When searching for a dollhouse or dollhouse kit, there are several types to choose
from. Before the initial purchase, check the different types of construction and
styles available in a miniature shop. Determine how you are going to use the house.
Will it be for show? Will it become an heirloom to be passed down from generation
to generation? Or will it merely be a playhouse for your child's amusement? Deciding
how the house will be used will help in your selection of materials. The better
the materials used in construction, results in a better dollhouse to be enjoyed
for years to come.
The world of miniatures is no different from the rest of the world. Put simply,
you get exactly what you pay for. While top quality dollhouses and kits cost more
initially, they tend to be a better value in the long run. Often, you end up spending
more in upgrading an inexpensive dollhouse than you do buying a higher quality one
at the outset.
The Die-Cut Kit
If you like to be inventive, desire a challenge, and do not mind long hours spent
in the construction process, then the die-cut dollhouse is for you. Although it
takes many hours to assemble these kits and finish them to your satisfaction, you
can achieve beautiful and elegant results.
Because of the lower cost for the complete dollhouse kit, they are popular with
many craft stores and miniature shops. These dollhouses are die-cut by machine on
sheets of 1/8" plywood. You must punch out and sand each piece. Also, it is a good
idea to mark each piece as you punch it out for future reference. A "complete" kit
will include all windows, doors, trims, stairways, etc., as well as shingles and
The die-cut dollhouse kit comes in a variety of the more popular designs, including
Victorian. However, because the plywood is thin and will not always withstand a
lot of wear and tear, these houses are better for the individual who will not be
moving or playing with the house. These kits make excellent shop and collector pieces.
You can upgrade the quality of these houses by substituting many of the finishing
elements, such as the trim, windows, doors, stairways and clapboard. However, this
is no easy task. Often, the available upgrade components in the dollhouse market
will not match the material used in your die-cut kit. Most of these components are
constructed for use with 3/8" plywood, not the 1/8" plywood used in your die-cut
kit. Therefore, in order to make these parts work, you need to work a little harder
and expend a lot of creativity.
The Shell Kit
The better houses are constructed of 3/8" cabinet-grade plywood. They come in shell
kits, which include the exterior and interior walls, floors, roof and base. The
component sets for certain styles are also available to finish the house. These
sets include doors, windows, stairways, dormers, spindles, railings, hardware, interior
and exterior trims, siding and shingles. Several companies offer these separate
shell kits and components sets as one complete kit.
The 3/8" plywood dollhouse is more expensive, but it is much sturdier. Since it
will endure for a long period of time, these dollhouses are great for children and
the collector alike. For the child, furnish the house with playable furniture and
upgrade the furniture as the child gets older. They also make excellent heirlooms
to pass on from generation to generation.
The Custom Dollhouse
These dollhouses come in a variety of styles with available features for both the
beginner and advanced miniaturist. There are custom built dollhouses sold complete
with windows, doors, stairways, porches and interior trim. Also, there are several
styles available in shell kit form alone, leaving the windows, doors, etc. to your
creation. For example, one line of custom dollhouses is made of 3/8" cabinet-grade
plywood, with grooves on the exterior to resemble clapboard. Therefore, for these
particular dollhouses, you do not need to add the clapboard.
This type of dollhouse is completely built and finished inside and out. Most are
constructed of sturdy 3/8" MDF exterior walls with clapboards milled directly into
them. Interior walls are wallpapered, and floors are finished with stained hardwood.
Even the shingled roofs are stained. You just take it out of the box and start furnishing
and accessorizing with items of your choice!
Similar to Finished Dollhouses, QuickBuild® homes have finished interior and exterior
walls, and are constructed of sturdy 3/8" MDF. The difference between the two is
that QuickBuild® arrives unassembled, but goes together in minutes (easy-to follow
step-by-step instructions included). Depending on the dollhouse, roof shingles and
hardwood floors are already attached and ready to paint.
After determining which dollhouse is right for you, follow the instructions in the
kit to build the shell.
Note: there are a few construction tips which might be helpful in the
The remainder of this book is an instructional manual for finishing your dollhouse
once the shell is built. Follow the
Sequence of Steps to Finish a Dollhouse, reading each chapter before you start
to do that particular step. Take notes along the way in order to save time and minimize