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How to upcycle a dollhouse

prettyliving
Valued Contributor

Difficulty: Beginner


Upcycling a dollhouse is a great way to keep ensure multiple generations of kids can enjoy it for years to come. From upholstering bedheads to repainting walls, there’s a lot you can do to transform an old dollhouse into a modern one that provides hours of imaginative fun.

 

Here is our guide to upcycling a dollhouse. Let us know if you have any questions, and we’d be happy to assist.

 

Steps

Step 1

Update the flooring in your dollhouse to ensure it's more presentable.

 

To create a smooth surface, remove old flooring and sand the surface using a fine sanding block. Clean any dust or dirt using a damp microfibre cloth.

 

An easy and durable option for dollhouse flooring is self-stick vinyl tiles. These come in a variety of colours and patterns. To install, measure the floor area and then mark the space out onto the vinyl tile using a fine marker. Cut away the access using a utility knife. Finally, remove the backing paper and stick onto the floor 

 

For stairs, cut out small strips of vinyl tile and attach to each step. Paint the sides and surrounding areas.

 

1.1. Create a smooth surface for floors.jpeg 1.2 For stairs, cut out small strips of vinyl tile and attach to each step.jpeg 1.3 Paint surrounding areas.jpeg

 

 

Step 2

Prepare the walls if necessary. A light sand and a coat of primer is recommended when working with glossy surfaces to allow new paint to stick. Prep4in1 by British Paints is a great priming product that will also block any previous stains from seeping through.  

 

When working with unpainted or clean unsealed wood, this "prep" process is not required.

 

2.1 Priming products block any previous stains.jpeg

 

Step 3

To create a wainscot feature, paint the bottom section of the walls in your desired colour. Water-based sample pots are a great and inexpensive option.  

 

Using a 1.5mm Balsa wood sheet, cut thin strips for your top and bottom skirting. To cut, hold a metal ruler firmly along your desired cut line and run a utility knife along it, keeping the line straight.

  

Paint your top and bottom skirting and then glue these onto the wall using Liquid Nails.  

 

Measure your desired size for the wainscoting. Using these measurements, cut out your pieces with a ruler and knife. Cut the ends at 45 degree angles to create a picture frame look. Glue onto the wall in between your top and bottom skirting. Once dried, paint to blend with the rest of the wall. 

 

3.1 Cut thin strips for your top and bottom skirting.jpeg 3.2 Glue onto wall.jpeg 3.3. Final wainscot detail on walls.jpeg

 

 

Step 4

Apply patterned paper or cardboard to the top sections of walls. You can also use old gift bags, wrapping paper, gift boxes, posters or drawings.

 

Measure the walls and cut the paper or card to size. Glue these onto the wall using a thin spread of PVA glue. If using a thin paper or card, be careful not to apply too much glue as it may soak through and become visible.  

 

4.1 Use cardboard to add colour to the top section of the wall.jpeg  4.2 Glue onto the wall using a thin spread of PVA glue.jpeg  4.3 Final walls with patterned tops.jpeg

 

 

Step 5

Add VJ panels and detailing to interior walls.  

 

Measure the bottom half of your walls. Using a thick cardboard, cut out a large panel to fit the area. Using coated cardboard from an old packaging box is a great and inexpensive option. You could also use regular cardboard and paint it to your desired colour. 

 

Using a utility knife and ruler, gently cut slits into the top layer of the cardboard to create the panels. Be careful not to cut all the way through. Glue the panels onto the walls.

 

For the top half of the wall, you can repeat step four with patterned paper or card. You can also paint the wall in your desired colour. 

 

5.1 Cut out a large panel for cut out a large panel .jpeg  5.2 Gently cut slits into the top layer of the cardboard .jpeg  5.3 Glue the panels onto the walls.jpeg  5.4 VJ panelling on walls.jpeg

 

Step 6

Use patterned self-adhesive film to add character in bedroom walls.

 

Before applying, ensure the walls are smooth. Remove any existing wallpaper or glue with a sanding block. Clean the walls with a damp cloth and leave to dry. 

 

To install self-adhesive film, cut a large piece and gently apply it to the wall. Start from one side, using a scraper to remove bubbles as you work your way to the other side. Once you have finished applying, use a knife to cut the access where the film meets the edges.    

 

Another way to use the adhesive film is to apply it in brick-like strips. First paint the wall in your preferred background colour. Leave to dry. Cut the film into small strips. For a rustic look, cut the film into slightly different sized strips.  Apply onto the wall, starting from the bottom and working your way up. 

 

6.1 Use patterned self-adhesive film to add character .jpeg  6.2 Installing self-adhesive film.jpeg  6.3 Final wall covered in self-adhesive brick like film.jpeg

 

Step 7

Update old dollhouse furniture.

 

An easy and affordable way to do this is through the use of some paint and fabric. Instead of purchasing these, check for any old clothes, tea towels or bed linen at home.

 

Here are some ways to update the following furniture:

 

  • Couches and chairs
    Apply a thin layer of glue onto the seats and then cover them with your choice of fabric. Cut away any access fabric. Use the same method to upholster bedheads. 

 

  • Tables and side tables
    Lightly sand away any glossy coats of paint or sealer. Apply a coat of primer using Prep4in1. Once dry, repaint in your desired colour.  

 

  • Drawers
    Make faux drawers on the cupboards or side tables. To do this, make a picture frame using thin strips of Balsa wood or toothpicks and glue them onto the cupboard. Then, cut a strip of fabric and glue it into the middle of the frame. Finally, attach a bead or pin that can act as the knob.  

 

  • Lamps
    You can also update plain or outdated lamps by gluing some fabric or lace onto the shade.  

 

  • Fireplace
    Adding a picture of a fire to the fireplace adds realism and creates a "wow" factor. You can use pictures of fires in old magazines. Cut out the picture and glue into the firebox. To add further detail, carve indents around the fireplace using a knife. 

 

  • Kitchen
    For the kitchen, apply self-adhesive film onto the benches and shelves to create a more realistic look.  

 

  • Dishwasher
    Cut a block of Pine to your preferred size. Use a utility knife to cut out a small strip of Balsa sheet in the shape of a handle and glue towards the top of the block. Paint silver using enamel paint. Lastly, glue a small strip of black card or paper on top.
     

7.1 Glue fabric on couches and chairs.jpeg  7.2 Updated couch.jpeg  7.3 Upholster bedheads using same method.jpeg  7.4 Lightly sand away any glossy coats of paint or sealer.jpeg  7.5 Apply primer.jpeg  7.6 Make faux drawers.jpeg  7.7 Update lamps by gluing fabric.jpeg  7.8 Updated lamp.jpeg  7.9 Cut out photo of real fire from magazine for fireplace.jpeg  7.10 Carve brick-like indents around fireplace.jpeg  7.11 Apply self-adhesive film onto benches and shelves.jpeg  7.12 Making a kitchen bench.jpeg  7.13 Assembling bench with sink.jpeg  7.14 Making a dishwasher.jpeg  7.15 Final kitchen bench with dishwasher.jpeg

 

Step 8

Make accessories to add more character to your dollhouse.

 

Here are my tips for making the following:

 

  • Blankets and towels
    Cut out some fabric to make blankets for the beds and towels for the bathroom.

 

  • Cushions
    Roll up a strip of fabric and glue or sew the sides.

 

  • Floor rugs
    Cut up old tea towels or soft fabric.

  •  Utensils
    Using Balsa wood, carefully cut out utensil shapes using a utility knife. To add texture, dab on some liquid nail and then leave for a few minutes until it starts to dry out. Gently mould it into shape. Once fully cured, paint with silver enamel paint.  

 

  • Utensil holder
    Cut out a small strip of Balsa wood to act as a utensil holder. Glue on the utensils. Then, glue the utensils and the holder onto the wall using liquid nail. 

 

  • Floating shelf
    Cut a short piece of timber moulding with a hack saw. Gently sand the corners and edges. Apply Liquid Nails to the back and press firmly to attach it to the wall.  

 

  • Clock
    Use a small, round crafted wood piece and draw on numbers and hands with a fine marker.

 

  • Floral arrangements  
    Glue small artificial flowers into a large bead or lid cap to create a floral arrangement. 

 

8.1 Cutting and sewing fabrics for blankets and towels.jpeg  8.2 Sewing fabric for cushions.jpeg  8.3 Cutting utensil shapes from balsa wood.jpeg  8.4 Painting utensils .jpeg  8.5 Gluing utensil holder.jpeg  8.6 Creating a floating shelf.jpeg  8.7 Final look bathroom.jpeg  8.8 Making a clock.jpeg  8.9 Making floral arrangement.jpegFinal bedroom with dressing table.jpeg  Final bedroom.jpeg  Final dining table.jpeg   Final living area.jpeg  BEFORE PIC.jpeg  AFTER PIC.jpeg

 

 

Materials

  • Self-stick vinyl tile
  • Fine sanding block
  • Prep4in1 paint
  • Balsa wood sheet
  • PVA glue
  • Microfibre cleaning cloth
  • Paint sample pot
  • Liquid Nails construction adhesive 
  • Self-adhesive film
  • Craft paint brush
  • Pine
  • Crafted wood pieces
  • Cardboard
  • Fabric
  • Lace
  • Pine moulding
  • Silver enamel paint
  • Artificial flowers
  • Craft beads.

Tools

  • Utility knife
  • Stainless steel ruler
  • Hack saw.

Images

1.1. Create a smooth surface for floors.jpeg  1.2 For stairs, cut out small strips of vinyl tile and attach to each step.jpeg  1.3 Paint surrounding areas.jpeg  2.1 Priming products block any previous stains.jpeg    3.1 Cut thin strips for your top and bottom skirting.jpeg  3.2 Glue onto wall.jpeg  3.3. Final wainscot detail on walls.jpeg  4.1 Use cardboard to add colour to the top section of the wall.jpeg  4.2 Glue onto the wall using a thin spread of PVA glue.jpeg  4.3 Final walls with patterned tops.jpeg  5.1 Cut out a large panel for cut out a large panel .jpeg  5.2 Gently cut slits into the top layer of the cardboard .jpeg  5.3 Glue the panels onto the walls.jpeg  5.4 VJ panelling on walls.jpeg  6.1 Use patterned self-adhesive film to add character .jpeg  6.2 Installing self-adhesive film.jpeg  6.3 Final wall covered in self-adhesive brick like film.jpeg  7.1 Glue fabric on couches and chairs.jpeg  7.2 Updated couch.jpeg  7.3 Upholster bedheads using same method.jpeg  7.4 Lightly sand away any glossy coats of paint or sealer.jpeg  7.5 Apply primer.jpeg  7.6 Make faux drawers.jpeg  7.7 Update lamps by gluing fabric.jpeg  7.8 Updated lamp.jpeg  7.9 Cut out photo of real fire from magazine for fireplace.jpeg  7.10 Carve brick-like indents around fireplace.jpeg  7.11 Apply self-adhesive film onto benches and shelves.jpeg  7.12 Making a kitchen bench.jpeg  7.13 Assembling bench with sink.jpeg  7.14 Making a dishwasher.jpeg  7.15 Final kitchen bench with dishwasher.jpeg  8.1 Cutting and sewing fabrics for blankets and towels.jpeg  8.2 Sewing fabric for cushions.jpeg  8.3 Cutting utensil shapes from balsa wood.jpeg  8.4 Painting utensils .jpeg  8.5 Gluing utensil holder.jpeg  8.6 Creating a floating shelf.jpeg  8.7 Final look bathroom.jpeg  8.8 Making a clock.jpeg  8.9 Making floral arrangement.jpeg Final bedroom with dressing table.jpeg  Final bedroom.jpeg  Final dining table.jpeg  Final living area.jpeg  BEFORE PIC.jpeg  AFTER PIC.jpeg

 

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