Friday, July 24, 2015

Dollhouse Custom Construction Tutorial Part 1- Featuring Lilac Cottage

For the next few posts I want to take you through my building process of a custom dollhouse called Lilac Cottage(commissioned by Jen).  I want to show you that there is no need to be afraid of failure. It's all quite easy and you must stay relaxed about each step. No need for perfection which I think is what scares most people from even trying this hobby out.
 First, come up with a plan. I draw out a sketch of what I think I want the house to look like. Stay open to changes during the building process. Sometimes things don't work out and you have to think of solutions which could change your original plans. As my kitten Gigie is teaching me- "no worries."  She's quite a relaxed little girl!
My wood is a craft plywood 1/8 x 12 x 24".  I found it at Hobby Lobby item#117853 for $4.79. They also have it at Michael's craft store for a little less I think. I just can't find the link online.  I also use left over pieces from kits. You can see this on the right wall with the little window.  Whatever you have works because in the end it will be covered with all sorts of materials including concrete.
All my dollhouses basically start off looking like the above photo. Just a box with cut outs.  As I said in the previous post I use the Dremel Trio and box cutters to cut my wood. The consensus on my last post about cutting tools seems to be scroll saws are the way to go. So I will order one and let you know how I feel about it, which method is better, which is easier and which is less scary. :) LOL!
I usually use hot glue to hold all the parts together. Then go back over all the seams with wood glue. It's sturdy as a rock and no clamping and waiting!  If you use heavier, thicker wood then you'll want to also use some small nails.  I do this for Blythe 1/6 scale houses and MDF houses. 
I'm using  pre-made french doors as my entry door for this house. My windows will all be custom.  If you intend to use store bought windows and doors get those first and then trace out your placement on the house to cut out.
My stair opening is towards the back of the house. It's 4 1/4 x 2 3/4 and about an inch from the back of the dollhouse.
I added a little bump out section and plastered with Dap's Spackle/Patching Plaster.  As you see in the photo my cuts are not perfect. But everything gets covered up and you will never see the imperfections in the end.  The beginning looks rough. Don't let that scare you. I promise the end product will be gorgeous.
My walls are 9 1/4" tall. The house's floor sits 1" above the ground. I added a 1" piece of wood under the front of the house and around the sides of that front piece and the back of the house. The walls are cut out the right size so no need to add an inch here.  It's a matter of preference. But I don't want the floor of the house to be level with the surface the house will be displayed on. That means that the interior walls are 8 1/4" tall.
 This house is 15 1/2" x 18 1/4" deep.  I'm restricted by size because of shipping restrictions/prices. But you can make your house as big as you need. This cottage is big enough for a livingroom, kitchen, reading nook or craft space, stairs, and 2 rooms upstairs.
I sanded the plaster to a nice smooth finish. I'm going to coat this with a primer so the wallpaper will adhere nicely to the wall.
I also start making and acquiring pieces for the interior. I set everything on the top of my Robin egg blue Ikea cart.  That way I can see how everything looks together and keep my theme in mind. Here you see some wallpaper which is regular paper printed from the internet. In front of that is a bookshelf and chair that's actually for sale in my Etsy shop. But I set it in front of this paper and I'm actually loving it.  I've also made my mantel with whales on top, 2 lace upholstered chairs, crystal chandeliers(go to my tutorial page to see how to make these), and a few accessories too.  I'll just keep adding stuff in here until the dollhouse construction is done. It's a great way to stay organized and on track.
You're done with part 1! Time for a snack. :)


  1. Gracias por enseñarnos como trabajas. Es muy interesante ver como haces la construcción de una de tus preciosas creaciones

  2. Thanks for sharing your process. I am loving these posts. Do you glue only or use tacks as well? I'd love to have a go at a room.

    1. Oooh! Great question Jan! I will go back and write that in the post. I usually use hot glue to hold all the parts together. Then go back over all the seams with wood glue. It's sturdy as a rock and no clamping and waiting! If you use heavier, thicker wood then you'll want to also use some small nails. I do this for Blythe 1/6 scale houses and MDF houses. Thanks so much for the question!
      big hugs♥,

  3. Hi Caroline,
    What a fantastic post. It's the perfect time for me to read it too, because I just recently started making my own little cottage. I'm using foam core board and thick card, because I wanted to get started and that's what I had at home. I was happy to see that my interior walls are the same height as yours and that I have used a similar process to you. It makes me feel like I'm on the right track!
    Thank you for all your posts. And just for being awesome too.
    Looking forward to seeing what you will do next on your new project. :)

  4. You make your projects look so simple and easy. Once I finish the Blue Farm House and assemble the Duracraft farm house, the Bellingham, I am going to build a replica of the mountain cabin, Shangri La, that my grandparents built in the late '40s. I have such wonderful memories of the days I spent there as a child. I am collecting furniture and things now. My husband is great. He bought me a dremel from Home Depot. I am still learning how to use it, but as a drill it is fabulous. He also bought me a scroll saw of off Craig's list for $80. I am still getting used to it as it is a real challenge to cut straight lines, which really just takes practice. You may find that it will replace the dremel for heavier woods. I am sure that you will do well with a scroll saw. I like very much that you are sharing your secrets with us. I am curious to see how you will use the various mediums that you work with to create such unique, interesting, and authentic pieces.

  5. Thank you Amy! That means a lot to me!

  6. Morning Caroline,
    Love the name Lilac cottage, and love the furnishings as well, I can tell it is gonna be another beauty as always. Can't wait to see the finished product, as you always do such an amazing job.........

    Hope you, Lizzie and your new kitty are doing great. Wow we took
    our kitty on our trip a few weeks ago and she did amazingly well,
    we were shocked...........cause I was sort of nervous about it, and
    also thought it might be a real frustrating.....we have a whole new
    appreciation for miss molly now, and she will definitely be going
    with us from now on.............she is our new
    You take care hon,
    Blessings, Nellie

  7. Hi Caroline, I'm very glad to see your new project! Lillac Cottage sounds great and I think that it will be very romantic place. I'm waiting for next photos of progress. Warm hugs from Baltic Sea ♡ Magda

  8. Will enjoy your series for putting lilac cottage together. You are very talented and love to watch your houses come together.

  9. Apasionante... Haces que todo parezca sencillo...
    El patito feo se convertirá en cisne :)
    Me encanta!

  10. Great post! Very interesting hearing about your process. Thanks so much for sharing. xo Jennifer

  11. Thanks Caroline for sharing your fantastic tutorial. I love reading your posts and it is so helpful to see how a pro" works :)
    Hugs Maria

  12. Thank you for this wonderful tutorial, I will need it when I put the San
    Franciscan together. Your right about being frightened to try this hobby...I know I'm scared that I'll screw up my house but like you said we shouldn't be afraid to create our dream houses :-) Claudette and Honey say meow and woof!


  13. do you explain so well that sounds easy, but you ... you are so beautiful as acogedas, so ... you! I can not wait to see it finished, it sure left me speechless.
    A big hugs.

  14. Hi Carolin. I am so glad that you are showing us how you build your houses. Once I get the Blue Farm House done and the Duracraft farmhouse in the kit built, I am building a replica of the mountain cabin that my grand parents built in the late '40s. It was log cabin that she named Shangri-La. It will be built from scratch.

    I know that I left this comment, I may have left it on the post where you wrote about the tools that you use, so I apologize if you are reading it twice. I also commented on adding a scroll saw to your studio. My sweet hubby bought me one on Craig's List for $80. I am still learning how to use it, but let me tell you that you will be amazed at the architectural variety that you will be able to achieve. Safety glasses and keep your fingers out of the way. I am trying to create a new wall for the bathroom using wood and I could not do it without the saw; however, I could if I used thinner wood, but I am using what hubby had in the barn. Anyway, love what you are doing and I am enjoying reading about how you do it. Have a good week.

  15. Muchas gracias Caroline, me alegra mucho que compartas tus preciosas casas, aunque dudo mucho que me quedaran tan maravillosas como a tí.
    Un abrazo.

  16. U r sooo sweet Caroline! Thanks for sharing your process. I enjoy watching you build and create. Your sketch is quite charming as well! I am sure you will wonder how you got along without a scroll saw this long. Enjoy your new tool. ; )

  17. You wanted to know how Maker Faire Detroit 2015 turned out. Results: Saturday was a disaster. I was across from Star Wars and they stole the show. People would comment on how adorable my cottage was and completely ignore my books. I rearranged my booth. Took away Brambleberry Cottage. Put out ALL my books. When people came over. I greeted them and stated that I wrote storybooks. I sold about 15 books.

  18. This is interesting! Cottage will be perfect as always :) Idea of Ikea cart "room" is great. Helps keeping the right theme.

  19. Hi Caroline! I am quite intrigued by your building process because it allows all of us to see the entire process unfold right before our eyes. Like you, I too gather and group my accessories as I am building, because as you have stated, it helps one to stay on track and for me, it also keeps me motivated. Looking forward to MORE of your Little Lilac Cottage :))


  20. Everything is coming out nicely Caroline, Love the wood floors and the
    french doors, a great look. Enjoying these tutorials............

    and Happy Birthday to Lizzie, she is so cute!! and 6 yrs. old.....she
    has lots of years left, that is the nice thing about tiny dogs.

    Take care sweetie, hope all is well.

    Love and Blessings, Nellie

  21. Ciao Caroline! Mi piace molto il tuo tutorial. Mi piacerebbe trovare il tempo per costruire un cottage " a la Caroline Dupuis" ! :-)
    Vorrei sapere quale è la misura esatta dello spazio dedicato al giardino e alla stanza con il vano scala, se possibile! A presto!

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  24. I'm in love!!! Can't wait to get started! Thanks for all the information, you're so generous with your ideas...and talented!

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  26. Fantastic sketching job you did really. The dollhouse looks very beautiful and adorable. Surely hobby lobby is an amazing place to go for our home materials. The interior design was very attractive too. I like your house construction ideas and thoughts. Building a new home is very thrilling one and we often have to face a lot of issue finding our perfect design and construction professionals. Right this moment I can remember San Francisco Concrete that is promises to provide the highest and quality construction service in the area. However, I appreciate you sophisticated project.

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  28. Fantastic! Wonderful to build with little people. I'm impressed.