Monday, April 16, 2012

So, I built my first dollhouse last week

Serious. I did.

So a little background...
Ever since "I'm a Giant", I've been making tons of silly crafty things that very few can appreciate. I love to show people at work my stuff, but generally they're left bored, unimpressed, and irritated that they'll never get that five minutes of their life back. But there was one woman, who obviously has exceptional taste (sense: sarcasm), and was always eager to check out my stuff (read: easily amused). We'll call her Sue, because that's her name.
Sue has an adorable, vivacious three year old granddaughter named Lilly. Sue also has the arduous (yet rewarding) task (blessing) of being the sole guardian and caretaker of said lovely toddler due to indescribable tragedies... at a time in her life where she should really only have to think about retiring and relaxing. Which brings me to the dollhouse. 
I love doing nice things for nice people who deserve it.
Sue purchased a playscale dollhouse kit for Miss Lilly around Christmastime. She heard around the water-cooler that Meagan was "into miniatures, doing up a dollhouse, probably has thirty cats (and a drinking problem)", so she asked if I would mind assembling it.
"No sweat!", I said. And then I proceed to show Sue some pictures of my work via the blog.
"Electricity, working lights?!?!", Sue exclaimed with glee, "Well, I want that for Lilly. I want Lilly's dollhouse to be special!". I proceeded to tell her that lights wouldn't be a problem (before seeing the dollhouse kit) and got her hopes up for something phenomenal. She got all excited that I said I'd do it, and got online to show me which kit she bought. I was expecting raw plywood, millions of pieces, interior/exterior, flooring, wiring, trim, full-on dollhousing and shit. Nope not even close. Here's the kit:
Imaginarium Modern Luxury Dollhouse

So... not what I was expecting. Easier. Shwing! This is one of those dollhouses, actually suited for toddler play, strong as an ox (or me). The thing goes together so fast that Santa could open the box when he drops in on Christmas Eve, and put the thing together under the tree before Prancer can even mess on the roof. Or maybe it took about an hour. It even comes with one of the only 3 tools required for assembly (Alan wrench included. You'll also need flat and philips screwdirvers, not included). Everything is already done for you! Whatever. While there are undeniably some perks to this type of dollhouse, it left me with a bit of a dilemma...

Sue wants electricity! I said I could! This entire dollhouse already has the decor/wallpaper/floors/etc. laminated to perfection on the 1/8" fiberboard that makes up the back wall. Shit.

I'm a girl of my word, and I never start something I can't finish (although I did go all Emily Henderson on the deadline, first it was Valentine's, then St. Patrick's, but then I finally made it for Easter. Jesus was watching, for Christ's sake.) I never make a promise I can't keep, and where there's a will, there's a way (so I've heard). I went a-wandering through the electrical section at (their physical store not the website, but almost everything they sell is available online).

I found these for (about $30 total) and decided that it would be the best route.

That powerstrip has an on-off switch, is fuse protected, and plugs right onto the transformer in lieu of a traditional lead-in wire/junction splice. I bought a really small transformer because I knew we wouldn't exceed ten 12 volt fixtures. If you take this route (or any electrical route, for that matter) make sure you buy the proper transformer for the size of the dollhouse/# of fixtures you expect. If you're unsure, e-mail me and I'll see if I can help. I'm by no means an expert, but I'm not a first-timer either.

I had been brainstorming and losing sleep about hiding tapewire, and having to do the origami method because the brads won't hold in the fiberboard (like I'd hammer on it anyway)... blah, blah, blah. Then these found me and I thought, this could work with minimal wiring showing. It was the only way to do it in a reasonable amount of time, without damaging the pre-decorated panels. So, that being said, if you have a finished non-electrified dollhouse that you'd like to see some real lights in, this method may work for you. I'll write a separate post detailing the how-to's and what-have-you's. When I can, you know, later.

Aside from the above supplies the only expense is in the light fixtures themselves. And I'll be showing you how to do one of those, too (again, in a fresh post, coming soon).

Anyways, last week I delivered this gargantuan (almost as tall as me), yet very chic, house for Lilly's Barbies. I have it on good authority that she's thoroughly enjoying it, which makes my day. Thanks again to Sue, for pulling me out of my 1:12 scale, tapewiring, direct plug-in fixture comfort zone. I needed to learn something new, so I could show all of you something other than the same ol' crap. But since I've finished it, I think I'll head right back into that 1:12 comfort zone of mine.

Until then, here's how Lilly's house came out, with some close ups of her custom lighting! (I still owe her one or two fixtures, I'm sure Sue will help remind me :) She's good like that.

The elevator from the first floor to second is operational (not electric)! Just a flick of the wrist!

Any furniture you see came with the kit, including the non-working arc lamp in the living room and the double-drum pendant in the bedroom (also non-working)...

But I figured, depending on the construction, that I could do something with the damask fixture. So I ripped it apart (I didn't think Sue would care, she was clear that she wanted working lights, at least one fixture per room). So it came apart super-easily and I slipped a bulb into it. No problemo. That was a gift of time from God himself.


I managed to salvage a brass polyhedron attempt from the scrap bin as well. I had originally designed my brass arc lamp (as seen in a number of previous posts) to have an asymmetric shade, but being a typical girl, I changed my mind four seams into it. So there it sat, in the pile where old projects go to die, until I realized it could be a playscale pendant.

So I finished the seams (They aren't perfect but let's face it, it's for a toddler. Pardon the honesty.) I added a teal Swarovski crystal I had on hand to match the decor. Not being a true designer/decorator, it's hard to come up with designs to fit spaces that are already decked out (especially using only materials I had on hand). It's cute enough, and I feel like it fits in the room just fine without sticking out like a sore thumb...

And finally, the bathroom fixture. I think this one matches the decor the best (except for the one that came with the kit, of course). This is the pendant I'll be showing you how to make in an upcoming tutorial, except for the finishing touches. It's a classic, versatile globe style that is inexpensive and easy to make, yet extremely customizable. You'll see. Here's an inspiration photo of the bathroom decor, followed by the fixture I made:

Not a bad match, I added the brass studs (as seen on my 4-poster bed) to tie in the brass from the kitchen (and the polka dots on those vases), and lucky for me, I already had the teal spray paint.
(Zoom out view on the custom lights and their respective rooms)

 But in the end (all of my attitude and foul language aside), here's the best part, and what really matters:

Delivery day! She couldn't be any sweeter, and she deserves to have the coolest Barbie house in town.

Happy dollhousing, Miss Lilly!!


  1. Lilly is one luck little lady! I love what you have done to the house and can't wait for the wiring/lighting tutorial. I could really benefit from it, I think I may be a little afraid of wiring!

    1. It sounds like I'll have to do a bunch of wiring tutorials! I'll start easy and work my way up to the harder stuff (none of it is hard though, really). It just seems intimidating because us girls generally aren't accustomed to playing with electricity, I'm hoping to change that for a few of you :)

  2. That is just so awesome, I love that Sue takes an interest in what you do, and I love that you could actually use that to do something for her.
    I can't wait for the tutorial either, lol... 1/6 is my scale... and I have no idea how to do anything in it, LOL. I have no comfort zone when it comes to miniature XD

    1. I was glad I could help her out with my unique skill set, too. Sue is a talented quilter, so I might ask her to reciprocate :)
      I hope I can help with 1:6, the only hang-up I had here was how long the wires needed to be on some of the fixtures (never a problem in 1:12 for me). I ended up having to add length, luckily I've hoarded wiring supplies, so I had what I needed. I'll make sure I show how to do that in the tutorial for the simple wiring.

  3. That's awesome Megan. The lights came out beautifully and it was so nice of you to do that for her. :)

  4. What an amazing person you are! I love your lights, and I look forward to learning how to make similar ones. Maybe we should pool our extra lights, furniture, houses etc., and give them to kids like Lilly. Nice job! Best, Neen (because that's my name)

  5. loved your writing style in this post (will now have to back read to confirm if it's just this post or it's you!), had me grinning a bit on Friday at my work desk when usually all I would care about was killing some time till I get to go home :D
    I'm also a 1:6er and I bought my first "dollhouse"/roombox yesterday - 2 ikea LACK side tables that are going to be stacked with a wall cavity in the rear and as yet. Since there is a cavity... was thinking about wiring and I will also be keenly awaiting tutorials or discussions on how to do them.

    1. You're too sweet :) I'm not a real 1:6er, I was just dabbling, I'm definitely more comfortable in 1:12. A lot of my ideas would be pretty easy to carry over in scale though. The side table idea is great, and I can't wait to see what you do with it.

      I was actually drafting my 'simple dollhouse wiring' post yesterday (at work, HA!), just gotta get to the weekend so I have time (and my own laptop) to add pictures. Due to overwhelming demand, I'll do a regular tape-wiring tutorial, too. Eventually.

      Looking like an all-tutorial weekend coming up, with three drafted posts in the works, two involving lighting/electrical! Perfect timing for you to find me, glad you're here!

  6. That's so great. How does the elevator work? I built my daughter a dollhouse and I want to put in an elevator (because you know that's what they like to play with). Thanks so much!