The Lost Art of Building a Dollhouse From a Kit

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When I was young, I received a beautifully built dollhouse from my parents for Christmas.  My primary memory from actually receiving the dollhouse was my parents commenting that it was a lot of work to build and that it took them much longer than planned – they had worked on it right up to the 11th hour.

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I remember that discussion, but mostly I remember playing with the dollhouse.  There’s something about miniatures that can be completely irresistible, plus it was my own world where anything could go.  Unfortunately, it didn’t survive my childhood as well as the memories and could not be passed down.

Of course, I thought about how sweet it would be for my little girly girl to have her own dollhouse.  And it took us until the 11th hour to complete the dollhouse, despite having started on it weeks in advance.  It can be difficult to motivate my husband, so thankfully he thought that I indented to give it to her for her birthday 10 days before Christmas.  Since in the rush, I never posted on this project, I wanted to share now that I have several BIG projects in the works that aren’t share-worthy just yet.

51RJK0VmrIL._AA160_We bought a dollhouse kit with a 40% off coupon from Hobby Lobby which brought the total to around $60.  Since  finished dollhouse is twice that or more, I thought we were being sensible by building it ourselves, plus then we could customize it our way.  It can also be purchased online from Amazon and other dollhouse specialty sites, but we could that Hobby Lobby had the best deal and it was handy that I could pick it up in person (instant satisfaction).  There are so many cute models to choose from including some new, super-adorable craftsman houses, but we went for the classing “Vermont Jr.” because it had the most rooms for the money and the size would tuck nicely into a little spot in Chloe’s already cramped room.  I liked the charm of this dollhouse over the Melissa & Doug, KidKraft, and other contemporary dollhouse makers.

The reason that we found that it takes every bit of several weeks to build these things is that you have to allow for drying time of the glue and paint before moving onto the next step.  When you’re building something in secret, you also have time to drag it in and out of its hiding spot and you only really have the time when your children are sleeping or away to work on the project.  For us, that didn’t leave much time at all.20140509-114827.jpg

There are so many tiny little pieces to assemble and paint, but it was actually pretty relaxing to work on this.  I knew we were creating something beautiful that she would cherish for a long time.  We worked on the project in the bonus room we have over the garage (our media-room-slash-man-cave) and tucked it into our tiny little attic when we were finished.

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The assembly of the larger items, like the floor, walls, and roof, went fairly quickly.  We found painting to be more difficult than expected because of all of the nooks and crannies.  We spray-painted as many of the tiny little white pieces as possible to cut down up labor time.  There were many places where we had to break out a tiny artist brush to get the paint into all of the little spots.  We used the same pink as Chloe’s walls because we had it on hand and know she likes the color (since she picked it out).

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Even the shingles need to be stained!  I stained them in a large bucket with Minwax “Early American” thinned with mineral spirits.  I love the look of dark roofs, but this is for a little girl’s room so I wanted to keep it looking bright & cheery.  There was lots of glue, lots of blue tape, and list of paint.

On Christmas morning, Chloe found it parked in front of the Christmas tree.  She loves it!  Santa brought both girls some little dolls to play in the playhouse and they have received dollhouse furniture as gifts at other times since.  The sweetest part is that Chloe even announced that she would be sleeping in the dollhouse that night.  She put a pillow right next to the dollhouse and cuddled right up.

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One thing not in the directions that we came up with that I highly recommend is putting the dollhouse on a rolling platform.  We had a piece of plywood cut at Lowes to be the “yard” of the dollhouse.  It’s a little wider and longer than the base.  We attached lockable swivel casters to the bottom and glued down some hobby grass which comes on a sheet similar to wallpaper from the hobby store.  It’s used primarily for train sets, but works great for dollhouses as well.  My dollhouse didn’t survive being pushed around and moved, but we’re hoping that this one does with this addition.  So far, it’s been very handy!

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If you’re considering building a dollhouse, just allow way more time than you think you need.  Since this is one was to be played with by children, we didn’t fuss too much over all of the accessories, and there are a ton of them.  We figured that they could help update the dollhouse with wallpaper, functioning lights, etc when they are old enough to help.  Let’s face it, pre-schoolers don’t really care what type of flooring or furnishings a dollhouse has.  They just like being in charge of a house and serving the little dollies their tea.

I’m glad we did this one the hard way, instead of buying a pre-built (BORING) dollhouse for 2 times the cost or more.  Both of the girls love their dollhouse!

1 Comment

  1. Zara

    April 13, 2016 at 7:39 am

    I am a grown-up now finishing her doll house; the doll house shell survived but most of the miniatures did not. I don’t have kids [yet] but this was a great reminder not to let go of the Madame Alexander dolls my grandmother and I collected together. They are the perfect size for little hands.

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