Little Tikes Cape Cottage Playhouse™ Makeover: Thrift Diving Edition
Don’t let anyone tell you that television doesn’t influence behavior. It does.
I spent an entire week binging on a past season of Project Runway, which started to unleash threads of creativity into my subconscious. I consider myself to “a creative,” but after watching someone smash up bright red bicycle reflectors and adorn them onto a ball gown made of recycled plastic with hot glue….uhhhh….it does something to the imagination.
Soooo….enter the challenge: For their Crafting for Charity initiative, Homes.com invited me to participate in a Little Tikes Cape Cottage Playhouse™ makeover challenge against two other bloggers. We were all shipped a playhouse to fancy up, then be voted on by YOU!
The winning blogger gets to donate a playhouse to a children’s charity of their choice, plus $750. Readers who vote are automatically entered to win $250 for themselves (to spend as you like, you don’t have to donate it.)
So, the juices started flowing…the Project Runway fumes of creativity lingered after my binge..and I knew that I wanted to do something totally different than what the other bloggers may decide to do!
After all—I love a challenge. But I also love to try something I had never tried before.
Before, the Little Tikes Cape Cottage playhouse was an uninspiring tan. It was exciting, though, because it felt like a blank canvas that I could decorate however I wanted!
With a little bit of spray paint (ahem–a lot of spray paint, actually!), some construction adhesive, and a lot of stones and grout, I totally transformed this plastic playhouse into a quaint little cottage!
It took a lot of materials to create this house! My husband thought I was insane (as he always does when he gets a whiff of my creative ideas.) HA! Here’s what I used to create this fun cottage playhouse, and my thoughts about the materials and tools I used.
- Little Tikes Cape Cottage Playhouse
- Spray paint
- Construction adhesive
- River stones*
- Pre-mixed grout (Alabaster colored)*
- Cobblestone stencil*
- Sponge, with a bucket of water
- Rubber grout float
- Painter’s tape and plastic (LOTS of it!)
*Heads up! Stones and grout are totally optional! I realized after I had started gluing the stones to the playhouse, “Oh—this might be a choking hazard if one of these stones fall off!” The recommended age for this playhouse is 2 years old and up. If you’ve got kids on the younger side, opt for painting a cobblestone look with a cobblestone stencil. If your kids are a bit older and you’d like to attempt something like this, you can use stones.
Also note that since I used grout, which isn’t flexible, and plastic is flexible, the grout will crack a lot the more you maneuver the cottage pieces when assembling it. To prevent the maneuvering, you could glue backer board to the playhouse (which is strong, durable cement that will stabilize the cobblestone.) I didn’t go to that extent for this project, but so far, the real grouted cobblestone is holding up nicely!
STEP 1: Unpack the Playhouse
This Little Tikes playhouse comes with 4 pieces: two sides with door openings and two sides with window openings. Oh—and a roof that comes in two pieces.
I struggled with trying to decide if I should decorate it while it’s in pieces, or if I should have assembled it first.
Honestly, I don’t think there is any right answer. But you should consider these pros and cons for getting started:
Assemble First, Then Decorate
- Easy to assemble.
- Won’t scratch up painted surfaces.
- Easier to visualize how to decorate it when you can see it assembled in front of you.
- Harder to paint or decorate the inside of the playhouse; adult bodies just don’t fit well after it’s assembled. 😉
Decorate, Then Assemble
- Easier to paint, stencil, or glue with a playhouse piece lying down.
- Can paint or decorate the inside (backside) piece easily.
- Easier to work in sections.
- Must be very careful not to smudge paint or decor when assembling.
STEP 2: Tape Off Each Section to Be Painted
If you’re going the route that I took by decorating it first, taping off is super easy. I’m using painter’s tape that already has the plastic attached (which is tricky to use—don’t be fooled by this ingenious invention.) I started with the plastic brick section first. Be sure to tape around (and lay plastic over) any parts that you don’t want overspray on (including the windows.)
I peeled the tape away to reveal a pretty good clean line.
But here’s what you need to know about spray painting plastic:
- Use spray paint with primer included. It’s hard to believe, but not all spray paints are created equal. Some might include a separate primer.
- Be careful sanding that surface… You might think that roughing up the plastic with a little sandpaper first is a good idea to help the paint stick. But be careful with this one. You’ll see all the scratches in the plastic if you use rough sandpaper as soon as the paint hits that surface. Test an inconspicuous area first and use superfine paper to prevent large scratches.
- Let paint thoroughly dry. It’s easy to rush this project because it’s fun, but paint should try thoroughly before moving on to the next section. Often times I found myself applying painter’s tape to surfaces that weren’t fully dry and I ripped off sections of paint that didn’t dry thoroughly. Paint should dry a few hours at least. Follow the instructions on the can. Or you can use a delicate surface painter’s tape that allows you to tape a fresh surface that hasn’t fully cured without ruining the paint.
Everything got a coat of paint! I wasn’t sure if I was going to paint the backside of each piece or not. I figured that would be a waste of materials. So I spraypainted the roof teal, but left the underside red. All the trim got updated, too. Those are the little caps that clip on to connect the roof to the playhouse.
The windows were painted, as well. I loved this shade of graphite and teal together!
TIP: If it’s a windy day, have some weights nearby to hold down the newspaper, cardboard, paper that you’re spraying on. Or, get yourself a handy little spray painting spray shelter tent. Those things are awesome! You can watch how I used my spray tent in a previous project.
STEP 3: Lay Out the Stones onto the Surface
I had gone to one of my favorite salvage shops last year and found remnant sheets 12″ x 12″ stone tiles (4 of them). Something about the stones was so cool and I knew I would want to use them somehow in an upcoming project!
I also bought a few jars of river stones (both large and small stones). It took 3 jars of large stones in addition to the sheets of stones I already had on hand!
Once they were laid out, it was time to glue them in place.
STEP 4: Glue the Stones With Construction Adhesive
Ugh….if you want to know how time-consuming DIY (do-it-yourself) can be sometimes, just imagine gluing hundreds of stones down with construction adhesive. By hand. Thank goodness for my tablet to keep me entertained! This was the least fun part of the project. HA!
STEP 5: Grout the Stones
This is the tricky part of this project. Gluing the stones down with the not-to-entertaining easy part. But grouting was going to be a whole different story. I was worried that it wouldn’t work and that the stones would fall off the minute I tried to lift the sections of the playhouse vertically!
But you know how this goes—once you start, you gotta keep going. So that’s what I did.
Using the float, I pushed the pre-mixed grout into the bare spaces between the stones, impressed that they didn’t break off or shift. Thanks, Gorilla Glue!
I also had to tape off a bit to make sure that I didn’t totally ruin the spray paint jobs I had already done. There was a bit of ruining, but nothing that a little touch-up spray paint didn’t fix!
TIP: Be sure to use the grout that is formulated for gaps up to 1/2″. Some grout is only formulated for gaps up to 3/8″.
STEP 6: Wash Away the Grout
After a few moments, I wet a sponge and wiped off the excess grout, revealing the stones underneath. Have a bucket of clean water and rinse often! I went back and wiped each stone individually since the grout left it a little “hazy.”
I also felt that it was helpful to tape off and have protective plastic on nearby parts to preserve the paint.
STEP 7: Assemble and Touch-Up!
I didn’t document the assembling of the playhouse because it literally just stands up like a box with four sides, with big ‘ole plastic screws. I think you get the idea. 😉
When I put it together, I realized that there were some spots that needed some touching up to do, so I cleaned it up a little. I also added ABC and 123 wooden letters and numbers that are glued down to the “windows” of the house.
The inside is painted the same teal as the roof, only up to the windows.
Overall, I absolutely love how this little cottage playhouse came together!!
This playhouse can be used indoors or outdoors when you purchase it, but depending on how you decorate it, you may need to use it indoors (for example, if you decoupaged scrapbook paper to the playhouse, you’d definitely want to only use it indoors.)
For this playhouse, with its cobblestone on the walls, I would leave this inside or under a covered porch. I would also check the playhouse often to make sure there are no loose parts and that it is screwed together tightly every so often (per the instructions.)
Isn’t this adorable?!??!
This playhouse comes with stickers (for the louvered vent, for the windows, etc), but…..I lost them. I’m going to go ahead and blame that on my children. I don’t have evidence, but 9 times out of 10, they got their hands on it. 🙂 Anyhow, therefore, I left the dormer of the roof free from stickers.