Dollhouse Daydreaming: How to Create An Art Dollhouse PART ONE

Recently, for the past few months, I had been brewing over the idea of slowly creating an art dollhouse.   An art dollhouse is a dollhouse that you do art to.  (There’s quite a wide spectrum here as you can imagine).  How to get a hold of a dollhouse was step one… What to do to it would be a whole different story…

Well, I received a pretty amazing and coincidental gift two weeks ago…  This story warrants just a bit of back info. When Jason and I were starting out as new parents, about 12 or 13 years ago, we needed some extra income.  He would run ads in local papers to shovel roofs in the winter time.  One of his roof-shoveling-clients had these two amazing dollhouses.   Fully furnished and lighted, these houses held quite an established miniature collection.  I remember the woman proudly showing them to me.  I ooohed and ahhhed for sure as she pointed out this and that and turned on the two dozen lights.  My memory is vague, but I think she said something to the effect of, “Maybe they can be yours someday.”  We lost touch shortly after that.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.  This same woman called us up out of the blue.  She was moving to Costa Rica to live out possibly the last chapter of her life, and couldn’t take her dollhouses with her.  She was wondering if I’d like them.

No need to think a fraction of a second on that one.  Yes, PLEASE, was my answer.  And THANK YOU SO VERY VERY MUCH!

…I used to have a dollhouse when I was a child.  A beloved two story balsa wood colonial with a wrap around porch.  My grandfather had made it for me.  It was quite special.  Maybe I’ll tell you about it’s demise in another post…

Anyway, here’s the largest of the two houses gifted to me a few weeks back, a big San Franciscan Mansion with it’s amazing contents spilled out all over my dining room table:


Here’s a side view of my table, showing the smaller, Swiss Chalet-style house:


I carefully boxed up all the furniture and began thinking about my next move…Just how and where to begin.  It was a giant undertaking.  I needed to remove wallpaper… It was peeling and had burn marks from hot wiring that had corroded and stopped working long ago.

In this process I questioned my sanity.  I asked myself some pertinent questions like, “Just WHO do you think you are tackling such a huge project? You don’t have time for this!”  And, “You’re a mother for God’s sake.  Your time is desperately needed elsewhere!” And, “How OLD are you anyway?  Playing house is for kids!”  Oh and here’s a good one, “You can’t possibly have the space for such a huge project.” And last but certainly not least, “Just HOW is this going to make you money, huh????”  When I was done beating myself up, I decidedly told my inner critic to go fuck off, and forged ahead.

I let my 10 year old daughter assume ownership of the smaller house.  We’ve started removing wallpaper with a wet rag and sandpaper.  It works well, but it’s a slow process…  I’m almost done de-papering one room: wet, rub, sand, repeat.

I’m starting to imagine my finished rooms.  What they will hold. What they will represent.  Times in my life?  I’m thinking about colors… Textures… The special little cormorant skull that I will hang above the tangerine colored mantle… Should I spray paint the skull before hanging it?  Maybe…  That reminds me of Jeffrey Dahmer though, so maybe not… He spray painted skulls…  Anyway, the design process is quite thrilling really…

As an aside, I’m sketching a piece of dollhouse furniture per day as my 100 day project.




This coincidence of me wanting a dollhouse and soon receiving the mother-load of all dollhouses, certainly makes the list of my top 10 lifetime coincidences.

While I ponder this, serial killers, and the meaning of life, you’ll find me elbow-deep, tinkering in tiny 1:12 scale rooms:  Wet, rub, sand, repeat.




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  1. Amazing story, Mandy! I can’t wait to see what you do with it!

  2. OH. MY. GOSH.!!! I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE the tiny little floorboards and wallpaper and everything else!! What an awesome gift! I would love to have one to fix up. I’m going to start looking…..:-)

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