Toy Boxed

First post of the new year involves 2 of my many MANY resolutions (um, I think I have about thirty).

#1 Resolution – Make our house a little more like our home.

#2 Resolution – Become more organized.   (aka – make “homes” for our junk)


So obviously when Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine offered up a challenge to create a toy box (cute theme for December – aka: the Month of Toys) I was all about it.  Dude, if toys were sequins, Will would be Lady Gaga…except without all the money.  IF ONLY!  So we need storage.  Not only would a toy box be a great idea for the excessive number of plastic things that light up and play music while teaching some crucial tidbit of information – like animal noises…but it would also make me feel like this house belongs to us.  I know that sounds crazy.  But having custom built furniture for our spaces makes those spaces feel more complete…more finished…more like this is a permanent home instead of just a temporary place for our stuff.   It sounds even crazier when I try to explain it.  So let’s not continue on that path of insanity…

Here’s the space where I wanted a toy-storage-palooza:

(Note the freshly painted room sporting the vent in the corner – that will come into the planning process later)

I told Jer that I wanted a toy area that Will could do all by himself.  A standard toy chest that opened from the top would be unrealisticl right now (our twenty month old is not tall enough to open the lid much less access the toys) and dangerous for his little fingers (if the top came slamming down)…so I decided that whatever we built for his room would have to open from the front (vs. the top) and that way the newly-fangled “lid” (aka the front) would also be a great area for Matchbox cars to be driven on…anything for my baby to think I’m remotely cool :)

I found a plan on Miss Ana White’s little project archive that would work perfectly (with modifications) so we measured the space and decided that we would need two toy box bases (here’s the plan for one with an open front) …with a hinged front “lid” on each that would keep his digits safe and still allow clearance on the side with the air conditioning intake vent.  And we also wanted to splurge on some upper cubbies for additional storage.

The guy at Lowe’s helped us cut the boards into more manageable pieces so that Jer could perfectly cut the pieces to the right size.

We personally do not recommend letting the guys at your local home improvement store cut all your pieces…ESPECIALLY if you need them to be perfectly square.  Unless you stink at cutting.  Then…well…let them do it and invest in sandpaper :)

Jer set up shop in the garage to build and finish the pieces.  It’s warmer in there than the basement and outside and when you are working with bare hands it helps to have feeling in your hands.  Unless nailing your numb fingers to wood is your thing…I know that it probably is for someone out there…

Note our very cool workbench…pun intended…

Jer predrilled for all the screws before assembling…

and our little man decided that it was perfect time to get his ‘throw’ on…

really this photo should be labeled “throwing things with other things photo”.

and this one would be “throwing things then kicking the same thing photo”

And to answer the question of what we do with Will when we are doing projects – he is either napping (when we do stuff that he can’t be around – like fumey paint or lots of sawdust from sanding) or he is right there in the mix.  Jer and I decided a long time ago that we would let our kid learn by being around…and thank goodness, Will is interested in observing and helping whenever he can.

So here is the start of the base toy box…a square.

One of the main differences between our modified version and Ana’s original plan was that ours was built lower to the ground.  We made our “legs” shorter…exactly the depth of a 2×4 so that it would accomodate our new hinged door and eliminate the need for trim molding – so it would be sleek and modern in front.

Will giving the baby kisses in the camera :)

So after Jer finished assembling all the pieces…

I filled them with wood putty.  All the seams, holes and little hammer marks got a quick fill.  Then came time for sanding.  I wanted a super smooth finish – so that meant tons of sanding of the plywood.  All the flat surfaces got it with a reciprocating sander and the rest we did by hand.  (for those wondering, we did it first with a coarse 60 grit, then medium, then super fine…it takes some time but the prep work makes any furniture SOO much better)

Then painting.  We did three coats of paint-n-primer in one, using a small cubby brush for the corners and a mini foam roller for everything else.

And here is my number one tip for painting furniture –

The morning that we were going to install the unit, I was soo giddy.  I eagerly awaited Jer to return home…

then I decided to not wait and just do whatever I could…moving these into the room and starting to play on styling them with Will’s toys.

You like Will’s christmas tree?  He did it all by himself (with a little help with the bow).  The next Nate Berkus if I do say so myself :)

And FINALLY Jer got home from a day of golf with my dad and he started on installing the doors.  Will assisted.


The hinges we used were full inset hinges with a self-closing feature…so if Will can lift the door up to a certain point, the door does the rest.  And the knobs we used were these sleek modern ones (third from the top middle row) mostly because we figured Will could get both his grubby little hands in there to pull down the door.


And now give me a drumroll or some spotlights or give me an envelope or something – because I would like to show you the winner of the award for best storage for Will’s room:

I LOVE it.  Like totally bragging about it to the checkout lady at Kroger kinda love it.

And the storage below holds these old bins perfectly…

And it still allows for clearance for the intake vent :)

And it can grow with him.

And we can always add more cubbies or another layer with shelves if we want to later.

And it’s kid friendly because it’s just his height.

And Will loves it.  Bonus Bower points :)

The first thing he did was take Baby Donald out and had a chat with him about the state of the economy.

There’s no finger pointing Will when it comes to political debate.

No but seriously, it is perfect and I can’t wait to do the rest of the room now to see how it finishes up.

Oh and I just want to say – of course, I appreciate the fact that Lowe’s Creative Ideas Magazine gave us a little giftcard to help start us with this project – I do… very much…BUT more importantly, I want to thank them for allowing me to participate in this month’s challenge because of a different reason.  One of the perks was that they allowed us to choose a charity to give a $100 donation to…we decided on Operation Christmas Child…which is run by Samaritan’s Purse…and it provides shoeboxes of toys and goodies (like toothbrushes, little candies, and even just pencils) to children who don’t get anything for Christmas.  It is something I have been involved with for many many years and I am so glad that together LCI magazine and Bower Power were able to help provide more toy-boxes to kids in need.  So if you can – go over to their facebook page and tell them KUDOS on encouraging those kinds of blogger-company-charity type relationships!


p.s.  I had to retype this post three times – so if I missed anything in the post – it’s due to me being COMPLETELY over writing about this toy box.  If you need more info, I’ll do my best to answer the questions in the comments :)



  1. says

    Love it. How long do you think it took from start to finish (paint drying time included)? I have to be specific because I could totally see myself being like, “Oh, that took 6 hours? So if I start tonight, it will be ready by tomorrow morning?” I’m not really a scratch-builder. Obviously.

    Safety-girl Lori has to ask: Did you bolt the top parts to the wall? and/or to the bases? On that note, I seriously need some psychotherapy or something, because when you mentioned boys standing on the doors and that the handles touch the floor, I was all “finger guillotine!!!”

    • says

      We secured the pieces together…but not to the wall. They are really short – I mean, Will’s as tall as it, so if we did another level we would probably need to fasten the thing to the wall but right now, it’s not top heavy. And it took about 2 hours to cut the wood…2 hours to build…2 to sand…then we did painting over the course of three days…and about another hour to fasten the backs and the doors. So what’s that add up to?
      xo – kb

      • says

        Thanks so much for the timeline info. Four days… I am very impressed. I’d probably crack before the paint was dry and try to sand it or something and ruin the whole thing. This is why I get my DIY fix vicariously for right now, I guess!

  2. says

    Major Bower points!Great job!!! I love how a charity is mixed into tis too…my boyfriend and I each did a box this year for Sumaritans purse… I decided that this is going to be one of our Christmas traditions.

  3. Sam says

    None of the blog photos have been loading for me in the past 1-2 weeks. Kind of a bummer. Wondering if anyone else has mentioned technical difficulties?

    • says

      Not that I know of. The photos are all from Photobucket – so maybe it’s a firewall thing? Perhaps they can be bypassed somehow to allow for photobucket to load pictures. Otherwise, I recommend to people to use a reader :)
      xo – kb

  4. Kristen says

    So my 3 year old caught me showing my hubby this post, and she quickly demanded that “Papa make that right now, Please!”

    It’s like she read my mind. I’m sending this to my Dad right now in hopes that he can help me with yet another project. (I’d ask hubby, but he’s not too handy with the power tools)

  5. kristin says

    i love it! great work katie + boyfriend. :) also…. i heart operation Christmas child too! just today i was looking for a church in the general area we’re moving to by searching for one that might have a drop off for it at their church. ha! weird how i was thinking about it and you did something about it! yay for organization… and organizations who are cool.

      • Katie Fencl says

        Katie- It absolutely was! I’m a stay at home mom to two little guys: Gunner-2.5 and Nash (Potato:)-9 months and I can hardly find the time to read your blog let alone sit down and write one!!! I appreciate you taking the precious moments when the babe is sleeping to tell us all what’s going on in your life! Thank you and God Bless!

  6. says

    Oh my goodness, I LOVE it!!! It is absolutely perfect for the space. I love the fact that it is so functional and yet looks so sleek.

    My new year’s resolution is to get my house organized too. The fact that you have already made great headway on yours makes me feel inadequate. Haha. Guess I better do SOMETHING.

  7. dani vanryn says

    It turned out great! We are doing something similar for little ones life, but one question… Ana white’s plans call for a kreg jig or counter sinking screws, did you do this or use another method?

    • says

      We pre-drilled and used what we had…I think they were just 2 1/2 inch wood screws. Jer tried to sink them a little..and then I wood filled over them :)
      xo – kb

  8. M says

    Don’t let the haters get to you. 1) A post not going up “on time” on a Saturday over the holidays shouldn’t be such a travesty and 2) People deserve t0 be compensated for their work and if you’re getting to read for free, you should accept the occasional ad/partnership/sponsor.

    Sheesh. Don’t people know there’s other things like the Katy/Russell breakup to obsess about?

    • Sara says

      Katie, hope you know I was joking about the post not being up on NYE- I know you are a busy momma and I appreciate any and all of your posts.. so Im not too sure why Im considered a “hater” and it certainly wasnt a travesty in my life.

      Also, for babygate… Im thinkin’ that the baby Gods are making you wait so that you & Sherry can be preggers together again :)

      • M says

        Yeah I was referring to those that truly were angry. :) And Katy/Russell = Katy Perry and Russell Brand. Riveting stuff I tell you…

          • Sara says

            Katie, I can forgive you for the post coming up late but how the hell do you not know who Russell Brand is? Thats unforgivable!!! Funniest man alive.

            But back to the post… My favorite thing about you blog is actually how it isnt predicatble, we never know how many posts a day we are going to get, or what the content will be… Photos of Will, House stuff, etc… Yours is the only blog I read daily because I find others predicatble :0 So keep up the unpredictable and youtbe Russell!! :)

  9. says

    This is my first time commenting (although I have been following for quite some time), because I am absolutely smitten with this toy storage! I have been looking at storage to fill up an entire wall in what is soon to be our nursery, and the closest I have come to finding something I like is the Ikea Expedit, but I wasn’t crazy about the storage being all open. This is a perfect compromise and seems like something that can grow with our twins. Plus, they will each get one cubby. Thanks for sharing!

  10. says

    Katie – This turned out awesome! I bow down to you (and the boyfriend) for the mad skillz and DIY attitude. Wish I had the patience and time to even think about tackling something like this . . . our kids could really use some more efficient toy storage.

  11. says

    First – Will is adorable. Second – I love the toy storage!! Third – what is that picture of Will on the top of the storage unit? Looks like a painting/picture?! That’s maybe done on wood? Love it.

  12. Lindsey says

    Can you explain how you did the open cubby spaces above the closed storage? How are the cross pieces (the shelves) made and secured? Hoping I can convince my guy to make these for our little guy (who’s the same age as Will btw :) Looks awesome!

    • says

      Jer secured the bottom upright to the bottom of the box…and the top upright to the middle shelf…and then from behind used diagonal screws to secure it to the other side once it was assembled. Does that make sense? You can see how Ana did here’s by punching in ‘Cubbies” into her search box :)
      xo – kb

  13. Joanne says

    WOW. Love the unit! I am trying to turn our loft into a toy storage area that is friendly on the eyes. This looks perfect. Thanks for the idea!

  14. says

    Love love love this! It’s the perfect size for the kiddos and I love your styling! I hope Will and Donald enjoyed their chat! I shared on my fb too.


  15. KathyL says

    Keep the kids close no matter what you’re doing!! My son Adam was with daddy as soon as he could walk, and NOTHING was thrown out until it was ‘adamized’ meaning torn apart to see how it works. As soon as new things came in the house, they were “fixed” to make them work better, lol. And this Christmas my daughter’s boyfriend didn’t feel it was right that he got a sweeper from his parents and our daughter got a dremel multimax tool. Both my kids are engineers now and I couldn’t be prouder. I love reading about your family, Thank you!! Kathy

  16. says

    That is really nice, I really want to make something similar for the office so I can store some of my crafting stash, so thanks for sharing!

  17. says

    Okay. I am DYING to have this amazing toy box storage solution in the kids’ playroom in our new house. My question is (and I apologize if you answered this somewhere): what was the total cost for all of the supplies to make the toy box? I know Lowe’s hooked you up with a gift card or what-not, but I’d like to know approximately how much you spent in total, including the gift card. Thanks in advance for your response! LOVE your blog, btw… ;)

    • says

      It was about $150 total. But we already had the paint, sandpaper, nails, screws and tools…so keep that in mind. The majority of the money went toward the wood (but we do have a bunch leftover) and hardware :)
      Hope this helps!
      xo – kb

      • says

        This totally helps! Thanks! I thought it’d be a lot more than that! I asked my FIL to make it for me but he declined, so I’m gonna give it a go myself! One other thing, though… Did you connect the pieces together at all? Or is it just two boxes with two cubbies all smooshed together but not connected by screws, etc.? I just cannot get over how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE this toy box. With an almost 5-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son, AND a brand new home we’re building — complete with a designated play room — I think this will be THE most perfectest, adorable storage solution! Now to go about figuring out decor for the rest of the new house…!? Eeeeek!

        • says

          The entire thing is four seperate pieces. Two bases and two tops (each one has four cubbies formed from a cross formation in the center). You can connect them all together if you want…we didn’t just simply because it is really heavy :)
          xo – kb

  18. Hillary says

    Ok now I am over here at the toy storage link…. I love the hinged door. I already got my wood cut to do the drawers, but I am scared of messing those up, how did you do the hinged door? Meaning, did you just measure that opening to cover the front? I will probably have to go back and get a new cut. It looks like it overlaps the front of the low unit rather than fall inside the frame like a drawer front would. I know it was 8 months ago… and pregnancy brain is probably in full force… just wondering…

    • says

      Yes – it was definitely larger than the opening…but you could use a piano hinge and make an exact fit work too if you don’t wanna spend the extra moolah!
      xo – kb

  19. Megan says

    Hi! Love this idea. I just had to comment that I love the table and chairs. Do you happen to remember where they are from? I know it was a while back, but a Momma’s gotta ask! :)

    • says

      The little table is just a side table I had from the thrift store. I see them a lot and this one I sprayed blue. The chairs are from Ikea and they still carry the white version…they are relatively affordable!
      xo – kb

  20. elena says

    Couldnt find if you mentioned how much the whole project cost. I have been looking for something like this. Maybe my guy can build it since he is handy with tools. Lol.

  21. Sheryl says

    I think I must have missed it lol but where’s the need list? Like measurements n what kind of wood. Please thanks I really really really love it.

  22. Shawn says

    Did you end up putting trim on the front? When I was reading, you said you made a 2×4 with shorter to accommodate the hinges. But the picture with the hinges show it has trim. I am just to make sure because I am so building this for my 3 yr. old son.

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