Saturday, May 23, 2015

How To Build a Dollhouse in a Week

I must be completely insane.

In the midst of building the Jungle Cruise boathouse (and still decorating the bungalow!), I built ANOTHER dollhouse.

This one isn't for my collection, I built it as a Mother's Day surprise for my mom.

The seed was planted last year when my mom fell in love with L'Artisan des Glaces, an ice cream and sorbet shop in EPCOT's France pavilion (most of my French ancestry comes from her). Then, upon finding a dollhouse she'd started building for herself (and never finished), she made an offhand comment that she'd love it if someone else built her a dollhouse so she could get to the fun part - decorating it.

Challenge accepted.

I couldn't just start building her a house - Mom comes over a lot, and I didn't want her to stumble upon the surprise. So I waited for her to go out of town for a week.

Before she left, I designed the house, cut the plywood, and hid the pieces in a closet.

Mom doesn't have room for a big dollhouse, and isn't as concerned with realism as I am. So, although this was largely inspired by a real building (the actual ice cream parlor is rather large and has a shingled roof), I designed it to have a small enough footprint to fit on a shelf or side table (8" deep, 16" wide, 24" high).

Simple houses are the simplest to put together. Case in point: this house has one room per floor and no stairs (I also eliminated the attic window found on the real building, as it would have been very difficult and time-consuming to build).

With the house mapped out in my head and on paper, and with the pieces ready to go, I started building the shell as soon as Mom left on her trip.

I also wrote up a schedule for building the house, taking into account my work schedule and times of day when hammering might annoy my neighbors or when I wouldn't be able to spray-paint outside. Day 1, build the shell and paint the outside trim after dinner. Day 2, build the big triple window after work and paint it just before bed. Day 3, stucco and paint the exterior after work. Etc.

I am happy to report that I was able to stick to the schedule, although it did rain at one point and I had to rush to finish spray sealing the house before it got wet!

I opted to finish only the ground floor, leaving the upper two rooms "as is" so Mom could choose the decor herself (I'll install interior walls, ceilings, and flooring when she's decided what she wants).

On the last day, just as her plane landed, I hid the finished house in the closet and managed to keep it a secret (Mother's Day was a month away).

This is what my mom found waiting for her on Mother's Day, and I'm happy to report that she loves her new French dollhouse. She's even having me help her finish the dollhouse she started building two years ago (my work table has never been messier or more crowded, as I currently have this house, her cottage, and the boathouse on it).


  1. Wow! What a lot of fast work; it leaves me breathless. That was such a sweet thing to do for your mother. I'm sure it'll be even more special to her because it was a surprise from her daughter!

  2. I applaud your ambition. It looks great!