How a Dollhouse Can Become Your Own Design Board



An open back allows all to peek right in.
An open back allows all to peek right in.

Projects that I’ve dog-eared in magazines or “hearted” on Pinterest are sometimes more aspirational in nature than practical due to cost and structural concerns.  But then there’s the dollhouse. The wooden folk Victorian discovered curbside one Trash Eve. Once the interior was washed and primed in white, I had a blank canvas on which to experiment with any design vision I pleased.

Armed with my tinkerer’s credo of foregoing notions of perfection, I didn’t concern myself with scale. I also decided from the start that most furnishings would be hand-made using the simplest of tools and supplies. I happily tasked myself with constructing things such as a bed and couch from craft sticks, an easel from toothpicks, a wall clock from a bottle cap, and a chandelier from twist-ties and beads. I also decorated a few unfinished wood pieces, even papering buttons into dishes.

Sit right down and have a little something.
Sit right down and have a little something.

While I admire miniaturists who have painstakingly taken on things such as installing floor tiles piece by piece, I went with a trompe l’oeil approach and used print-outs of favorite things as accents. Features such as the white-washed brick wall, bead board, even a patterned rug, are all simply paper. I replaced the yellowed plastic windows with dotted vellum from the scrap-booking aisle, and skipped fixing a broken riser on the spiral staircase as an homage to my own beloved home with its own list of overlooked repairs.

Before starting each room I considered ideas I’d always wanted to try and the dollhouse began to serve as my own three-dimensional design board. A pink wall, a collage wall, a patchwork wall … they’re now all in the dollhouse. Floral-papered stair risers, a fireplace in the bedroom, floral wallpaper! With the dollhouse, I can truly DIM (do it myself). Install white-washed brick in the bedroom? Done.

A queen size bed is the best fit of course
A queen size bed is the best fit of course

There are a few miniature pieces like the coffee cup with saucer and spoon given to me by my husband as my talk of bringing the dollhouse upstairs from the basement became a regular topic of conversation. The wooden chair in the dining room is mine from childhood – it belonged to a set where a hollow wooden apple in two parts became a table connected by a stem. Small wineglasses are from my youngest son’s enormous collection of Playmobil toys. Charms, ornaments, tiny favors, and other bits and bobs all add up to lovely little sentimental decor.

With the inside pretty much finished, I’m beginning to set my sights on the exterior. I’m perusing houses in Martha’s Vineyard, MA and Cape May, NJ for inspiration. Once again my research is all about the wish list which means there will be window boxes – perhaps made from craft sticks and most likely filled with vintage millinery forget-me-nots – and the dusk blue color will likely be changed to pink or yellow. And just like that, I can change the color of the house.

Essential Tinkering Tools
Essential Tinkering Tools

Author Elyse (Press) Major has been creative since childhood. She has been featured in, produced projects and written for many publications including Romantic Homes. She released her first two books Tinkered Treasures and Seaside Tinkered Treasures back-to-back in 2013 and 2014 (CICO Books), and is currently at work co-authoring a third book of DIY home furnishings (Fall 2016). Elyse has written the blog since 2008 where she shares about her work, offers simple projects, and shines a spotlight on favorite things and places. Throughout her work Elyse hopes to inspire others to enjoy making things without worries of perfection. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband and two sons. Find Elyse online at Blogger, Facebook, Instagram, MailChimp, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Written  and photographed by Elyse Major

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