How to Turn a Hutch/Bookcase Into a Dollhouse

For Peanut’s Christmas this year, I decided I wanted to make her a dollhouse. Rather than building one from scratch, I decided to use the top of a hutch we had sitting around. Seen pictured below, we used to use it as a toy cabinet. It worked well, but when we moved Peanut’s toys up to her room, the cabinet just looked out of place in our light-colored living room. Since it was two separate pieces, I realized that I could use the bottom for a bookcase in Peanut’s room (which I plan on painting white at some point) and the top sat in our spare room for the next few months because I didn’t want to throw out my great-grandmother’s hutch. With my mother’s permission, I started the plan to give it new life as a dollhouse. I was really surprised that I couldn’t find any sort of guide online, so I decided I’d make my own!

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After taking off all the hardware, I sanded the wood. Really, I’m wondering if this step was entirely necessary. It was a pain and took a long time, both working time and actual time because I was avoiding doing it. Anyway, I ended up hardly sanding the insides and with two coats of primer and two coats of paint, you can’t see the wood anywhere except on of the outside sides in the perfect light. I primed all surfaces (except the back, since that seemed unnecessary). Then, since of course Peanut said she wanted a pink dollhouse when I brought it up as an option for a Christmas present, I painted the outsides and the fronts of the shelves pink. I used indoor primer and paint because that’s what I had. The pink matches Peanut’s bedroom.

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Next I painted the ceilings and the downstairs (kitchen) floor white. Yes, this is necessary even after priming. Primer looks really watery and just not finished. The ceilings were to stay white and the floor in the kitchen needed to be white as part of my plan for that flooring. When you’re painting the inside of a box, it’s helpful to do the tops first so that any drips can be smoothed out when you do the bottoms.

I painted this little ledge white too.

I painted this little ledge white too.

Next I did the kitchen flooring using this method. First, gravity is your friend. I put the dollhouse on its back to put the tape strips going front to back and on its side to do the ones going across. Second, it’s pretty much impossible to get them 100% straight like he did in the video in this big of a space. So since the tape sometimes didn’t line up in the other direction, I was all about to give up on the flooring and have it be some sort of weird modern look. Instead, I realized I can use two pieces of tape. Put down the first piece of tape and line it up along one side the whole way down. Then take a second piece of tape and, where the squares start to get too big for the first piece of tape, branch off and line up against the other side. The trick is to make sure you don’t end up with a weird bump by branching off without making a ledge (or on top of a black square). I painted some varnish over the top to make sure the paint won’t chip too.

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Next I got scrapbook paper for wall paper, as well as scrapbook stickers that matched and looked like they could be wall decorations (optional on the second item). I cut the scrapbook pages to the correct size, used spray adhesive (watch out, this stuff is REALLY sticky), and stuck them to the walls. I put the stickers on top at about the level that seemed appropriate for pictures.

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As you can see in the picture above, I had some issues with the flooring on the top (bedroom) floor. I got the idea of using fleece from this blog (really cool ideas for dollhouses, buy the way, and they’re all do it yourself and easy!), but had some issues with it. Even when I cut the piece perfectly, I still couldn’t get it to roll out perfectly and straight like she did. I think it was probably because of the type of glue I was using, but either way I gave up and did “wood” flooring in there too, just like I did in the middle (living room) floor. The “wood flooring” that I did there was just shelf liners with a bamboo-ish design on them, which made me think of tiny wood floors.

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Finished insides with a little “toy box” I found at Joann’s and painted pink.

DSC_0003DSC_0005For the outsides, I found some butterflies at Joann’s to glue on (hot glue) and some fences that I painted and glued on (also hot glue). I used some acrylic paint I had laying around to paint on a door, but I wish I would have used the frog tape to make it more square. Lastly, I added our name (first I thought of putting Peanut’s name, but realized that I plan on this dollhouse being around for a while and I don’t want her arguing that little sister can’t play with it because it’s hers) and a made up house number with scrapbook letters/numbers. My husband said that I should have put our house number with a 1/2 sign at the end, which would have been cute, but oh well. I painted some varnish on top of that too to make sure the stickers won’t come off.

All in all, this project cost less than $50. I’m not quite sure how much, but I’d say well under $50. Considering a plastic dollhouse that’s going to break in a week is around that much, I’d definitely say it was worth my time and effort. Considering that even beyond that, I plan on this being something my girls keep and play with throughout their doll-playing years (and maybe even pass it on to their children), it was beyond worth it. It was really fun to choose the different rooms and Mema is giving her a bunch of dollhouse furniture for Christmas, so she’ll be good to go! I’m really happy with how this turned out and I’m excited to give it to Peanut next week!

Update: Peanut loved it! Here’s a photo of her playing with it and the furniture Mema gave her for Christmas. 

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