before and afterDIY

Before & After: Bedside Table Set Gets Upcycled… Into A Play Kitchen!

by Maxwell Tielman


Hand-me-downs, while oftentimes a financial necessity, can strike fear in the hearts of children. And what kid hasn’t been there? To many a youngster, walking onto the schoolbus in your cousin’s lumpy, worn-out overalls from a decade ago can be akin to cruel and unusual punishment. If you’re the youngest child in a large family, the hand-me-down situation only gets worse—you are forcibly bestowed with countless “gifts”—teddy bears with flattened stuffing, art sets with whittled-down crayons, action figures with missing limbs… However, if you are that lucky child who ends up with handy-dandy DIY-er parents, hand-me-downs aren’t just not-that-bad—they can be downright AWESOMEI’ll tell you right now—I’m slightly envious of Jolene Van Wonderen’s kids. When this New Zealand-based graphic designer and her husband, Andre, decided to get their children a play kitchen, they forewent the store-bought in favor of the handed-down. Using a single nightstand from their bedroom as the basis for the project, the couple put their DIY skills to work and transformed the previously simple piece into a stunning play kitchen that—dare I say it—actually looks fantastic right out in the open. Beautifully crafted and fully functional (you know, in the pretend way), this play kitchen puts the store-bought options to shame. Hooray for hand-me-downs! Check out all the photos, plus Jolene’s design notes after the jump! —Max




With a couple of bedside cabinets in good condition but that I no longer liked the style of, I decided a play kitchen might be a good option for repurposing them. My grand plans to use both cabinets did get scaled back (thankfully!) to just using the one cabinet and forgoing a kid-size fridge.


First up, I sanded the bedside cabinet (repurposed from our master bedroom) before Andre started measuring and cutting the benchtop, doors, etc. As he finished cutting or constructing each part, it was passed to me for sanding, priming and painting or varnishing.

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There was also a lot of shopping around to find all the pieces we needed—sink bowl, tap, oven trays, hinges, MDF etc. I was lucky to find wire cake racks that fit the oven perfectly! And the tap was a great secondhand find from a Habitat for Humanity Restore.

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Because this project was destined as a Christmas present for the kids, we did as much as possible in the evenings after the older one was safely in bed (the younger one still young enough to be oblivious!) so it was all done in snatched hours here and there, and admittedly with a few small lies told to put them off the scent.

To help with the surprise we also didn’t put any of the pieces together until the very last minute, so it was down to the wire with a just-before-midnight finish on Christmas Eve.

But all that effort was worth it – the kids love it and use it every day, and the house-proud part of me loves that it doesn’t look out of place in our living room!


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Source List

– Main cabinet $0 – had already
– Oven racks (cooling racks) $7.00 – Briscoes
– 6mm round dowel for knobs $1.55 – Bunnings
– 10mm square dowel $3 – Bunnings
– 12mm 1200x600mm MDF $14.29 – Mitre 10
– 4.75mm 1200x600mm MDF $6.98 – Mitre 10
– Wooden legs $8 – Hospice shop
– Tap $5 – Restore shop
– Oak benchtop $0 – an old headboard that we had already
– Stainless bowl $10 – Briscoes
– Stainless stove base $0 – S.J. Crosbie (these guys were so helpful – I
rang to see if they’d have a scrap piece of stainless we could cut to size,
but they did it all for me, rounding the corners and all. for nothing.

Hardware, etc:

– Oven handle $19.77 – Mitre 10
– Hooks for tea towels (robe hooks) $8.66 – Mitre 10
– Cupboard handle $0 – had already
– Nylon cord as oven/cupboard door stay $0.79 – Bunnings
– Magnetic catches $8.46 – Bunnings
– Hinges $13.14 – Bunnings
– Washers & screws $15.96 – Bunnings (multipacks so many of these will be
saved for future projects)

Paint, etc:

– Maxbond glue $7.65 – Bunnings
– MDF primer $0 – had already
– White Aquanamel $0 – had already
– Black $0 – had already
– Silver $0 – had already
– Cabots timber varnish $0 – had already

Total: $122.60



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  • A labor of love that will undoubtedly give your children hours of creative play, enjoyment and memories that will last a lifetime. Congratulations to you both and thank you for sharing your handwork with all of us!

  • I love this! If the kids are using it, they’re appreciating it. Take pix of them using it to nudge their memories later.

  • I’m always curious what hinge people use on a drop-front stove like that so that it’s more of a soft-down to open vs. just falling down (which seems like it would be an injury waiting to happen…) Any recommendations of ones that work well?

  • those children are lucky to have such wonderful parents. FYI – there is a missing ingredient on the supply list: Love

  • These turned out great, but power tools and flip flops are a bad combination – wincing when I see that (I am accident prone).

  • i feel so inspired – i’ve done upcycling projects and it’s hard work but so satisfying and the end result is always so much better than you could get anywhere else. lucky children here :)

  • My first thoughts were the same as T’s- but safety concern aside the love that went in to this speaks volumes. As for the kids appreciating it one day, if they are anything like me the answer is a resounding yes! My dad once made a small table and set of chairs for me to play tea parties with that sadly had to be given away before we moved across the country. Unfortunately it was never replaced, but I still have found memories of it..