“I’m making a dollhouse,” I told my sister over the phone. Silence, then an uncertain “Oh…really…?”
On a vacation over four years ago, I passed the window of Miniland in Victoria, BC. After years of being a closeted would-be dollhouse enthusiast, I crossed the threshold. My husband waited patiently in the car while the shop owner Alex tempted me with all manner of 12th scale treasures. On subsequent visits, he would get me a coke & show me how to make roast beef from fimo. He is awesome.
I went home &, finding myself on strike, began making a Victorian Brownstone from scratch. I had considered a kit, but they were too small with no flexibility of space. Over a few months I had completed the house (with electrical) using 1/8th inch hardboard from Home Depot (kept it light & was easy to cut). I nearly finished it entirely: I didn’t get the roof on or finish the exterior walls. Now it resides in my basement, wallpaper peeling, electrical wire poking out of windows, sad & dejected while other pursuits & priorities have taken my time.
When my sister visited over Christmas holidays we resurrected the dollhouse one evening. We stayed up past 2am, enjoying wine & trying to stay quiet (my hubster had retired early). Check out our shenanigans in the gallery.
I had so much fun that I decided to build a new house. I resolved to take my time & plan it out, avoiding mistakes I made by rushing through the first. And of course, it had to be bigger. I spent a month drawing plans to scale so assembling it went really quickly.
Why Gothic-Victorian? I love Victorian: it covers a long time span with many styles. 1/12th supplies are plentiful. But I was drawn to many of the Tudor/medieval aspects as well – the furniture, architecture, panelling, heavy fabrics. So Gothic Revival seemed a perfect fit.
Consideration #1: make sure you can fit your dollhouse through your doors. This obvious fact may elude some, but it certainly helped narrow the scope of my project & set up at least 1 basic measurement. Overall it measures 28 by 48 inches; height 34-40 inches.
Consideration #2: decide how many rooms you want. My first dollhouse had 9 rooms & a ballroom/gallery laid out in 4 storeys. Although the rooms were cozy, they were too small. With the Gothic I just wanted to make them roomier.
- drawing room
- dining room
- butler’s pantry
- large entry hall
- 3 bedrooms, 1 with a sitting room/dressing room
- upper floor gallery/ballroom
Consideration #3: the style. Yes, I wanted Gothic-Victorian. I needed to research the architectural details before getting started. In particular, the windows & overall exterior design. Gothic Revial houses had windows that were tall & narrow, usually placed side by side (2 or 3 together). Great: I already had some perfect single windows, but I had to decide against the double Victorians I already had. And exteriors were brick or stone – also perfect as I could make my own from egg cartons (painstaking though it will be).
The top storey went through a series of progressions. First I wanted to include a rooftop garden or conservatory. But I had a hard time planning the layout with an overall roofing scheme. So I searched online for ideas & found a dollhouse actually, which allowed the third storey to be segmented: a central area with a slightly sloped roof & 2 taller sections at either end with steep sloped roofs that were squared off on top. Do you think I can find the picture to show you? No, I printed it & deleted it. So no garden, but instead a Tudor/Gothic gallery in one open space that can be used as a ballroom. The 2 end sections I will enclose entirely, but maybe place on hinges so I can access the rooms underneath.
Consideration #4: draw it out. I started with a rough layout, then used my old dollhouse to get a sense of proportions. I like tall rooms – it is easier to get in, arrange furniture, put up wallpaper. If you don’t have a dollhouse already, a bookcase or any kind of cabinet with shelves is a good place to feel the “space”. Remember that 1/12 mean 1 inch = 1 foot. Don’t skimp on floor size if you can help it. Unless you are living in a box yourself. I drew my final plan out on 11×17 paper using a scale of 1/4 inch = 1 inch actual size. I took my time, using my measuring tape constantly to gauge the floorspace. If you have furniture, lay it out & see how much space you need. Also don’t forget access to the rooms: are you going to have it open on 1 side only? Will there be a door/wall that can close when you are not using the house? I decided to have 2 sides open along the length with the shorter sides (28 inches) walled & windowed. And rather than trying to build the structure all at once, I’m going floor by floor. Afterwards I will consider options for strengthening the frame as a whole for transporting.
Consideration #5: tools & supplies