Our Cubbyhouse Makeover

Pass me that mother of the year baton, guys. I don’t get to have it too often, but I totally deserve to hold it for a good minute or two. I won a cubbyhouse! I won it late last year through an Instagram competition held by a local Perth cubbyhouse company called Kidzshack. To enter, you had to describe how you would decorate your cubbyhouse if you won, and I said I would paint it black and white like our house and put succulents in a windowbox. You could have knocked me over with a paintbrush when I found out I had won.

And what a cubby it turned out to be. The kids LOVE it. It totally brought this unused corner of our garden to life. I want to blog about it because I feel so grateful for it. Thank you, Kidzshack. I got so many ‘cool mum’ points for this one, and it’s way healthier than suggesting we have pancakes for dinner again.

I could not WAIT for Little Nerd to finish kindy that day so I could tell him and Miss Nerd the big news. It was cute. I took a little video of his reaction (if you’re on Instagram you can see it in my Highlights reel under ‘Cubbyhouse’) even Miss Nerd seemed into it. Of course, because I’m nice that way, I told Little Nerd he won it but really we all know it was me.

For about three weeks Little Nerd spoke of pretty much nothing else. He asked me to tell ‘the story’ about the cubbyhouse competition over and over. AND I WAS PLEASED TO ASSIST. I only realised his four year old brain might not entirely grasp the idea of an Instagram competition until one day in the car when he asked me to retell him the story for like the 84th time. I was like, “Well, I entered your name into a competition to win a cubbyhouse, and the people picked your name as the winner.”

“Yep, and those people thought my name was great and they said, ‘That is the best name’ so it won.” Yeeeeah… so that’s not how competitions work but you’re four so ok.

I was probably as excited as he was; I knew they had had a TON of entries and I couldn’t believe we had won. We were all so damn excited – me, Mr Nerd, my sisters, my mum – I cannot lie, we all spent a good hour or so online that afternoon, looking at the Kidzshack website and having a lengthy adult debate on the merits of each individual cubbyhouse (“Well this one comes with an alfresco kitchen, if you want to work on your mud pies”) and trying to choose. The prize was for a Funshack, but the lovely people at Kidzshack said I could pick any design I liked if something else worked better for our garden.

We ended up choosing the Funshack anyway, as it had a sandpit underneath, two ladders to climb up and a slide.

BEFORE. A cubbyhouse is way better than a ‘potato patch’ without any potatoes.


Well this is my blog and I can post whatever photos I like.

Beyond excited about her No Boys Allowed future clubhouse.
What sort of family doesn’t clear away all the branches first THEN do the cubby and do things in logical order? A family like ours.

There is just something about the idea of a cubbyhouse or a treehouse, isn’t there? Even if you’re an adult. We were all excited. Mr Nerd couldn’t wait to build it with the kids; I couldn’t wait to hang cute crap on it. It brought back all those childhood memories for me and my sisters of pretending our garden shed was a secret clubhouse, and putting up signs saying NO BOYS ALLOWED a la Berenstain Bears.

We told Little Nerd all about things like tin cup phones on strings and pulley systems and Harriet the Spy and every night before bed he asked to hear a story about a kid (always himself) and a cubbyhouse. Even Miss Nerd got swept along in the excitement.

The kids got a huge kick out of their letterbox. It’s from Kmart and it’s like $20.

I have to confess as the cubbyhouse was going up, I did entertain fantasies of it one day becoming my writer’s shed. I’ve always harboured romantic fantasies of writing from a small, quiet shed in the garden, a la Roald Dahl or Virginia Woolf. Mr Nerd laughed so hard when I told him this he nearly fell over. Idiot. “You can barely stand up in it!”
“Well you don’t need to stand up to write, you just need to sit down.” Logic, people.

We put the cubby in an unused corner of our yard where we had our old, unused potato patch. Because you need ventilation and sun around the cubby (so it doesn’t get mouldy) we had to cut back our trees and our hibiscus hedge. Quite a lot. Our poor rear neighbours. They seemed a bit aghast for a while, and I’m sure the bloodcurdling screams of kids playing pirates as they sat having a beer on their back patio didn’t help. Don’t feel too bad for them though, it’s all grown back nice and leafy by now, so they have privacy again. (Hibiscus can take a good hard pruning, so if yours is looking leggy, go for it).

The cubbyhouse wasn’t too hard to put together – I say that, even though I didn’t help one bit. So many people have gone to me, “You should do more DIY posts!” and I’m like yaaaaah I’m really not very practical. Once I was really proud of myself for putting together a simple shoe rack, then once I finished, I stepped back to admire my handiwork and realised I had actually managed to put it together so it was actually twisted, like a DNA helix.

Impractical though I may be, I feel like I’m a pretty amazing painter by now. (I’m always grumbling about how my father-in-law and I painted the exterior of my entire house, in summer, while I was pregnant) and painting the cubby was a job and a half. Little Nerd was my assistant. Once that kid wants to do something, he wants to do it. He is stubborn as an ox (not sure where he got that from).

You have to paint the cubbyhouses to make them weatherproof – in hindsight we probably should have painted the roof and walls before putting it all together, but oh well, it’s done now, and I burnt a lot of calories.

Of course I wanted it to be black and white, like our house cladding makeover. I used my favourite Monarch brushes (which are the best brushes in the world) and for paint I used Dulux Monument for the walls and Dulux Natural White for the trim. And a chalk paint from Jolie Home for the floor, which I couldn’t resist from giving it a worn-in sort of beachy look. You can do anything with chalk paint! (I actually want to stencil the floor later. I know. I’m a bit excited about getting to decorate a new project).

Little Nerd and I painted together through a spate of 40 degree days, sweating away in the cubbyhouse like it was our own personal sauna, but we did it and he was so proud of himself for helping and we had a lot of fun together.

Also, I realised that while my husband can build and make stuff, he is a horrific painter. Like, ridiculously bad. Yet he always gives me shit about it and says I’M a bad painter?

When we renovate we normally agree that he’ll build or fix something and I’ll paint it. So, he never paints. One evening he offered to take over the painting for me because I was tired. So I watched him paint first-hand, I watched him paint splodgily over my carefully cut-in white window trim with black paint and cheerful abandon.

“STOP! Just stop,” I screamed. “What are you DOING?”
“Er, painting?”
“Please. Look at what our FOUR-YEAR-OLD just painted. Now look at what you painted.”
Little Nerd eyed the wall too. “That’s not good, Daddy,” he said dolefully.
“He is FOUR and he paints better than you. Now I have to fix what you’ve just mucked up. I don’t want you to paint anything ever again.”
“Ok,” said Mr Nerd happily, handing me the brush back and hopping off the ladder. I realised he actually seemed a little too happy about my harsh words and that made me wonder if maybe his craph painting was really just a ruse to get out of painting, you know? Sort of like how he accuses me of shrinking all his T-shirts on purpose so he no longer asks me to do his washing ever. (This is unfounded, by the way).

Time to add sand

There’s always that one kid that’s licking the playground.
Balcony vista. That barbecue is moved now, yay.
I know this is a post with a lot of kid spam and I apologise but I can’t even with this picture. Like, where is her neck?
Yeah just chilling in the cubby, pretending to read.

The kids play out there in the cubby EVERY day now, which is awesome. Basically every evening, we are there, hoping robbers don’t show up.

I’m going to wedge a little shelf into the hibiscus for holding beverages. I dropped my favourite chopping board the other day (you know you’re a real grown up when you have a favourite chopping board; I know you have one too) and it split into two. I was so annoyed until I realised the broken chopping board would actually be perfect as a little shelf stuck in the hibiscus, for my coffee or wine. I could saw a little notch in the side to hold my wine glass. ADULTING. Like a pro. (Or functional semi-alcoholic parenting? I don’t know. Both are ok).

It did cross our minds that one day the kids will be too old to play in the cubbyhouse (in the case that we don’t end up moving from this house for a while yet) but then we were like, “Well I suppose we can make it a chicken cage when that happens.”

But after spending like three days painting it, I changed my mind. I LOVE chickens. They were my childhood pets from when I was four til when I moved out of home, I had chooks that lived for 12+ years and that even did tricks, like dogs. And I miss having them and having fresh eggs all the time. But no chicken, no matter how cute (or how impressive her tricks are) will ever crap on my painstakingly painted cubbyhouse. We love it too much.

Secretly I still think it can become my writing shed instead then. I won’t even hear Mr Nerd laughing at me from the house.

Thank you Kidzshack for the best surprise ever, you made our year! Maya x


Author: Maya Anderson

When Maya Anderson was thinking of a name for her homes and design blog, nothing seemed more fitting than House Nerd. Obsessed with everything to do with houses, renovating and interior design, Maya is a features journalist by training with a background in print and a focus on homes and real estate. She has been renovating her 1970s house since forever, loves dogs and can eat her body weight in dumplings.

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