Decorate Your Cubby – Without Breaking The (Piggy) Bank

So you’ve settled in with your new cubby house and the kids are loving playing house/shop/school/etc – but what next? We get a lot of enquiries asking for tips and recommendations on how to update and decorate cubby interiors easily and for a bargain. Because we’ve seen it all (and then some) we’ve put together a handy guide of ideas (The What) and shopping sources (The Where) you may not have considered.

Updated Wooden Toys and Homewares

No matter how shabby or ugly an old wooden toy/bowl/decorative item is, it can always be revived. Sand away those layers of flaking paint and leave it raw, or paint to a more suitable colour. Who can go past this incredible cash register – an updated op shop-sourced Aldi toy – from our favourite mama Sophie Vine? Op shops are over-run with well-priced toys, and so often you can find wooden ones amongst the sea of plastic. If that fails you, or you have a specific item in mind, there’s always Ikea (and paint, if those primary colours just aren’t your thing!). So make it your mantra, “if it’s wood, it’s good”.

Little ‘Shopping’ Baskets

You can often find small wicker baskets with handles at op shops and garage sales – you know, the kind your Gran keeps mini-soaps in and may or may not have a plaid fabric lining. Collect a range of shapes and sizes, paint them all different colours, and hang them in bunches from S hooks in the corner ceiling of your cubby – perfect shopping baskets for little customers. And if you ever see mini wire baskets with handles like we’ve used below, snap them up quick-sticks!

Old Kitchen Utensils and Cookware

It’s a no-brainer really – raid your own cupboard or put the word out to family members, and stock up your mud kitchen or cubby with old pots and pans, utensils like wooden spoons, tongs, and whisks, and of course plastic bowls. Pots and frying pans look especially good hung on S hooks, and it’s a good excuse to clean out your kitchen of stuff you just don’t use anymore.

Pinterest DIY Artworks

Try your hand at some of those crafty “so easy!” DIY artworks. If it all goes pear-shaped at least you can have a chuckle – and please, PLEASE send us a pic, nothing makes us laugh-cry more than a good ol’ Pinterest Fail. If you don’t have an artistic bone in your body (or, you know your limits!) there are some very kind creatives out there offering free printables you can download and frame yourself – Burlap and Blue have compiled a very handy list of their top picks.

Painted Pots

Did you know that not only can you paint terracotta pots, but that they come up REALLY well? Large ones are well under $20, so it’s a great way to add bright colour to your cubby’s decking area, and you don’t have to just put potted plants in ’em – see our melon-filled peach and aqua ones below.

Outdoor Rugs and Doormats

Add some texture to your cubby’s wooden floor by sourcing a sturdy outdoor rug (the easily cleanable kind). Fenton and Fenton have a great range of woven plastic rugs (we can vouch they’re easy to clean!), although you might find yourself dragging them out for beach days and picnics as they’re just too pretty to keep hidden. Finding the perfect doormat can be a challenge for a regular home, but you can have MUCH more fun with a cubby one. Online homewares store Temple & Webster have a huge range (love this caravan greeter), or you can DIY your own design like this adorable Hey Y’all tutorial.

Colourful Accessories

One of our earliest clients did an amazing job decorating their cubby, using items fit for a Real House! Colourful garden gnomes headed back to the garden, artwork and decorative hangings repurposed from the kid’s playroom, and that gorgeous bright ‘Eames’ hat rack make the space an actual little replica home.

Op Shops/Hard Rubbish

This goes without saying. Toys, baskets, kitchenware … if you’re a regular op—shopper you’ll keep your eyes peeled at all times. If that’s not really your bag, research the best ones in your area for non-clothing items and make a trip.

Antique Bazaars

Again, if you LOVE hitting up vintage or industrial bazaars like Mill Markets or Lost and Found here in Melbourne, you can find some absolute gems if you keep looking long enough. If you don’t love it, you probably have that One Friend who does (personally, I cannot drive past one without stopping for a gander) so let them know what obscure item is on your wish list – they’ll love the challenge. Old horse shoes, shop signage, brass bells – they may not be cheap but they’ll last forever and be a truly unique addition.


You don’t need us to tell you how Kmart has upped their game over the last few years. If your colour scheme is more bright pastels than primary colours, then this is the place for you. They’re a great source for battery-operated lighting, shelving units, and general knick-knackery.


Did you know Bunnings has a DIY section on their website? True story, I once made a hoola hoop out of plumbing supplies, thanks to them. But aside from that, you can get low cost wall plant hangers (remove the liner and paint the wire frame – et voila, a storage cage for balls and larger toy items), pre-cut wooden craft pieces for your little one to decorate and proudly hang, and pegboards to mount and house tools for the ‘workshop’.

Those Weird Pop-Up Homewares Stores That Sell Gross ‘Holiday House’ Décor Items

One of our favourite props from our Fish ‘n’ Chip Shop cubby shoot were these ‘freshly caught fish’. Well, the secret is, these were once $35-a-bunch (?!?!) rustic wall hangings for …. a beachside abode, maybe? Priced down to $5 a bunch, with a lick of shiny silver spray paint they became a great prop and role play toy. Other pieces we left behind in store: shell ‘art’, wooden seagulls (we had the real deal on the day), decorative faux-fruit, wind chimes …

Ikea / Aldi

Ikea has great felt fruit and veg (for when you just can’t keep up with edible stock like below), as well as a range of role play toys. If you prefer to buy used (the most ethical way to shop!), Ikea items regularly show up on eBay and Gumtree. Aldi occasionally have some winning items – wooden instruments, cash registers etc, so keep an eye out – if you’re REALLY KEEN you can sign up to their weekly special buys newsletter.

Got any hot tips? Please, comment or send us a message so we can update the list! And keep an eye out for our very own tried-and-true DIY tutorials – we have some cuties coming up and we’ll never pretend they’re easy if they’re not!