Friday, November 20, 2020

Dollhouse Renovation ~ Part I

My friend Jenna has an instagram account called @townandcountrymousehouse, where she turns the shelves inside a cabinet into perfect little mouse house rooms. I was scrolling through her photos Friday night and got inspired to dig out my old dollhouse and give it a refresh. After much searching through barn and basement, I finally unearthed it. It was in rough shape, like Grey Gardens after a tornado. 

Like you do when you buy a pre-owned house, I ripped out the carpets and gave it a good cleaning. The budget even extended to a fresh coat of paint on the ceilings and the exterior, although the roof will have to wait until until the home equity loan comes in, or until I get to the craft store to buy aqua paint, whichever comes first.

My grandpa built the house for me when I was about three years old (I thought I had a picture of me unwrapping it at Christmas, but it turns out I have a picture of me right before I unwrapped it). I assume my grandma decorated it, with felt carpeting and shelf paper on the walls. I'm guessing they worked together on the handmade wooden furniture. I passed the house on to my younger sisters for some years and then repossessed it when M was little. He and E and Z got a few good years of playing out of it before it was ignominiously put away to gather dust and wool moths.

I'm going to renovate one room at a time, maintaining the original '70s aesthetic for the most part and using handmade and found objects for furnishings, like the original, mostly. If you know me at all, you know I started with the kitchen. Here's how it looked pre-remodel: 

First of all, it needed some color, what with white walls and floor, so I decided to paint the cabinets. The originals were unfinished pine with doors drawn on in pencil by one of my grandparents.


I painted them turquoise with a white countertop. I felt bad about covering up the lines my grandparents drew, so I tried to recreate them with a white chalk pencil. It turns out I'm not very good at measuring or drawing straight lines. But the teeny-tiny dishtowel obscures the wonkiness. The cookie jar is a small wooden spool with a bead glued to the top, painted red.

Next came the appliances. These were originally what I thought was a beige-ish color, but after I started paining, I noticed a metallic gleam, and realized they were meant to be copper, like my grandma's stove and fridge were back in the '70s. I might repaint them copper later, but for now I like the white. And of course I had to knit the world's tiniest potholder to go with the stove.

The original table and chairs are long gone, and I don't remember what they looked like, so I had to start from scratch. C cut a small rectangle of wood for me and I glued it to a large wooden spool and painted the whole thing red. This is a nod to my grandma's kitchen, which had a pedestal table. Though hers was of gleaming oak, the chairs were cushioned in red vinyl before her early '80s upgrade. 

Speaking of chairs, I'm not sure what I'll do about those--maybe benches or spool stools. Right now it doesn't matter, because I don't know who (or what) is going to live in my house and what kind of chair might fit their anatomy--mice? pipe cleaner people? peg people? hedgehogs? I never really had suitable dolls for my dollhouse, so playing with it was mostly a matter of arranging and rearranging furniture, which suits me just fine. To finish off the kitchen, I added a plate rail to the back of the cabinets. The buttons were meant to be placeholders until real dishes arrived, but I liked them so much, I decided to let them stay. I gave the table a cloth and covered the gap in wallpaper with some complementary washi tape.

Finally, the dishes. I know I said I was going to furnish the place with handmade or found items, but technically, I bought these before I made that decision, as the result of late-night Etsy scrolling (very dangerous). But, oh! So cute. Four fruit plates, a bowl, and four pitchers or creamers (they're from France, but the yellow creamer and sage green pitcher have a very Fiesta aesthetic, n'est pas?). 

That sounds like a lot of pitchers, considering there aren't even any glasses or silverware. But compared to my kitchen, were there are about 35 pitchers or creamers visible (not counting the five in the living room or the ones behind closed doors because they're purely utilitarian or there's not room to show them off), the hypothetical people (or mice or hedgehogs) living in my dollhouse are very restrained.
Note two more tiny touches: the folk art coffee pot stamp (5 cents) wall art
over the stove and the teeny toaster, which was a gift from a friend.

Playing with a dollhouse is a very solitary, antisocial activity (and not just when you're forty-ahem years old; I don't remember ever playing dollhouse with my friends or sisters), which is just what the doctor ordered for month 10 of the pandemic and a welcome distraction from the Keystone Kop Koup attempt.


  1. Oh my goodness, I love this so much!! Especially how you preserved the outlined doors on the repainted cabinets, what a sweet nod to your grandparents. Can't wait to go along with you for the rest of the renovations. A great distraction for us all!!

    1. Thank you for the inspiration! I didn’t even know I needed a project like this!


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