So You Want to Build a Dollhouse
Part 1: Selecting the Right House for You
By Deb Roberts
It all starts out so innocently. You decide that you want to own a dollhouse, or gift a dollhouse to a special person, so you start looking around at dollhouses and discover that you have the choice of buying a pre-built house or making one yourself. For many people, the first reaction to that choice is “Oh, I could never build a house myself, so I’ll just look at pre-built houses”……….and somewhere in the back of your mind, a small voice whispers, “You can build it yourself.” As you continue looking at pre-built houses and discover that the price range is higher and the houses may not have all the customized features you’re looking for, that little voice in the back of your mind becomes stronger until you find yourself saying, “I can build it myself!”
The advantages of building a house yourself guarantee that it’s a decision you’ll never regret. Not only will you have the picture-perfect house that’s just right for you, but you’ll also have a unique pride of accomplishment that can only come from building a miniature house. It’s marvelous to own a beautiful miniature home, but it’s euphoric to know that you built that beautiful little home with your own hands.
Since you’ll be building the house yourself, one of the first considerations is your skill level and comfort zone for building. Dollhouse kits are easier to build than a novice might imagine. With step by step instructions and support groups such as the Greenleaf Dollhouse Forum, you’ll find that building a dollhouse is so much fun that if you’re a first time builder, you may find yourself addicted to a brand new hobby! With assistance and support at hand there’s really no worry about trying something new, and experienced miniaturists will be happy to help you evaluate the skill level required for a specific kit.
The next thing to consider is the choice of building materials for different kits. The most common choices are either 1/8” plywood or MDF. Miniaturist Wende Feller has compiled a fact sheet of information about the two mediums to help you make the choice of which is best for you. You can read Wende’s article about construction materials here at Dollhouse Universe.
Having narrowed your choice to the composition material that best suits your plans, you’re ready to start looking at individual houses. The size of the house is a good place to start. You’ll want to display the house in an area where it can be placed on a turntable and rotated for viewing, or in an area where it can be accessible from all sides. If you’ll be placing the house on a turntable, consider the entire size of the footprint of the house and if it could be rotated without bumping into walls or furniture. If you’ll be adding landscaping around the house, be sure to calculate the size of the “yard” into your measurements. Another thing to keep in mind is making sure the house you’re building will be able to fit thru the doorways of your home. Building a house like the Garfield Dollhouse in your basement only to find it won’t fit thru the door when you attempt to move it upstairs is a situation you’ll want to avoid.
Who will be the owner of your house? One of the most delightful treasures a child can receive is a dollhouse built just for him or her by a special adult (or a house built together as a family). If the house you’re building is going to be owned by a child, you’ll want to take special care in choosing the right house design. You may want to avoid houses with small bits of trim that could be broken off by small hands during play. This doesn’t necessarily rule out houses with gingerbread, but you may want to consider leaving off some of the more delicate pieces of trim that protrude from the house (most can be added to the house later). You’ll also want to choose a house that has large, open rooms that a child can reach easily without having to stretch or turn to get back into far corners and cubbies.
Consider houses that will grow with a child and allow the décor to be easily changed as the child matures. Some recommendations for a child’s dollhouse would be the Laurel and Primrose Dollhouses, the Harrison Dollhouse, the Willow Dollhouse Kit or Greenleaf’s Haunted Dollhouse (don’t let the name fool you, it’s a sweet little cottage). If it’s something a little more masculine you’re looking for, you might consider the Shady Brook Cabin or the Wildwood Stable. Each of these houses has an open design that let little hands freely move and play. There is no fussy trim to inhibit a child’s play and each house has unlimited charm. They can be decorated in any style from victorian to contemporary and the house can be upgraded in décor to mature with the child to ensure your gift will be one cherished into their adult years.
If accessibility and age are not factors in your choice of house, then your decision can be based on style and personal preference alone. The most popular styles of dollhouses are Tudor and Victorian. If those styles aren’t quite what you’re looking for, don’t despair by thinking that your choice is limited. One of the greatest things about building your own miniature house is that you can personalize it any way you like! Modifying (or “bashing”) a dollhouse kit is relatively simple to do and with a little planning, you can transform any kit into the perfect style for you. If you’re considering a kit and thinking, “It would be perfect if only... ” don’t let that “if only” stop you. Bashing a kit is much easier to do with plywood construction material since you can easily alter existing pieces or create new pieces to modify your miniature home. You can also make modifications such as adding interior walls using materials such as foam core which doesn’t require an investment in woodworking tools. You can also add upgrades such as pre-built windows and doors or architectural features that give your house a distinctive look. Sometimes something as simple as leaving off a bit of trim can change the entire look of a house.
Whatever criteria you use for selecting your miniature home, select the house that is most appealing to you. Your mini home will be a source of pride for generations to come.
In next month’s issue, we’ll take a look at designing and planning the décor or theme for your dollhouse
Back to the January Newsletter...