Last year I decided to build my daughter a dollhouse for Christmas. I knew it was going to be a huge task, so I got started in early August. I bought a kit called the Apple Blossom, available from Real Good Toys. I consider myself a reasonably competent tool using house-ape, so I wasn’t too daunted by the several million small pieces of wood that were packed into the large box. Just realize that if you start one of these things, you’re looking at a lot of time and a fair amount of money. You will be losing sleep over this. You will have moments of deep regret for ever starting a project like this. You will have nightmares where you have been miniaturized by a mad scientist and are seeking shelter from an insane giant cat in your half-finished dollhouse. This task is not to be taken lightly.
One of the first things I did was to pick up a book called, Everything you wanted to know about dollhouses but didn’t know who to ask, by Nancy Van Horn. The book had a lot of good advice, and I read the whole book before I ever started building.
I started by preparing the surfaces. I sealed the wood that would recieve paint, and finished the wood floors. I primed everything before I assembled it, and was very happy with the results. My daughter looked through some books on Victorian homes, and chose a paint scheme that she liked.
I decided to do some upgrades on the kit, like the shingles and the porchrails and posts. I was lucky to have a great local hobby store that specialized in dollhouses. The owner was this super nice old lady in a wheelchair that had built the Apple Blossom house four times, and she was an invaluable resource.
The rails and post that came with the kit were nice but I just wanted it to be more realistic. I bought the posts and spindles at a hobby shop and enlisted my neighbor to create a top rail using his router table.
By the way, it is now late October and most of the dollhouse is still in the box. I managed to get it all together before Thanksgiving, and figured I was home free. What I didn’t realize was how long all the little details would take. The shingles… ah, the shingles nearly drove me insane. They look really great, but you have to stick each and every one of those things on by hand, one-at-a-time. By December, I was losing sleep. Each night was spent in the garage working on the dollhouse. No television. No World of Warcraft. Just me, the dollhouse, and paint fumes.
In the end, the dollhouse was a huge success. I’m not signing up for another one anytime soon, but it really was a great experience. I’m proud of the work, and my daughter absolutely loves it. I left the interior unfinished except for the floors. My daughter has lots of ideas for the future. She immediately populated the house with Polly Pocket furniture and plays with it regularly. I finally relaxed, and now look back on it with good memories. It really was a fun and rewarding project. I just didn’t understand it at the time.