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Every little girl’s dream – a DIY dollhouse

I’m living the dream.

Made it through some tough times and for the past three years have been a very blessed mom to twin girls, Alexandra and Hailey. If you are anything like me, you want to give your children absolutely everything their heart’s desire. I say you want to, not have to.

In my house, Christmas is the exception. Christmas is magical, full of sparkly snow, twinkling lights, and brightly coloured packages tied up with string. Lots and lots of packages!

Last year, I wanted to whip up some magic of my own. I was overly ambitious, if I am honest, with two jobs and twin toddlers, not to mention a million other items on my omnipresent to-do list. I wanted to take a super solid, but admittedly worn, old dollhouse and make it a simply stunning structure. I envisioned the perfect – and I mean PERFECT – handcrafted, detailed and special home for my girls to play in.

Woman with vision

Oh yes, I have vision alright. Sugarplums and star bursts and visions of “whipping up” a very fancy upcycle DIY dollhouse renovation!

When our friends Jeff and Jen gave us their now tween daughter’s old wooden dollhouse to pass along to our girls I was immediately filled with said “vision.” But I have to say that although of COURSE my efforts didn’t look exactly as I had envisioned, I was darn pleased with the results. (Props to Grandpa Stewart who worked very hard to help and who, like me, thinks: “Sure. We can totally do that ourselves!”)

What we did:

  • Improved the framing – sanding edges, adding trim, removing and adding nails, adding screws
  • Added shutters – those gorgeous windows deserved hinged window coverings
  • Painted – the teenage former owner had written ‘Justin Bieber’ on the walls, scratched and smeared paint and generally just loved the house VERY well before us
  • Wallpapered and chairrailed – yes, these are real verbs. They’re not? They should be
  • Carpentry – yup – my Father and I built almost ALL the furniture
  • Interior decorating – well, ok…last minute scrappy non-sewn curtains and finishing touches. (This busy mom frankly ran out of time. It’s now 12 months later and my good intentions of pulling out the sewing machine to redo these touches has fallen short of the goal. Oh well. Better pour a glass of wine to cope.)
  • Seek out, find and buy realistic dolls to play with. Your local sites are a great place to start

The final shots of size different rooms in the doll house

Tips and tricks

I don’t think I can go through this how-to step by step, but I’ll tell you how I did this on an insanely small budget.

  1. I used scrap wood. The furniture was made from scraps my Dad and I had lying around, and when we didn’t have it, I asked others if they had it (and then, I went to Michaels…)
  2. I used leftover paint. When we moved into our new home, the previous owners left bits and bobs of paint in over 20 different containers. This, at the time, I found very annoying. But, several months later, et voila! – instant doll house décor paint! Bonus tip: If you don’t have this, or you don’t like the colours you have around, one trial-size container will absolutely cover the walls several times and then some. And yes, I DID go buy a few of these. I wanted fun shades for a few of the rooms, not neutrals!
  3. Have scrap fabrics? Have friends with scraps? Search for scraps in bins in the fabric stores and/or online on your local site. A luxurious bed quilt for your doll is $.50! I happened to have everything from various animal print velvets to super-soft faux furs to fleecy towel-like fabric in a bin in the basement. (Be sure to choose your room paint colours first, then coordinate!)
  4. Reuse creatively. Have some old linoleum peel and stick tiles? You have yourself a countertop and corner tub surround (did I mention this thing has a damned CORNER TUB?!?). See a couple of cheap plastic furniture pieces from a second-rate torn-down doll house? A lovely pedestal sink, secured to the wall, with a handmade mirror over top
  5. Get thee to a craft store like Michaels with a 40% off coupon, and your list of “needs’.” The chair rail? One long piece of craft wood, cut to size, painted and then glued with carpentry glue to the wall. The shutters? Pre-cut and sanded rectangles that happened to fit the windows perfectly with trim glued on it from the same long pieces of craft wood mentioned above. The mirror? Another pre-cut thin oval board with a piece of reflective scrapbook paper. And the piece de resistance? Scrapbook paper as wallpaper, with a bit of spray-adhesive backing. It was SO EASY
  6. And finally, if you can stomach it, make your own furniture! It’s not that hard. Look at this simple “stainless steel” refrigerator. It’s just a block of wood with silver spray paint and a little work with a dremel saw. (BTW – this was my first exposure to a dremel and I don’t know how I lived without this tool for so long. I ADORE it. Check out what you can do with them here.)

You can totally do this

I am a mom of twins. Last year, one had just started walking and they were both making life very very messy and very very busy. I hold down two jobs. I TRY and swim three times a week. And I still did this. So c’mon. Just keep an eye on your local site and watch for the right ads to pop up. Or build your house from scratch. There’s gotta be places to get the plans, right? And if you have any questions, I’m here for you, and I’ll be sure to answer your questions!

Merry dreamy holiday memory times everyone!


The girls play peekaboo through the windows of the doll house

Useful links

Gently used children’s toys



Mom of twin toddlers, social media strategy gal, public servant, athlete when there’s time, amateur sommelier and lover of food. Passionate about life. Twitter: @usedottawa | @paminottawa

One Response to “Every little girl’s dream – a DIY dollhouse”


Now we know who the sesblnie one is here. Great post!


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