The Princess Castle

By September 24, 2009Celebrate

DIY Cardboard Castle

My princess loves her castle!  This is Sophia at the END of her birthday.  She is exhausted and still smiling!  And the castle still looks great after 25 kids playing in it!  There are more pics of the finished castle in the daylight further down.  Enjoy and good luck!

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The Background

Sophia wanted a princess party for her 3rd birthday and I wanted a party on a budget.  She said she wanted a castle and I found a way to build her one!  The best part – it was very inexpensive!  The worst part – it was really hard work!

It was totally worth it.  The kids play in it every day.  Sophia’s party was a big hit and her social schedule is now full of tea parties with her friends in the afternoon in the castle.  I love how much fun it is to watch them play with it and I am so glad that I did this instead of getting a bouncy for a lot of money that then gets taken away at the end of the party.

The Project (as completed by me) Requires:

  • The Mr. McGroovy’s Plan:  He has a ton of other AWESOME plans for boxes.  Please – if you do not use the widgets send him something for designing these great plans!  They rock!
  • 8 Large Boxes (Wardrobe or Refrigerator) – you can find free or very cheap boxes.  See Mr. McGroovy’s tips on acquiring boxes for free!  If you want totally free start WAY in advance.  I spent approximately $30 for the 8 boxes and started 2 weeks in advance.
  • Mr. McGroovy’s Box Widgets ($24.99) and/ or
  • Plain ol’ Nuts and Bolts (Plastic or Metal) long enough to go through 2-3 layers of box. (app. $5)
  • Corner Brackets available at any Home Depot or Lowe’s (app. $5)
  • Utility Knife with sharp blade
  • Drill (Hand or Electric)
  • Brown Spray Paint (to cover markings on boxes) ($3)
  • Large Black Sharpie (app. $4)
  • Gray Paint (Oops! Paint $5)

In addition to the above the project requires patience, time and lots of love.

If you want to be very special…

  • Black and White paint if you want to add highlighting to the stones.  (I chose not to as I opted to make my own castle cake for the party.)

The Nitty Gritty How To:

The first few steps are detailed in my Curses!  The Castle! post.

1.  Find Boxes – 8 of Them (9 if you want to build a throne).  This project is easiest if you have 8 of the same boxes.  I did not.  What is cheap is not always easy! I used wardrobe boxes.

2.  Cut all the boxes using utility knife so they are all rectangles without flaps and all look the same (curse a little a lot).  Save the flaps.  My next “how to throw this cheap awesome party” post will include how to make these into swords, shields and magic wands for your complete royal party!

3.  Arrange lovely boxes in castle shape as per plans.  If your boxes have big flaps like wardrobe boxes they should be at the top (we will deal with this later) or you will be unable to make the cuts to the boxes.  I also marked which boxes were what because I knew I had to move them to the porch.

4.  Make your cuts as per the plans.  Don’t forget your door!  I also left one flap from the wardrobe box that I made a “secret” door by painting it to match the castle.  You can see this in the picture below in brown.

5.  Rivet (or bolt) your castle.  This is not as easy as I had thought it would be but it was actually much easier where I chose to use bolts (not in the crawling tunnels) because the screwing was a lot easier than the pushing and let’s be honest – I like to build things and I am more comfortable with bolts than rivets :).

6.  Cover the box markings with spray paint.

7.  Cut out the entry way(s) and rivet (or bolt) to the top front of the castle.  I actually used two entries – one at the front and back of the turrets to increase stability.  You will see the two I did in the final picture.  I measured from the opening of the one turret across to the opening of the other and then made sure that the arch would be about 6 inched taller than Sophia.  With refrigerator boxes this will be less of a problem but your castle will be very large.

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8.  Add any interior braces / supports.  This was not in the plans but I did not like how much the castle moved and I thought that with 25 kids coming over I would find a way to make it more stable.  Also, wardrobe boxes have a flap on the top of one side which has to go on the top so this was a great way to bring the two sides together!  On side has the rivets and one has the bolts.  It was a LOT easier to do this with the bolts.

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9.  Paint your castle!  Kids can help here!  Use a foam roller for the best coverage and least waste of paint.  This was the easiest part of the whole project!  Sophia had a blast!

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The Princess Paints!

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Only One Coat of Paint!

10.  Draw Your Lines for Brick Layers and Windows.  I used a template that I made from extra box flaps so my spacing would be even and my windows the same size.  Still, this took a long time.

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11.  Draw Your Bricks.  I made a brick template out of the extra cardboard as well.  Again though, this was painfully slow when I think about it and not that exciting.  There are  a LOT of bricks to draw.  I tried to be centered on the front entry way and then below the center of each turret and work my way around from there.  Then draw all of your curved edges so the stones look more realistic.

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12.  Cut out your windows and add any special treatments to the castle.  I added some lovely window treatments and a walk through out of tulle.  Sophia loves it!  I stapled it to the back of the cardboard and it worked great!  It did not even come down during the party!  It also hid the inside of the castle (bare cardboard) from the front view of the castle.  This picture is from the day AFTER the party and the castle still looks GREAT!

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13.  Let your kids enjoy it for as long as you have the space!  Here is Sophia’s first Rock Concert at the castle.  Hannah Montana is in the background thanks to her cousin Nicole!

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I love this castle and it is totally possible for far under $50 if you start way ahead on boxes and already have the drill and such.  My total cost was about $75 for everything.  It would be less if you chose to build this without the rivets but them like I said, please send Mr. McGroovy something for his incredible plans!  I am reusing this castle, cutting off the turrets, repainting, and making it a western store for Miles’ 2nd birthday party with a cowboy theme.  Since I also made swords, shields and wands out of this I had very little else to get for an awesome princess party!  The money went a long way!  And we get to keep the castle!

Next Box Project:  A Vanity for my little princess’ room for under $15.  She is SO excited!

I am posting this to the DIY Day at A Soft Place to Land.  Please check out Kimba’s awesome blog and all the other fabulous DIY ideas…most for your own home and not your child’s play place.  Enjoy!

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