Monday, January 16, 2012

Creating an Inexpensive Playroom

(**Here is the tutorial for Hanging Train Tracks on the Wall. )

As I’ve said before in previous posts, my Grandma lived with us for nearly three years. She recently moved elsewhere, which meant that we had an extra room upstairs. This is the room we lived in while she was with us. (Hence the paint color – something that we don’t feel like changing right now.)

We had two choices: create a guest room (with the furniture we already had), or sell said furniture (and giant king size bed) and create a playroom for the little guys upstairs.

We went with the second option. Who really NEEDS a guest room that gets used once or twice a year? Not us.
Our only problem?

We had ZERO playroom furniture. No entertainment center. No bookcase. No wall hangings. Nothing.
So, we budgeted a very small amount of money towards creating a playroom out of nothing.

And, here is what we came up with:

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I’m in LOVE with this cute little room. We had several problems to solve along the way. First problem: Where to put the giant TV (this is an old school TV … that weighs 250 lbs. Not exaggerating or making a joke – it really weighs that much!). We decided it would take up the least amount of room if it was in the corner of the room.

So, I brain stormed and told Superman my idea for a corner-double-shelf-slash-built-in-thingy. I drew out a simple sketch of what I was talking about and he said, “You go get the materials and I’ll build it.” Superman HATES going to Home Depot. Isn’t that hysterical?! I think so.

Anyway, I went to Home Depot and figured out that I could buy one sheet of MDF (they come 4’x8’) and cut that in half … and then cut both halves into half again, but diagonally, and that would give me the 4 perfect sized pieces that I needed for the top and bottom of each shelf. Then, I grabbed 3 pre-cut shelves (the kind they install in your laundry room and pantry – also made of MDF), and that would be enough for the sides and center support. Total price? $13 for the sheet of MDF and $27 for the shelves, so $40 for the pseudo entertainment center … plus a couple cans of white enamel spray paint (Rustoleum, of course ;). Superman knocked that out in one afternoon. (He drilled big 2” holes in the back of the top shelf so that the cords to the DVD and Xbox could hang down behind the TV, instead of hanging all over in front.)
The best part about this corner shelf idea: ALL THE ROOM TO STORE STUFFED ANIMALS! Seriously. By far, my most favorite part. My kids LOVE stuffed animals. It’s always baffled me. I have zero use, need, or value for stuffed animals, so it takes everything in me to not chuck all of them in the Salvation Army bucket.

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(There was a trick to setting them all up, and I’m short, so this isn’t the best view, but I put a couple old boxes in the back, covered those up with a blanket, and then topped them with the animals. It made the ones in the back sit high enough to be seen. Silly idea, but it made a big difference in the display.)

And now for another one of the problems we came across: This is a VERY small room … and my kids have a TON of toys. I blame Santa and popularity (large birthday parties). LOL!! Y’all know I’m joking, right? Anyway.

So, I told Gary that it would be awesome if we adhered their train sets to boards so that we didn’t need to take up a ton of room (which we didn’t have) with a train table. (I’ll do a separate post with a tutorial on how to do this. Because, believe me, there was PLENTY of trial and error that went into this.)

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So, that solved the no-room-for-a-train-table dilemma. And, it also solved a few other dilemmas: 1. We never have to set up these train sets again!!!! These aren’t easy to set up train sets, or like the IKEA trains that you put together in a number of ways. These train sets have specific directions on how they go together. It’s a nightmare for small kiddos. 2. We didn’t have to come up with any “playroom friendly” wall décor on either of those walls. This was a huge bonus because it totally saved us money (and, I can never find kid type art/wall décor that I like enough to buy and hang).

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(I would like to throw a super random plug in here to the parents who picked traditional names for their children … go to eBay and type “Pottery Barn Kids your child’s name” into the search engine. You will be amazed at all the cute and inexpensive things you can find. I found these chair covers for $4.99/each WITH THE MONOGRAM! It’s been years since I bought them, but at the time, there was a knock off manufacturer who made the insert for the chairs and sold them for $20 (they might still be selling on eBay – you never know!). So, I paid $25/each for these chairs, when PBK sells them for close to $100, including monogram. So … check out eBay. I go on from time to time just to see what cute monogrammed things are for sale.)

Problem number three … a smaller part of our original problem … no bookcase. My 3 year old is an avid reader. Stop laughing. I’m dead serious. We were blessed with a child prodigy who is smart beyond her years and has a voracious appetite for reading and books. (No, she doesn’t ACTUALLY read … but she can recite books, word for word, after we’ve read them to her.)

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So, we needed somewhere for all of the upstairs books. (I teach preschool and have a classroom downstairs full of books … but we’ve always had a ton of “special” books upstairs that she reads in her room, etc.) I went to IKEA and found similar shelves … but they were $14.99/each. So, once again, I told/showed Superman what I wanted for bookshelves. He sent me to Home Depot … and when I got home, I sent him to the garage. The finished product is perfect!

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They are deep enough to hold several books on each. These three little shelves house 78 books! SCORE! (We used crown molding and strips of MDF for the shelf. Total cost for all three shelves: $12. Take that, IKEA.)

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I don’t know why the paint color in this room is photographing so unevenly. In case you want the name of this color, it is Sherwin Williams Sea Salt. Pretty much the most beautiful color ever. Not lying.

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These two little shelves used to be in our upstairs bathroom before we did the makeover in there. When we took them down, I knew exactly where I wanted to use them next. Since I have such an extreme love for stuffed animals (dripping with sarcasm), I thought they would make for cute decoration if displayed on these little shelves. Note: I hung them high enough that my kids can’t reach them. Because they seriously really are just for decoration. I’m mean like that.

For those wondering … yes, Superman did make this play kitchen. He made it during Thanksgiving Break a couple years ago while we were at his parent’s house. His Dad is Superman, Sr. and the two of them spent quite some time in his Dad’s shop putting this together WITHOUT A PATTERN/PLAN. They just made their own dimensions and went with it. They. Are. Amazing. (The sink is a stainless steel bowl and the oven window is complete with a sheet of plexiglass. Adorable.)

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So, back to the second problem of having very little room in the room … I solved that by dedicating every inch of the walk-in closet to shelving for toys … and by removing all ‘toys’ from the room and organizing them onto the shelves in the closet.

Oh. And the ceiling fan in their playroom used to be … drum roll please … BRASS. Superman took that down, removed the fan blades, and sprayed all the brass with oil rubbed bronze spray paint instead. It looks SO much better.
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When he got done, he said: “I actually kind of like that fan now.” My sentiments exactly. We’re giving all those builder grade fixtures ‘the finger’ and it feels great! :D

So … go ahead … lay out your plan of attack for your playroom.

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I promise … it will be worth it and your kiddos will LOVE you for it!

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I cannot even begin to tell you how much I don’t miss hearing, “MOM!!! Ashley broke the train track AGAIN!!!!!” It’s like sweet {non} music to my ears.

Here is the tutorial for Hanging Train Tracks on the Wall.


  1. These are some fabulous ideas. Thank you so much for sharing them.

  2. awesome idea found it on pinterest, what train set is this it looks like fun, Thanks!

    1. Thank you!

      One of the train sets is Thomas the Train ... the other is a GeoTrax Disney Cars set. Hope that helps! Although, I never saw this question and by now, your kids are probably in college. So sorry!

  3. I found this on pinterest and I am loving it. It's kinda making me want to move both my kids into the same room so I can turn one into a play room haha

  4. REally like those bookshelves!!

    1. Thank you!! I love how deep they are! They hold so many books!! :D

  5. awesome! I love all of it and want my own superman!

    1. Thank you!! It does come in handy ... and I feel very spoiled. :D

  6. I think this whole room is amazing. You guys are so creative! It really opens up my eyes to what my basement family/play room could be. Thank you so much for sharing! And I am very interested in the train board...

  7. I like your shelving idea. How did you mount the mdf/crown moulding shelves to the wall?

    1. Matt, sorry for the slow reply!!!

      It's kinda hard to describe. I'll take a close up picture and update this post to better describe the bookshelf/mount. Thanks! I'll let you know when I update the post.


  8. Hi! love your blog! can you please tell us the name of the kind of crown molding you used for the bookshelves? If you can share the link from home depot even better, I will go buy it like right away and want to get the right thing, and if you already have that picture of how to mount it to the wall! I will love you forever!


    1. Okay ... pretty sure this is the exact crown we used:

      As far as how it's mounted on the wall ... I still need to take and upload a picture, but the truth of that matter is probably none of y'all will be interested in how Superman hung them on the wall. Because he glued and nailed the crown onto a piece of Masonite board, that he had jig sawed around to fit perfectly behind the molding, then screwed through the Masonite into studs on the wall.

      What would I do if I weren't that handy with a jig saw? Buy some L brackets. Screw one side to the inside bottom of the shelf and the other side into a stud in the wall. I'd probably recommend 1 L bracket per foot of shelving. And, I personally wouldn't get all hot and bothered over the L bracket showing because the shelf is ALWAYS filled with books, which covers the bracket. Hope that helps.

  9. Such a great idea! I love the train sets on the wall. I think we are going to have to copy this idea too! :)