DYI · Parenting · Toddlers

The (Doll) House That Love Built


IMG_4767Where are you from? For many, that’s a straight forward, easy question. I’m from Michigan, or I’m from Florida, or I was born and raised right here in Podunk….you get the point. But for others, such as myself, this is a dreaded question. I was born into a military family stationed in California, but literally one week after my birth we moved across the country to my dad’s new duty station in Key West, Florida. Lucky me! I can’t remember it!! I was three when we left there and we moved several more times until I was a teenager. My childhood theme song was that old Willie Nelson song “On the Road Again.” Really, my family used to jokingly sing it as we set out with nothing but our Igloo cooler and big Atlas road map (pre-Yeti and GPS days). My dad drove 55 MPH on the interstate, as that was the limit back then. He set the cruise control, which was a luxury back then, and didn’t budge a tick over that speed.  Ah, the good ol’ days.

Anyway, with that being said, I didn’t have the privilege of growing up around my extended family, who mainly hail from Minnesota. I never had super close relationships with my grandparents like my older sisters and cousins did. Sure, we visited them when we could. And remember, this was in the 70’s, so we didn’t have computers, email, or cell phones to keep in touch. We only had long distance house phone calls, hand written letters via snail mail, and visits that usually entailed hundreds of miles of driving across the country.

I have very few memories with my grandparents before they passed away (I was born to older parents, I think this trait runs in my family). One of my favorite memories of my maternal grandpa was when I was three years old visiting him, pictured here.  lisa&grandpaHe would ask me how old I was and then say, “You’re tree years old.” I remember thinking that was one of the funniest things ever, the way he said three as tree. He died before I ever had a chance to really know him well. But from what I’ve been told, he was a loving family man and a great carpenter.

It should come as no surprise that when he made me a custom dollhouse, I cherished it. I still have it to this day. It has moved to many different states, been played with, torn, tattered, stored away, and luckily saved by my mom all those years. It is old, outdated, and lovely.  And it is a home filled with love.

My three-year old loves playing with it, but she unintentionally has been destroying the house and furniture. My aunts decorated the house and stenciled the furniture that my grandpa made. I just love the details they added.

So I decided we needed to build a temporary dollhouse for her until she’s old enough to appreciate my grandpa’s house.  It’s not perfect, but we love it.  I still wanted it to be special for her.  So this is what we came up with:


I think this is a great project to do with your child.  I don’t consider myself crafty, so believe me when I say that if I can do this, anyone can.

We built this for less than $20, mostly using materials we had around the house.  We started with some sturdy boxes.  Pull-up diaper and wet wipe boxes work great, but any sturdy boxes would do.  We arranged them, traced a square magnet for windows and carved them out, and hot glued the boxes together.  That works amazingly well to hold it all together.

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To make an A-frame roof, we just took a flat box and cut one long edge side out completely and then folded in the two short sides and glued them at the peak to form the triangle shape.  We used black construction paper for the roof and some bought some poster board for the outside “siding.”  Some black duct tape worked for shutters.

Below are the rooms in more detail.

For the blue room, we used two strips of lacey ribbon for curtains, some pink ribbon for wall border, and stickers for wall décor. We also used the pockets of these cute shorts for a blanket.  Not a perfect fit, but it’s cute.

For the pink room, we used one of lil’ Jelly Bean’s cute old ruffle tops. We were able to salvage the flower and glue it to the wall. We used the ruffle for window valance and some sheer ribbon for curtain panels. And of course black ribbon for wall border. And we used an old dress for the blanket on the bed.

For the living room, we added some fun details, such as our own family picture, curtains made from an old baby sleeper, and a chair made from a jewelry box. The cushion is made from an old sleeper that is stuffed with filling and hand stitched in the back.

Oh yeah, and I almost forgot to mention that I did  some cheap dollhouse furniture at the Dollar Tree.  I found dressers, bed, kitchen and living room stuff.  Each set was only $1.  I didn’t want to save my grandpa’s furniture, so this will do for now.

For the bathroom, we used the old fixtures from Grandpa’s house.  But you can buy these in a craft or  hobby store, or get creative and make some!  We updated the shower curtain and made a matching rug out of another old dress.  The shower curtain hook was already with the tub.  The cool thing was, I was able to cut the dress at the hem and just loop the hook through it. No sewing necessary!

And finally, the kitchen.  We kept it simple.  We made a counter with stove and refrigerator out a shoebox.  We made a sink by carving a little hole for a water bottle cap and putting screws for facet handles.  The table and chair are from the Dollar Tree and we made a small throw rug from, you guessed it, an old shirt of Jelly Bean’s.

And that’s it.  We know it’s not perfect, but Jelly Bean loves it, and that’s what matters most.  Even though it’s temporary, this dollhouse is filled with love, just like all of our different homes were when we were a military family moving from place to place.  I can’t wait until she’s a little older to remodel my grandpa’s house.  That will be extra special.  After all, it is the (doll) house that love built.

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