This is the first part in a multi-post series on creating and furnishing a dollhouse from handy supplies like cardboard, duct tape, milk cartons and contact paper. The scale is about 1:12 or 1-inch to 1-foot. That means that a three-foot high table is 3-inches high in the doll house. It’s not exact because my dolls are 6.5-inches tall, which means they are the equivalent of a six and half foot tall woman. So Amazonian, but close enough for me. Most dollhouse stuff available at yard sales and thrift stores is built to this scale because it’s the most popular one. I’ll be using my Dawn dolls and her cousins in the pictures. This dollhouse would also fit 6.5″ Mini American Girl Dolls and any Loving Family dollhouse dolls you may have lurking in your toy boxes.
I’ve been meaning to make a house for this size doll for ages, and this year I decided to go ahead and do it, while sharing the process. Ideally I’d like to make the dollhouse for free, using things I already have around the house, but I may have buy some extra duct tape or spray paint along the way. These supplies would also be used for other household projects, so I wouldn’t be buying them just for the dollhouse, but I thought I should let you know that free might be a misnomer, depending on how you look at it. At any rate it will be extremely low cost, and maybe free, depending on the supplies I have on hand.
The dollhouse is made from pieces of cardboard or foamboard that are cut into rectangles, duct taped together and then covered in contact paper or fabric. They fit together to make a 4-room dollhouse.
I have used cardboard for this dollhouse because it’s free and I have a lot of it. Foamboard is a bit more sturdy but you have to buy it from the store, which I’m trying to avoid for this project. Use what works best for your circumstances.
NOTE: All pics are clickable to see detail.
Start by gathering your supplies. You need cardboard or foamboard, scissors, a ruler, a pen or pencil and duct tape.
For the walls you will cut 4 rectangles, each measuring 10-inches by 12-inches.
For the floor you will cut 4 squares, 12-inches on each side.
To Create The Walls
After cutting out the 10 x 12 rectangles measure the 10-inch side and mark the center (5-inches). Do this on both 10-inch sides of each rectangle on the front and on the back. This mark shows you where to place your duct tape.
You can see the red arrow pointing to the 5-inch mark. Start your duct tape here, joining two 10 x 12 rectangles along the short (10″) side. Fold the duct tape over so it covers both sides of the cardboard. The top 5-inches will be taped and the bottom 5-inches are left untaped. This is because the boards fit together, slotting into place to form a giant + or X. The bottom part must be left open so the boards can slot together to make the walls of your dollhouse.
After taping the walls together take a minute to fit them together to see if it works.
These are the walls of your 4-room dollhouse. Take a moment to decide what kind of rooms you want. For instance, you may want a living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Or instead of a bathroom you may want a nursery or girl’s bedroom. Decide what you want and then label the walls. When you take the walls apart it’s easy to get mixed up about which wall is which, so label them now to save trouble later on.
For my dollhouse I decided I wanted a living room, kitchen/dining room, bedroom and bathroom. I may put a bassinette into the bedroom for a baby. I’m not sure yet.
Next is the fun part. Cover the walls with contact paper or glue down fabric or scrapbook paper. Feel free to do it however you like. Your creativity can go wild. I covered each side with contact paper and then trimmed it to the edge. After covering all the walls I taped the edges with black electrical tape. It makes the edges look tidier and keeps the contact paper from peeling off. It mimics floor and ceiling molding in the finished doll house.
To Create The Floor
Next we make the floor. After cutting out four 12-inch squares arrange them on your work surface with about 1/4-inch in between them. Duct tape them all together. Tape on both sides of the cardboard to make it sturdy.
After taping them all together, fold the floor into quarters to make sure it will fold up neatly for storage.
Determine which floor section will coordinate with which room. Label them so you don’t get confused in the middle of things. Cover the sections with contact paper or fabric or scrapbook paper. If you want to, you can cover both sides of the squares, to make them reversible. I didn’t do that this time, but I have done it before and it’s nice to have the floor be reversible.
Now you have 3 finished pieces. You’ll notice that I covered the edges and center lines of the floor piece with black electrical tape. This makes it prettier to look at and protects the edges of the contact paper so it won’t peel up or rip.
Finally slot the walls together and place them on the floor. The grooves of the floor folds tend to hold the walls in place. If you want something a little more sturdy you can wedge a paperclip on either side of the wall edges, or slip a brass brad up from the floor (through the tape) and fit the wall into place. You don’t have to do this, but if your walls don’t stay as firmly in place as you like, it’s an option.
I’m not as handy describing craft projects as I am at recipes, so if there’s anything unclear, please let me know so I can clarify things.
All of the pictures are clickable so you can get a bigger look at things. The walls and floor all fold up neatly so they can be easily stored and toted.
The next part will begin the furniture.
NOTE: I used a recycled USPS priority mail box for this dollhouse. I had several of them for mailing things with ebay. One of them was damaged, and could not be used for mailing. The cardboard was nice so I tucked it away until I found a use for it. It was the perfect weight to use for this demonstration.
Monsieur Pepper Pot (pronounced with a French accent), my crafting sidekick, supervised the project. Affectionately known as Mr. Poe, he has feline aids or FIDS, and is 9 years old. We have 3 cats currently, but Mr. Poe is by far the most crafty of the trio.
Oh, how clever – I just love this, Maggie! When I was a child, I was forever making “doll houses” for my toy ponies. Usually I flipped a cardboard box upside-down, and I cut out raggedy holes out of cardboard houses to make windows and doors. Then I created “family photos” for the pony’s home by cutting out the pictures of the pony heads from their packaging. I loved drawing all the “decor” and “furniture” on the inside of the house with markers. The problem was that my creations retained four walls and a roof, so they were difficult to play with. If I wanted to make a pony move or interact in her home, I had to squeeze my hand through the pony-sized door I had cut out. I would have loved an open design like this to play with!
Additional ideas: what do you think about the feasibility of cutting out doors between the rooms? Maybe a little more work but not difficult to implement? What about making two full sets and stacking one on top of the other to make a two-story dollhouse? Do you think the bottom layer could support a top layer without modification? Or would it need something to make it more sturdy?
Hey Joy, that is SOOOO cool. I made cardboard doll houses as a kid too. With the same raggedy doors and windows and the same trouble maneuvering the dolls around inside them. I like this one because, like you said, it’s open plan makes it easy to play with.
I have tried cutting doors and windows into the walls and in my experience, the structural strength is compromised when I do that. It’s surprisingly sturdy as it is, but the second I cut out a door, it gets floppy and loses strength. Then the walls come tumbling down.
Since this is made with cardboard, it’s not the sturdiest house in the world. If it were made with stronger materials, like plywood, or maybe foam board, it might be able to withstand doors or windows. If there were a second story, I think the first level would be hard to access. If it were made out of plywood and mounted on a lazy susan, then that might work out.
There are lots of improvements that could probably be made, but I really wanted something that could be made for free or very little investment. And this system is the cheapest and most accessible I’ve been able to find.
If you have any other ideas, I’d love to read them.
One day I’ll post some furniture tutorials, but I’m waiting for inspiration to strike.