Help me build a dollhouse
April 4, 2015 10:56 AM   Subscribe

This Strawberry Patch dollhouse kit is sitting in my house and I've promissed my daughter I'll turn into something recognizable. What do I need to know that isn't in the instructions to make this happen? What are your tips and tricks for working with miniature houses?
posted by samhyland to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Is there any specific reason to sssume the instructions aren't enough? When you read them, do they seem complicated or incomplete to you?
I'm not being snarky, I'm trying to understand the question better.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:58 AM on April 4, 2015

Best answer: This has become a hobby of mine, but I am not an expert. (On preview: RGT/Walmer houses sometimes have puzzling instructions, although not as bad as some.) Still, perhaps you can learn from my mistakes and those of others (I've rehabbed a couple of houses).

Before we begin: eBay is often your friend when it comes to getting trim &c.

1) IIRC, that particular model requires nailing. If that's the case, having a second person around is going to be really, really helpful--the RGT/Walmer houses are sturdy (yay), meaning that they're also heavy (boo).

2) Speaking of heavy, you may wish to consider building the house near the vicinity of its final resting place.

3) Square the house. The houses I've rehabbed were skewed (even the one originally constructed by a professional carpenter), and that causes all sorts of headaches later when it comes to floors, painting, trim, etc.

4) Absolutely pre-punch the holes.

5) Putting the house together is not the most time-consuming aspect of dollhouse-making; painting and decorating it is. Expect two or three coats of paint on everything, sanding each time. (Incidentally, painting anything white will cause you to curse the very existence of that color--it may take four coats before you get complete coverage.) Similarly, if you shingle the roof, you need to let the glue dry completely before adding another row.

6) If you intend to wallpaper the interiors, you may want to prime the walls to prevent the wood or MDF from discoloring the paint. Not everyone thinks this is necessary, however. I use this method to fit the paper.

7) Most painting should be done before assembly (interior and exterior); wallpapering should be done after assembly. You need to be very careful to avoid getting paint into grooves, as that will make it difficult to fit parts.

8) For slightly snappier flooring than just staining the dollhouse floors, I'd suggest looking up the Houseworks brand--they sell wood veneer sheets, plastic tile sheets, carpeting, &c. The wood veneers can be varnished and stained, although you need to be careful not to make them bubble (they're attached to paper backing). I've also had success using Greenleaf's self-adhesive vinyl "wood" and "tile" flooring. Papering the floors is yet another option.

9) You have to be careful with downloadable wallpapers, as they won't necessarily stand up to light exposure (this is a problem with non-commercial wallpapers in general). Etsy can be a good source for a lot of things dollhouse-related, but read reviews and instructions very carefully. Minigraphics, ItsyBitsy, and Brodnax are all reliable commercial brands; some dollhouse retailers, like the UK Dolls House Emporium, also have in-house brands.

10) If you're going to do baseboards and crown molding, buy more than you think you'll need!

11) Unless you're an ace hand at mitering said trim, you can avoid endless swearing by using baseboard and crown corner blocks, both of which you can find by searching eBay. (However, you can get corner blocks--which are basically just 1/2" cubes--by going to a craft store.)

12) Believe it or not, you can just use house paint, which is sturdy and available in far more color options. Even better, it's easily half the cost of dollhouse-specific brands: buy 8-oz sample sizes online from Home Depot and you're set. (Don't use acrylic craft paints, which will yield suboptimal results.)

Some sites worth visiting:

The Greenleaf Dollhouses Forum has all sorts of useful information, not just for Greenleaf.

Dollhouse Workshop and Builder's Forum

Everything You Wanted to Know about Dollhouses
posted by thomas j wise at 12:38 PM on April 4, 2015 [20 favorites]

You need an exacto knife and I would suggest holding on the kit offcuts (the wood scraps left over from walls, etc) as they can often be used to make furniture -- tables, especially. You can get 2nd hand furniture or room lots on Ebay. And this is probably the opposite of best practice, but I prefer to paint and wallpaper before joining together the walls. Also if you've never done this before, I highly recommend spray-painting for the walls and trim, and flooring with contact paper.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:24 PM on April 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

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