Dollhouse


If you've seen it, chance is you want one too. In this tutorial I will not give you a blueprint of my house to copy, but I will show you how to make your own blueprint for the house that's right for your dolls.


The Construction

Step 1: Plan it out

How many dolls do you have? How many do you plan to have? What kind of furniture do you have? What furniture do you need? What kind of rooms would you like? How much space do you have to put the dollhouse in?

If you don't know the answers to all those questions, you need to find out before you go any further. I have about 15 dolls. I do not plan to ever have more than 20. Each room has a capacity of approximately 4 dolls. I have 9 rooms (and eventually the rooftop garden as well). That means I *could* house around 37 dolls, but it would be very crowded. 2 dolls per room is good. That way you can have some grouped and some alone, and even some rooms empty at a time.

Most 1/6 scale dollhouses are undersized. A barbie, for example, will have her head within an inch of the ceiling if she can stand up at all. Pullips run anywhere from 10-13" depending on which body you have with the boys even taller. Therefore, the minimum height for each room should be about 15". Other than that, fit your dollhouse to your house.

Deeper is Better Deeper shelves will allow you more flexibility with your furniture arrangement and really give you more freedom in how you set up your rooms. If you have the space, set out a couch and another piece of furniture like a shelf or fireplace side by side with a little space in between and measure it. The minimum should be the length of a bed.

How wide can you go? A good way to figure out how wide you want your average room to be is to take the depth you decide on and cut a piece of paper to that width. Mark off different lengths and take whatever furniture you have and rearrange it until you get a good balance. The furniture shouldn't be touching each other, but likewise you don't want them too spaced out. Now you can double or even triple that measurement to decide on your width, but keep in mind the space you're going to be fitting your dollhouse into.

Now figure out your total dollhouse size. You know how big each of your rooms is going to be, and you know how many rooms you need. Now fit them together to have a full dollhouse. You don't have to have a perfect rectangle--you can have a single room on the top floor and make the open shelf next to it a garden or a deck (pool!) if you like. Sketch out these dimensions, to scale if possible on a piece of paper (i.e. 1 cm=2" or something like that)

Step 2: Now Be Realistic

So you now have your idealized dollhouse planned out. It's probably not going to happen that way. Familiarize yourself with construction materials--most wood is 3/4" thick, so you should probably figure that into your total height/width measurements. Visit DIY stores and home improvement stores. Look up local unfinished furniture stores and get a quote and take care to ask how the dimensions affect the quote (wide woods are more expensive to come by for example and they may double the price after a certain size). In other words, educate yourself.

My dollhouse cost almost $300 to make, and that includes the wood, carved base, sanding sponges, brushes, and stain. If I had had it built, it would have cost more than twice that. When making the decision between building and having something built for you, be realistic. I took shop classes in school, had extensive lessons from my father when I was a kid, and know how to make a technical draft. My boyfriend had all the powertools necessary for the job and knew how to use them. For the size, it was a two person job to put the cut pieces together as well. If you don't have the tools, know-how, or help it might be a bargain to have someone make it for you and pay the extra amount to have something quality and save yourself from screwing up and having it a) break b) end up paying that much anyway because you keep having to buy replacements for the screw-ups or c) irreparably damaging a valuable relationship with a friend or family member over it.

Step 3: Things to Keep in Mind If You Make It Yourself

  • When selecting wood that is the sort of width you need for a dollhouse, check for warping. Almost all wood will be bowed to some degree, but it will make your life a whole lot easier if you get wood as straight as possible. Bring a straight edge into the store with you if necessary. Believe me, if anything it will get you more respect from customers/employees.
  • Make the top piece bigger. The width of the top piece should be at least an inch wider than the width of the dollhouse. If the wood is even slightly bowed, it will look bad if the top doesn't match the edges. Making the top wider will make it look more professional and be more secure.
  • Check it twice. Check it three times. Use a calculator. Mark it with a pencil and check it again. This will save you agony and money.
  • Interior angle? Interior measurement? Exterior angle? Exterior measurement? WTF is that? If you're doing any kind of railing or base where you have two pieces of wood meeting each other at an angle and not a straight edge, you need to know what those things are. With a right angle, your interior/exterior angle is easy. It should be 45 degrees, combined to get a perfect 90 degrees or right angle. If you have some kind of funky hexagonal railing or something, it's going to be more complicated. After you know the angle, you have to figure out the interior/exterior measurement. An angle cutter will usually cut in just one direction so in some cases you'll be cutting from the outside in, and in others from the inside out. The inside measurement will be the length/width of the shelf. That's the easy one. The OUTSIDE measurement will be the length/width PLUS whatever gets added on from the angle of the cut.
    Quick trigonometry lesson: A triangle that has a 45 degree slant and a right angle is called an isoceles right triangle. That means both of the straight sides are the same. What does this mean for you? If you're doing an easy 45 degree cut on the corners of a traditional shelf, the exterior length will be the interior length PLUS the thickness of the wood. If you understand that, good, if not just know that if you have a 1" thick piece of wood, and you're cutting a base side piece of 15", the inside will be 15" and the outside will be 16". If you're cutting a railing that will go on top of instead of along the edge that is also 1" thick, the outside will be 15" and the inside will be 14".
    If you can't understand that, either don't cut any angles or have someone else build the house for you. And go study up on trigonometry and geometry. They are extremely useful. Sewing is 90% geometry and 10% art.

Interior Decorating

Step 1: Plan it out

As when you planned out the house, now you're going to have to decide where the furniture goes, what the color schemes will be, whether to paint, or to paper, and all that fun stuff. It took me a day to build my dollhouse, and over 3 months to decorate it--and I already HAD all the furniture.

Paint Vs Stain Will you be painting the exterior or staining it? I designed my dollhouse to look like and match my bookshelves and other furniture. That's my style. Your style may be to decorate the outside like a house as well as the inside. You can buy shingles and textures to do the outside of your dollhouse as well. But if you do stain it, DO NOT stain the walls/ceiling of the rooms(staining the floor is great and will give the appearance of hardwood until you put carpet in) because dark stains will seep right through the paint. Even 5 coats of it.

Paint Vs Paper I like paper myself for dollhouses, though in my home I prefer paint. Why? Because it's easy. Easy to put in, easy to remove. Detail is already there, and I don't have to make a border stencil 1/2" tall or kill myself painting in miniature. Some sources for paper are memory paper (make sure the pattern on the paper is a repeating pattern since one sheet will not do an entire room), wrapping paper, dollhouse paper, and actual house wallpaper. For memory and wrapping paper, use thicker paper. Thin paper will wrinkle like crazy when wallpaper paste is applied. If you don't know how to wallpaper, browse some home improvement books. The same rules apply, only in miniature. Keep in mind scale, as small prints will seem much bigger in a doll house and medium ones will seem huge.

Carpeting You can buy minitaure persian and area rugs in dollhouse departments of craft stores. They're expensive. You can also buy miniature persian rugs and area rugs as mouse pads, usually slightly less expensive but with equally good quality. If you want wall-to-wall rugs, don't bother going to a dollhouse or minature store. You'll get more variety at a fabric store and for much much cheaper cost. Thin furs, fleeces, felts, and similar fabrics make great rugs. Also, thick weaves will make good patterned rugs, and you can even have frayed/fringed edges.

You Can Paint Your Furniture If you want matching sets, you don't have to rely on pink Barbie furniture. Krylon spray paint has a brand for plastic patio furniture that works great on doll furniture. For more color variety or detail, use craft acrylic. Sand the furniture first with a 500-800 grit sand paper or sponge, cleanse it with rubbing alcohol afterwards to remove sand particles, and seal it with at least 2 coats of brush on sealant at the end for good measure so the colors don't come off on your dolls.

For everything else... your imagination is your limit. If you can't buy the furniture you want, you can make it. If you make windows, leave an open slot at the top so you can change out the 'scenery'. My most interesting doll furniture isn't even doll furniture. Keep your eyes open. Flea Markets and Chinatown are my favorite places for looking for interesting miniatures.