Lower Town Dollhouse – exterior updates

After many late nights hunched over tiny pieces of cardboard, glue and paint, the exterior of Cora’s [now called “Lower Town Dollhouse” because I do love consistency] is finished! It was fiddly and intricate and involved a lot more planning than I anticipated, but I absolutely loved updating this dollhouse ahead of Christmas. It was immediately worth it as soon as Cora saw it on Christmas morning.

Here’s a reminder of what the outside of Cora’s dollhouse looked like when I first bought it [secondhand on Kijiji for $45] …

It was in good condition, but at the same time it had no front doors and was missing possibly a door [?] on the second floor. Or a window? Or a porch? Or a portal into another dimension? I don’t know the purpose of it or what it was, but while I thought about what to do with that gap, I decided on some colours for the outside of the dollhouse.

I knew quite early on that I wanted to paint the outside of Cora’s dollhouse a shade of green. I mean, for a moment I did consider burgundy, but I wanted it to be light and fun and for her. While secretly also being for me, so I just made it my second-favourite colour instead of my favourite colour. See? Compromise.

I really like natural, muted, mossy, historic, sagey greens and ended up taking inspiration from the two floral paintings [above] I thrifted for my One Room Challenge. I really liked the neutral background shades and so I matched that as best as I could.

Before I commited to any paint, I did a mock-up on Google Sketch-Up to see what combination of colours would look best. I picked up some DecoArt’s Americana Decor Chalky Finish paint in ‘Revive’ green from Michael’s with an accented darker shade of ‘Light Avocado’ from DecoArt’s Americana Acrylic paint for the shutters. I decided white trim all around would be a perfect accent to top it all off.

I next decided to tackle the front doors. Or, lack of front doors.

It was a large opening so right away I wasn’t going to make just one door. It looked strange and a bit off-scale to have two tall, narrow doors so I decided to make two doors with a transom above them because hello my name is Alex and I’m a glutton for punishment and why take the easy route when you can make things four times harder for yourself?

I made the doors using recycled cardboard, coffee stirrers, duct tape [as door hinges], glue, wood filler and white paint. I watched this YouTube video to get an idea of how to make dollhouse doors, but I didn’t follow it as I didn’t have a lot of the fancy materials at hand, so I made a simpler version. To give you a quick rundown of how I made the dollhouse doors, I …

  • Cut two identical pieces of 1mm thick cardboard per door [so for two doors, four pieces of cardboard]
  • Add a flap of duct tape to one piece of cardboard then glue two pieces of cardboard together
  • Cut coffee stirrers with scissors and create a panelled door pattern on each side of the door [as seen above]
  • Fill in any gaps in the wood with filler
  • Let the filler dry, then paint [as seen below]

I used the last four minutes of this YouTube tutorial for how to install the doors. In short, I removed the trim from the inside of the dollhouse, glued the duct tape in place to the wall, then glued the trim back on. I was surprised at how perfectly functioning little set of doors they turned out to be! I did the same for the transom except used leftover plastic from a fruit punnet as the window pane.

Next, I started work on the other massive hole above the doors. I decided the best looking option would be to try and mimic one of the existing windows. Remember, I don’t like making things easy for myself. This is a recurring theme you will find throughout my blog. So why not make an intricate little window? No problem.

I first made a little wall to fill the bottom half of the gaping space [as the opening was much longer that the other windows]. I simply glued a few pieces of cardboard together and used duct tape to secure it to the inside wall of the dollhouse [as seen above], much like adding the doors.

I then cut strips of cardboard to mimic the existing siding, overlapped each piece and glued them in place against the little wall I had just created [as seen below]. It’s not perfect because I couldn’t cut away the existing wooden frame that was there, but I’m quite proud with how it turned out!

I then created the window in a very similar style to how I created the doors and the transom; it’s kind of tricky to explain, but maybe the picture below will help explain the piece of recycled plastic, with duct tape on all sides, sandwiched together between coffee stirrers. I then attempted to paint the same window-pane pattern as the other windows onto the plastic. I took zero pictures of that process because it was so tedious and I just wanted to get it over with.

Once the painted window was glued in place, I created two shutters from cardboard [and wooden hearts that I added to all the shutters], painted them ‘Light Avocado’ green and glued them in place alongside the new faux window.

The only things I bought to update the exterior of the dollhouse was the green paint, some Krazy Glue and a pack of coffee stirrers. Everything else was salvaged from either cardboard or plastic that was in our recycling bin.

While I would have liked for the entire of the dollhouse to have been ready for Christmas morning, it took me so long to update the outside that I was realistic and left the inside as it was. I knew Cora wouldn’t understand that the inside was unfinished and I also figured she might like to see the inside being updated as well as have an input for what things should look like.

I loved every minute of updating the exterior of our Lower Town Dollhouse. It is 100% quenching my need to renovate a real house. Except it’s giving me unrealistic expectations as there’s no dodgy wiring or plumbing and I can paint the entire house in a few hours. But it’s letting me make tiny versions of real things; something I will always love.

Secondhand Victorian-style dollhouse

I’m going to come clean straight away and say this is a project I’m working on as a gift for Cora this Christmas, but it’s also 9,000% entirely for me. I am living vicariously through Cora this Christmas. And beyond. 

I had been looking on Kijiji for a dollhouse for Cora for a few months. Probably casually looking for around six months, but more seriously searching for the last two to three months. I found amazing dollhouses every few weeks but they were either too expensive, located too far away or were the bad kind of homemade that were misshapen and home to jagged edges that no amount of sandpaper or filler could fix. This would after all be a present for our curious toddler so I wanted it to be a practical, special and more importantly a safe dollhouse. 

Kijiji did not disappoint. Kijiji is a gentle creature that rewards those with an abundance of patience. You have to look and look and look and inquire and have a deal fall through and keep looking and change your search words 20 times and then right when you’re about to give up, the most perfect thing will present itself. 

I suspect many peopled passed on this dollhouse because of its lack of a front door, a window and stairs. Ha, I say. HA! You’re going to have to do a lot worse than that to deter me. Before I heard back from the owner if it was still available or not, I was already researching how to make dollhouse doors and stairs and I am up for the challenge. 

As Robert pointed out, the attic is very like the wallpaper in Adam and Barbara’s house in Beetlejuice. It’s really sweet and I might keep it for the time being. 

As for the rest, I will be changing. I’m already overwhelmed with redecorating ideas. It will mostly be for Cora’s current / my old Sylvanian Families [aka Calico Creatures in North America] collection, so it will be decorated to be sweet and adorable. I might try my hand at making some tiny wallpaper, and there will be bits of burgundy here and there, but I’ll try my best to not to impose a gothic look. I’m way too excited to start redecorating Cora’s dollhouse and I’ve even come up with a few moodboard ideas for it! I really can’t wait to start. I love a good project, especially on a scale I can handle for a few hours a night. 

But more importantly, want to know how much I paid for it?

Guess.

Go on.  

No. 

Lower.

Lower … 

$45.

p.s. Serious question – can I say I own a Victorian house now? Because I kind of do … 

Should you be interested, check out my post where I share my

Top Tips for Buying Secondhand Items Online

Conde Nast Traveller Magazine feature – The Gold List

If you pick up a copy of the new Conde Nast Traveller’s magazine about The Gold List 2019, you’ll find my photo of the gold bathroom sink from the Nobu Shoreditch Hotel in London from when the #NetflixStreamTeam visited London in September 2017.

It’s a fantastically glamorous issue and I’m reminded of 1) how lucky I was to be invited to London and to have had the opportunity to stay in the Nobu Hotel Shoreditch in the first place, and b) to have my photo included in this decadent travel roundup! You can pick up the current issue in all good newsstands [in the UK only, I believe] or you can purchase a copy of the online version here.

Thank you again Conde Nast Traveller for wanting to include my little picture!