Our eco cubby is finally finished (well… almost)

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Every kid needs a cubby house. Cubbies are furnished with imagination and surrounded by enchanted forests. So when we found a half-finished plywood house at a garage sale we loaded it onto the trailer and spirited it home. As with all spur-of-the-moment ideas, it was a much bigger project than we anticipated, made just that little bit more difficult by our dedication to using all reclaimed or eco-friendly materials.

The “house” we bought comprised four walls, with windows and a door. No roof, as you can see below. Jon finished the window sills and doorframe using random bits of wood that he collects, my job was to slap on a couple of undercoats using the dregs of a enormous paint tin we salvaged from the tip.


Once the cubby was in place on the slab that used to hold the world’s rustiest old shed, Jon went all Jamie Durie on us and laid a 3x3m deck out the front using the flooring from his old shop. The sheets for the roof used to be on the walls of his new premises, and the posts at the front are old fence posts. The only things we needed to buy were some bolts and screws.

As the cubby is positioned in between my veggie patch and the chicken coop, using eco-friendly paint was very important to me. Not only would my kids be vulnerable to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from ordinary paint, but the run-off would quite literally affect our food supply. Not cool.

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Ask in a paint shop for eco-friendly paint and you’ll be told “all our paints are low-VOC and non-toxic”. Which is good, but not good enough. I contacted Colours By Nature, a family business that sells and distributes eco-friendly paint and other building supplies, who kindly supplied me with Volvox ProAqua Enamel to paint the cubby house. This fabulous paint does not contain chemical solvents, which offgas and cause what any renovator might know as “the paint headache”. Volvox eco-friendly paint is made from raw, natural materials and is water based, which means you can clean your brushes with water, another win in my book. I wanted the cubby to be like a little secret at the bottom of the garden, and I’m really happy with the colours (Goanna Grey for the walls and Off-White for the trim). As far as application goes, I didn’t notice any difference to regular paint, apart from the fact that it didn’t stink or make my nose go all stuffy.

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The kids are loving their new cubby. From their deck, they can sit in the chairs we bought them from the Trash & Treasure market and watch the chickens. Alfie likes to line up his ragged fleet of trucks (also from the tip – do you think our kids will rebel one day by becoming mass consumers?), and all Edith wants to do is roll in the dirt beside the agaves.

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If you’re considering building a cubby in the backyard, consider all the materials you use and the fact that your children will be spending (hopefully) a lot of time in that small space. Buy second-hand where you can, seek out unused or discarded building materials and definitely choose eco-friendly paint to lessen the impact on your natural environment.

To find out more about eco-friendly paint, visit Colours By Nature.


  1. Lila says

    Looks fantastic.
    Love the colours. This is probably a silly question but does the Eco paint stop anything from the undercoat seeping out through it? I’m assuming the undercoat was just standard paint? Can’t wait to look up colours by nature for our house

    • (dt)em says

      Hi Lila, not a silly question at all! There was a very long period of time between finishing the undercoats and painting over it due to rain and it sitting in the garage for weeks on end. The undercoat was a low-VOC paint but it still had that smell to it, and I was happy to let it offgas for as long as possible. Once painted over with the eco stuff, there was no smell.


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