Upcycled lockers for toy storage

Upcycled lockers for toy storage {Heather's Handmade Life}
When my husband texted me a photo of dirty, rusted lockers and asked if we wanted them — for free — of course I replied with “Yes! How many can you take???”

His lunchroom at work was about to be renovated, and employees were allowed to take the old lockers if they wanted. Needless to say, he took the minivan to work two days in a row and filled it with as many soon-to-be upcycled lockers as it would hold.

I helped him drag a set of two into the basement and I got my first look at them. He’d hauled them home in blocks of two and three, but they can easily come apart with a few bolts if we want to change the configuration.

I was honestly a little grossed out by the grit and rustcoating them, but what really surprised me were the stickers. So many stickers! Some of them were cool ones from Australia and Europe and South America, and others were from local skate shops and tourist locations. There were even a few banana stickers.

Upcycled lockers for toy storage {Heather's Handmade Life}
BEFORE: Our upcycled lockers

Scraping off those stickers was definitely the most frustrating part of this project. I used my fingernails for the easy ones, and then resorted to a putty knife and a razor blade. For the really stubborn ones, I soaked them in nail polish remover and then re-scraped. Someone suggested Goo Gone but I didn’t have any, and at that point I said, “Eh, good enough!” and moved on.

Upcycled lockers for toy storage {Heather's Handmade Life}
Peeling off stickers = THE WORST part of upcycled lockers!

After a bad experience painting a different set of lockers for another room (more on that in a few weeks — I promise) I knew what I had to do.

I went back to my go-to, Fusion Mineral Paint. Just two coats had the front of the lockers a nice deep blue (“Midnight Blue”) and then I began the gross task of scrubbing the insides. At least I found an American quarter.

Now, these are full-size lockers — something I didn’t get in junior high or high school — so they are easily big enough to fit a child. I knew we HAD to build permanent shelves inside this set, otherwise a neighbour or little sibling was most certainly going to be locked inside.

(Our son had already been planning to use his allowance to buy letter padlocks, but he also owns padlocks with keys.)

We used my jigsaw to cut out four shelves — 12” x 16” — and put a lot of thought into where we’d position them in the lockers.

“They should be closer together!” I kept insisting. “A small kid could still fit in there, and I am NOT dealing with a panicking child locked inside!”

“I don’t think they’d fit in there.”

“We can’t take any chance! You KNOW they’re going to try!” A mother knows.

When we felt the shelves were at the right level, we screwed support boards (made from scraps of 1×2) through the holes in the sides of the lockers. Then we just pounded the melamine shelves down until they were resting on the supports — snugly enough that no child could get them back out.

The lockers were almost ready to go upstairs when I decided they needed a finishing touch. I found an Army-like font (“Top Secret” on DaFont.com) and printed out our son’s initials. I scribbled over the backs of the pages with blue chalk, and transferred the outline by tracing over it with the sharp tip of a pen. Then I just filled in the letters with a bit of beige paint (“Linen” by Fusion Mineral Paint).

The next morning, my husband and I dragged the HEAVY lockers up two flights of stairs to our son’s bedroom.

Upcycled lockers for toy storage {Heather's Handmade Life}

Then I got to load them up with toys, games, figurines, and his science experiment gear — all items that are normally stashed under his bed or on the floor. I filled both lockers in no time at all, and there was even a spot to store his suitcase for overnight visits.

Upcycled lockers for toy storage {Heather's Handmade Life}

The first batch may be done, but I have more rusty lockers waiting to be “rescued” and made over in very different ways.

So if you know of a school that’s about to be renovated or torn down, do yourself a favour and try to score some free lockers! Just look for ones that aren’t covered with dozens of stickers. Trust me on that.

Upcycled lockers for toy storage {Heather's Handmade Life}

Upcycled lockers for toy storage {Heather's Handmade Life}

Upcycled lockers for toy storage {Heather's Handmade Life}
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