An Organized Playroom: Interactive Lego Display and Craft Storage (for <$30!)

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Intro by Robin & Steps by Ed

Our main floor has been getting more and more cluttered all the time.  That was making me more and more crazy ALL THE TIME.  While I was swearing and sorting through the junk collecting on every horizontal surface, I developed a technique.  I'm calling it, "Reading the Clutter".

"Reading the Clutter" is looking at what's scattered around and taking note of what's common about them.  By recognizing what your common clutter is, you can learn what is happening in your house and what needs a home.  Our most common clutter: Lego Creations, Completed Crafts and Craft Supplies.  None of these things had a good designated home.

Until now!

What follows is how we converted two $12 shelving units from Goodwill into fun, interactive Lego Display & Craft Storage for our kids' playroom.  

We made chalkboard backboards for the display shelves.  The kiddos love them!  They have already had gobs of fun drawing backgrounds and doing tons of imaginative play.  Currently, we've got a farm, a disco and a burning city - and in a few days, they'll create something all new!  Plus, the creations they want to keep assembled can be kept on display (and not accidentally dismantled into something new - which usually causes high-pitched screeching and tears).

Behind the doors, we have a stash of craft supplies.  (And, well, a bit of a halfway house for completed crafts on their way to the recycle bin.  If they are out of sight for long enough we can "garboflage". That's when we hide them under recycled papers destined for the curb - without hurt feelings.  But you didn't hear that from me.)

This is where Ed takes over and runs you through the How-to Steps...(and while he loves the finished project, he loathed the painting, which is subtly alluded to in his tone below.)

  • Ugly old fake wood furniture (good solid 'bones', but otherwise hard on the eyes)
  • Palm or Orbital Sander
  • Primer (we love Bulls-eye, but go with your heart/wallet)
  • Solid Finish colour of your choice (ours is Cloud White by Benjamin Moore)
  • Chalkboard paint (we were able to do this with one can of Chalkboard spray paint)
  • Misc. painting and other tools


1. Take apart as many things as you can.

It seems like a pain, and it kinda is for a few minutes, but this small time investment will make all future steps much easier.

Remove the hardware, take any doors off. Our piece was in two halves, so we separated them and pulled off the back of the shelves too.

Hard to believe anyone donated these beauties?

Tip:  Check to see if any children have stowed away inside the cabinet. Return them to whatever thrift shop the furniture came from, as they will only cost you more money.

2. Fill any holes you don't want to re-use.

Part of our update for these meant losing the ugly old hardware.  We wanted a new position for our new pulls. This meant a bit of tedious filling of holes that fell directly into a groove, but it is waaay better to do this now than after you start painting.


3.  Sand everything all over.

You want to prepare the finish for priming so that your new paint coats stick and you don't end up with chips that show that hideous wood finish underneath.

4. The Shelves: Prime and Paint.

This is the most time-consuming step, as shelves take a long time to paint and paint takes time to dry between coats. We used a white and this meant 3-4 coats over most of the shelving unit.

White over dark is the worst. If you choose a darker colour to hide your ugly-wood, you may get away with only a couple coats.  That would be amazing as painting shelves really sucks.

5. The Backboard-Chalkboard. 

We reused the original backing - no extra cost!   I just flipped the backing over to the less glossy side.  It was something closer to bare wood and (I hope) this means that the chalkboard paint will adhere really well and not scrape off with repeated drawing and erasing.

When the chalkboard paint was dry we conditioned it with chalk.  Basically, we got a piece of chalk and lightly brushed it over the entire surface. Then erased it all. This helps make the chalkboard easier to draw on and erase.

I then reattached the backs to the shelf sections.

6.  Add your hardware.

This was fun!  We made our own Lego cabinet knobs from Duplo.  We can't imagine a better knob for this project. You can check out the whole Lego door pull DIY tutorial here.


7.  Grand Unveil!

The kids and their friends have already had so much fun playing in this space!

So, there you have it. Very cheap, pretty painless and a little bit time consuming, but totally worth it for an organized playroom with visible display space for nice stuff and shelves to hide the piles of UG.

Could this be a solution for some of your toy clutter? When you "Read your Clutter" what do you learn?


  1. This is a super-cute DIY! Love the chalkboard paint on the back of the shelves! :)

    1. Thanks, Courtney! It's worked out better than I imagined. :)

  2. These are a great idea. We currently use a large, low dresser in our family room for our entertainment unit- complete with 2 bottom drawers to store lego. However, there's no display space for assembled creations- very important.
    We are moving soon and in the new house, lego will not be kept in the family room (yay!). Your idea may just be what we need for our kids' playroom. Very creative & frugal.

    1. You found your house! That's amazing news. And a place with room for play other than the family room - even more amazing. This project could be way easier too, if the shelves dont need painting, just pop the back off, chalkboard paint it and call it done. :)

    2. Thanks very much, Robin.
      Just have to mention how nice it feels to get a personal reply. When you leave comments you don't expect the person on the other end to recognize your name, recalling past comments and start to piece together a picture of who that reader is.
      I follow a few blogs and like to comment regularly- I expect most bloggers like the feedback. To me it seems a fitting way to show appreciation for the time and energy that people put into their blog. I especially appreciate when bloggers reply to comments. I know it's not always possible to answer every comment, especially those with an exceptionally large following but you can tell those that make the effort to engage with their readers.
      But when that reply reflects that they know who you are by referring to something from past comments, it is especially appreciated. Blog reading can feel a little like looking through a one-way mirror but it is really lovely to receive personal comments.
      Just wanted to express appreciation for how you engage your readers and to thank you for sharing with your blog.

    3. Thank you so much! I always always appreciate your comments. Sometimes blogging can also feel like a one way mirror, so having a faithful commentor is a joy. It takes some risk and vulnerability to comment, it's the least I can do to reply and show you how much it matters to me. :)

  3. These look great! I know how time-consuming and unfun it is to paint cabinets and shelves. I truly do not understand those bloggers who are painting furniture all the time and seem to enjoy it. That will never be me. But I love organizing stuff! And those fit perfectly on both sides of those doors.

    1. Ed did the lions share of the painting. He both hated and enjoyed it. He set up the basement so he could watch football while he painted. I love the end product of painting furniture, but the actual painting, not so much. Maybe that's why the buffet I found 18 months ago sits bare and ugly.

      We were lucky how both those fit. They work so well - not gorgeous or anything but fun and functional. I had thought to finish them with some crown moulding. But then I just preferred them to be finished. Thanks for visiting, Rita!

  4. Nice one! You have shared really creative ideas and easy process to make this playroom lego. It will surely make my kids happy. Especially duplo knobs and chalkboard behind the shelves. Thanks for sharing this ideal post.

  5. Looks great! I would love it if you joined and contribute your awesome posts at my link party at City of Creative Dreams on Fridays :D Hope to see you there at City of Creative Dreams Link Party


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