Indoor Play Fort / Reading Nook

Get the plans for this indoor play fort / reading nook here. 

Through the Christmas season I made several gifts that I did not record video for. Instead, I just took cell phone pictures through the build process. Not dealing with a video camera is much faster and more enjoyable for quick projects such as this.

The design process started by searching images online for inspiration and coming up with something that the boss lady, aka my wife, approved. This whole idea was hers and she had final approval on the design. We settled on an easy to build corner design that didn’t use much material. 1-1/2 sheets of plywood and 6 eight foot 2x4s.

I started with the ladder. Although this can be made by using 2x4s right off the shelf I decided to joint and plane all of the 2x4s to 1-1/4” by 3” to not only clean up the manufacturer mill marks but also give the ladder a lighter appearance.

To make the ladder a little more inviting to the hands and feet I put a 1/2” round over on the front edges and a 1/4” roundover on the rear edges of the ladder sides. The ladder rungs got a 1/2” roundover on all long edges.

Pocket hole joinery is plenty strong enough for this application. Each ladder rung got two pocket holes per end.

Pocket holes make assembly incredibly quick. All of the pocket holes are facing down and the rungs were spaced evenly. I did lean it up against my workbench and it held my weight with no concern.

I believe I made the ladder rungs 2-1/2” wide so they were inset on both front and back of the ladder sides.

The platform frame was made next. Quick and easy once again with pocket hole screws.

All of the plywood was cut according to my layout diagram….or so I thought. You can see the bottom piece of plywood in this image is the same 48” width as my assembly table. It was supposed to be ripped to a specific width but I completely forgot to do that. You’ll see later when I found out about this mistake.

My wife was very specific about wanting a castle design so the crenels, or notches on top of a castle, were a must. To make them all look the same I made a quick MDF template, traced it onto the plywood wherever needed, roughed out the bulk of the waste with a jigsaw, and then used a flush trim bit in my router to transfer the smooth template shape to all of the cuts.

The left edge of the tall plywood side will be against the wall so a notch is needed for the baseboard in the room. This notch is much larger than the baseboard but a scribed fit is not necessary in this case.

My original plan was to have a rectangular window in the large wall but I decided to go with a star theme for a little bit of interactive design. On the short upper wall I used my CNC machine to cut three randomly placed stars.

And for the large wall I used the CNC to cut a template to once again use a router to transfer the cut to the plywood. All of this can be done with a jigsaw and sandpaper or a file on the cut edges. Before paint I rounded all of the plywood edges with a 1/4” roundover bit and drilled pocket holes on the back side of the short wall.

Valspar Flower Girl is the paint color we went with.

The paint we went with was one of the more expensive options to paint and prime all in one application and the results were surprisingly good. We thought for sure it was going to be a two coat job but one coat turned out great. We also painted just the short wall white for an easy two tone accent.

The next day, during my daughters nap, we started the assembly in her play room. First the platform frame was secured to the wall with a few 3” screws into the wall studs and the platform was set on top.

Both wall panels were set in place and temporarily held with clamps and this is when I realized the mistake of the large wall being too wide.

Here you can see the end of the short wall being right in the way of one of the top cutouts on the large wall. The large wall was supposed to stick out by design but not by that much.

Luckily I had enough material to the left of the left star to cut the panel down to the appropriate width. This, unfortunately, eliminated the design symmetry but it’s really not a big deal. Nobody in the house but me cares about that little mistake. Also, I predrilled and screwed through the panel and into the frame to secure it.

The short wall is held in place with a clamp and secured to the tall panel with pocket hole screws from the inside face.

And finally the ladder is secured to both the platform frame and the other side of the short wall. I put my body weight on the ladder to compress the carpet before positioning it. The ladder and short wall width were established so that there was a 1” gap between the wall and the ladder. This allows room at the floor for the baseboard. In this picture I’m sitting on the platform with my back against the wall. The platform panel was just secured with a few screws into the frame below.

The bookshelf was secured to the inside of the large wall with a few pocket hole screws.

And with the bean bag chair in place this project was done. We decided to build this project instead of buying an indoor reading tent and we are so glad we did. It really transformed the room into a great play area where she can not only sit and read (at her age it’s just us reading to her and her flipping pages) but also a place for her to be physically interactive with her environment. Of course, she’s too young to use the ladder on her own and we never let her in the playroom unsupervised but she’ll grow into it probably much faster than what I care to think about.

Of course, she loves it. This is a really easy project that anyone can make with just a few tools like a circular saw, jigsaw, miter saw, and a drill. For those who are interested I have a set of plans with a shopping list, cutting list, and step by step 3d assembly diagrams. Have a great day!


  1. Very cool design Jay, looks awesome.
    From one Dad to another those are definitely cheers of happiness or (Thank You Dad you’re the best)
    I mean look at that beautiful smile and she’s cheering in the first picture!!
    Take Care.

  2. Awesome project, the design modification on the large wall kinda makes the unit appear to come out of the wall. Perhaps leading to the somewhere neat place.

  3. Nicely done!!! And may I suggest…not critique…several grab holes on the platform bottom, as the transition from going vertical to horizontal can be very tricky, especially for toddlers…even us older ones! I’ve done a few of something similar…..Major kudos!!!!!!!!

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