We bought the girls their playhouse last year as a joint birthday present. Knowing how long it takes to get anything done round here, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that it is only now, a full year after Rosa’s birthday, that I am starting to make headway on making it the way I want it to be.
I suppose I imagined I would paint it, but it wasn’t until I looked at some playhouses online that I began to imagine how lovely it could be.
This one above is my favourite, being to my mind beautiful, and lovely, just sweet enough to be cute, but not irritating, and also having a faint air of achievability about it. (Ok. Perhaps only a very faint one. It is pretty special, isn’t it?)
Look at the play kitchen inside! The shelving, with the little cups! I die, I die. I also love how the creator of this playhouse-confection confesses, ‘I should add that it looks nothing like this now- most days it looks like a mini tornado has been through it and most of the stuff ends up on the lawn…’
Pictures by kind permission of Megan from Mousehouse.
There are plenty of playhouses on Apartment Therapy that are big on the wow factor but also score highly on, ‘would I ever actually have the time and energy to do this, and if I did, would my thankless children ever play in it or appreciate it, anyway?’ On the one hand, I admire these people’s time and dedication. On the other hand, for someone whose actual real house does not exactly look like a showroom, the idea of having a playhouse that is considerably more stylish, put-together and organised is very slightly hilarious.
So I decided painting was the way forward. Of course it’s never quite as simple as that, is it? I realised after doing some digging around that I would need to paint it with wood preserver first. The container advised me I would need three coats. THREE COATS. It’s enough to make a grown woman weep. So I bought the wood preserver, took the pragmatic view that two coats would probably be fine, and spent what feels like days last summer painstakingly painting all parts of the playhouse with what appeared to be water. And then doing it all again.
When it got to painting the main house, I decided that pragmatism was the name of the game. I went for this rather beautiful blue and white combination. I was thinking a kind of ‘Hamptons meets Brighton beach hut’ look. Looking at this picture, it looks as if I’ve made pretty good progress, no? Actually, what I decided to do was to paint first of all the two walls that I could see from the house. This means when I look down the garden now, it looks significantly more finished than it actually is. (Playing little tricks on myself like this is worrying effective, actually…)
The extent to which I have prioritised having a nice looking playhouse for me, rather than a good place for the girls to play, is better shown off by this picture. (If you’re wondering why the slide is inside the playhouse, then so am I. The slide lives in the shed. The girls carried it into the playhouse with much whispering and excitement last time they were out there, then disappeared in there for ages, with only the odd limb flailing out of the door to betray they were still there. When they picked it up, I opened my mouth to say, “No slides in playhouses!” but then decided to pick my battles and just left them to it.)
The entirely-free-from-paint wall is the one on the right. That faces away from the house, so the chances of it ever being painted are looking rather slim at the moment. I haven’t tackled inside, either. Pregnancy is my excuse there.
You can also see in the picture above how the windows initially foxed me a little. I knew I wanted white window frames. But there is no thin window frame – it’s just a hole in the wood. I managed to wing it a little on the front, but couldn’t do it at all on the sides. I thought about masking off a straight line to create my own window frames, but memories of paint sneaking its splodgy way under masking tape crept into my thoughts. And then I remembered reading about frog tape.
A quick click, with a quick thank goodness for ebay, and my frog tape was here. Look at that picture above! Look at those lovely clean masked-off lines! I almost can’t wait to use it. (I also worry I might be a marketing person’s dream.)
Going back to my excuse of being pregnant for not painting the inside of the house, I would go so far as to say that when it comes to painting external wood, ‘don’t be pregnant’ is probably my number one tip. None of this nonsense about preparation being everything, or ‘always use wood preserver’ (I did so grumpily, and unwillingly). Just make sure you’re not growing another human being, and you’ll be fine.
Here (above) are the removable bits of the house (stable door, and window frames) which I have now unscrewed, and brought inside, having finally realised that if I wait for a day when the sun is shining, and I have some free time to paint, I will be waiting until at least summer 2013, and possibly later than that. A further complication is that I can’t really paint when the girls are around, as they both get quite excited when I start painting, and want to join in. India starting chanting, “Pain-ting! Pain-ting!” and Rosa is quite upset when her earnest offers to ‘help’ are met with a terse no. So it’s easier to do it when they’re not about.
Both the white and the blue are from the rather heavenly Cuprinol range. I went to Homebase with a vague idea of some sort of blue-ish colour, or perhaps a greenish colour, and discovered that basically every colour in this range is exactly the kind of colour I wanted. In some distant future with lots of time, I dream of painting our entire garden fence dark grey, the wall that backs onto our garden pale grey, and the shed also dark grey. But all that will wait.
It can particularly wait because it turns out that Cuprinol paint requires at least two coats. Two coats. Is it just me that feels so dis-spirited at the idea of a second coat of anything? I know I need to get over it. Because it’s so fast, and misty, I don’t mind multiple coats of spray paint. In fact, watching the colour build up gradually is rather bewitching. But two coats of paint with a brush, for some reason, makes me want to sit down and have a cup of tea. If I were Queen, all paints everywhere would be single-coaters, and that would be the law. And then, obviously, everything in my house would be beautifully painted all the time. Ahem.
I’m sure I don’t have to point out the rather large aesthetic gap that exists between the playhouse interior as it currently is, and my playhouse interior inspiration. At the moment we have only plastic play furniture from Ikea, and a whole lot of ideas. In the long-term I am envisaging a little set of shelves, and a blackboard in here, just as I envisage a little white trellis with a climbing rose on the outside, window boxes, pots with pinwheels in them, and some small solar lights. In the short term, my plans are rather more realistically limited to some more white Cuprinol over all the bare wood, and then making some curtains for the windows.
A trip to John Lewis yielded some very flowery laminated cotton. I lingered over a very funky design, with silhouetted horses in a greyish turquoise. But remembered that Rosa, once I’d convinced her I was painting the outside of the playhouse blue, had decided that as a compromise her curtains should definitely be pink. I knew that my Scandinavian-style animals would not cut it, and so went for this one. (I knew that it was the right choice when on seeing it, she insisted on taking it up to bed with her.) So the plan is to make curtains out of this. And perhaps some bunting. “Yes!” said Rosa, “And it can be like a real house! With a bed at the top! And pots with pansies!”
For all my grumping, the girls do love their playhouse. India has loved it since last year, when she spent a long time opening the door and shouting, “Ellah!” which passed for ‘hello’ at the time. This year they have been using the plastic tea-set, sitting on the chairs, demanding their snacks in the playhouse, drawing on the walls (whoops) and generally having a great time. And I think I am much further along than I think.
If I just replace the doors and windows, and mask and paint the window frames on the two visible walls, then it will look much better from the house.
If I then paint the inside and make curtains, it will look fab to play in, too.
If I can paint the other wall then it will be nearly done, and all that will remain are whimsical thoughts of bunting, shelves, pots, blackboards, and similar.
One step at a time…