Small Space Solution: Construct a Closet Playspace

Transform a little-used closet into an out-of-this-world spot where kids can hang (or hide). A brightly colored interior and circular cutouts add to the fun. You can hire a professional, or follow our DIY guide from Incorporated Architecture and Design in New York City.

Closet playhouse Annie Schlechter

Peekaboo Playspace

what you'll need

Screwdriver, 2x4 wood studs, pencil, tape measure, circular saw, wood screws, power drill, 1 to 3 sheets of 3/4"x 4'x 8' MDF, nail, string, sawhorses, jigsaw, sandpaper, 11/2" zinc-plated double-wide corner braces, molding (cut to fit around the sides and top of the closet opening), finishing nails, Bondo wood filler, 6" putty knife, primer, paintbrush, paint

make it

  1. Remove existing closet doors, hardware, and molding.
  2. Create a 2x4 frame to sit inside the closet door opening: Cut 2 pieces of 2x4 to fit the height of the closet door opening. Measure 2 more pieces of 2x4 to fit the width; subtract 3" from this measurement and cut the 2x4s to this size.
  3. Lay the studs out on the floor to create a rectangle that will fit the door opening. Screw the four perimeter studs together.
  4. Once you have this outer frame, measure the locations of vertical studs. You'll need a support every 24 inches. Measure and cut enough supports for your doorway. Screw them inside the perimeter frame.
  5. With the help of a friend, stand up your support framing and place it in the closet door frame. Fasten the framing into the door's frame using wood screws every 12 to 16 inches.
  6. Measure and cut enough MDF to cover the closet opening (the MDF panels should stand upright). Make sure you have enough extra MDF on every side to cover the seam between the wall and closet opening.
  7. Lay the 4'x 8' sheets of MDF on the floor the way they'll be placed on the wall. Make an oversize compass by tying a pencil and a nail to either end of a piece of string. Use the nail as the center point and adjust the string length to make smaller and larger circles. Make larger "door" and "window" openings, and clusters of smaller decorative circles.
  8. Prop the MDF up on sawhorses. Use the drill to create pilot holes in each circle. Use a jigsaw to cut out the circles. It's okay if the cuts aren't perfect; you can sand each opening to refine the circles.
  9. You can screw the MDF directly into the framing or, to avoid screws showing on the finished wall, use zinc-plated double-wide corner braces to fasten the back side of panels to the support frame. Mark the locations for the braces along the sides of the support studs (place them 16" apart). Fasten the braces into the support wall studs.
  10. Place the panels on the wall so they cover the closet opening and fasten them to the braces. Have one person on the outside holding the panels in place and one person on the inside install screws through the braces and into the MDF panels.
  11. Incorporated Architecture & Design refinished the entire closet wall for a seamless look, but you can install molding on the wall where the panels end to hide the seams. You can get molding cut for you at a home-improvement store and install it with finishing nails.
  12. To cover the seams between the MDF, apply the Bondo wood filler with the putty knife and let dry completely. Sand to smooth.
  13. Prime and repaint the wall.

How to Make the Most of Playtime

    Originally published in the May 2014 issue of Parents magazine.