Mother’s Day DIY Fun: Finishing My Old Doll House

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Back in December, I mentioned that I wanted to give my daughter a doll house, mostly because my father and I had built one together when I was a little girl. It took hours and hours, but it was a great experience that I’ll always remember and one I wanted to share with my own child. After searching fruitlessly for an eco-friendly option, I remembered that my father had actually kept the doll house we put together all those years ago. It was sitting unused in a dusty corner of his office, and it was unpainted because we never got around to that part, but he still had it. So after my dad and I shared a few fond memories of the time we spent building it, he shipped my lovely old doll house to me.

Forgive the horrible photos, but I took them with my cell phone. As you can see, it wasn’t in the best shape. It is easily more than 15 years old (I can’t remember exactly how old I was when we built it), and it hadn’t been touched in years. It was dusty with some parts that had fallen off, and some of it was being held together with crunchy old pieces of tape. I thought that this would be a project my daughter and I could do to celebrate Mother’s Day together. After all, quality time is the among the best gifts you can give or receive, and I knew we’d both remember this experience for years to come.

I won’t say this was an easy undertaking. Because it wasn’t. It took days to finish, and many hours spent contorted in weird positions to paint all the details and finish the interior. But I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in this world.

In addition to the house itself, we started off with a few supplies from Walmart: craft paint, craft glue suitable for wood, and sheets of scrapbook paper.  We added that to the Olympic low-VOC paint we had left over from my daughter’s room and the mid-century Hooker desk we refinished a while back, along with an abundance of paint brushes. We also grabbed some doll house shingles and wood flooring from the miniatures section at Hobby Lobby and got to work.

And here’s the final result!

I’ll spare you all the details, but time was the major requirement for this project. When we were finally done, I told my husband that it’s “far from perfect, but looks perfect from far.” :)

I love the ice blue, white and hot pink color scheme, and my daughter thinks it’s absolutely perfect!

We used the scrapbook paper as wallpaper on the inside of the house, and I love how you can see the patterns through the front windows (even though my wallpapering technique was less than stellar).

I love how you can see the flooring and staircase through the front door, so it really feels like a home. We still have to line up and secure the flooring with adhesive and do some touch-up painting, but you get the idea.

We chose fun patterns and colors for the inside of the house: green and white damask for the living room, solid green with one damask wall for the kitchen, colorful stripes for one upstairs bedroom and a chocolate and pink damask for the other. The result is a look that is not at all matchy-matchy, but that still feels cohesive enough.

My husband got in on the action and added the wooden floors, and he was like a kid in a candy store at the thought of creating something together that our daughter will enjoy for years to come.

So although we have a gorgeous doll house, at the end of it all, the best part of this project was simply the experience of doing it together.

When we started painting, my daughter said to me, “Mommy, why is it so much work?” All I could tell her was the work would be worth it in the end. And I was right. The idea that I was able to pass this doll house down to my own daughter is rewarding enough, but the idea that she can pass it on to her daughter with the memory of having worked on it too? At the risk of sounding like a MasterCard commercial, that’s priceless!

Plus, the whole family has been bitten by the miniatures bug (How cute is that fireplace in the living room?!). The next job is to furnish the house and bring home a family for it. I plan to try making as much of the furniture as I can, but we’re not completely against buying some of it. We’d also like to wire it for lighting, and add some molding throughout the interior to cover up some of my mistakes :)

And another bonus? My husband already has plans to add another doll house to the collection when our daughter is a little older. He wants to put one together with her like I did with my dad. If that were the only reward of doing this, it would absolutely be worth it!

Disclosure: I am a member of the Walmart Moms program. Walmart has provided me with compensation for sharing a Mother’s Day DIY project with You. Participation is voluntary and as usual, all opinions are my own.

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13 comments… add one

  • Lynn May 4, 2011, 4:46 pm

    What a fabulous job you did! I can’t see a single problem with it. It’s as cute as can be and as you said, the wonderful experience of doing this together will last lifetimes! Happy Mother’s Day!

    • jennae May 4, 2011, 4:51 pm

      Thank you so much Lynn! It really is the most fun we’ve had a in long time. My husband is talking about doing a whole neighborhood :)

  • Lori Z. May 4, 2011, 5:08 pm

    I have almost the same dollhouse! Our families maybe shopped the same stores when we were little. I refinished mine in colors for my daughter last year (your colors are fantastic btw), but I still have yet to find a good way to clean the shingles. Twenty years of dust haunts the crevices of that dollhouse.
    Lori Z. recently posted { Dude }

    • jennae May 4, 2011, 5:30 pm

      No kidding! About the fact that you have almost the same one AND about the dust…lol. If I had taken a picture of the rag I used to clean the house before we painted it, it would haunt me for the rest of my days. Dust found its way to every crack, crevice and surface. Made me wish we had a tiny vacuum cleaner. And now that it has shingles…it hurts to think about it…

  • Jennifer K May 4, 2011, 5:23 pm

    I love the wallpaper and the flooring! What a great project. I still have the dollhouse that my dad made for me when I was little. My mom did the painting and made the curtains. I hope your daughter loves her dollhouse as much as I did!

    • jennae May 4, 2011, 5:31 pm

      Thanks Jennifer! My next task is to make some curtains with some fabric I already have laying around. And I want to make a tiny cushion to go on the “bay window” in the kitchen. The ideas are endless now that the house itself is finally done :)

  • jenn May 4, 2011, 5:34 pm

    I have this same dollhouse! My pawpaw made it for me for Christmas when I was five. I just got it from my parent’s house and plan to clean it up and repaint. How cool that you guys got to do this together!

    • jennae May 5, 2011, 7:00 am

      Wow! It seems like this kit was really popular! I’d love to see what you do with it if you do repaint it :)

  • Kathleen W. May 4, 2011, 5:47 pm

    Oh, it’s so great! I love the story behind it too. I remember a similar house growing up, like one my parents bought that was half-finished at a yard sale, though I can’t recall that we ever finished it! I’d love to do one of these with my kids someday.
    Kathleen W. recently posted { Baby Month- Packing a Hospital Bag }

    • jennae May 5, 2011, 7:01 am

      I’m already looking forward to the next one. It really was a great experience for all of us :)

  • George May 10, 2011, 3:48 pm

    You did a great job. Congrats ! In February I bought a dollhouse for my Alice (3 years old) and she spends 2-3 hours each day playing house.
    George recently posted { Best Selling Dollhouses }

  • Brittany {Mommy Words} May 10, 2011, 6:06 pm

    I wanted to do that with my daughter but the house got destroyed in hurricane Isabel a few years ago. I was so sad. Yours looks great!

    I suppose we will have both the building and decorating experience when my little one gets old enough.
    Brittany {Mommy Words} recently posted { Bring Back the Family Meeting and Give Your Kids a Say }

  • CanCan May 16, 2011, 11:36 pm

    That is so great! My 6 year old son would get the biggest thrill out of a project like this. With more masculine wall paper of course.

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