Monday, March 9, 2015

A's New Play Table - An IKEA LATT Hack

I've been itching to do something crafty for my toddler, and when I came across the idea for "hacking" the IKEA LATT table and chairs set to customize it, I knew this was it.  There are tons of other blogs out there that have done this already and I basically combined my favorite ideas from several different hacks all into one, and wanted to share my experience.

Now many of these same blogs all talk about how inexpensive it is to do (the kids table with two small chairs set from IKEA is just $19.99 USD), BUT seriously you can end up spending a lot more on top of that if you don't have a lot of tools or other materials just lying around.  That said, this is what I ended up using:

- 4" foam roller
- 2" foam brush
- painters tape
- drop cloth (I just used trash bags)
- ruler
- hammer/mallet
- hack saw
- drill
- scissors
- staple gun with 1/4" staples and 5/8" brads (could use hammer/small nails instead of brads, or drill and screws)
- plexiglass cutter (optional)
- fine grit sand paper

- paint
- polyurethane sealer (I used a water-based one called Varathane No Odor Polyurethane with a satin finish)
- spray adhesive like Krylon Easy Tack
- 1/2" diameter dowel rod
- closet rod sockets (make sure they are 2" in diameter or smaller - got mine at Lowes)
- 1" thick foam cushions (got mine at Michael's)
- About 1/2 yard of fabric
- 5/8" wide (or thereabouts) trim/moulding
- plexiglass (Lowes has .08" thick ones by Optix and cut to size for free)

First up was painting (or staining if you like!) and sealing the pieces while they were unassembled.  I did 2 coats of paint, and 3 coats of poly seal - make sure you follow instructions for your paint/stain/seal to let it properly dry and cure.  Also, make sure you paint the upper edges of the 4 table pieces that face inward as those will actually still show once you slide in the table top. DO NOT SKIP OUT ON DOING THE  POLY!  It's essential for keeping the paint from chipping immediately and making it easier to clean when your child inevitably colors on the wood.

One thing I will note here, which I didn't realize until afterwards when I was assembling, was that compared to most of the hacks I've read about - my LATT set did NOT come with extra slats for the table top or chairs!  Seems like starting in 2015 they got rid of the extra supports underneath the table top and chair seats - which was a bit disappointing for me, and frankly, a bit of a safety/durability worry. ( ̄◇ ̄;)

While waiting for the wood to dry between layers, I worked on padding the seats by first cutting out squares of foam so they fit just inside of each of the corner cutouts in the seats, and attaching them with spray adhesive.  Cut the fabric to size so that it has about 3-4" of overhang on each side, and just pull tight and staple in place (foam side face down on "wrong" side of fabric)!  If you have straight lines like mine, make sure your pattern is lined up properly. I absolutely love the fabric called "Joyful Chevron" that I got from Spoonflower (you can seriously browse this site for hours).  This was from the same pattern designer as the one used by All About Ami in her post.  As she suggested in her post, I chose the more heavy duty linen cotton canvas so it's a bit thicker, but unlike her, I did not shave down the edges of my seat to account for it (it's ok!).

Once all the pieces were dry and sealed it was time to assemble!  To put together the chairs, you need to ignore the order of assembly from the IKEA instructions and start with the back piece and one side piece.  

Just about every poster who did foam cushions said it was pretty easy to just slide the seat into the grooves of the wooden chair pieces despite the fabric adding to the thickness of the seat.  Um yeah.  Not exactly.  First of all, it took a decent amount of force just for me to get it to fit into the groove and slide halfway down one edge a little at a time.  Do it too hard/fast and you may end up cracking some of the pieces.  I ended up having to use a mallet (with a piece of cloth over the seat to protect it) to carefully pound it the rest of the way down, and basically had to do that with each side.  Slide as far as I could by hand, then tap it in the rest of the way with the mallet and then tighten the screws.

For the chalkboard table top, I chose to use chalkboard contact paper rather than chalkboard paint.  Before assembling the table, I cut the contact paper to size (leaving a little overhang to wrap around the edge), peeled, and stuck it on to the white surface of the table top.  It took a few tries to get it relatively smooth and completely covered.

Almost all assembled!  Next was adding the art paper roll function - and here you have a decision to make.  The most common art paper roll size now seems to be 18".  IKEA's MALA roll used to fit on the short edge of the table when it was closer to about 15" in width.  It is now 18.5" wide, which means it will no longer fit like some older hacks show.  I saw another hack where they simply installed the dowel rod going the long way of the table and used the 18" roll of paper.  I preferred the look of it scrolling across the short edge though, and was luckily able to find paper that came in the 15" size off Amazon so I installed it along the short edge instead.  Take your pick.

Installing the dowel rod and trim pieces that go on top of the table to hold the paper in place involved using a hack saw to cut the pieces to the right length, and using a drill to install the closet rod sockets on the inside lip/apron of the table.  I angled the open end of the socket slightly to the side so it wasn't in a perfect "U" position as I wanted to make sure it would be easy to get the dowel back in place with a full roll of paper.

My Lowes would not cut the dowel or trim for me (they said the pieces were too small/thin and therefore a hazard on their machines??).  The hack saw was pretty easy to use though and cost about $6 - I just sanded the cut ends smooth afterwards.  I painted and applied poly to the trim pieces before using a staple gun with brads to attach them on to the table edges, but you could just as easily use a hammer and nails or drill and screws. Several blogs mentioned needing shims or washers to raise the trim pieces a bit higher from the table edge to feed the paper through, but I didn't find it necessary as there was a slight gap anyways.  Plus, the trim is thin and flexible enough that I can "lift" it in the middle a bit to slide a new end of the paper through when changing rolls.  I actually prefer the tighter fit as it makes it less likely my rascally toddler will pull a ton of excess paper through like a paper towel roll, and it makes it easier to tear off a neat edge.

Here's my little munchkin coloring away!  Still trying to keep her from also coloring the chair and cushions. (T_T)  Almost wanted to cry when she took a crayon to the fabric within MINUTES of her first time using the set!  In retrospect, I should have also applied some sort of fabric water-repellent coating to the cushions as well.

She is still at an age where picking at the crayons can be more interesting than actually drawing with them...

Easily tear off the paper from the roll once you are done with a drawing!

For the plexi-glass topper, Lowes cuts it to size for free (make sure you measure in multiple spots and take the shortest distance for length and width - I had to hack at/sand down part of one edge because the table top isn't 100% rectangular - one side of the long edge was a sixteenth of an inch wider than the other for me.  Use a plexi-glass cutter if you like to make little cutouts in the corners since the table corners stick in a bit (also makes it easier for removing the plexi-glass top when you want to use the chalkboard surface beneath).  Most of the blogs mentioned they got the 18" by 24" size of plexi and cut down from that.  Again, my Lowes refused saying that the amount I wanted cut off was too small and didn't give them enough room to score and snap a straight edge properly so they made me buy a sheet that was a size up and cost an extra $6. (-_-)

A seems to prefer chalk to the crayons.  Why wouldn't she?  It messier and marks more surfaces, including her clothes. (^_-)

And that's it!  It was a fun project - I loved working on it a little bit at a time over the course of a couple weeks and overall I'm super happy with how it turned out (and pretty darn proud of myself for using a bunch of materials and tools that I've never worked with before!).  I'm hoping kiddo will get a lot of miles out of it but am bracing myself for the inevitable toddler destruction and wear and tear. :P Since we have a chalkboard surface underneath and therefore need to remove the plexiglass to access it, our table isn't exactly liquid proof against spills that may leak into the crevices.  If you don't plan on using the surface underneath the plexi as a chalkboard or to display and rotate new pictures etc, it may not be a bad idea to do an extra step and seal all the edges (caulk maybe?). 


  1. What brand of paint did you use or the grey and white color?

    1. I used Kelly Moore interior paint that we had lying around - the gray was an egg shell finish and the white was semi-gloss. It was leftover from painting our daughter's nursery. I also used spray paint for the pink trim that holds the paper down - so you could use that too instead.

  2. This is so helpful, thank you! What about the bookshelves in the background- did you make them or buy them?
    Thanks!- Nina

    1. Hi Nina! Sorry, just saw this now - the bookshelves are from IKEA also. I just used the Bekvam spice racks ($3.99!!) and painted them white, with a layer of polyurethane on top. :) There are a lot of cool uses for them that you can find online if you search for IKEA spice rack hack. I will have to say though you have to make sure not to overstuff the shelves, or make sure they are secured with anchors or into the studs. One fell down when tot yanked too hard trying to pull a tall book from a too tightly packed shelf. We ended up getting a Kallax with doors since her book collection was getting too big. I do still plan to use the shelves though to rotate a book display since at this age she still has an easier time choosing books where she can see the covers. ^_^ Hope that helps!

  3. The plexi-glass is such a great idea! Would I need to add the extra wood that you have on the sides for the plexi-glass to work? I'm guessing you don't have the exact measurements for the plexi-glass? Or maybe each table measures slightly different. What a wonderful idea! Thinking of doing something similar for my son.

    1. The two pink trim pieces I have stapled gunned in are just for running the roll of paper through to keep it in place and make it easy to tear off, so you don't need it for the plexi glass part. I would measure your table surface after you have completely assembled it so you can get the exact measurements for cutting since there will be small irregularities with each individual table and if your plexi glass is off by a little it may not fit in place on the tabletop surface. I was an eighth of an inch off on one side and ended up having to sand and saw at it at home to get one corner to fit. ^_^;

  4. Hello! Thank you for sharing; this is so helpful. I am curious if you needed to drill a guide hole for your screws for the paper holder. The wood seems so thin I am worried it will splinter.

    1. It’s been a while since I made it so I’m not 100% sure if pre-drilled some starter holes. I think I might have but in retrospect I don’t think it was necessary? I used shorter screws but I didn’t have any trouble with splintering - it’s a pretty solid piece of pine wood. I have read of one hack where they used heavy duty glue to just glue the dowel holder on to the sides instead of using screws. Not sure how well it holds up long term but should work fine as well if aren’t too rough with it when changing paper rolls. Hope that helps! :)