Recycled Cardboard French Café Playhouse

 By Rita Cook      
When it comes to a kid’s imagination there’s nothing like a playhouse to get the creative juices flowing.  But not just any playhouse in this case, instead a playhouse using recycled paper and cardboard, which London transplant and now 14-year Dallas resident Katie Fagelman says she actually came up with on a whim.

The mother of two, Fagelman says “When my oldest daughter Molly was 4, she would always follow us around trying to sit us down and serve pretend tea and cookies. We had just renovated our house and a new stove was delivered and I kept looking at the huge shipper it came in thinking, ‘I can't waste that cardboard, I should turn that into something - maybe a fort?’”  
From that idea came an even better one that Fagelman knew her oldest daughter, now seven years old, would love as well as her youngest five-year-old too.  She decided to make a fun little space for what she calls her “budding restaurateur to welcome her customers into.”

Fagelman fashioned a French café playhouse out of the leftover cardboard complete with a brightly painted façade, real gingham curtains and a painted chalkboard menu. 

While Fagelman admits that the first model was choppy, held together with parcel tape, it was the beginning of what she has now been selling online for the past half a year.  Made entirely of recycled paper and corrugated cardboard and printed in Carrollton by a local packaging company, Fagelman’s French Café playhouse measures 60" x 48" x 48" when assembled and she has sold about 80 of them so far.

Another standout to the playhouse is the decorated façade, “When I started to dream up the idea of maybe turning Molly's cafe into a business, I started to research what other cardboard playhouses were out there and I saw that none had any illustration to them.”   Attracted to visuals anyway since she comes from a long line of creatives (her dad and brother are both successful artists back in the UK), Fagelman originally painted up a mock cafe scene with a bit of Adobe manipulation and her creation is now what is printed onto the exterior of the cafés she sells.  

“The cafe has open and closed door sign that slides in and out and is written in French, with English translation,” she explains.  There is also a chalkboard menu on the wall that works like a regular chalkboard. The playhouse has two sets of interior shelving units for storing kitchen utensils and food items and a window awning that opens out as well as a table menu with illustrated food items and the French words for them underneath.  “For a new version of the cafe that I am working on there is also a “Rue de” street sign that can be personalized and more items with French words on the menu,” she adds.   

As for other upcoming playhouse ideas, Fagelman says she has many with plans and all will have functioning parts. For example, a castle design with arrow slits, a pretend stockade and a family crest that can be personalized. There’s also a lemonade stand and a beauty parlor, which she says are in contention for favorite for her next playhouse addition.   As for Molly’s first playhouse, Fagelman concludes “Both girls are very keen on play-acting and spend a lot of their time together pretending to be different characters and role-playing.  Molly has spent day after day busying herself with running her cafe.”

The Little Spaces Playhouses are designed for children two to eight years old and are being sold for $79 at However, Fagelman says the new French Café version coming out in July, which will be taller with more added details, will be a bit more expensive.


Rita Cook is an award winning journalist who writes or has written for the Dallas Morning News, Focus Daily News, Waxahachie Daily Light, Dreamscapes Travel Magazine, Porthole, Core Media, Fort Worth Star Telegram and many other publications in Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago.  With five books published, her latest release is “A Brief History of Fort Worth” published by History Press.  You can contact her at