Hold onto your miniature hats, it’s time for the fun part of painting and personalizing the dollhouse!
Our last post was full of the building process, which you can see by (clicking here) – so let’s move on to how we finished everything off.
After it was all assembled, it was time to schlep our 31″ x 31″ creation up into the sunroom for some priming and painting. Just like our office cabinets, kitchen cabinets, and the play kitchen we made for Clara, I used a coat of Zinsser Smart Prime (it’s no-VOC but amazingly good for blocking bleed through when you’re painting raw or stained wood) followed by two coats of Bejamin Moore’s low-VOC Advance paint (really durable and awesomely self-leveling). I went with Decorators White since we had it leftover from painting the office cabinets and the play kitchen, so this step didn’t cost us anything. Here’s our little house when it was primed but not yet painted:
And here’s my first coat of paint going on (I used a brush for some of the hard to roll places and a small foam roller for the more expansive roll-able places – like the sides, roof, and back).
Then I gave it about 30 hours to cure up before it was…
… wallpaper time!
I actually used the following things that I already had in the house (I just ransacked my craft bin/gift wrap closet) to wallpaper the dollhouse:
- Top left: Gift wrap sheets picked up from a local place called Mongrel a few months back
- Top right: Decorative paper from Michael’s leftover from some other project
- Middle left: A roll of leftover decorative tape from Michael’s (I just taped four strips of it to a piece of card stock)
- Middle middle: More gift wrap from Mongrel (this one’s actually from a few years back)
- Middle right: More decorative paper from Michael’s
- Bottom left: Even more decorative paper from Michael’s (I have a nice pile of leftover paper under the bed)
- Bottom right: More gift wrap from Mongrel
As for how I did it, I cut templates for the back wall of each room using regular old printer paper (taping a few sheets together if it was bigger than one sheet and trimming things until it was a nice snug fit). Then I just used that paper template to cut out the right sized piece of gift wrap or decorative paper. I used double sided tape to affix them to the back wall of the dollhouse, and then brushed a thin coat of matte Mod Podge over each of them – just to give them some protection from being scratched or ripped (except for the room with the decorative tape, which was already shiny).
As for furniture, I bought a big “mixed lot” of old dollhouse furniture (most of it from the 50s/60s) from eBay for $30 including shipping. Oh and for those wondering about scale, it’s 1/2″ scale. This is what it looked like after it came and I soaked everything in hot soapy water to remove years of grime.
But since those colors weren’t exactly what we were going for, I turned to my good friend spray paint. We knew spray primer and spray paint was the best way to permanently update the furniture (no-VOC paint would most likely scratch off within one or two play-sessions – and we really want this to be a durable and long-lasting gift) but we didn’t want the dollhouse to smell all fumey like spray paint, so I actually ordered this furniture in February and sprayed it all in March so it could be left in the sealed off sunroom (and brought outside on sunny days) to off-gas for a nice long time. Thankfully there’s nothing stinky about it after all that curing time, and it actually looks pretty convincingly done – as if that’s the color the manufacturer sprayed on it a few decades back. Speaking of color, some of them got leftover dark brown spray paint (with built-in primer by Rustoleum) for the whole “wood look.”
But most of them got white primer + paint as a base (Rustoleum Universal in Satin White) …
And then some of them got a shot of bright color on top of that primer + paint base, just for fun (thanks to leftover cans of random colors). Who doesn’t love a yellow washer or fridge? They’re Sun Yellow by Rustoleum, and the turquoise dresser in the background is Lagoon by Rustoleum.
They sat around in the sunroom after their March paint job so long that they actually got dusty by May. Haha. So here they are after a little rinse-down in the sink.
I couldn’t wait to finally get things into the house…
I didn’t put much thought into what went where since I figure Clara will be moving things around, and we’ll probably add some more items (like some much-needed wall art – maybe by laminating photos that we’ll print).
Oh yes, but what about dollhouse people? We couldn’t find many that we liked (they either had ceramic faces that we worried Clara would shatter or were a bit too big for the scale of our furniture, or were just kind of scary looking) – although I later learned about these, which are pretty darn cute… so we went with Olivia’s family.
Clara loves Olivia, and when I saw a family set at Toys R Us that looked perfectly scaled for our house, we scooped them up. They’re bendy plastic so they seem pretty indestructible and Clara has so much fun putting them in different rooms (ex: “Olivia’s daddy is taking a nap” and “Olivia’s mommy is in the crib – so silly”).
Although everything changes each time Clara rearranges things, the room above is sort of a nursery with a crib, a vanity with a happy yellow chair (and tin foil that I added to make the mirror look more like a mirror), a baby piano (Clara loves playing one at Grammy and Tom Tom’s house) and a dresser. There’s even a little airplane “toy” for the nursery, that I found at Michael’s (it’s really a charm for a necklace, but the scale is right so I went with it). But more on how we’re keeping the super tiny things in the dollhouse Clara-safe in a second.
Speaking of scale, as John mentioned yesterday, we opted for an 8″ room height on the first two floors and a sloped attic that’d go from 6″ to about 10.” This was all a bit big for the scale of our eBay furniture, but we wanted to err on the side of giving Clara plenty of room to move around rather than being sticklers for scale – and who doesn’t love a room with extra high ceilings anyway?
The room below is sort of a playroom/ extra bedroom without a bed (remember this whole thing is still evolving, haha) so it’s mostly filled with random furniture, a fabric rug that came with the dollhouse lot, a small frame that I found at a thrift store for a nickel with the glass removed and a piece of tinfoil in there to make it resemble a leaning mirror, and a small potted topiary that I found at Michael’s from the wedding aisle (it’s actually a place card holder).
Oh and see those “ceramic animals” on top of the blue dresser above? They’re just plastic beads I found at Michael’s. I thought it was cute to add some animal friends to Clara’s dollhouse, and although Clara’s past the putting-things-in-her-mouth stage, a few smaller accessories like these and the previously mentioned toy airplane get put away in a box that only comes out when we’re playing together (so if she’s playing alone they’re not in there for her – just in case she gets any crazy ideas…).
The laundry room might be my favorite room. The metallic tape I used for the wallpaper doesn’t photograph as great as it looks in real life, but in person it’s kind of swanky and geometric. I loved spraying the utility sink and the washer bright yellow and adding that cute pink basket on the floor. And see that black thing hanging on the wall? It’s a thrift store find for 10 cents (it was some sort of plastic frame ornament or something) but I used leftover chalk board paint to make it into a hanging chalkboard by just painting the plastic disk inside the frame and hanging it up.
I love that we can change the message whenever Clara asks me to write something new (it actually says “Moooo!” right now at her request).
The next room is the bedroom, complete with a paper rug (I thought laminating it would make it last longer, but Clara has yet to pick it up and crush it so we’ll have to see if I get around to it). I’d also love to make fabric rugs from old scraps from her monthly pics someday, so I’ll keep you posted.
Oh and see the tiny metal camera on the dresser and the small flower pot on the other dresser above? Those are little doodads I found for a few bucks at Michael’s (the camera is a charm for a necklace actually – it’s another one of those things I tuck away when Clara is playing by herself since it’s so small). They also sell tiny flowerpots and fake flowers so I made that little potted plant and painted the terra cotta pot with the same pink nail polish that I used to make chevron pillows and a matching pink duvet skirt on the bed.
Here’s the bathroom with a mint green sink, and the other one of those plastic thrift store frame ornaments. Instead of making this one another chalkboard, I just put some tin foil behind the plastic pane and made it into a mirror for over the sink.
Oh and Clara was sad the potty didn’t open at first, but then was very excited when I taught her we could flush it by making a swissssssshhhhhhh noise with our mouth. Now Olivia and her family hang out in the bathroom a lot.
The living room is in dire need of some art on that blank wall, but it does have a funny little retro record player/TV cabinet (the white thing) with a “ceramic” rhino on top of it, so that tickles me.
My favorite guy in there is the tiny Burger I found on eBay. You bet I paid $3 plus $3 shipping to have him represented in the house. Haha. Clara was pretty psyched to see him. She calls him “Baby Burger.” It’s very sweet.
Next to the living room is the kitchen, with an oven/stove and a sink (complete with tiny dishes in it, which also go away when Clara plays alone because they’re pretty small) and a happy yellow refrigerator. I also made the table with the top of a little wooden box I had lying around and used a small paper gift box as the base. Another homemade flowerpot + faux flower combo went on top along with chairs from the eBay lot of furniture. Oh and that’s another paper rug I just quickly made and might get laminated for protection (or it’ll get replaced with a fabric one I’ll make down the line).
After loading in all the furniture, it was time to top it with a bow…
… and carry it out of hiding and into the living room for Clara to discover after her nap.
She ran right in as if it had always been there and picked stuff up and got right down to the business of playing.
It was so cute to watch her little brain work out that things were too small for herself, but perfectly sized for Olivia and her family. The little family of pigs was definitely her favorite part at first and slowly she picked up on things like baskets and chairs and the crib, bed, and toilet- which became fun to work into Olivia and her family’s routine.
We love that nothing is too precious to worry about because we really wanted it to be something she could go to town on without fearing that delicate things could be broken.
Thankfully since the furnishings are all plastic or metal, they should hold up to Hurricane Clara. Oh yes, and the fact that Olivia is holding a kitty = Clara’s favorite part (other than discovering Baby Burger). The girl loves her animals!
So it’s safe to say that she likes it. Whew. The next morning it was the first thing she talked about as we got her our of her crib. And we might like it a little more than adults should too (not that we played with it after she went to bed, ok maybe we did just a little).
As for the budget breakdown, here ya go:
- Wood: $35 (we did get to reuse a scrap piece we had for the back to keep costs down)
- Nails and wood glue: $0, already owned (but they might run you $5 if you don’t have them)
- Primer & paint: $0, leftover from painting other things like cabinets & the play kitchen ($70 would get you a gallon of each that would probably last for a ton of furniture painting projects like ours have – even big ones like cabinet painting)
- Dollhouse furniture: $30 (including shipping) bought as one “lot” on eBay
- Michael’s doodads: $5 (small flower pots, faux flowers, beads, camera and airplane charm, etc)
- Baby Burger: $6 (including shipping) on eBay
- Olivia’s family: $10, Toys R Us
- TOTAL: $86
Thanks to having lots of those odds and ends on hand (primer & paint, decorative paper and gift wrap, Mod Podge, and even a piece of scrap wood for the back of the dollhouse) we were able to come in almost $15 under our $100 goal. Actually $86 is lower than all of the used wood dollhouses that we found on Craigslist. Which I think means that momma should get $15 to spend on future upgrades and furnishings, right? Haha. Can’t wait to see how this thing evolves as Clara grows!
Have you guys used things like gift wrap and decorative tape as wallpaper? Any other plastic-beads-turned-ceramic-animals out there? We heard so many awesome ideas in yesterday’s post, from carpet samples or even wood/tile on the floor to using tongue depressors to make shingles. Love it all.
Psst- Check out Part 1 of this project here.
Lynn @ SafeBeauty says
Too cute! I love it Sherry. I had an 80’s metal dollhouse that was complete with unsafe metal corners that I would constantly catch my clothes on or my dolls or my fingers. But with 4 brothers and no sisters to play with I do remember that gift lasting for about a month before it was stripped for treehouse parts. Thanks big brothers for all the memories!
My best, Lynn
Haha I just watched Clara’s second year video… I love her crazy legs! She’s going to be quite the dancer. So funny!!
Great job on the dollhouse. I can’t wait until my little girl is old enough so I can make her one.
Haha, we love our dancing girl! Her legs never stop. She dances in her sleep. Haha.
It’s so sweet how you and John put so much love into your gifts for Clara, those are childhood memories that she’ll never forget. Nothing beats the homemade one of a kind gifts. You guys are great parents :) She’s a lucky little girl!
Holy cuteness!!!!!!!!! I want my house that cute, and I mean my adult house! The furniture and ‘wallpaper’ is super adorable! Congrats to Clara for crafty parents!
This has to be the most thoughtful gift I’ve seen in a long time. I’m sure Clara is going to adore this awesome dollhouse for a VERY long time! I love all the little things that make it so perfect, like Baby Burger and the “ceramic” animals.
PS – I’m 100% jealous of Miss Clara and wish I’d had something like this when I was little.
Move over Melissa & Doug…make way for Sherry & John. :)
Cute! Our daughter was obsessed with playmobil. In fact, at 12 she will still get it out now and then, though that is becoming less and less. Sigh.
Love it! I saw someone already mentioned a few craft stores that have dollhouse furniture but your favorite Hobby Lobby, Schlobby Bobby has some too! Now you have a few places to spend that “extra” $25 on more furniture and decorations.
Wahoo! Thanks Ashley!
Another thing you guys can look into is getting some calico critters for Clara. I get my niece a new family every Christmas/Birthday and she loves them. They are on the pricier side but they are so cute. They are basically animal families (i.e. squirrels, elephants, mice, etc). Here is a link to check out.
So cute! I saw those at Barnes and Noble I think!
My niece was just born last week, but I’ve already started her a collection of Calico Critters/Sylvanian Families thanks to craigslist! I loved them when I was a kid and want her to have extra special toys to play with when she visits her favorite aunt!!
J+H @ Beyond The Stoop says
wow! this is way more awesome than the barbie fold and fun house hat i had!!! and will mean so much more to her when she’s older since you put your hard work and love into it :D
it really blows my mind how talented and creative you both are! awesome work!
That is so pretty, I just may have to build one for myself! You guys did such a great job, how could Clara not love it? :-)
Love it. Completely inspired to decorate the very plain dollhouse
my boys have had for two years. My dad made me one with incredible detail when I was little – definitely a toy a little one will remember forever And after a fruitless 11 month mission to find the perfect wallpaper for the backing of an open shelf in our (real) kitchen, this makes me consider being adventurous enough to try wrapping paper and mod Podge for that project.
[email protected] says
So cute! I’d play with it after she went to bed too! ;)
Janelle D says
Wow. I love the finished dollhouse. You’ve really outdone yourselves this time! Clara is such a lucky girl. I get so excited to have kids (someday) so I can have a solid ‘reason’ to craft kid things. Haha.
This is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! I’m amazed at your creativity, skill, and thriftiness!
This is so adorable! I love that you added all the personal touches, so precious. If you add art to the room, i had an idea, you could use velcro and that way Clara could switch the art from room to room.
Love that idea so much!
That’s what I was going to suggest! :) Also, little touch lights or battery lights would be cute as she gets older. Another thing I thought of for the rug would be plastic canvas cross stitched with yarn. You could do so many fun color combos and patterns! They could also be velcroed! I’m just so in love with this doll house! I want an adult version!
So many fun ideas guys!
Just awesome, you two! Makes me wish I had an art background–this stuff seems so effortless for you and would take me years to figure out! Lucky Clara!
It’s all trial and error! Haha. I just hold things up and see what looks good. Haha.
My mom had that exact furniture when she was a kid in the 50s/60s and she passed it on to me when I was a kid. I remember playing with all of those pieces in my own dollhouse…I wonder if it’s still around somewhere- this makes me want to find it and ‘upgrade it’ for when I have kids :)
No way! I hope you can find it!
I reaaaally love your blog, it’s so inspirational – I wish there was a German version so I could just go to the same shops and buy the same stuff but in the end I’m probably gonna have to move to the States anyway haha. Happy birthday Clara!
Aw thanks so much Sarah!
Shandi Alegre says
This is amazing ! I love it! Such great ideas! My daughter isn’t old enough for a doll house yet but when she is I would love to create something like this! I’ve found tons of amazing mini doll house things on Etsy including mini food which I think would be great in your kitchen! Maybe you could get some inspiration on there to figure out how to make some mini kitchen food!
Such a fun idea!
That is pretty adorable! she is so cute. I love toddler talk.
I’m a little jealous right now, because it’s so fabulous I want to play with it! I especially love the “ceramic” animal touches, and that you want to put more decorative pieces in it. It’s so sweet; you and John did a great job!
Michele Wesdock says
This is so adorable. I have to say that the bast part is the Olivia dolls. I love the Olivia books so much. Did you know that Ian Falconer illustrated for the New Yorker? Explains a lot :)
No way! That’s so cool!
Everything turned out so great! Looks like Clara will really enjoy it.
(ps- not sure about the math $100-$86=$14, not $25)
Oh yes, all fixed! Sorry, my math brain was fried. Haha.
SUPER cute!! when my daughter was little, my husband copied the dollhouse/bookshelf pottery barn sells EXACTLY. it’s one of the few things we have left from her toddler bedroom…it’s currently housing tools in the basement. a far cry from it’s former glory of housing barbie!
Perfect in every way! Great work! I love the Olivia family, how come I didn’t think of that?! I’ve been wanting to “wallpaper” the walls of our dollcase too, but we have to finish our real walls first!
Bethany Fisackerly says
Did you see this: http://www.ebay.com/itm/HUGE-LOT-OF-DOLL-HOUSE-FURNITURE-TRADING-SPACES-MINI-FURNITURE-FOR-HGTV-/320904244526?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ab7622d2e
I used to LOVE trading spaces. If I ever have a daughter, Im totally making her a dollhouse with a hay covered room (not..). :)
Haha- no way! That’s awesome!
Oh what fun! We used an old bookshelf that was given to us to make our daughter a doll house many years ago. The width, depth and height were perfect. Hubby just cut some scrap we had and made a roof line. We were very thrifty, like you both, by using what we had. Leftover paper, paint and decor from other projects. We did use a piece of leftover carpet in the living room and peel-n-stick flooring in the kitchen and bath that looked like wood. The roof got Popsicle stick shingles and I did a faux paint technique on the outside that looked like siding. To be honest, I had so much fun making it that it was tough to let her have it when I was done!! But now many years later, she still has it in her room and uses it as a book/display shelf! When I mention maybe getting something new she always says, “No way”! I hope that Clara has many years of enjoyment with her doll house!
So cute! You guys did a fantastic job.
If she ever gets tired of Olivia (or you want to add some other friends for them) – check out the Sylvanian Families (they are fuzzy little animal families and come in a ton of different varieties). I loved them when I was little!
I can’t believe they still have Sylvanian Families! I had them when I was little too!
This is too cute! I love all the personal touches, especially baby burger! You guys did such a great job! :)
I love it so much! Just wondering though… did you ever consider making one that approximated your home (i.e. single story, similar rooms)? We live in a loft and I keep telling my husband I want him to build our daughter a doll-loft… Not sure if that will ever happen!!
We did for a little while, but we liked the idea of more rooms and less floor space taken up, so a three story version won out.
LOVE this! It is adorable. It might be my favorite thing you guys have ever done b/c it’s so sweet and personal. And I love the bright colors and slightly vintage feel of it all. It has a very mod 60’s feel to me, which is just so fun. Great, great job.
This brings back such memories – I am 57 years old and my mom made potted plants by using a toothpaste cap and clay. Then she’d stick a piece of artificial greenery into the clay. Instant potted plant!!! I recognize some of the pieces you bought. Most of our childhood pieces were pink or blue. You are so clever and imaganitive. Love Olivia’s family.
That’s so cute!! Love the toothpaste cap pot!
here is another option for dolls
Cute! I think they were the wrong scale though (too big for all of our furniture).
Looks amazing!! You guys did a fabulous job!! :)
LOVE this! And the Olivia family? Perfect.
So adorable! I love the piggy family ALL napping in the crib! It made me laugh out loud!
You have to add this to the House Tour page! Ha – jk
I love this post along with the hair cutting video – great week!
Haha- that’s too funny!
When I was little, my grandpa and i made a dollhouse. We used washcloths as carpet! I still think fondly of that house.
Such a cute idea!
Ty Lee says
I love that you used gift wrap as faux wallpaper! I did the exact same thing, except in my home office! I used a fun Amy Butler gift wrap to “wallpaper” the back wall in my unused-closet-turned-office-space.
I ended up just using some carefully hidden thumb tacks to put it up (since this was in a rental and I need to return everything to it’s original condition)
What a WONDERFUL gift. I’ve always loved dollhouses and you guys did an exceptional job on this one. As for “other” uses for gift wrap…We have original 5-panel doors in our historic home. I like to line the interior panels with funky gift wrap that I find. When you open the door, it’s like a burst of happiness calling out to you.
SO much fun!
OMG…..that is so darned cute!!! Love it ~ great job guys :)
That’s just wonderful! Do you think Olivia’s family would adopt me so I can move in? Maybe you could just ask them for me if it isn’t too much trouble. Maybe your next book should be making totally awesome kids things! :)
Haha, I’ll put in a good word and see what Mr & Mrs Olivia say.
Thanks! Looks like a happy family to me.
So darling…you did not let me down with your spray painting the furniture. My new favorite DIY..Spray paint makes everything look new and more interesting, right?!
Clara is just so precious putting baby Burger in the crib for nap time. She will have many hours exploring all the rooms. Maybe you can make some blankets or rugs out of old t-shirts or clothes. She would have fun helping design her new dollhouse.
You guys are always pulling off these amazing projects! It looks great. I love all the midcentury furnishings – the Cinderella tub is so great!
The house turned out absolutely precious. Clara is such a doll, I love seeing her videos and hearing her little voice.
I like the idea of a ‘remodeling’ project down the road.
If/when you add exterior windows, you could make up different exterior views that would go on cardstock that you could change out, like pine trees, Rocky Mountains, palm trees, etc (“Look! The doll house is on vacation!”)
And what I think would be really funny is you could do an interior opening too, like between your own kitchen and dining room : ) “Look! Olivia’s mommy & daddy can see her in the next room when they’re cooking!”
Haha, I love “the dollhouse is on vacation!” – haha. And I’d love to make a half-wall someday- too funny!
Totally beautiful! I will have to show this post to my daughters — they just love dollhouses! (They have two 4-foot-high dollhouses, plus a Calico Critter dollhouse that they share). I love the bird and tree wallpaper in the one room!
Holy cutest things I’ve ever seen, Batman. The sweet details are beyond adorable, and Baby Burger is just too wonderful! Clara is so lucky to have such awesome parents, and she is going to treasure this so much. Now I want to make one for my nieces (4 and almost 2) for Christmas! Amazing job, one of my favorite posts!