You guys know I love a good op-shop bargain. The things you can find if you put the time and energy in to looking are amazing. You can find items in the best condition and some which are in need if some love and care. I am very lucky when it comes to some of my finds as my mother in law is a keen op-shopper. Now that she’s retired and living in Perth, she’s hitting the second hand stores multiple times a week so I can can basically place my order to what I’m seeking and 9 times out of 10, she delivers. She’s found two doll houses for me so far. Both which at first glance you may have walked past and though nothing can be done to make them look better. But someone like me who sees the beauty in the impefect, knew that these structures could be turned in to someting great. Today I’m going to share with you how I turned this bright and colourful timber doll house in to something me and my kids, and maybe even their kids, will treasure for years to come.
Above left is the doll house when my MIL first delivered it to me. Pretty special right! But, I knew that all it needed was a good sanding and a coat of paint to make it look completely new. The shape of the doll house itself was great and the main reason why I could see the potential in it. I love the arched doors and the staircase especially and the fact that it could be turned in to something quite realistic looking. To start the makeover, I had to sand back the existing paint so that I could apply the new colour. The gloss paint was not overly easy to remove, so I did use an electric sander for the areas I could reach with it. Then the rest was gently sanded by hand. I removed all of the paint from the roof but didn’t worry as much about the inside colour as that wasn’t as glossy so was easier to paint over. Because I’m not the worlds best painter and have an unsteady hand, I simply painted the whole house white. I just used some leftover house paint we had in the shed. Two coats covered any existing colour and gave the house a fresh new feel. Now that I had a blank canvas to work with, I started thinking about the finishes for the interior and exterior. I wanted to in a way recreate our own home so decided to stick with white walls and to decorate with neutral and natural items and finishes. For the roof, I made tiles (shingles) using large pop sticks I picked up for a few dollars at a discount store. They are the ones that beauticians use to apply hot wax. You could use regular sized ones as well but it would take longer to cut and stick them all on. I also used pop sticks, this time some miniature ones, for the skirting boards I glued around all the interior floor/wall joins. Now when I say glue, I used a hot glue gun for everything in this project. It’s easy to use, strong and dries fast which I like when I’m working on a DIY project. For the flooring, I picked up some timber look vinyl place mats from Kmart which were around $3ea. I simply cut with craft scissors to the floor layout and hot glued in. For the curtains, I cut up some lace fabric I already had, and threaded on to some thin dowel from Bunnings which I glued above the interior windows.
When it came to decorating the interior of the doll house, I didn’t just want to buy items which you always see in doll houses. I wanted to make it more realistic looking. Not having worked with a doll house and miniature items before, I went in to the project not really knowing what to get or where to get it. I measured the house and did some Googling to find out the scale of items I needed. Which for this house is 1:12. (Barbie doll house is 1:6). I found out quickly that buying doll house furniture can cost a small fortune. Especially if you get obsessed like me and want to buy all the things! After much research, I found out that purchasing items from international sellers on eBay was the way to go to keep the cost down. The plus side: it’s super cheap. Like $1 for an item plus free postage. The most expensive piece I purchased from from eBay was the kitchen at $24 which I think is still very cheap considering the detail to it. The down side: buying items from places like China takes time to receive. But if you are willing to wait a few weeks, it’s definetly worth it. Some items arrived within two weeks. Some were longer at around 5 weeks. Each seller is different. I had no issues with any of the items I purchased from Chinese sellers. They were all exactly as they appeared online. And they all arrived safely. My tip when buying from eBay us to search ‘miniature’ under the doll house & miniature category as to the left. Then change the settings to search lowest price & postage to find the cheaper items. There’s a lot of sellers listing doll house pieces for rediculous prices. I’m talking hundreds! Don’t let that trick you I to thinking you need to buy expensive items. Go the cheap ones! Apart from eBay, I picked up a few items from friends whose kids didn’t use their doll house furniture anymore, and I also found some items in discount stores and op shops. Some needed a bit of DIY which I’ll go in to next.
I made a few items myself using my friend the hot glue, dowel, pop sticks and fabric offcuts. I found jute twine really useful and made items like the little baskets and the basket wall feature simply by coiling the twine and gluing it together. They turned out great and literally cost cents to make. I found some jute edging at a discount store which I cut in to strips and glued together to make the floor rug to the right. I also found artificial plants I had laying around the house useful as I cut them into smaller pieces and turned them in to miniature plants for decoration. I made bedding and cushions out of scraps of fabrics. And even tiny artworks which were simply interior magazine photos of artwork, cut out and glued to some cork backing. Some of the items I purchased from eBay or got second hand weren’t the right colour so I simply repainted them to make them fit the scheme. I really just played around with buying, making and hacking items until I felt that the house was coming together. Once the furnishings were in, I really went to town on eBay purchasing items like food, books, framed art and decorative items to give that realistic look to the house. Overall, I am beyond happy with the final result. I know I’ve created something social for my son and daughter which for the moment will sit up very high on the shelf where they can’t touch it. But, in future when they are a bit older, will surely love. I have another doll house to work on which is Barbie doll sized. So I’m looking forward to finding items for that and sharing another doll house makeover project with you guys soon.
Zoe – The DIY Decorator
2 thoughts on “DIY Dollhouse”
Hi Zoe, I’ve had a dollhouse sitting for 2 years waiting for me to do over… and the time has come! Can I ask what you used to cut the popsticks? As I too had the same idea for roof shingles, but have been stuck ever since on the right tool to use.
Thankyou, Jess x
Hi Jess, just sharp Scissors for memory 🙂