Let us go back in time just a little bit and summarize all the methods and different materials we have been using to construct a miniature dollhouse.
Sometimes I get the question from beginner miniaturists: “Lizzy, everything in the dollhouse world is so amazing and everything interests me, where do I even start?”
Well, besides all the things you need to take into consideration on what type of dollhouse to choose, another way to decide on what to start with first is to find out about the different methods of building a dollhouse!
And this might come as a surprise to you, but there are, in the back of my head, about 9 different methods to do so!
Really, 9 ways? Yes, really, so let’s go!
1. How to Make a classic cardboard dollhouse.
Making a classic cardboard dollhouse is a fun and budget-friendly project suitable for both children and adults. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create one:
Materials needed for a cardboard dollhouse.
In short, this is what you could need to create your cardboard dollhouse:
- Sturdy cardboard sheets or boxes
- Craft knife or scissors
- Ruler or measuring tape
- Craft glue or hot glue gun (this latter is up to you, but I tend to not use a glue gun)
- Paint and paintbrushes
- Decorative materials like dollhouse wallpaper, dollhouse shingles, etc…
Depending on how elaborate you want a cardboard dollhouse to be, you might have the need for more materials!
A Step-by-step guide:
In this article, we will only describe this method and how to in short, as we have already talked about cardboard dollhouses before. Check out the link below!
- Design your dollhouse: Plan the layout and size of your dollhouse. Decide on the number of rooms, floors, and any additional features you want to include.
- Cut the cardboard: Use a craft knife or scissors to cut out the walls, floors, and roof pieces according to your design. Make sure they fit together correctly.
- Assemble the structure: Begin by gluing the walls together to form the basic structure. Add the floors and secure them in place with glue. Let the glue dry thoroughly.
- Add doors and windows: Cut out openings for doors and windows in the walls.
- Decorate the interior: Paint or wallpaper the walls and floors in your desired colors. You can also add carpet, or other decorative materials to make the interior look cozy and inviting. And don’t forget the staircase!
- Decorate the exterior: Paint the outside of the dollhouse and add any desired details such as shingles, trim, or a front porch.
- Ensure the dollhouse is sturdy and secure, this can be a problem when using cardboard.
Pros and cons of a cardboard dollhouse.
As with anything, certain methods can have its benefits but also its pitfalls. It is on you to decide on making the choice 😉
- easy accessible, my best guess would be that you sometimes order packages that are wrapped in solid cardboard 😉
- eco-friendly choice: cardboard is easily recycled
- Lightweight and easy to transport: a cardboard dollhouse doesn’t require much heavy lifting when moving it
- very affordable, you can either get cardboard for free or for very low prices if you want something specific
- easy DIY project that can be suitable for adults ànd for kids
- cardboard is very easy to cut and is very versatile
- Durability and longevity: cardboard dollhouses may not last as long as you would like, and get easily damaged and warped over time, especially with children playing with them.
- Is very weak against water spills. Imagine a cup of tea or a glass of water against this type of dollhouse: quite a disaster, no? 😉
- Might have a less realistic appearance
- Difficulties in Complex Designs: Creating multi-level designs with cardboard may require additional reinforcement and can be more challenging.
2. How to create a miniature dollhouse from a bookshelf?
You can simply repurpose an old bookshelf and turn it into a dollhouse with multiple floors.
Materials needed for a bookshelf dollhouse:
- A bookshelf (any size and style will do, but a smaller one is ideal for a dollhouse)
- Paint and paintbrushes
- Wallpaper or adhesive paper
- Craft knife or scissors
- Miniature furniture and accessories
- Optional: wood filler, primer, paint, and decorative materials like stickers, fabric, or small trimmings. Power tools if you want an extension.
Step-by-step guide on how to transform a bookshelf into a dollhouse
- Select a Bookshelf: Choose a bookshelf that you like and has a good size for a dollhouse. The number of shelves and dividers can help you decide on planning the dollhouse rooms.
- Clean and Sand: Thoroughly clean the bookshelf to remove any dust or dirt. Sand down the surfaces, especially if it’s painted or varnished, to create a smooth base for painting.
- Optional Enhancements:
Fill up visible holes and gaps with wood filler, if they bother you. (and sand these again)
Prime and seal the exterior to protect the paint. You can also add small LED lights to illuminate the interior for a more magical touch.
Also, if you want doors and windows in this bookshelf dollhouse, you either need to take it apart beforehand and create openings with a power tool, or you can create fake doors that don’t open.
If you are handy, you can also attach doors to open the bookshelf with small hinges to create doors.
- Paint the Exterior:
Paint the exterior of the bookshelf with your desired color using acrylic or latex paint.
You can use a brush or a roller to achieve a smooth finish. Apply multiple coats if needed and let the paint dry completely in between layers.
More ideas on how to paint a dollhouse can be found here.
- Decorate the interior of the bookshelf.
You can now add wallpaper, paint, or other decorative elements.
Measure the dimensions of the shelves and cut the wallpaper to fit.
You can add different colors or patterns of wallpaper on the back of the shelves, creating a specific look.
- Add dollhouse furniture and accessories:
Furnish the dollhouse with miniature furniture and accessories. You can find these at craft stores or online, or you can make your own using simple materials like cardboard or popsicle sticks.
You can also add your personal touches by using miniature curtains, rugs, miniature art, etc..
So in short, with some simple modifications and decorations, you can transform an ordinary bookshelf into a charming dollhouse that will bring joy and imagination to playtime.
Some pros and cons of this method.
- Cost-Effective: Repurposing a bookshelf or bookcase you already have or purchasing a secondhand one can be more cost-effective than buying a pre-made dollhouse or building one from scratch using new materials.
- Sturdy Structure: Bookshelves and bookcases are typically made of sturdy materials like wood, which provides a solid and durable base for your dollhouse.
- Multiple Rooms and Levels: Many bookshelves come with multiple shelves and dividers, which can easily be converted into separate rooms or levels, providing more play and display space for your dollhouse.
- Easy Customizable colors: You have the freedom to customize the dollhouse’s layout and paint colors.
- Time-Saving: Starting with a bookshelf as the structure can save time compared to building a dollhouse entirely from scratch, as the basic framework is already in place.
- Limited Mobility: A bookshelf can be quite large and heavy, making it less portable and challenging to move around the house.
- Design Limitations: The dimensions and design of the bookshelf may limit the overall layout and configuration of the dollhouse
- Decorative Challenges: The bookshelf’s existing design or finish might not align with your dollhouse’s desired looks and it can be challenging to modify the original appearance.
3. Renovate old dollhouses.
Now, renovating an old dollhouse is something else, and a lot harder to do than the previous method.
And, it also requires a lot more skills and knowledge of dollhouse making and how to renovate things.
In the near future, I will surely write a separate article on this method, but let’s head over to a short tutorial here first.
Before renovating a dollhouse, you need to understand the dollhouse style!
There are a few things that you need to think about before deciding on renovating a dollhouse, which include:
- Understanding the Dollhouse Style:
Before starting the renovation, it’s essential to study and identify the existing style of the dollhouse.
Dollhouses can come in various architectural styles, such as Victorian, Georgian, Modern, Cottage, Shabby Chic, etc.
Understanding the current style will help you decide if you can or want to continue in this style!
This also means that you need to do your research first and learn the specific techniques if you don’t know the style!
- Preserving and Restoring Antiques or Vintage Dollhouses:
If your dollhouse is an antique or vintage piece, extra care is needed during the renovation to preserve its historical value and authenticity.
Avoid making irreversible changes and strive to maintain the original materials and craftsmanship.
The best way here is to consult with experts or collectors to get advice on restoration techniques suitable for antiques.
Then again, if it is a simply designed modern dollhouse, renovating it will be a lot easier and then we basically need ==>
Materials needed for renovating a simple and modern dollhouse.
If a dollhouse has already been painted before, then you need a larger list of materials to handle the paint:
- Materials Needed for Removing Old Paint:
- Paint Stripper or Paint Remover: A chemical paint stripper can help soften and remove the old paint from the dollhouse’s surfaces.
- Paint Scraper: Use a paint scraper to gently scrape off the softened old paint after applying the paint stripper.
- Safety Gear: Wear appropriate safety gear, including gloves, goggles, and a respirator, to protect yourself from fumes and chemicals while working with paint stripper.
- Materials Needed for Surface Preparation and Renovation:
- Sandpaper: Coarse and fine-grit sandpaper for removing any remaining paint residue, and smoothing the surfaces.
- Primer: A high-quality primer will provide a good base for the new paint and improve its adhesion.
- Paint and Paintbrushes: Choose acrylic or latex paint suitable for the dollhouse’s material and the style you want to achieve.
- Painters Tape: To create clean edges and protect specific areas while painting.
- Miniature Wallpaper: For interior wall decoration, if you don’t use paint or you can use decorative paper or fabric.
- Glue: For securing wallpapers and other decorations.
- Optional: Wood Filler: To fill any cracks, gaps, or holes in wooden dollhouses before painting.
- Optional: Wood Varnish or Clear Sealer: For a protective finish on wooden dollhouses
Renovating an old dollhouse, step by step.
By following these steps and using the appropriate tools and materials, you can successfully renovate an already-painted dollhouse and achieve a fresh and updated appearance for your miniature dollhouse.
- Safety Precautions: Ensure proper ventilation in your workspace, and wear safety gear like gloves, goggles, and a respirator when using a paint stripper.
- Apply Paint Stripper: Follow the instructions on the paint stripper product and apply it to the painted surfaces of the dollhouse. Allow sufficient time for the paint to soften.
- Scrape Off Old Paint: Use a paint scraper to gently remove the softened old paint. Be careful not to damage the dollhouse’s surfaces while scraping.
- Surface Preparation: After removing the old paint, sand down the surfaces with coarse sandpaper to remove any remaining paint residue and create a smooth surface.
- Fill and Repair (if needed): If the dollhouse has any cracks or holes, use wood filler to repair them. Sand the filled areas to make them flush with the surrounding surface.
- Apply Primer: Apply a layer of primer to the dollhouse surfaces to create a suitable base for the new paint. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for drying times.
- Painting and Interior Decoration: Once the primer is dry, paint the dollhouse with your chosen colors. Use painter’s tape to create clean edges between different colors or sections.
- Exterior Painting and Finishing: Paint the exterior of the dollhouse, and if it’s a wooden dollhouse, you can apply wood varnish or clear sealer to protect the finish.
- Furnishing and Decorating: You can now furnish the dollhouse with miniature furniture in the same style as the house.
Remember to take your time and work carefully to ensure a beautiful and lasting result.
4. Create Fabric dollhouses
Did you ever see these fabric little dollhouses on Etsy, made with crochet?
Personally, I have never made a dollhouse with crochet or any kind of fabric, so I personally can’t explain how to build a dollhouse like this, but there are patterns online where you just can follow the instructions. Here are a few:
- A crochet pattern for a gingerbread house:
This is PDF tutorial on crocheting an amazing Gingerbread house. The pattern has 28 pages and contains more than 100 step-by-step photos of the process, all in English.
- Emma and Her Dollhouse: another crochet pattern
How about this crochet pattern for a cute little dollhouse and doll which you can unfold?
- Dollhouse DOLLY PDF Pattern
This dollhouse pattern is for a dollhouse made from fabric and cardboard.
There are lots more patterns in PDF file on Etsy to create these special types of dollhouses and I hope you will figure things out on how to sow or chrochet these, good luck!
5. Create (outdoor) fairy garden houses.
Creating a fairy house can be done in different ways, but the original intent of it was to use organic materials that blend harmoniously with nature, like:
- flowers and plant stems, etc..
And of course, you need glue to assemble everything.
A summarized walkthrough on how to create a miniature dollhouse fairy house.
There can be much more to it than these steps because for example, I have used dollhouse kits as a base, but this is basically it, step by step:
- Gather Organic Materials:
All the materials that I have used to decorate my fairy houses, were either found in nature and thus organic or made from leftover wood or branches from my garden.
Walking outdoors, you can collect things like pinecones ( beautiful roofs!), seashells, and acorns, you can find anywhere in the world, normally 😉
- Create the Base:
Find a flat surface or a tree stump as the base for your fairy house. Alternatively, you can use a flat piece of wood or a large rock as the foundation, or even a broken ceramic flower pot.
- Build the Structure:
Begin building the walls of the fairy house using a DIY kit, stones, branches, rocks, or whatever you can think of to use as a structure.
- Craft the Roof:
Lay large leaves, seashells, pieces of pinecone, small branches, or pieces of bark across the top of the walls to form the roof. Overlapping the materials can help prevent water from seeping through in case of rain. (in heavy rainfall, I put my fairy houses inside)
- Add Doors and Windows:
Use small pieces of bark, and flat stones, or even (pre)created pieces by artists to create doors and windows in the walls.
- Interior Decoration:
If you have created an interior in the house (not necessary), you can now decorate it with soft moss or leaves to create cozy rooms for the fairies. You can also add small pebbles or shells as flooring.
The same goes for any furniture, if there is room, you can add furniture made from twigs and other organic materials.
- Add a Magical Touch:
Add a touch of magic by incorporating small items found in nature, such as tiny flowers, colorful berries, or feathers, to decorate the exterior and interior of the fairy house.
With these steps, you can create a captivating fairy house using organic materials, giving the fairies a beautiful and sustainable home amidst nature’s wonders.
Pros and cons of this method for building a miniature dollhouse.
Building a dollhouse using organic materials can have its pros, but also its challenges. Let’s explore them:
- Eco-Friendly: One of the most significant advantages is that using organic materials is unbelievably environmentally friendly!
- Connection with Nature: Collecting and using items found in the environment can be a fun and enriching experience.
- Natural Aesthetics: Organic materials give the dollhouse a charming and rustic appearance, enhancing its authenticity and bringing a touch of natural beauty to the miniature world.
- Low Cost: This is a very affordable way of constructing your own little fairy garden and Fairy dollhouse!
- Lower Durability: Organic materials might not provide the same level of durability. Over time, the dollhouse may require occasional maintenance or repairs. (and it has a lot in my case because I place the fairy houses outdoors)
- Fragility: Dollhouses built with organic materials can be more delicate and susceptible to damage, especially if not handled with care.
Also, they can depend on the weather conditions
- Limited Availability: Depending on the location and season, finding suitable organic materials may be challenging, limiting the options for construction.
- Time-Consuming: Building with organic materials may require more time and effort compared to using pre-made or synthetic materials.
6. Do a makeover on plastic toy dollhouses
This can be a very easy method to create a miniature dollhouse.
What you need is a (second-hand or affordable) plastic dollhouse, like the ones from Kidcraft, and paint/decorate them. Some people use spray paint, but you can use regular paint, as seen in the video below.
In this video on how to renovate a plastic dollhouse, the creator, Hannah or “Lambincy,” shares her process of transforming a 1993 Fisher-Price Loving Family dollhouse into a stunning new version.
A small tutorial on this process:
The renovation process is focused on the exterior of the dollhouse, with additional parts planned for future videos. Here is a summarized breakdown of the steps taken:
- The first step is to pop out all the windows and doors to be repainted. She struggles a bit with removing the roof and doors but eventually figures it out.
- Hannah paints everything white as a base for the new color palette.
- The new color scheme for the dollhouse is a dark gray created by mixing cobalt blue, burnt umber, and black. She paints the windows and doors with multiple coats of this gray color.
- Hannah uses the “egg carton technique” she found online to create a cobblestone look on the exterior walls. She rips off pieces of an egg carton and glues them onto the dollhouse to resemble stones.
- Once the egg carton stones are glued on, she paints them with different shades of gray to create depth and variation.
- The roof, front porch, and balcony are also painted with various shades of gray.
- Hannah adds additional details, like stone texture on the fireplace, painted bricks, and green color for ivy coverage.
- She seals the entire house with a matte mod podge for protection.
- Hannah adds tiny flowers from the craft store artificial flowers to flower boxes and around fences for decoration.
- Using her Cricut Joy machine, she creates house numbers and additional floral decorations.
Some pros and cons of upcycling a plastic dollhouse
- Sustainable and Eco-Friendly: Upcycling a plastic dollhouse reduces waste and environmental impact, by giving new life to an old toy instead of throwing it away.
- Creativity and Personalization: Upcycling allows for creative expression and personalization. You can customize the dollhouse to your desired color scheme, theme, and style, making it a unique and one-of-a-kind creation.
- Affordable: Upcycling is often more budget-friendly than buying a new dollhouse or purchasing expensive materials. Using simple techniques and repurposing items can save money.
- Nostalgia and Sentimental Value: Rejuvenating a childhood toy can bring back fond memories and sentimental value.
- Skill and Patience Required: Some upcycling techniques, such as painting, gluing, or creating textures, may require skill and patience to achieve the desired results.
- Potential Mess and Cleanup: Upcycling can generate a mess from paint, glue, and other materials, requiring careful handling and cleanup to avoid spills and stains.
- Resale Value: If the dollhouse is an original vintage or collector’s item, extensive upcycling could reduce its resale value, especially among collectors looking for untouched vintage pieces.
7. Create your own miniature dollhouse from scratch
This method of creating your own miniature dollhouse is definitely the hardest one, there’s no doubt about it.
Building a dollhouse from scratch will mostly be built from wood and it requires lots of materials and tools and know-how:
Materials and power tools needed to build a wooden dollhouse from scratch:
- Materials Needed:
- Wood: Different types of wood can be used, such as plywood, pine, or MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard).
- Wood Glue: High-quality wood glue for joining the wooden pieces together.
- Nails or Screws: To secure the wooden parts, you can use nails or screws, depending on your preference and the thickness of the wood.
Added to this is a wood-filler, to cover up any gaps in your dollhouse.
- Sandpaper or sanding block: For smoothing rough edges and surfaces.
- Paint or Stain: Choose acrylic paint or wood stain to add color and protect the wood.
- Paintbrushes: Different sizes of paintbrushes for applying paint or stain.
- Clear Varnish or Sealer: For a protective finish on the wood.
- Hinges and Latches (optional): If you want functional doors and windows, you’ll need hinges and latches.
- Window Panes: For creating realistic windows, you can use clear acrylic or plexiglass sheets.
- Roofing Material: Options include wooden shingles, thin plywood, or other roofing materials for the dollhouse roof.
- Decorative Materials: Such as faux bricks, stones, or miniature tiles for added details.
- Power Tools Needed:
- Table Saw or Circular Saw: For cutting larger pieces of wood to size.
- Miter Saw: Useful for making angled cuts, especially for roof sections.
- Jigsaw: To cut intricate shapes and designs.
- Drill: For making holes and for attaching screws if you choose to use them.
- Nail Gun (optional): To speed up the nailing process, a nail gun can be used.
- Sanding Machine (optional): For faster and more efficient sanding of larger areas.
Remember that while power tools can make the process more efficient, you can also use hand tools like a handsaw, hand drill, and hammer if you prefer a more traditional approach.
Additionally, safety gear such as safety goggles, ear protection, and a dust mask is essential when working with wood and power tools.
How to build this wooden dollhouse from scratch?
I could repeat the process of how to build a dollhouse DIY in detail, but I have already written about this topic a few times on my site.
So for this article, we will keep it short, as it already is getting very long and I might bore you haha!
Here are the steps in a nutshell:
- Design the Dollhouse: Plan the size, shape, and layout of the dollhouse. Create a blueprint or sketch to guide the construction.
- Prepare the Wood: Cut the wooden pieces to the required dimensions using a table saw or circular saw. Use a miter saw for angled cuts if needed.
- Assemble the Walls: Use wood glue and nails/screws to join the wall panels together, forming the main structure of the dollhouse.
- Add Windows and Doors: Cut openings for windows and doors using a jigsaw. Install clear acrylic or plexiglass sheets as window panes. Attach hinges and latches for functioning doors.
- Construct the Roof: Create the roof using wood shingles, thin plywood, or other roofing materials. Secure the roof to the top of the dollhouse structure.
- Sand and Finish: Smooth the surfaces with sandpaper to remove any rough edges. Apply paint or wood stain for color and protection. Add decorative elements like faux bricks or stones, if desired.
- Install Flooring (optional): Add flooring material inside the dollhouse, such as miniature tiles or wooden planks.
- Apply Varnish or Sealer: Apply a clear varnish or sealer to protect the wood and enhance its appearance.
- Decorate the Interior: Furnish the dollhouse with miniature furniture and accessories to create a cozy living space.
Some pros and cons of this method
As always, using a certain method can have its pros and cons, so let’s go!
- Customization: Building from scratch allows for complete customization, giving you the freedom to design the dollhouse to your preferred size, style, and layout.
- Quality and Durability: When constructed with care and high-quality materials, a wooden dollhouse can be more durable and long-lasting compared to some pre-made dollhouses.
- Sense of Achievement: Building a dollhouse from scratch can be a rewarding and satisfying experience, providing a sense of accomplishment and pride in creating something unique.
- Personalized Features: You can add personalized features, such as functional doors, windows, and custom interior designs, making the dollhouse more interactive and enjoyable.
- Time-Consuming: Building a wooden dollhouse from scratch can be time-consuming, especially if you’re new to woodworking or have specific designs in mind.
- Skill and Experience Required: Woodworking skills and experience are beneficial for creating a sturdy and well-constructed dollhouse. Beginners might face challenges.
- Cost and Investment: Depending on the quality of materials used and the tools available, building from scratch can be more expensive than buying a pre-made dollhouse.
- Potential Mistakes: There’s a chance of making mistakes during the construction process, which may require adjustments or even starting over in some cases, which can test your patience 😉
8. Build a miniature dollhouse with the help of DIY dollhouse kits.
Building a dollhouse with the help of DIY dollhouse kits is probably one of the easiest ways to get a dollhouse.
Depending on the brand, there could be pros and cons on each kit, but this is normal and explained extensively on my website 😉
I can’t really hand you a walkthrough on how to do these, because the process of each one can be very different, but I did write a list of craft materials needed for DIY house kits and lots of tips, check them out!
9. How to build a dollhouse with foam core
This is another method to build a dollhouse miniature that I haven’t used myself, but as usual, I have found some more explanation on how to go about things, this time again in the shape of a Youtube video by Bentley House Minis:
(I will let her do the talking this time, enjoy!)
Pros and cons of this method of building a dollhouse with foam.
- Lightweight: Foam materials are generally lightweight, making the dollhouse easy to handle, move, and transport.
- Easy to Cut and Shape: Foam is easy to cut and shape using simple tools like a utility knife or hot wire cutter, allowing for quick and versatile construction.
- Cost-Effective: Foam materials are often more affordable than wood or plastic, making it a cost-effective option for dollhouse construction.
- Easy to Decorate: Foam surfaces are receptive to various finishes, such as paint, adhesive, and decorative elements, making it easy to personalize and decorate the dollhouse.
- Safer for Children: Foam materials are generally softer and less likely to cause injury, making it a safer option for children’s dollhouses.
- Durability: Foam materials may not be as durable as wood or plastic, and they can be more susceptible to wear and tear over time.
- Limited Structural Support: Foam is not as strong as wood or plastic, which may limit the dollhouse’s ability to withstand heavy use or weight-bearing accessories.
- Surface Vulnerability: The foam’s surface can be easily scratched or damaged if not handled with care.
- Flammability: Some foam materials are flammable, requiring extra caution when using near heat sources or open flames.
- Difficulty with Joining: Attaching foam pieces together can be more challenging than traditional materials like wood, and it may require specialized adhesives or techniques
Working with foam to create a dollhouse is a very specific technique, so in the future, I will spend a whole article on this method, you just wait and see! 🙂
My Final Conclusion
Well, I think I broke a record here for looooong articles on my website ahaha!
But, I thought it was time to get out the big general article on how to build a miniature dollhouse because this is the start of your miniature journey and answers the beginner’s question: “How to build a dollhouse”?
You now have 9 different methods to choose from 😉
Which method have you chosen? Please do let me know in the comment section below or join me on (one of) my social media channels or my cozy Facebook group!
I wish you happy crafting!
My name is Lizzy, and I am an amateur miniaturist obsessed with everything in the dollhouse and miniature world, ever since I was a teenager.
I love to write as well about all things happening in the miniature world, hence the reason why I created this blog!
I wish you happy reading and crafting!