A Dollhouse Story

1983 - Irene's Handmade Dollhouse

My handmade dollhouse, front view

I spent about 15 years of my young life building a dollhouse and all its contents by hand. It has a Swiss-like stone exterior, and an early American interior. I called it Idylwild.

1983 - Irene's Handmade Dollhouse

back view

I loved dollhouses and miniatures. I read antique magazines and could tell you what styles and eras I liked the best. In fact, my favorite store was the dollhouse store located on Pier 39 in San Francisco.

Now to make a beautiful dollhouse, I knew you need to have high standards. I wrote myself the following rules: Everything in my dollhouse I had to make by hand from scratch (not buy or make from a kit);  everything should be in scale; the lights should turn on; the era and style should be authentic; and finally all the knobs and drawers should really work (as opposed to being painted on and tromp l’oeil).

1983 - Irene's Handmade Dollhouse

“Pink Room”

I first built the pink chair and pink bed, out of wooden dominoes and small wood pieces. You see them here in the “Pink Room”.

I did not have good tools as a kid, so the early work is very crude. I recall that I used an old steak knife like a saw to cut all the wood for the furniture.  I recall working with bad tools until my fingers hurt and blistered. What a dedicated fool I was!

However, I think this dollhouse helped me become a better artist and craftswoman. It turned me into a lifelong scavenger, saving small metallic things found on the ground and broken jewelry as materials. I kept these scraps in a little fish hook tackle box.

Every now and again I still take out this tackle box,  sort the little trinkets inside, and continue dreaming of how I might use them. I think I will finish it in my retirement years.

Doll House Building Tips and Materials:

my dollhouse tackle box

my  tackle box of dollhouse materials.

Almost everything in my dollhouse was made from common materials. Here are some of my better ideas while building this dollhouse:

  • Green grass blades can be woven together to look like wicker seat covers for the little chairs. (Pick and weave the grass when it is still green.)
  • Antique wooden picture frames make great gingerbread for the house exterior.
  • The paper wrappings around Swiss chocolates have small attractive pictures,  just the right size to make miniature book covers and wall pictures.
  • Wooden beads make good cups, vases and lamp bases.
  • The metal ends of pencils also make good cups. Simply break the metal end off the pencil, then carve out and discard the pencil wood and the eraser.
  • Acorn shells make great wooden bowls.
  • Some buttons make good dinner plates.
  • Clip earrings can be folded at a right angle, the perfect shape for a wall lamp.
  • A white ping pong ball, when sliced in half, is the perfect size to use as shade on the miniature hanging lamp!

22 thoughts on “A Dollhouse Story

  1. CS5711 Very cool ideas. I enjoyed both the story of your childhood as well as the material tips. I like your photos too. Did you add the frames yourself or is that an option in the WordPress Theme you chose?

  2. Irene, Your dollhouse is really lovely! so detailed and imaginative. That comes as no surprise because you were a super kid and always creative. I will never forget your plays when you were young.

  3. I admire your dedication to your doll house art. The details and your interior design ideas are wonderful. Have you exhibited your dollhouses in Sonoma County? Keep making great art!

  4. Wow, I am truly impressed with your dollhouse! How utterly creative and resourceful you are! I think because you reuse pretty much all of your materials, it makes your creation even more magical. By the way, did you glue the roof and the tiny stone wall (on the exterior) all by hand? You most definitely have great patience and fine attention to detail! Great work! #cs5711

    • Thanks! I took pebbles and glued them on the sides of the wooden house to look like it has stone walls. Then I painted over the glue between the stones, to look like mortar. The shingles on the roof are available from doll house stores. You just need to hammer and glue each one down.

  5. I love your idea’s. I used to save everything when it came to fabrics. I’d make pillows, curtains, duvets and costumes out of anything. Right new I’m collecting old/odd earrings and lillte crystals to make a chandelier.

  6. Wow this is amazing! I seriously can’t believe you made everything yourself! You should be really proud of yourself. You put so much thought into everything, down to having the lights light up. You make me want to start a project like this but i know I wouldn’t have the patience to finish it. So cool

  7. I just have to say, I am a guy, and I find this really cool! The amount of work this must have taken to produce, really paid off as it looks quite realistic. I also want to ask if you edited the photos to purposely have a slightly antique or vintage look to them? It really adds a unique feeling like this house could exist in realty somewhere in the world, awesome. Also, if the lights really work, I think you should consider taking some photos in low lighting with the house lights turned on. I, for one, would be interested to see how it would look in a “night” setting.

    • Thanks matteidsen! I did not edit the photos they come from a good 35mm Pentax camera. Miniatures do have a way of feeling real, as long as everything is in scale.

  8. I can understand your hand pain. I too love working with my hands, however I have to bow to you. This house was a labor of love. The details are incredible. So tedious and precise. Very impressive. I like the DIY feel of your blog, it goes so well with the houses. #CS5711

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