How to make a doll's house
A DIY Doll House is a toy your child will treasure for years – and if it’s one you’ve made yourself, it will be all the more special. This basic design is an achievable D.I.Y. project, which we have decorated with materials like adhesive film and wallpaper samples, but you can put your own style stamp on it if you choose! To shortcut the first step, have the larger rectangular pieces cut in store.
Cut, measure and mark plywood
From the plywood, cut a piece 600mm high x 596mm (the width of the panel) for the back wall, three 582mm-wide x 300mm-deep floors, and four 400mm high x 300mm wide pieces for the sides and doors. Along the 596mm width of the plywood, measure up 200mm and mark the centre to cut a triangle for the roof front. Save the offcuts to make the internal walls.
Cut out roof triangle
Position the roof front at the top of the back piece as a template to mark out the top of the triangle, then cut with a handsaw. Smooth over all the pieces with 180-grit abrasive paper, removing any breakout from along the cuts, wiping away dust with a cloth.
Assemble the side and back panels
To assemble, use set squares with clamps to stand the side pieces up, run adhesive along the back edges, then position the back piece and secure with bullethead nails at 100mm intervals.
Tips: Tap the nails 20mm in from the ends to avoid splitting the timber, pulling the plywood into position as you go. When working with PVA adhesive, have a clean damp cloth on hand to wipe away excess as you go, to avoid drips and smudges.
Install base and rooftop floor
To install the base and rooftop floor, apply adhesive around the back and side edges, positioning them inside and flush with the end of the walls, securing from outside with nails.
Tip: Trim self-adhesive film to size with a utility knife and cover the floors before installing.
Affix middle floor
Install the middle floor by marking 200mm up the inside and outside of the walls. Apply adhesive around the back and side edges, tap into position and secure from the outside with nails.
Tip: Stick wallpaper onto the back wall before adding the floor.
Insert internal walls
Make the internal walls from the plywood offcuts, cutting two 250mm x 193mm pieces, sliding them onto the ground floor and middle floor.
Tip: If they don't wedge snugly, apply adhesive to the top, back and base, slide into position, clamp and leave to dry.
To hang the doors, position them flush with the top floor. Mark 10mm in from the edges to position hinges at the top and base, using a screwdriver to secure with 6mm screws. Use 6mm screws to install a magnetic catch to the under-side of the middle floor, with the supplied magnets positioned on the inside of the doors.
Drill window and rafter holes
Clamp the roof front to a stable surface, mark centre and 72.5mm up from the base and use a 92mm hole saw to drill the round window. Position the roof front against the back wall, clamp, mark centre and 22mm down from the point and use a 22mm hole saw to drill both rafter holes. Sand smooth.
Position the rafter
Apply adhesive around the rafter holes and along the base of the roof front. Position the dowel in the holes and angle the base of the roof front to sit on the top floor, flush with the front. Clamp, secure with nails up through the rooftop floor, then leave to dry. DIY Villa Doll House Series extras
Ladder: Make a ladder from 12 pieces of 8mm dowel cut to 50mm long. Drill holes either end with a 2mm bit. Thread 3mm macramé cord through one end of each, add an eye hook then thread back through the opposite side. Space the rungs 30mm apart, dab with adhesive, knot the ends and leave to dry. Twist the eye hook into the underside of the top floor.
Swing: On a plywood offcut of 40mm x 70mm, drill 2mm holes in the corners. Thread macramé cord through holes and over the dowel rafter, then knot the ends.
Surfboards: Cut surfboard shapes from 5mm balsa wood, smooth the edges with abrasive paper and apply two coats of paint with a flat craft brush.
The fun thing about creating a dollhouse from an existing piece of furniture is that it's sort of a miniature renovation project. There are a few initial plans you can make: color palette, décor style, and number of rooms, but everything else unfolds as you go. Flea markets, yard sales, and online marketplaces are great sources for finding the perfect piece of furniture to transform into a dollhouse.
You can upcycle virtually any piece of furniture as long as it has (or had, at one time) drawers or cubbies behind the doors. Wood dressers are wonderful, as are old metal cabinets and anything that can be accessed from the front. Lastly, check to be sure your piece is in good fixable condition and is free of mold or offensive smells. Try to get a good deal on your piece—the more you save on the build, the more you can spend on all of the decorative elements inside. We've outlined a few tips to help you with your project.
How to Turn a Dresser Into a Custom Dollhouse
Remove the drawers and wipe down the interior. Use a dry paint brush or the upholstery attachment on your vacuum to get rid of remaining dust or cobwebs. Inspect the drawers to see if you can reuse any of the wood. In some cases, you might be able to use the base of the drawer as walls or flooring in the DIY midsize doll house series. The idea here is to reuse as much as possible.
Painting the interior helps make everything to be more cohesive, and this is where the dollhouse starts to look less like a dresser. Paint stores sell samples that are the perfect size for the job—one or two coats of a flat or eggshell interior paint are usually all you'll need for coverage. For this project, we used Sherwin Williams Celery (6421) on the interior, Offbeat Green (6706) on the shingles, and Basque Green (6426) on the windows. The exterior was already painted when it was purchased.
Once you decide on a color palette, draw a rough sketch of the dollhouse and plan out how many paint colors you'll need to order. Tip: Pick out two more paint colors than you think you'll need—it's good to have options.
Hardboard project panels can be found in 2-by-4 foot pieces at hardware stores like Home Depot, and they're easy to cut with an oscillating tool like the Milwaukee M12 12-Volt Lithium-Ion Cordless Oscillating Multi-Tool and thin enough that they won't take up too much space inside the dollhouse.
Once the hardboard has been measured and cut, run a bead of Gorilla Wood Glue around the drawer rail, place the flooring and weigh it down with heavy books until dry. You can paint the floor to match the interior walls, or wait until the decorating phase to finish it.
The beauty of this project is that you can design the DIY small doll house series's interior entirely to your vision. If you want to wall off the space and create multiple rooms, do just that. If you love an open floor plan, skip putting up walls. Taking measurements in a small, enclosed space can be a reach, but a vinyl tape measure and an extra set of hands makes the job much easier.
Create mock walls out of foam core and make adjustments with a utility knife, then use them as stencil to cut your walls out of the hardboard. Or, if you don't want to commit to permanent walls and like the option of multiple layouts, stick with foam core walls. A small dab of hot glue will keep them in place, which makes them easy to pop out once you're ready for a new configuration.
There are so many fun options when it comes to furniture and décor for your dollhouse, and the options definitely aren't limited to "Victorian" or "farmhouse" like they were in the '90s. Etsy has an unending supply of one-of-a-kind furniture options in every style imaginable; just be sure you're searching for 1:12 scale dollhouse furniture and miniatures (1:6 if you're building a dollhouse for Barbie or other 12-inch dolls).
Peel and stick removable wallpaper samples from your favorite companies are affordable and fun options. We were inspired by ones like Chasing Paper's Beaver Meadow. Craft paper, fabric, and stencils can be used for flooring and area rugs. Some big box stores have an impressive amount of DIY miniature furniture, and seem to have even more available online. Craft stores are a great source for project hardware and exterior items like shingles, trim, windows, faux flooring, and other notions that create even more distance between dresser and dollhouse.