When you’re getting started with dollhouses and miniatures, it’s hard to figure out what to do first.
Should you go all-out and build a full-sized dollhouse from scratch? Or should you start small (pun intended) and stick with a room box that will let you practice before doing a full-sized project?
I have a dollhouse that’s sitting in my garage waiting for me to start renovating it, and I gathered some opinions about how to get started.
Most dollhouse enthusiasts recommend starting with a room box, which is a less complicated project than a full-sized dollhouse. Doing a single-room design will allow you to practice the techniques that are involved in larger designs, but will also limit the effort that’s required to finish the project.
The skills that you gain with a smaller build will increase the likelihood that a larger project will go well.
I’ve collected some advice from other dollhouse collectors for people getting started, so read on to see what to do and what to avoid!
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links that will pay me a small commission if they’re used to purchase something.
Dollhouse kits for adults.
There are a lot of options for dollhouse kits that adults can try out, ranging from kits that come with all of the pieces needed to make a specific room, to assemblages made from found objects in an empty box. Starting with a limited space to work in gives you time to develop the skills needed to work on larger projects that will have more extensive details.
Miniature room box kits can be purchased in many places, and you can get them in sets that have all of the pieces to make a specific design, or just buy a plain box that you can decorate any way that you want to.
You can also make your own room box using shoeboxes or empty boxes that are designed to be made into modular units to stack to make a larger dollhouse.
The thing to be aware of with a lot of the kits that are available is that they’re made on a smaller scale than an actual dollhouse.
Full-sized dollhouses are usually 1:6 for a Barbie house, 1:12, or 1:16 for the Lundy dollhouses.
The scale is based on inches and 12 inches to a foot. So for the 1:12 scale, every foot tall in a real item will be 1″ in the dollhouse size. for the 1:6 scale, 2″= 1 foot.
The larger the number of the scale, the smaller the dollhouse and the items in it are, so kits that are 1:24 scale mean that the items in it are very small.
1 foot of an actual item is 1/2″ in the dollhouse world for 1:24 scale.
If you learn how to work in 1:24 scale with a kit, you’ll be able to manage a slightly larger scale in 1:12 pretty easily!
Renovating a full-sized dollhouse to start.
For a beginner, starting with a full-sized dollhouse that you buy secondhand is a quick way to immerse yourself in the hobby. If the dollhouse is considered to be a learning project, it can be used to experiment with different types of supplies and decorating materials in order to test methods and learn new techniques.
This is the approach that I’m going to take with the dollhouse that I bought.
I got it secondhand from another collector, so I didn’t have to build it myself, and it didn’t come with any specific type of decor attached to it.
I have a lot of crafting experience, so I’m not afraid to experiment and try things out. I plan on using the used dollhouse to test out different methods of decorating and to use it to design furniture templates that I’ll share here.
By starting with a full-sized dollhouse, you won’t have to build it yourself, which can cut a lot of time and frustration off of the process.
You can also concentrate on learning decorating techniques and figuring out which types of supplies work best instead of having to build the whole thing from the ground up.
There are a lot of places to find used dollhouses that are already assembled that you can use for experimentation.
Some of these are thrift stores, children’s resale stores, and yard sales. You can also check online marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook marketplace for local sales.
I found my used dollhouse on Facebook marketplace and bought it from a local miniaturist who also sells on Etsy.
I plan on redecorating the house with a lot of different techniques and styles to learn about the ins and outs of the hobby. It’s also a good way to learn about accessories and furniture.
Building a dollhouse from scratch or from a kit.
A third method of starting with a dollhouse would be to build the entire thing yourself, either using a prefabricated kit, or by cutting and assembling the pieces. This is a much more involved process, obviously, but it will give you a good understanding of the structure of the houses that you can use in future projects.
Building your own house is clearly something that’s going to take a lot more time than just decorating one, but it can also let you choose specifics about the house design itself.
If you want to make a replica of a specific building, like the home that you lived in when you were growing up, you can do that!
I know someone who’s planning to make a dollhouse in the shape of her grandmother’s house and recreating the interior as much as she can. That’s a much more involved project, but it has more personal meaning, too.
There are a lot of kits that you can buy if you don’t want a specific building. Some companies that make them are Greenleaf, Hobby Lobby, and Real Good Toys.
With more people getting laser cutters that can cut out wood patterns, there are also a lot of independent shops that create dollhouse templates that you can use to cut out your own pieces.
Search for “dollhouse template” on Etsy to find patterns.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to make a dollhouse out of wood.
If you’re making one for display and it doesn’t need to be super sturdy, you can make it out of cardboard.
People suggested using shipping boxes to create rooms, and they can also be stacked to make a dollhouse that’s two or more stories.
Corrugated cardboard can be pretty strong, so you might be able to make a dollhouse that will actually be played with out of it.
Starting with the accessories and furniture.
Starting with smaller projects like making or rehabbing dollhouse furniture and accessories instead of the entire house can be one way to start learning about working in the right scale. These little projects that only take a short amount of time can be used later in a dollhouse, or displayed on their own in a shadowbox or on a shelf.
Projects that don’t take too long to make will give you a sense of accomplishment and will teach you a lot about how different materials work.
For example, you can make a bunch of small miniature houseplants using different materials to see which ones you like working with and which ones look best.
Polymer clay can be used to make a lot of different dollhouse foods, and it’s inexpensive to work with. I made some miniature cookies, click here to see that article: Miniature chocolate chip cookies.
Doing different projects in a specific category can do a lot to develop your miniature skills, and will be a good start to furnishing a dollhouse or room box if you want to install them in one later.
The little vase that I use in the logo for this website was made from paper and a little paper flower. I made it in 1:12 scale, so it was good practice in how to keep things in the right scale.
Starting with a dollhouse can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be, but the people who do get started are usually hooked.
The important thing is to have fun, so think about how much you want to put into it and how aggravated different options will make you, then avoid those!
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