Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Critter Play House

Like any thrift store, Goodwill Outlet Center has oodles of children's toys up for grabs in the blue bins. They fall into three categories:

1.) Popular toys that have been produced recently and are in great condition (usually scooped up by daycare owners, parents, or vigilant EBay sellers)
2.) Unique and quirky vintage playthings in good condition (searched out by antique dealers, collectors, and of course, those EBay sellers)
3.) Junk - my favorite!  This group includes old, worn out items, broken things and toys that are missing parts and pieces.  Apparently, I am the only person interested in this category.

A few weeks ago, I bought this adorable Little Tikes house to spruce up for some lucky Calico Critters.   I loved working on my other Critter house flip, so I thought, "Why not try another?"

As you can see, it was in pretty good condition.  Nothing is cracked or broken, but the Little Tikes sticker is faded and the white plastic was very yellow.
I carefully removed the yellow rockers on each side by cutting the blue elastic that connected them to the floor.  They're a bit too small for Calico Critters, so I will save them for another project.
I fell in love with this tiny house because of the charming wallpaper decals inside.  For such a simple plastic toy, the old fashioned wall paper, wainscoting, and framed pictures add unexpected detail.  Most Calico Critter homes and toys have a similar country feel, making this a good fit.  The green roof flips up and the front sections fold out to create two mini rooms.  The main room has an oval mirror on the back wall (slightly scratched, but still in good condition) and a tiny shelf molded into the plastic wall.  A Critter family couldn't fit in here, so I decided to make it a play house instead of a family home.  I believe its a vintage toy from the very early 1990's but I couldn't find a production year on the house or anywhere online.

My biggest challenge was cleaning the yellow tinted plastic. First I tried a peroxide wash, then bleach (being careful to avoid damaging the decals inside), then I just scrubbed it until it was white again.

You can see the difference here ----->
I took a picture between scrubbing sides.  Only the outside of the house was yellow.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get all the yellow off without removing an entire lay of plastic, but it looks much better now.
I had big plans that involved filling this little club house with lots of furniture and Critter sized playthings. Each tiny room needed a different set of furniture and accessories that coordinated and could be rearranged.  I also made sure everything works well for the middle sized Critters (the kids).  Adult critters will fit, but not comfortably.  That's how play houses should be: adults can go in, but everything inside should be kid-sized, don't you agree?  The main room is a relaxing hag-out space.

The red plastic chair was made by LEGO for a Duplo set.  Originally, it had a plastic stud in the center to hold a Duplo guy in place.  I sanded it away and added a cushion of red polka-dotted fabric with a hand sewn red and white striped throw pillow.

The glossy red table is a small wooden candle holder flipped upside down (I like it much better as a table than a candle holder). On the table is a wooden lamp painted to match the room and a little plastic bluebird, produced by Playmobil for an advent calendar play set.  Both the blue house on the shelf and the red ball are game pieces.  I think the little basket might have once been the base of a plastic cupcake from a play food set. After sanding away the stud in the center, I glued a circle of tan felt to the inside to conceal the rough spot. I painted four tiny blocks with tiny stars, stripes, and letters to match the decor and fill the basket.  They might be my favorite part.

The train and teddy bear wagon both began as small wooden Christmas ornaments.  I removed the hanging string from each and painted a few details to make them extra special.   I also glued a red plastic cow catcher (another game piece) to the front of the train.  Look how great it is with the extra details!  Much better!

The left fold out room is just big enough for a tiny table set - the ideal place to eat a quick snack or work on homework. The two white plastic chairs were produced by Playmobil for a take-and-play house and are the perfect size for Calico Critter kids.  They have bright blue plastic cushions and open backs (necessary for critters with tails).  The table top was made from a bright blue wooden block and the base is an unpainted vintage wooden spool.

The apples are actually plastic cherries from the game Hi Ho Cheerio with the stems snipped off and green leave painted on each.  For a bowl that matched the play house color scheme, I used a blue plastic piece from a children's checkers game.  I scraped a sticker off the bottom and flipped it over.  It happens to be just the right size for the three teeny Critter sized apples.

A blue plastic toy chest is the best feature of the right swing-out room.  It was produced by Mattel for Viacom in 2005, so I suspect that the trunk might have been part of a Sponge Bob play set at one time.  I've been saving this little chest for the perfect project and I'm happy to see it go into the playhouse.  Next to the chest is a tan plastic stack of books (for pretend summer reading) and a little wooden block with a 'Q' on one side and an 'E' on the other.  I found this white flocked teddy bear and replaced his one-dimensional felt bow tie with a nice red silk ribbon bow.

The last detail I added was vibrant red bunting in the main room.  I cut red velvet ribbon into triangles and painted fun little patterns on each with white acrylic.

I wasn't sure how to hang it in the main room, so I made the ribbon ties extra long to wrap around the roof, rather than drilling holes or taping the bunting in place.

In total, the set has 26 adorable, coordinating pieces. Some items were salvaged, others were handmade, but they all fit together!  I'm really proud of this little project and looking forward to making many other tiny houses!

Here is the Etsy posting for this play house set.

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