Little Tikes Cape Cottage Playhouse™ Makeover: Thrift Diving Edition

by Serena AppiahMarch 26, 2019

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, 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 (ahema 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.


*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.

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About The Author
Serena Appiah
Serena Appiah is the owner, publisher, and carpenter-in-training behind Thrift Diving, a blog and YouTube channel that inspires home enthusiasts to decorate, improve, and maintain their home with paint, power tools, and thrift stores. As a mom of three boys, ages 12, 9, and 7, Serena has outfitted her home with many thrift store treasures--not only because it's economical and fun, but because raising three boys means things will get dirty (or broken!) Follow Serena on YouTube for DIY tips, tools, and projects.
  • March 28, 2019 at 2:40 pm

    Wow, Serena did a gorgeous job! Crazy imaginative! Love the rock, of course!

  • Melissa
    March 28, 2019 at 4:42 pm

    This has got to be the cutest thing ever.its so elegant yet comfortable for a child to want to play in. It reminds me of something out of Disney. I woul definitely love to hang out inside this little cottage and read a book with my little one.

  • Debra Bridgham
    March 28, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Love the Thrift Driving house. It is adorable. Can see my grand kids playing in it. Reminds me of New England area.

  • Pamela Wix
    March 28, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    This is just darling I really like it the stones really sets it off good .

  • Monica DaCosta
    March 28, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I absolutely love how this play house turned out. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  • Cheryl kubsch
    March 28, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    Here’s a vote for Serena’s cobbled cottage

    • Audrey Somero
      March 29, 2019 at 8:41 am

      Thanks for your vote, Cheryl! We’ll be selecting the winning name from the official contest page, so if you haven’t already go cast your vote there 🙂

      • Whitney Harper
        April 2, 2019 at 2:18 am

        I cannot seem to upload the page. I’ve tried several times. I’d love to vote, but can’t get in!

        • Audrey Somero
          April 2, 2019 at 8:13 am

          Sorry about that, Whitney! Our blog was experiencing some hiccups, but should be good to go now. Please try again, and let me know if the issue persists. Thank you!

  • Karen Donahue
    March 28, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    My favorite. Top level cute with abundant character. Cottage style lends itself to dress up play. Finger print friendly. Including detailed creation information is a bonus.

  • RJ Houlihan
    March 28, 2019 at 7:36 pm

    Love this! Kinda wish it was full sized so I could move in!

  • Narelle Hahn-Smith
    March 28, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    Serena what a gorgeous play house, you have my vote!

    • Audrey Somero
      March 29, 2019 at 8:40 am

      Hi, Narelle! We’re so glad you like it. If you haven’t already, cast your vote on our official contest page (that’s where we’ll be selecting the winner’s name from).

  • Susan
    March 28, 2019 at 8:38 pm

    Looks amazing! Best one there

  • Diane Scotch
    March 28, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    I love Thrift Diving Lityle Tykes He/She Shed. The extra work on the cobblestone and color choices are excellent for boys or girls. Love, love, love!
    I pick #3.

    • Audrey Somero
      March 29, 2019 at 8:39 am

      Thanks, Diane! If you haven’t already, cast your vote on our official contest page (that’s where we’ll be selecting the winner’s name from).

  • Jacqulyn Hale
    March 28, 2019 at 8:45 pm

    Love this!! I hope you win 🤞🏼🤞🏼

  • Sally Jones
    March 28, 2019 at 9:17 pm

    I thought doll houses were great when I was growing up, but this would have been super for my dolls and my friends. Such a playful personality, if you can say that about a house. Number 2 might have eye appeal, but Serena’s has all sorts of appeal.

  • Tina
    March 28, 2019 at 9:26 pm

    Absolutely love your design. Any child is lucky to play with this.

  • Vicki
    March 28, 2019 at 9:58 pm

    This is so pretty! Deserves to win for sure! Bless you for doing this hard work for charity❤️

  • Rene Richardson
    March 28, 2019 at 10:14 pm

    I love this. I can hardly believe you did all those stones by hand! That’s awesome.

  • Sheila Henry
    March 28, 2019 at 10:17 pm

    Serena you deserve my vote, my admiration and my respect! What a wonderful job you did on this project. Love the color and the river rock texture. And what a wonderful way to raise money for a cause you care about. Best of luck!

    • Audrey Somero
      March 29, 2019 at 8:37 am

      We love the color too, Sheila! If you haven’t already, cast your vote on our official contest page (that’s where we’ll be drawing the winner’s name from).

  • Syb Verkleir
    March 28, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    Serena’s adorable cottage playhouse gets my vote! Her creativity, attention to detail and flexibility of design implementation (use of actual stones or cobblestone stencil) is amazing – great job!

    • Audrey Somero
      March 29, 2019 at 8:35 am

      Syb, we love her creativity, too! If you haven’t already, cast your vote on our official contest page because that’s where we’ll be selecting the winner.

  • Marie Peralta
    March 28, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Love it!!! Wow, Serena hat’s off to you! All the painstaking detail you did to this playhouse. I would love to play with my granddaughter in it. I hope you win!

  • Susie Wietelman
    March 28, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Perfect! My vote goes to Cape Cottage Place. I still think you should register it on Air B&B…who wouldn’t want to stay here? ❤️

    • Audrey Somero
      March 29, 2019 at 8:30 am

      Susie, what a great idea! If you haven’t already, cast your vote on our official contest page (that’s where we’ll be selecting the winner from).

    • Joann Howard
      April 3, 2019 at 5:26 pm

      #Beautiful work Serena!! I love , love, love it!! You did really, really good!!

  • March 28, 2019 at 11:21 pm

    Even in Toyland you do great makeovers!! Your talents never cease to amaze me, this came out fantastic. Some little girl will be totally pleased. Good luck with the win.. you deserve it and the charity you choose is blessed to have you do this for them.

  • Stephanie
    March 29, 2019 at 12:36 am

    I Love the c fjlnn bnb mottage feel that you added to the playhouse. The color combination and cobblestone brings character and makes me wish I were a kid again. Wonderful work Serena! You’ve got my vote!

    • Audrey Somero
      March 29, 2019 at 8:29 am

      We love it, too Stephanie! If you haven’t already, cast your vote on the contest page because that’s where we’ll be selecting the winner from.

  • Shirley Hoberg
    March 29, 2019 at 1:42 am

    This is just so cute , Serena!! So much work but a great result! It looks so homey and I love the cobblestones!

  • March 29, 2019 at 6:05 am

    Adorable, Serena! You did such a good job of giving this house personality.

  • Susie Wilson
    March 29, 2019 at 6:56 am

    Serena you did an awesome job! I love your cottage the best! One was kind of plain. Two was cute but too foo-foo, I’d be worried all the time my child would mess it up! Yours is perfect for kids to play in. Letters and numbers and the stone which gives extra tactile aspect.
    When can I move in?!

  • Beth
    March 29, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Love this design, especially the rock! What an imaginative idea! Serena always does great work, though. So, I’m not shocked, and won’t be surprised when she wins!! 🙂

    • Audrey Somero
      March 29, 2019 at 8:24 am

      Hi Beth, we think it’s great too! If you haven’t already cast your vote, head on over to the contest page because that’s where we’ll be drawing the winner from.

  • Emmy
    March 29, 2019 at 8:01 am

    Awesome creative design! It’s realistic and homey and also bright and whimsical. Also great tutorial. You’ve got my vote!

    • Audrey Somero
      March 29, 2019 at 8:54 am

      Emmy, you are SO right! Definitely a whimsical piece perfect for kids. If you haven’t already, please cast your vote on our official contest page since that’s where we’ll be drawing the winner’s name from.

  • Vateena Ortiz
    March 29, 2019 at 10:12 am

    This is a unique play house , like every single detail about it, God Bless your talent. Time to play.

  • Jane Clelland
    March 29, 2019 at 11:38 am

    This is my vote! Adorable! And I think the attention to detail is stunning. I can see the hard work you put in to it. The cobblestones really make the piece. Good luck.

  • Diana Leyba
    March 29, 2019 at 12:31 pm

    I vote for #3. I love the little cobble stones she added to her design. I also Love the attention to detail she added to the address, 123 and the ABC. Great Job Serena!

  • March 30, 2019 at 5:39 am

    Congratulations on 50 years of sparking the imagination of children during play Little Tykes! Serena did a beautiful job with her Cottage.
    I only wish all three could receive both the cottage and donations to the Childrens charity of their choice for such outstanding causes. Each Reno was done with such heartfelt intentions and memories to happy childhoods which of course is what Little Tykes is all about.
    Best Wishes

  • Cristina
    March 30, 2019 at 4:08 pm

    This is wonderful! Absolutely love it!

  • Lisa Bruce
    March 30, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Beautiful Serena; I think yours had the most detail. Very creative!

  • Lisa Bruce
    March 30, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Beautiful Serena; I think yours had the most detail. Very creative!

  • Linda Singleton
    March 30, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    I vote for Serena’s Cobblestone house love the colors!

  • Rosalie k
    April 1, 2019 at 11:35 am

    I voted for 3. Message came I had already voted. I only voted today. Since I have waited and have not seen my vote. I am voting again.

  • Sarah Morton
    April 1, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Me and my little boy LOVE this one the best!!

  • Patricia Rahn
    April 2, 2019 at 8:15 am

    I vote for thrift diving house.

  • Fize
    April 2, 2019 at 9:02 pm

    That is a beautiful cottage. I love the stone and the blue. You are very creative.

  • Lara Nunes
    April 3, 2019 at 12:29 am

    i love the decor of this little playhouse. very creative idea. I vote for thrift diving house.

  • Missy Grando
    April 3, 2019 at 1:37 am

    Wow! You wrote this as if your brand depends on it. I don’t need a cottage but God grant me the ability to see my granddaughters and be strong f enough to build one. Of course that’s forever from now but thanks to All Gore’s interwebs it will be here. Lol.

    • Audrey Somero
      April 3, 2019 at 8:27 am

      Hi Missy! We love this cottage DIY, too! If you haven’t already done so, be sure to cast your vote on our official contest page for a chance to win a $250 gift card. That page is where we’ll be drawing the winner from 🙂

  • Brona Johnson
    April 3, 2019 at 2:35 am

    Love it..Great thinking out the box.

    • Audrey Somero
      April 3, 2019 at 8:24 am

      We agree, Brona! She really knocked it out of the park. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to cast your vote on the official contest page for a chance to win a $250 gift card! That page is where we’ll be drawing the winner from 🙂

  • Michelle Devero
    April 3, 2019 at 4:54 am

    very nice work. i assume that i should click on the different social media icons. to cast the vote. that is what i did. thanks best of luck

  • Gayle
    April 3, 2019 at 8:59 am

    Beautiful colors looks like it will stand up to lots of fun play. Think I will follow your design on my home

  • madeline newton
    April 3, 2019 at 4:31 pm

    i voted for #3 the thrift house love the rocks …looks so real,,, great job

  • Cindy Conroy
    April 3, 2019 at 4:47 pm

    That looks amazing! I love it! I especially liked the use of random materials you had lying around. It speaks to your creativity and joy of upcycling!

  • Joann Howard
    April 3, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    #Beautiful work Serena!! I love , love, love it!! You did really, really good!!

  • Stephenie Scale
    April 3, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    Thank you again Serena for in including us in your DIY. I love that you use your creativity to us nature stones on your cottage home. Love that you showed us step by step breakdown. Thank you and well done.

  • Stephenie Scale
    April 3, 2019 at 5:37 pm

    Thank you again Serena for in including us in your DIY. I love that you use your creativity to us nature stones on your cottage home. Love that you showed us step by step breakdown. Thank you

  • Catherine Hellman
    April 3, 2019 at 5:57 pm


  • Sue
    April 3, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Great job – Love the color combination and the cobblestones! Nice touch. Any child would have a ball in this one!.

  • Stephanie Dunnavant
    April 3, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    This is so cute and so inspiring. I wish I had a little one to do this for.

  • Claudia Todd
    April 3, 2019 at 9:09 pm

    Very cute!

  • Andrea Powers
    April 3, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    #3 Without a doubt!Great job!I love it so much!!

  • Ruth Meagher
    April 3, 2019 at 9:46 pm

    I vote # 3 Thrift Diving Cape Cod

  • Carmen Martin
    April 3, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    I love, love, love this. I wish you could come do my grand children’s tree house. You win in my book. 🙏🏼

  • Chava Zewicky
    April 4, 2019 at 12:03 am

    Serena did a wonderful job on her cottage I love the fact that she made it from recycled plastic that is so important in this day and age. It looks like a beautiful classic cottage I love the river stones she used with the cobblestone stencil. All in all it’s a winner!

  • Hasna Kaawi
    April 4, 2019 at 7:59 am

    #3 thrift diving .Well done serena I definitely give my vote to u I actually love the coble stones

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