Many people long to learn how to make a dollhouse just as their artisan craftsman ancestors did. Some wish to engage in woodworking and dollhouse building as a personal hobby. Others are looking for a way to give a beloved child something to cherish for a long time to come. Nothing compares to the feeling of accomplishment and pride that comes from building a dollhouse with your own two hands.
Today, handmade dollhouses are easier to make than ever because of the availability of plans and specially made kits. Plans allow those with sufficient skills to purchase their own materials and use their talents to make dollhouses. Dollhouse kits come complete with materials and instructions, enabling novices to learn and create at the same time. Whichever you choose, making your own dollhouses is an enjoyable and rewarding hobby.
The History Of Dollhouse Making
Dollhouses were first seen in the aristocratic households of the 1600’s. They were initially created for only the wealthiest children. These dollhouses had extremely lavish interiors, with plush rugs and expensive furniture. In the 19th century, more realistic dollhouses were built for a wider population of children. These houses were handmade, usually in a distinctly Victorian style.
After World War II, manufacturers began distributing mass produced dollhouses on a wide-scale and homemade dollhouses all but disappeared. Interest in making handmade dollhouses has enjoyed an increase in popularity as more and more people become involved in do-it-yourself projects. Making handmade dollhouses allows the hobbyist builder to make dollhouses with unique touches that are not available in mass produced products. Today, the art of making of dollhouses is experiencing a dramatic resurgence.
Did You Know?
- Dollhouses are not just for kids. Grown-ups have made the dollhouse collection and decorating hobby one of the most popular in the world.
- In the United States, these miniature houses are called “dollhouses”. In the UK and much of Europe, the word “dollshouses” is more widely used.
- In 1924, English architect Edwin Lutyens designed a dollhouse for Queen Mary that has working plumbing and lighting. The dollhouse is on display at Windsor Castle.
- Dollhouses in the United States typically have an elaborate front section and an open back. In Europe, dollhouses generally have a hinged front that opens for access to the rooms.
How To Start Building A Dollhouse
There are a lot of fancy dollhouses out there, but if you don’t know how to make a dollhouse, start simple and work your way up. Begin by deciding the types of materials you want to use for your model home. Often, those who are not knowledgeable about how to make a dollhouse begin learning their craft using cardboard. Those with experience prefer wood.
Make a floor plan of the dollhouse. Your floor plan should include deciding on the number of stories in the house, the types of rooms, and the dimensions of each room. The easiest shape to work with is a square. If you really want to start small, begin with a simple one-room cottage.
Draw the dollhouse to scale. For most dollhouses, this means one inch for every square foot. You may need to adjust the scale, depending on the size of the house. This scale will differ based on the size and shape of the house.
Once you’ve planned your house to scale, gather the required materials to complete your project. If you use a cardboard box, purchase glue (Elmer’s works well), scissors, and scrap-booking or wrapping paper for the walls. Wood construction will require plywood or MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard), paint and wood finish, sandpaper, hammer, nails, duct tape, wood glue, a ruler, a jigsaw, and scrap-booking paper for the walls.
The start-up costs are clearly minimal when making a cardboard dollhouse. Costs for building a wood dollhouse can be as little as $50, depending on the size and complexity. Dollhouse kits are available from $25 for very small houses to several thousand dollars for larger, more elaborate dollhouses.
How to Make a Dollhouse
Begin by cutting the walls of the dollhouse to scale. If you are making your dollhouse from wood and don’t have a saw, check with your local home or lumber store – they may be able to cut your frame materials for you for a fee. However, you’ll most likely find that owning your own saw(s) will save you quite a bit of time traveling back and forth. It is crucial that all walls are cut at 90 degree angles. As you cut out the pieces, mark each with its planned location. For example, mark a wall piece with “right outside wall” and so on. Cardboard dollhouse pieces can be cut with a basic pair of scissors.
Wood construction requires that each piece of wood be sanded until smooth. Some people prefer to paint and varnish the walls and floors of the house before putting it together; others do so after the house has been constructed. If your design includes windows, cut them out now. You can make windows for a cardboard house simply by punching a hole in the cardboard wall and then cutting out window to the size you need. Windows in wooden dollhouses require the work of a jigsaw.
Assembling the dollhouse shouldn’t be tricky if you’ve used a good plan to cut out all the pieces. Use the floor plan as a guide. Wood glue works best for wooden dollhouses, but may need to be supplemented with a few nails to hold the walls together. Regular glue or glue sticks are fine for cardboard houses. Duct tape can be a lifesaver when making dollhouses and is very easy to cover up with scrapbooking paper afterward.
After the dollhouse has been assembled, it is time for the fun part – decorating! You can use any type of decorating material. Scrapbooking supplies work well as wallpaper and even flooring. It is also possible to purchase specially made dollhouse decorations in a variety of stores. Furniture can be purchased in stores as well, or if you prefer, you can craft your own furniture.
Tips And Tricks
The following tips and tricks can help you when learning how to make a dollhouse…
- Start small, ideally with a cardboard house.
- There are many crafting forums online where you can collaborate with other dollhouse artists, get advice, and share information.
- If you purchase a kit, check the included materials list against the actual pieces you have before beginning. It is more than frustrating to be in the middle of a dollhouse project and discover that pieces are missing.
- Before beginning a project, be conscious of the differences between making a child’s toy and a collectible piece. A toy must be made of strong materials to withstand child’s play. Collectibles can be made of more delicate material.
Doing More With Your Handmade Dollhouses
Learning how to make a dollhouse is rewarding in itself. Each time you work on and finish a project, you will have refined your skills even more. As you become a skilled dollhouse builder, you may want to go beyond making dollhouses for family and friends.
Here are some ways to get more out of making your own dollhouses:
- Build a variety of dollhouses and sell them
- Conduct dollhouse making workshops
- Devise and sell your own plans
- Craft and sell dollhouse furniture
Handmade Dollhouse Resources
Check out the following online resources to learn more about the dollhouse hobby…
The Dollhouse Museum in Basel: Official museum website featuring a variety pictures of old and new dollhouses and their furnishings.
The International Guild of Miniature Artisans: A non-profit organization focuses on defining miniatures craftsmanship as an art form.
NAME: The National Association of Miniature Enthusiasts is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing knowledge and experiences among dollhouse builders and collectors.
National Miniatures Trust: The goal of the National Miniatures Trust is to increase awareness, knowledge, and appreciation for miniatures.
Dollhouse Collectibles: Complete line of dollhouse plans, kits, furnishing, and accessories.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.