If you don't have a dollhouse, can't afford one or need one quickly when traveling or having kids to visit, a cardboard box dollhouse is the simple and fun solution. It's cheap, easy and the only thing you really need is stacks of imagination about what to put where.
- Cardboard box suited to the dolls' size and space available
- Paint and markers
- Tape, glue, etc.
- Wallpaper materials (wrapping paper, construction paper, real wallpaper offcuts, tissue paper, etc.)
- Flooring materials (fabric, carpet offcuts or samples (thin), handkerchiefs, doilies, etc.)
- Scrap fabric
1. Choose a box that is suitable for making a dollhouse from. You can use anything from a shoebox to a large moving box, depending on the size of the dolls and the space you have available for storing the box. The larger the box, the more work the house needs but the more options you'll have, so even for small dolls, a large box can provide hours of fun in designing, making and playing.
- Choose a box that is clean. Avoid boxes which are dirty, have smudge marks, squashed insect stains or similar as such stains will disappoint any kid playing with it.
When choosing a box, try to imagine possibilities for its shape, flaps, lids, etc. This can help you in deciding which box will work best if you have to choose from several.
2. Be prepared to use your own ideas a lot. While an article can help guide how you construct this style of dollhouse, ultimately you will find the outcome works best when you work with the materials you have and the ideas that suit those who will be playing the dollhouse.
3. Now, it's time to make the initial house shape. Decide on the layout of the box. The box can either be accessed from its open side, standing upright or it can be accessed looking down into it, as if it were a 3-D architectural model.
- If making the house upright, choose how many stories the house will have. It doesn't need to have upstairs areas but it is a good idea to have more than one room, as it's just more fun and more realistic too. Larger boxes fairly much cry out for at least one upstairs room area.
- When working out how to lay out the box, try placing it in different positions and angles until you can see its perspective the best. For example, a shoebox with a joined lid can work well on its side, using the pull-out lid as an additional room or area when opened; or it can work well from the top looking in, using the lid simply as the roof that is closed when not being played with.
4. Make the room and/or floor dividers from cardboard. You can either use the flaps that aren't needed from the box, or cut out additional cardboard from another unwanted box. Or, use cardboard that comes from inside such items as calendars, sheets, etc.; these are often a good strength and shape for forming divider pieces.
- If making a traditional two-story dollhouse, make the dividers into a simple cross shape that fits across both sides of the box exactly. This will make four rooms. If you want more rooms, simply slide in more dividers, making slits in the cardboard lengths that will slide over the already fitted divider pieces. If you want two rooms, one for each doll, simply add one flap across the exact middle of the box, dividing it in half. When it stands upright, the house has two floors, one for each doll.
- If making a dollhouse that is looked down into, use thinner card and slide in as many rooms as you need. Think of it in the same way as looking at an architectural drawing on paper, and cut the dividers to make differently sized room shapes.
5. Glue dividers in place. Use a strong glue suitable for cardboard. This will prevent the cardboard from falling down once you start adding other things.
6. Add windows. Decide where you'd like windows. These can be cut out as simple holes, or you can draw on a cross design inside a square and only cut out the four squares, to leave the cross shape inside the square.
7. Decide whether the house needs doors. It may be easiest to do away with doors and simply draw or paint a few on the outside of the house for effect. However, a door between the dividing rooms can be useful, so here is one suggested way to make a door:
- Select the positioning for the door.
- Draw a vertical rectangle shape where the door is to be.
- Cut out the top and one side of the rectangle. Cut the base of the rectangle as well, leaving one long side uncut.
- Pull the door open, creating a crease on the uncut side. You now have a door.
- Draw a doorknob on it, or glue on a small lid from a tube or glue on a bead, for the door handle.
8. Now, it's time to decorate the house. Do the wall and floor decorations first. These will be the areas that are covered by decorations, so they need to be done before adding fittings and furniture.
9. Consider how to decorate the walls. You can do quite a few different things to the walls. Always measure and cut the materials to size before pasting on the walls. Here are some examples for you to choose from:
- Use wallpaper offcuts to make wallpapered walls. You will need strong glue or wallpaper paste to stick it on the walls.
- Make collages from magazines. Choose images that match the room, such as kitchen appliances for the kitchen, makeup and clothes for a bedroom and bathroom items for the bathroom.
- Paint the walls. Use tempera, acrylic or poster paints to paint the walls. Try to vary the colors to suit the use of the room. You can also use a combination of paint and wallpaper, doing the upper or lower half the wall in wallpaper, then the upper or lower half in paint, and using craft sticks to create a wooden border between the two effects.
10. Add flooring. The flooring can also be done in a variety of ways. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Lay carpet. Use thin carpet samples from a carpet store (or ask them for some offcuts). Alternatively, simply use scrap fabric. Different materials in each room can be quite effective.
- Paint the floors. Paint them to look like wooden or painted wooden floors.
Add rugs. Use scrap fabrics, doilies, handkerchiefs, etc., to make "rugs" for the floors.
- Paint tiles on the floors. For the bottom level of the box, you could even glue on a mosaic from broken bits of tiles or beads, just for something different. However, the last option will be quite fiddly.
11. Add curtains to the windows. Simply cut out two rectangles that measure a little more than half the window size, from scrap fabric. Hang one from one side of the window and the other from the other side. These can be left closed over the window or tied back with ribbon or yarn. Allow kids to have both choices, they'll work out what they prefer soon enough.
- More complicated curtains can be made by pinning on a little wire and sewing the curtains to ride over the wire but unless you like fiddly sewing, this isn't really necessary, at least not for a cardboard dollhouse.
12. Decorate the outside of the house. Use drawing or painting to improve the outside of the house, as it's easiest and fastest. You can also glue things on, if wished. Some things you might like to paint on include:
- A front door on the uncut broader side of the box. Add a welcome sign and a little bell.
- Some pets running around the side of the house.
- A garden at the base of the house edges, with some grass, flowers and shrubs. Trees can be added too, and perhaps some vines.
Occasional bricks can be painted around the corner edges, to give the impression that it's a brick house.
- A mailbox could be added.
The name of the house could be hung from a little sign.
- Window boxes with flowers could be painted under the windows. You could even make these using craft sticks and artificial flowers, glued underneath.
13. Feel free to add other things if you want. Add things to the walls. As well as the wall coverings, some things to add that make it feel more like home include:
- Portraits and paintings. These can be cut out of magazines, glued to cardboard and "framed" with matchsticks (cut the end of the matchstick off). Tape or glue on the wall.
- A clock, or several clocks. Either draw one on paper or cut one out of a magazine, attach to cardboard, then glue on the wall.
- Photos or other pictures.
14. Add furniture to the house. This could be pre-made furniture that the dolls already have or you can make furniture from small boxes, grocery packaging, lids, etc. There are plenty of online instructions available for making simple recycled dollhouse furniture.
15. It's time to play. Give the recipient the dollhouse, find the dolls, and let the fun begin.
Tips & suggestionsEdit
- If making for a child, it can be a good idea to involve the child in designing and decorating the dollhouse.
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