A {semi} DIY Dollhouse for Christmas

This weekend I checked a big item off my Christmas to-do list: a semi-DIY dollhouse for LJ and Vi to share!

Last year for Christmas, Justin and I built a play kitchen for our kids. For Vi’s second birthday, I built her a wooden clothing rack to store her dress-up clothes (still proud of myself for doing that on my own!) For a while now, I have wanted the next big toy/gift to be a dollhouse and I thought it would be another thing we would make from scratch. Alas, when I started talking about my plans to Justin, he literally begged me not to tackle an entire dollhouse.

Justin is normally pretty supportive of my wild ideas (I mean, the guy did climb up on a 12-foot scaffold to help paint our living room ceiling) but he reeled me back in on this one by having me talk through all the logistics. His point was that our time is so limited these days with three kids, plus all the other Christmas activities we wanted to do as a family, attempting a dollhouse would make for a stressful, time-crunched project that would likely be way more involved than I initially thought (as most of my projects tend to be haha). It made me realize that yes, I could make a dollhouse from scratch, but would that outweigh the time and effort that it took from me in this particular season of our life? The answer is no, it wouldn’t be worth it. I decided to pivot and find a ready-made dollhouse.

I searched for gender-neutral options and found this dollhouse from Hape. It was the perfect solution – I loved the clean, minimal design and felt like it would be a great launching pad for lots of open-ended play for my kids. I also liked that I could immediately envision some ways to put my own little spin it. Truthfully, the house would have been just fine in its original, multicolored state, but the thought of still getting a little DIY in and making it my own felt like the best of both worlds! I ordered it a few weeks ago and then over this past weekend, I unboxed it and got to work.

I dug through my paint cabinet and pulled out various cans of extra paint I’ve used over the years. I taped out all the walls on the back and gave them one coat of primer and two coats paint. The trim is wood but the walls are a very glossy particleboard – think of an Ikea cabinet – and I wasn’t sure how well they would hold paint, but it ended up working great! I kept things simple on the back of the house and painted everything SW Urbane Bronze (the color from our living room ceiling).

On the front side, I taped out the three walls with windows in them and painted them three of my favorite colors from our house: SW Blonde (from our laundry room), SW Foggy Day (from our bedroom), and Farrow & Ball Treron (from my office). For the two walls with no windows, I decided to try to apply some extra peel-and-stick wallpaper I had on hand; one was leftover from our playroom, the other was a sample I never ended up using in our house. I applied the wallpaper the same way I would to a real wall – sprayed it down, folded it in half until the paste was activated, then unfolded and pressed it into place using a damp cloth. It worked like a charm!

Once the walls were done, I turned my attention to the smaller details. I painted the balcony railing and light fixture SW Tricorn Black, the front door Urbane Bronze with a Tricorn Black knob, and the little wall by the door SW Agreeable Gray (from our main floor trim). I also painted over the baby blue and white checkered floor to create an Urbane Bronze and Shoji White (from Ollie’s nursery ceiling) diamond pattern.

It’s not as vibrant as it was before, but with patterned floors and wallpapered walls, there is still a fun, whimsical combination of color going on.

I actually really loved the original roof for the dollhouse. It had solar panels and was reversible for the seasons – so charming! Once everything else was done though, the lime green just stood out like a sore thumb and made the whole house seem off. It pained me a little, but I painted the roof with the black spray paint I always have on hand. It was the right decision and the whole house feels cohesive now.

When I finally put everything together – I squealed. It looked even better than I imagined and seeing all the parts transform slowly paled in comparison to seeing the entire thing finally assembled.

I guess it makes sense, since I basically made a mini version of my own house, but I am so thrilled with how this turned out. It only took one weekend and some supplies I already had on hand, so it was definitely cheaper and less time-consuming than a completely-from-scratch version. I know my kids are going to love playing with it!

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