give her a bunch of random small things, that’s not how I like to do Christmas.  I’d rather do one big present and get small presents that tie back to the big present, with maybe a random extra thing or two.

I finally decided on a desk.  Arts and crafts are really the only thing that she’s consistently been doing since starting school.  And although we have our Art Activity Center and she has a craft table and a whole bunch of craft supplies downstairs, C is also starting to really get into it.  And by that I mean eating markers, crayons, chalk, paint…basically anything he can get his hands on.  As a result her stuff is ruined.  So I figured we could get her a desk to go in her room that can be used for arts and crafts now and then homework in the future.  I could get her a whole bunch of new supplies which would be kept in her room, away from wandering hands (and mouth).  I knew it wasn’t something she was going to be really excited about upon receiving, but, like the kitchen, she would love it in the long run.

After discussing it with Hubby, we decided he would make it.  Then J and I could paint it together during Christmas break.  I searched and searched on Pinterest, finally deciding this one was the one I liked the best.  No drawers, which I think only leads to clutter.  Not too big, not too small.  The one thing I didn’t like about it was the storage on each side.  Although great for holding books (so it’ll work well in the future), the art supply problem was going to be a bit harder to solve.  So Hubby designed one himself instead.  The left side is just the two legs holding it up and the right side has a small bookcase attached underneath with three shelves.  Which will be great for holding anything and everything!

We headed to the DC Ikea to get a chair for the desk.  While there I picked up two packs of these storage containers for her art supplies.  I also ended up getting two bigger ones from Dollar Tree.  Over the next month I bought her new markers (regular, skinny and stamping), paints and paint brushes, puffy paints, crayons (regular, metallic and glitter), glue, wasabi tape (which I found a terrific deal here on Amazon!), glitter pens, construction paper, a sketch book, a Melissa and Doug scratch pad (which was her favorite), a giant coloring book and a 12 pack of craft scissors.  I actually ended up getting a bunch of the supplies from IKEA…seriously, I love that place.

I made labels for each of the containers but they didn’t stay on very well for some reason…  diy-desk-14That’s alright, I already know there’s no way she’s going to put everything back where it’s supposed to go anyway.  And then my OCD will kick in and once a week I’ll have to go in and re-sort everything.

In the meantime Hubby got to work on the desk.  She saw it at each stage, but never really seemed to be interested in it.  No surprise there.  He finished it right before Christmas, which was perfect timing.  We stuck a bow on it and left it in the garage for her to find the next day. diy-desk-11Unsurprisingly she didn’t really understand what it was for.  At least this time we expected this reaction (unlike with the kitchen) and were well prepared for it.  I just told her that once we painted it and got it up in her room she’d get it.  She loved all of the new art supplies at least!

The next day we started painting.  First, the primer. diy-desk-12Needless to say this step didn’t really entertain her much.  She did stick with it for quite awhile before abandoning me to finish it and go in the house to play.  I can’t blame the kid…I find painting therapeutic, but even I get sick of it by the end.

Then we discussed what exactly we were going to do with it.  I figured we’d paint the majority of it one color and then do something different to the top.  I had pinned a few ideas I thought she might like:  this one, this one and this one.  She wasn’t too enthusiastic about any of them, however.  She suggested circles, which somehow led to us talking about a huge rainbow.  Then she said she could add clouds and a sun and rain, and I suggested we do a big scene:  she could make a house with the family in front and do whatever she wanted in the sky.  She loved that idea!  And so did I!  Then every year or two we can just swipe a new layer of paint on the top and she can make a whole new mural.  That kid is absolutely brilliant.

We headed to Walmart to pick out a color for the rest of the desk.  Originally she wanted to do one of the metallic colors that Disney makes.  Turned out that they can’t do those at the Walmart we were at (um, so then why do you have a giant display promoting the colors then??) so she had to pick something else.  I was braced for a fit, but she actually didn’t seem to care.  She must not have been completely sold on it then…that’s the only explanation I can come up with!  Instead she choose “Sully’s Fur”, which was a light teal.  I thought it was an excellent choice.

Originally I was only going to buy a sample size of whatever color she decided on since that would be plenty to paint her desk.  But since she’s getting a brand new room (C will take over all of her furniture) when we move to Kansas in 6 months I figured I’d get a pint instead so we can paint her dresser, bed and (fingers crossed on this one…) new dress-up closet to match.  I’m so smart.

After priming I got to work taping everything off.  I decided we’d do all of the desk teal except the top and the 3 sides of the bookshelves.  We left the top with just the white primer and I painted each of the shelves (minus the bottom) white.  diy-desk-9diy-desk-7diy-desk-8She helped some with the first coat of teal.  Then I did the second coat of teal and both coats of white all on my own.

Then we were ready for our mural!  I started off by tearing off a sheet of our roll paper the size of the desk and had her draw exactly what she wanted it to look like.  That way there wouldn’t be any issues later.  She decided she wanted to go with a snow scene.  I drew a wavy line on the bottom and we painted that white and then the sky blue. diy-desk-1I have a ton of glitter acrylic paint so I asked if she wanted to make it sparkly.  The answer was obviously “YES!!!!!!!!!!“.  We used sparkly blue for the sky and sparkly silver on the snow.  I do have to admit it looked really cool, especially on the diy-desk-3Then I held up her drawing while she copied it onto the desk with a pencil.    diy-desk-5Then she stood there and told me what color paint she wanted everything while I did the actual painting.  I could tell she was disappointed that she couldn’t paint it herself, but I knew if she did it was going to turn out disastrous.  I tried to explain to her that it’s really hard to paint something like this, but she didn’t really understand.  Until I let her decorate the dresses and make the crowns herself.  She wasn’t happy with the way a lot of them turned out and had me go back and fix them.  After that I think she understood.

Our work in progress!diy-desk-4And the final product!  How could I not love it…snowy, sunny, rainy, rainbow all at once with us in fancy clothing, crowns and wands while Santa drops off presents.  Does that scream 5 year old imagination or what?!
diy-desk-6Hubby sprayed it down with the same acrylic sealer we used on the Stepping Stones.  After we let it dry for a looong time (seriously that stuff is potent!) he carried it up to her room.  “She” (aka I) organized all of the art supplies on there, and that’s it!  diy-desk-13My friend Amanda got her some paint-your-own Elsa and Anna ceramic figurines for Christmas so that was her very first project on the desk. It’s been in her room for about a week now and she’s gotten plenty of use out of it, so I’m very happy with our decision to do a desk.  Might not be the most glamorous gift, but it’s definitely going to be used.


The Completely UN-Originial DIY Kitchen

We already had a little plastic kitchen that J used all the time.


It’s actually a hand-me-down from my younger brothers.  My stepmother gave it to us about 3 years ago.  Free is always good.  Especially when it’s a kitchen that I despise.  When we received it all of the knobs and handles were pulled off, the spigot was missing and the burners didn’t turn on.  Don’t get me wrong, it definitely did its job for the last 2 1/2 years…but it was time for a new one.  Being the Pinterest-lover that I am I knew I wanted a cute little DIY job.  Hubby was horrified thrilled.

First I found a cart.  $15 from a local thrift shop, minus 20% military discount.  Sold!diy-kitchen-before

Then I made my must-have wishlist.

  1. Drop leaf on one side.  Since the cart was so small and most of the space would be taken up by the sink and stovetop, I wanted somewhere that “prep” work could be done.
  2. A drop down oven door with a plexiglass window.
  3. Hooks on the side to hang pots and pans
  4. Hooks on the front cabinet for potholders/apron/towel
  5. A hole for the “sink” (aka a bowl that could be removed)

Hubby was even more horrified thrilled after I showed him my list and told him to get cracking!  First he made the oven door.  I have absolutely no details on this, minus it drops down and has plexiglass like I wanted.  I do wish that he would’ve put a bar on it instead of a knob, but I didn’t see what he did until it was already on.  And even I know better than to ask him to change something (or complain about the way he did it) once it’s on there.  Don’t want to push my luck…diy-kitchen-ovenAs much as he complains when I give him projects, I think he secretly likes working on them.  Like he’s the one that suggested we use a real sink and found one at Lowes for $10.  He installed that next and drilled a hole for the sink.  diy-kitchen-sink-holeI had an extra plastic bowl that I never use that would work for the sink.  I would’ve preferred a silver one but couldn’t find anything I liked at the thrift store and wasn’t going to spend more than $1 on something like that if I had a fine one at home already!diy-kitchen-sinkdiy-kitchen-sink-under

Hubby made the drop-leaf next.  I don’t have any in-progress pictures for that.  You’ll see it down below once it’s all done.  I don’t have the slightest clue how he made it…I just know that it was a huge pain in the ass to figure out.  We’re still married, so it’s okay.  I think it was close for awhile there…

The next step was to sand it all down to prepare for I primed everything.  I had learned while making J’s dress up closet how important it is to prime laminate.  We were putting a ton of work into this and the last thing I wanted it to do was chip.  My original plan was to make it red and white for two reasons:  1. I had a ton of red paint leftover from previous projects and 2. that’s the color of my kitchen so I figured that would go nicely together.

Except once I started painting it I really didn’t like the shade of red.  It was way too bright.
diy-kitchen-primedSo I re-primed those parts and started again.  I decided on a nice dark blue found a metallic acrylic paint at Michael’s for a couple of bucks and used that on the oven door.  I had to put about 10 coats of paint on it, but I like the finished painted the inside of the oven door and oven black.  Hubby hammered a set of nails in there so I could put two cookie cooling racks inside as the painted a large rectangle for the stovetop and then glued black Folgers plastic coffee lids on as the burners.  Hubby screwed more cabinet knobs for the controls.  They actually turn, which is a nice touch.  (He messed one of them up which is why it has that lovely red ring around it.)diy-kitchen-finished-stovetopI wanted something different for inside of the cabinet.  Turns out that when I purchased contact paper to line the drawers and shelves a few years back I had bought a marble-looking one.  Perfect!!!  I lined the bottoms of both the inside and open cabinet

diy-kitchen-finished-sink-holeThis microwave is probably my favorite part.  I found it a thrift shop for $3!  Not only does the lazy susan spin, but the buttons set the “timer” for different amounts of time, from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.  When time is up, it beeps to let you know it’s ready!diy-kitchen-finished-microwaveThen here’s the drop-leaf in to provide ample room for cutting/chopping/preppingdiy-kitchen-finished-topThen folded down for easy storage.There are also hooks on the side to hang all of her pots and pans,diy-kitchen-pot-rackdiy-kitchen-finished-drop-leaf-downand on the front and drop leaf for an apron, pot holders and that’s it!  The finished product!
diy-kitchen-finishedWe were a bit worried about how it was going to go over Christmas morning.  Although the cost was minimal, Hubby and I spent A LOT of time and effort on the kitchen.  I was afraid she was going to open it and say “But I already have a kitchen!”.  Fortunately that isn’t what happened at all.
j-diy-kitchen-2After we were finished opening everything up she said that playing with her new kitchen “was going to be our family activity every single night”, which made us feel really good.
j-diy-kitchenOf course it was overshadowed a week later when my family arrived with a brand new Barbie Dream House in tow, but that’s okay.  She loved it at the time and still uses it.  Not as much as we were hoping for, but I think that’s because she’s out of her prime playing-pretend-kitchen phase.  We should’ve been a bit more motivated and cranked this out a Christmas or two ago.  Fortunately we have a few more kids planned in the future so that thing should be very well loved.