Refurbishing a dollhouse, vol II

Who would have imagined that writing a post about refurbishing a dollhouse would require a volume two?

No, me neither, but as it turns out lots of you are refurbishing and fixing up dollhouses too! And I realised I never updated the photos to include the interior as it looks now, a few years later (and with a new iPhone).

Lazy sylvanian family should really be doing some hoovering

We refurbished the dollhouse a week before our third baby was born and during a fairly long period of renting houses, not being able to do any kind of real home improvements — so this, in some micro way, became the focus of my desire for fresh walls and a clean interior. Just, you know, on a 1:18 scale (Yes I got that technical, this early on in the post but don’t let that put you off).

Gratuitous pre-iPhone baby photo (Mim!), but look, the newly-renovated dollhouse is in the top left hand corner, absolute justification for including in the post

I had a beautiful handmade doll house, made for me by my dad for my third birthday. I don’t have any photos of it at the original 1980s unveiling to share with you but it was totally beautiful. We were living in Norway and so it was a very suitably Scandinavian white and deep red. It was perfect, even if my family does have a good anecdote about how much I preferred the wrapping paper at the time.

But then I got old and the dollhouse got old too, and sat in our garage, lived in by mice. A bleak time all round.

This is mr tMatM mid-storage facility dollhouse retrieval. Looking back I wonder whether this left him questioning his life choices

So 30(ish) years later, we pulled the dollhouse out of a storage facility, right before our third baby was due and when I felt very strongly (read:hormonally) that we needed the old dollhouse fixed and we needed to do it immediately.

As testament to it having being built by an engineer it was still in remarkably good shape.

This constitutes a significant proportion of time spent with the dollhouse so I am grateful for my dads engineering knowhow

In fact our 2 year old couldn’t wait to get out of the storage facility parking lot to start playing with it:

The perfect spot for a quick game of dollhouse

But if you look closely you’ll see it needed a bit of love. The wallpaper was fantastically retro and I did wonder if we could somehow rescue it, but it had really seen better days (remember, the mice). So we started by stripping it back and sanding everything down (and when I say ‘we’, you would do well to assume I mean ‘my husband, under my beady and watchful eye’)

Anyway ‘we’ stripped it back and then after we’d decided on keeping it simple and minimal with a white theme, took it outside for a coat of primer and a few coats of white spray paint. Then we brought it back inside to work on the floors and walls.

“We” worked late into the night

And, voila! Starting to look very 2014 already.

You’ll notice the paper tacked to the back with masking tape – this is how we (WE) created templates for the wallpaper.

For the floors, we used a thin balsa wood for 2 of the rooms, with a coat of clear wood sealant. For the bathroom floor, white painted balsa wood with the sealant on top. And the lounge, a triumph, with slightly corded upholstery fabric from John Lewis as a grey ‘carpet’.

A better view of the flooring, there, along with the wallpaper going up – craft paper from a local hobbycraft. Surprisingly hard to find paper that feels thick enough and with a matt finish – like wallpaper, and with a pattern that isn’t vastly out of scale. I mean I might not go for these kinds of garish patterns in my own house…

Another look at the flooring and walls here. Model train companies do a great line in faux grass that is in scale – ie, isn’t shoulder high for the dollhouse inhabitants. Although, also worth mentioning that as we suspected, this wasn’t super resilient and needs replacing five years later.

Getting moved in. You can see up in the top right hand room – the bathroom – the beginnings of a monochrome tiled wall. I finally finished this tiling job about 2 years after the rest of the dollhouse, not sure what that says about my project management skills.

I agree, a bit uncouth to set this photo up with a sylvanian family in such a compromising situation, although anyone with toddlers knows that dollhouse toilets constitute about 90% of dollhouse intrigue

I got pretty carried away with furniture at this point in the refurb and ordered some of the pretty stylish and iconic lundby sets:

Every dollhouse needs some casual street art, no?
Sad state of affairs when your dollhouse has a nicer bath than you.
Very ercol inspired bench

I will say, though, that if your children are anything like mine you may wish to delay the lundby furniture purchasing until they aren’t going to be bringing you the splintered remnants of beautifully crafted sets while you try not to feel too aggrieved.

I had to put some of the less robust pieces away for another day – aka when they are 16. And I updated with some more resilient wooden sets from Hape, like this:

Significantly less breakable

Worth nothing that this was inspired by a friend who had bought her daughter the Hape doll house – very lovely and sturdy, and also excellent value even in comparison to refurbishing an old doll house – especially if your husband is less likely to oblige with the efforts of spray painting and sanding… or, like me, you can wait until you are 38 weeks pregnant and make a desperate and emotionally charged plea for help which your husband cannot possibly refuse.

Totally worth it though

Curtains and vallance made and hemmed by my sewing genius mother in law – attached with Velcro dots, highly recommend this over any elaborate curtain rod option for toddler ease.
We also put Velcro dots on curtain corners and the sides of the window frame, so that they can be pinned back, very pleasing from the exterior.
Okay revisiting this photo years later is a bit painful, Elsa is now 8 and no baby curls in sight. Poor me.

Who knew I had so much to say about dollhouse renovation! xxtMatM

PS. First dollhouse redecorating post here!


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