Here’s a story about a kids’ playhouse that’s a lot like the Hans Christian Andersen classic The Ugly Duckling. You know the story– a homely little duckling matures into a beautiful swan. In this case a rather unattractive old tool shed is transformed into an absolutely magical playhouse that would be the dream of any little girl.
This is the vision of Joni Lay (along with ideas and labor by her husband and her father). Joni is the designer, creator and mom behind the blog Lay Baby Lay. This remarkable playhouse project is her contribution to our ongoing Outdoor Games Style Challenge series here on the Home Depot Blog.
What better place for backyard games than a playhouse, eh?
Seriously. This is the playhouse you wish you had had when you were a kid.
I had a fun playhouse growing up that my dad built especially for my sister and me. We loved it, and spent countless long hours in it, imagining the afternoons away. I’ve been dreaming for quite awhile about building something really fun for our girls to enjoy in the same way, but couldn’t really get a plan in my head that I was truly satisfied with until one day my husband Chip came up with a brilliant suggestion.
There was a tin roofed shed in our backyard that has sat virtually untouched since we moved into our house six years ago. It had fallen into a sad state of disrepair, but it was the kind of thing that you just didn’t know what to do with because it would be quite the effort to disassemble and throw away. We didn’t really use it, so we didn’t care to fix it up, either.
But my husband Chip had the idea to turn it into a playhouse, and that was all we needed to get going.
Above you see the shed in the initial stages of the renovation. Daughter Vivi could already envision herself dancing away on the stage that was part of the new playhouse design.
The Playhouse Plans
My dad is a pro at the technical details of getting these kinds of project done. Whenever we start a project, I draw up some plans and send them to him to get his initial feedback and work through how it will actually happen.
Just for fun, below is the drawing I sent him to show what we had in mind.
I was envisioning sort of a storefront look because I wanted to have a lot of window space for air ventilation (it gets really hot down here in Georgia!). Plus, Vivi has turned into such a little performer who loves dancing and singing, I wanted a little space for her to put on her performances. Take a look at my playhouse inspiration board for this project on my blog.
We decided to just re-work the front and left side of the shed, adding a little deck around those two sides, while leaving the other two existing sides in tact.
Clean Up, Framing, Laying the Deck
First, Chip worked really hard to get the shed cleaned out, and he removed the paneling from the front and left sides. He and my dad worked on framing and laying the deck, which is made of these awesome Veranda composite deck boards. This composite decking is extra great for little bare feet because they won’t get splinters!
Chip also trimmed the extra length from the tin roof, which made it look much more polished. Then we cut out the existing studs to make room for the new design.
Next, we installed new studs according to the design and then we added SmartSide siding to the front and left sides.
My dad cut out the spaces for the windows and the doors with a circular saw, and he also had the great suggestion of using screen mesh for the windows. It is super inexpensive and provides lots of ventilation. It also goes really well with the tin roof. Originally, I was thinking of using plexiglass or Lexan and making the windows so they could be propped open, but the screen was much simpler and better!
We stapled the screen around the window spaces and then added 1″ x 4″ pine trim to dress it up a little and secure the screen.
Painting the Playhouse
After all this (which took about two full days!), Chip and I worked really hard to get everything primed and painted. I don’t think I have ever spent so much time painting!
It was actually pretty fun, though. We hooked up the baby monitor, set up lights and music, applied generous amounts of bug spray, and painted after dark. Seriously, when else would you want to do exterior painting in Georgia during the month of July? We had no distractions, and it made for some really great conversation.
We primed and painted the exterior, and did two coats (three coats in some places) of white on the interior.
Stage Curtain Rod and Doors
Then my dad joined us for one more day of detail work.
Aren’t they the cutest playhouse doors you have ever seen? They are made from edge glued boards and trim with adorable brass and glass doorknobs, and the window is hardware cloth. We made sure to prime them well and add two coats of paint and we’ll be sure to make sure they stay well sealed to protect them from the elements.
Outdoor Lighting, Carpet and Shelves
Once that was done, Chip and I finished all the interior details.
We hung a little shelf for a kitchen, put down some carpet and hung the sign on the front.
The solar LED barn light was great little solution for lighting; we wanted some light there, but didn’t want to run electricity all the way to the playhouse. I painted the fixture gold, and it’s the perfect accent.
The Finished Playhouse Exterior
The paint color is Behr Aqua Smoke. So fun, right?
The “stage” side has a curtain made from two extra long shower curtains trimmed with yellow pom pom trim.
We made a chalkboard with plywood and chalkboard paint so the girls can eventually write out the name of their performance, or a menu, should this turn into a restaurant, or who knows what else!
We added that railing to the side to keep any over-enthusiastic thespians from falling over the edge.
The Finished Playhouse Interior
I love the all-white inside. It really makes everything feel fresh, clean and new!
The carpet is really soft under the girls’ feet, and makes the space feel inviting. It’s indoor/outdoor carpet, so it should hold up well. It’s really inexpensive and easy to replace should we need to.
That huge window was already there, which makes the space extra bright, but we added that lattice as a barrier to prevent any mishaps since it’s a glass window.
The Pretend Kitchen
I think I may do a playhouse 2.0 and add a few more storage details and kitchen amenities, but it’s perfect for now!
Decorations and the Hanging Chair
I created that little pig ballerina print just for the playhouse, and we added a hook by the door for costume storage.
Vivi loves to read, so I thought that sweet little hanging chair would be a dreamy spot for reading. It’s big enough for baby sister Brigette, too.
The playhouse is super cozy when it’s raining– that tin roof makes the rain sound like magic! Seriously, I might use it as a little retreat for myself sometimes, especially when the fall weather arrives.
And naturally, the screen doors are a huge hit with the set who can’t open regular doors yet!
The playhouse is also just next to the pergola and patio we built earlier this spring. It’s such a fun space to hang out now, as Vivi and Brigette have a fun place to play, and so do I!
Thanks so much to the Home Depot for letting us partner on this project! It took a lot of time and sweat, but it’s one of my favorite projects to date, and I’m excited for all the memories my babies will make in here! It’s really precious that Chip and I (and Grandpa!) got to spend so many hours working to make this special space for them. We’ll never be able to move, ha!
And, just for fun, a little before-and-after before I sign off…
Joni Lay offers decor ideas and inspiration, along with posts about raising her babies on her blog Lay Baby Lay. It’s packed with style boards, photos and even some of her own prints for sale.
See other Outdoor Games Style Challenge articles here on The Home Depot Blog, and follow our Style Challenge pinboard on Pinterest. Our Building Supplies Department carries just about anything you’d need to build a kids’ playhouse like this, or to make improvements on your grown-up house, too. We also carry pre-made children’s playhouses and build-it-yourself playhouse kits online.