I’ve had a couple of requests from readers for more information about the dollhouse; where I find my furniture and how to find furniture that doesn’t look cheap. First of all, let’s be honest here. I’m a hobbyist, not a miniaturist. I have met several incredible miniaturists through blogging and I will be sure to supply some links to their individual blogs. They are generous with tutorials and information and, believe me, once you start researching this kind of thing, you’ll quickly get hooked. As far as building any furniture from scratch; nope, I haven’t done that. I’d like to, but so far I am content with transforming the pieces I do find.
Dollhouse furniture runs the gamut in terms of quality. Some of it is flimsy and/or looks cheap. Some of it is incredibly intricate, made by true artisans, and very expensive. As you all know, my budget is, to put it mildly, minimal. So I’ve learned to look at pieces of furniture that have a finish I don’t like or look too shiny and think: What can I do with that?
Just like in real life.
Lots of the furniture you find will be darkish. Dark finishes are the norm on standard dollhouse furniture. If, like me, you have an aversion to that look, you will want to think about transforming the pieces you do find. Look for sturdy furniture that has good lines. The rest you can take care of with paint.
I’m going to share some photos with you and talk about the individual pieces – where I got them, how I transformed them – and then I’ll share some links with you at the end of the post.
This is what the fireplace looked like originally:
It was a gift from Don one Christmas, bless him, and it was made out of molded plastic. I’m not necessarily crazy about plastic in the dollhouse (though there is one exception, you’ll see that later) and this wasn’t my style at all; it was very traditional and seemed too big for the living room. So I stashed it away for a couple of years until one day last year. I was thinking of ordering a fireplace, but since I always try to use what I have on hand, I grabbed this piece and, with nothing to lose, started painting it. Suddenly, it didn’t seem so large. I lined the back of the shelves with paper, actually, some paint chips in shades of aqua. The whitewashed look reminds me of the bricks on the chimney in my real-life living room. (Next up, I’ll be painting those andirons so they don’t look like extra-shiny brass.)
Everything else on the fireplace came from a stash of things I had on hand. The painting had a brassy frame, so I whitewashed it. The aqua window frame is actually from a wooden piece from Michael’s that I took apart (you’ll see part of it in the kitchen) and I decided to paint it and use it as a piece of architectural salvage. The basket and flower pot were part of a bunch of miniature accessories generously sent to me by a miniaturist/blogger. I painted the pot and filled both pieces with flowers I had on hand. The armillary on the mantel was a gift from a dear reader of this blog. I fell in love with it but couldn’t figure out where it should go. Once I had the mantel, everything fell into place.
So you can take something that you think you don’t like, that might even look a little cheap, and make it into something beautiful for your dollhouse.
The blue china cabinet was an unfinished piece from Michael’s that a dear reader sent me, along with two other unfinished pieces. I sat down one day and painted and distressed it. Then I lined the back of the cabinet with the same wallpaper I’ve used on the walls in this room. A generic wood piece from Michael’s that is only a few dollars can be turned into something perfect for your dollhouse. It’s all about personalizing what you find.
As far as sofas and chairs go, I find a lot of them out there to be boxy and not at all believable. The pleats at the bottom are often way out of scale. Or they look far from comfortable. I found this sofa, which so reminds me of the vintage forties style that I love, on a wonderful site. Dollhouses and More. I also got the blue print chair that is in the living room from the same place. These pieces look real to me. I’m very picky about that. I’ve seen some gorgeous sofas and chairs made by my artisan friends, but I don’t have that skill set. The wicker chair was made by my dear friend Casey of Casey’s Minis. She is a true artisan and her blog is chock full of fabulous information. Lucky me, I won this chair in a giveaway and she made it specially for me. She also made that ottoman.
There it is. There’s even a slot by the arm for magazines. I picked out the fabric from Casey’s stash.
That coffee table that you see in the den? My friend Marsha sent it to me, along with some other starter pieces, just after I found my dollhouse. Here’s how it looked (and you can get a peek at the dollhouse’s original colors):
Very generic, rather modern looking – the kind of piece you see on every miniature website – with a glossy, dark finish. I got out the old paintbrush and came up with this:
Now it looks more like me. I used some craft paint that I had on hand. This type of piece is readily available on any miniature website and you can make it your own.
This is the other chair that I got from Dollhouses and More. That blue table in the background? Same thing as the coffee table. I got it for free, it had a dark glossy finish and looked a bit cheap. But it’s sturdy enough and has curvy cabriole legs, so I painted and distressed it.
The 3 drawer dresser under the stairs has a little story. I found it at a local antique shop, along with some other furniture from the long ago Petite Princess line of furniture made by Ideal. When I was a kid, I wanted this stuff so badly! Never got it, alas, so when I saw it in the shop for $5, I grabbed it. It’s plastic, my friends. But it doesn’t look like it. The drawers open and the top looks like marble.
I liked it so much I found another one for the bedroom on eBay. And that lamp is also from the Petite Princess line. It reminds me of my real-life parakeet lamp, so when I saw it on eBay, I snagged it.
You can find a lot of wonderful miniatures on Etsy. This sofa came all the way from Italy, via Flora. This link is to her blog, but she has an Etsy shop as well. I first saw it on her blog but it had already sold, so she made one to order for me. You can find a lot of wonderful pieces this way. I have my eye on a couple of pieces from a miniaturist who lives in Denmark. It’s very exciting to get something in the mail all the way from Italy! And, just like in my real-life home, every piece in this dollhouse has a story. That makes everything more precious. I don’t want to furnish my dollhouse too quickly. I want to gather, play, try things.
A few more ideas for you:
I took one of those Michael’s cabinets apart and used the top half for the shelving over the Aga. The same wallpaper I have used in the kitchen also backs the shelves. I just added the two cornice pieces yesterday. I wanted them to look different than the rest of the shelving, liked aged pieces that are being used as shelf brackets. I’m going to hang copper pots from a rod just below the shelf. You’d be surprised what you can do with an inexpensive wooden cabinet! The doors on the cabinet came off when I repurposed it and I couldn’t use them. You saw one of them on the fireplace mantel. I have another one that I plan to use in the office/craft room.
There are a few pieces in the dollhouse that I saved my pennies for, or requested as a birthday present. The sofa from Italy is one. This Aga oven is another. It’s made out of wood and porcelain, by Reutter, and I love it. I never wanted any other kind of oven in here.
The dollhouse has some of things I dream of but could never afford in real life. As it should be!
I saw these two pieces, priced at about $34 each and I knew I had to have them. I can’t remember how I maneuvered this one. Maybe one was from Don and one was bought using birthday money from my parents? Something like that. How could I pass up the farmhouse sink and the open shelving and the plate rack? How could I say no? A few investment pieces, beautifully made, are worth it. These are made by JBM Miniatures. I’ve recently seen them on both Miniatures and New England Miniatures, two great websites. The drawers open, by the way.
I was going to paint them, but the wood is so beautifully finished that I decided to keep them as is. The tile backsplash was added by yours truly, made out of the same material I used on the bedroom chimney. I made the curtain under the sink. I have a faucet on order – it should be coming this week. The china dishes are okay, I’m not crazy about them, but they were very inexpensive and they’ll do until I find something I like better.
The tray is from Lea of Atelier Lea – it came all the way from Paris! Lea is the most amazing miniaturist. She has a shop in Paris and she’s written a book that I want so badly! But the cost to ship it here from France is too much for me at the moment.
Oy, Photographing the back of the kitchen is like taking a picture inside a tunnel! That table is a generic inexpensive table with a glossy finish that I ordered from a website. It’s made of wood. I painted it and distressed it. The pink chairs are also made of wood. Still not sure about that color I chose – they might change in the near future. I found the other chair on a shelf in an antique store. It was three dollars. I couldn’t pass it up. I added it to the kitchen table, because you all know I don’t like too much match-matchy. I made the roman shade on the window.
Finally, this piece came to me via Marsha:
She was attending a miniature show in California with my friend Jill and, at my request, snagged this for me. Isn’t it great? It’s going to stay in the bathroom, I think, to hold towels. If not, it’s going into the office/craft room. I’m not sure. But my point is that there are Miniature shows all over the country, with amazing work by miniaturists on display. You can buy pieces there that you won’t see anywhere else. My goal next year is to get to one of these shows – there’s so much incredible work out there. You can google ‘miniature shows’ and you’ll find all the information you need.
One warning, just because a piece says it’s to scale, in this case 1:12, doesn’t always mean it’s exactly to scale. There is wiggle room there, but I’ve been burned a few times, especially with anything vintage. I suspect scale has become more rigorous in the past few decades. Just be aware of that.
Oh, the wallpaper is from Itsy Bitsy Mini. They have an amazing variety of patterns.
The floors are made out of coffee stirrers and craft sticks, depending on the size of the planks.
Here are some links for you. First, some websites I’ve ordered from and/or find valuable:
There are also several websites in England which have beautiful miniatures and also carry wonderful kits that I’d like to try from Mini Mundus.
Now, for some blogs I think you’d like:
These bloggers are so talented. They build things, they make incredible furniture, they are amazing. And inspiring.
Whew! This was a long post. Search on websites, search on Etsy, search on eBay. If your budget is tight, as is mine, look at inexpensive pieces that you can alter or paint and make your own. Have fun! I have a lot more to do on the dollhouse and I’ll be sharing what I learn with you along the way.