*Note:  I take no responsibility for the awesome outfits my girls have their dolls dressed in.  They are blooming stylists, what can I say??

My girls love their American Girl dolls (and Target “Our Generation” doll and WalMart ballerina doll).  They’ve gotten prized items for these dolls over time, through birthdays, Christmases, allowance spending, and special treats.  And then, suddenly, these items turned into “stuff,” and this stuff was all over the place!  Some of it was in their rooms.  Some pieces were in the basement.  And none of it was getting used well – there was doll piano keyboard in my one daughter’s closet, a table and chairs in the basement, beds in the girls’ bedrooms, and other accessories crammed into labeled boxes in my attempt to organize it.

And with all the items scattered, they weren’t getting used like I knew they could be.

Thus began my search for an American Girl dollhouse, to put all these things in one spot.

The commercially available houses, however, didn’t have space for these items, let alone space for the pieces that TWO daughters have acquired.

But then my husband offered to BUILD them one!  I was so excited!  He was fresh off his first building project (a gorgeous fish tank stand), and I was so pumped for the possibilities.  So I got on Pinterest and started pinning building plans.  And then I waited until he’d find the time to begin the building.

And waited.  And waited.

When I realized that he never was going to get around to building it (love ya, hon!), I looked into alternative ideas.

IKEA PAX SYSTEM

I stumbled upon the parts of the Internet swarming with ideas of making a dollhouse out of the Ikea PAX system wardrobes – these were fabulous dollhouses!

The dollhouses I saw put two PAX wardrobes standing right side up next to each other.  But, when I started working out the measurements, I realized how TALL they were.  I mean, like crazy tall.  So tall that my daughters wouldn’t even be able to reach into the top room and play, even with the help of a step stool.

TWO PAX WARDROBES LAID AND STACKED

Then I played around with the measurements and realized that we could lay a PAX wardrobe on its side, stack another one horizontally on top of it, add some shelves like walls, and we’d have a generously sized dollhouse that wasn’t crazy tall.

An Ikea PAX wardrobe is 22 7/8” deep, which is perfect for furniture for 18” dolls.  And it is 39 ¼” wide which means, when laid on its side, that’s how tall a room would be from floor to ceiling – great clearance for a doll, allowing for chandeliers, shelves, and whatever else the imagination conjures up!  The wardrobe measures 93 1/8” tall, which is how wide the house would be when the wardrobe is horizontal – this allows for about three very good sized rooms across.  Then, if two wardrobes are stacked on top of each other, you have six rooms, and all easily reachable by my five-year-old.  Hooray!

ASSEMBLY

This is the part my husband DID do.  Unfortunately, the wardrobes were too long to fit in our cars, so we had them delivered by Ikea.  Then my husband assembled each wardrobe, leaving off the extra wood piece that would be like the baseboard part of the wardrobe and moving the bottom panel all the way to the end of the two long side pieces.  This left a gap in the back cardboard panel, which I filled in by cutting some of the packing cardboard and taping to the back of the unit with white duct tape.

Then my husband laid the wardrobe on its side and put in the shelves where I wanted the walls to be.  He made sure these would stay in place by securing them with nails through the top (formerly the side) of the wardrobe.  He used the nails that came with the unit.

This process was repeated with the second wardrobe.  Then we stacked the wardrobes, and my husband anchored the top to the bottom by putting screws through the “floor” of the top unit.  Again, he just used the screws that came with the PAX unit, intended to attach two units to each other.

Now, let’s just skip over the part where I said, “Um, you know how you assembled that in the basement?  Can we, um, maybe move it up two flights of stairs to the guest room??”… and the part where he had to unscrew the two units, ask a neighbor to come over and help him struggle through getting the two, huge, giant, heavy wardrobes up two tight staircases, and secure the units together again… and let’s get right to the decorating!!

FLOORS AND WALLS

I read up on how to paint laminate furniture.  As soon as I saw it was a multiple step process, I was out.  As I read up on wallpapering dollhouses in general, I came across the idea to use self-adhesive shelf liner or contact paper.  Genius!

I got on Amazon to look for shelf liner and was happily surprised to see they even had some that would work for my floors – options that looked like wood and looked like tile!  I clicked some of those suckers into my shopping cart and moved on to the walls.

My girls each picked the color and pattern they wanted for their dollhouse rooms, and I picked out a pattern for the family room (in secret after bedtime, because their ideas were getting bonkers).

The shelf liner was starting to add up in price, so I only ordered one roll of each style for the walls, figuring if I couldn’t cover all the walls, no biggie.  And, indeed, that happened – and my girls don’t care at all – they think I intended the blank spaces to be how they are.  Whew!

Because the shelf liner was all self-adhesive it was, in theory, easy to apply.  In actuality, though, bubbles reigned supreme, and if I started getting a wrinkle that I couldn’t fix, things started to go haywire.  But, overall, it all ended up just fine.  The living room has the most wrinkles on the wall, but the pattern is busy enough to not really notice.  Plus, as my back ached around midnight as I contorted my body into all sorts of weird shapes and was basically IN the dollhouse sticking this stuff to the floors and walls, I decided a few bubbles and wrinkles did NOT matter.

WINDOWS

No way was I trying to cleanly cut holes into the sides of this PAX wardrobe and risk cracking the thing.  So, instead, we have pretend windows.

I simply used picture frames – some are 4×6 and some are 5×7, depending on the room and what I wanted.  And then I Googled away to find pictures that I liked for outside of the windows.  For each image, I copied-and-pasted it into Word, where I adjusted the dimensions for its intended frame.  Then I used Word’s shapes to put the white lines on the image to mimic the mullions (I had to look this word up… in other words, the line thingies that are in windows).  After I finished an image and printed it off, then I would just delete it from the Word document and copy in the next image, so that I was able to reuse my mullion lines.

Then it was simply a matter of putting the image in the frame and adhering the frame to the wall with Command strips.  And voilà!  A window!

HANGING THINGS ON WALLS

Speaking of Command strips, I used them a LOT.  I had to time my buying of them with sales (which are rare).  But they made hanging things on the walls SO easy.

LIGHTS

I had pinned wired dollhouses on Pinterest.  But, no.  That wasn’t going to happen.  I mean, this is just a dollhouse for my girls to play with, for goodness sake.  And how often are they going to need lights?

But once the wardrobe pieces were all put in place, I had to admit that some of the rooms could benefit from a little extra light.  Plus the “wow” factor of lights was kind of neat to think about – I already could picture sleepovers during which the girls play with the dollhouse lights on only.

Okay, okay!  We’ll do lights!

I found adhesive, battery powered, push-on-push-off lights on Amazon.  Easy!!  And when the batteries need to be changed, you just unscrew the light from its base, pop in new batteries, screw the light back on, and you’re done.  I could handle this.

Let there be light!

Now, let’s get to the fun little nitty gritty details…

BEDROOMS

Dollhouse bedrooms

American Girl Doll Bedroom

See, there are some of those easy picture frame windows in action!  You can’t see the images well in these pictures, but each bedroom has a window looking out into a treetop and a window looking at a neighboring roofline.

And there’s some of that wood-look shelf liner!  It was perfect for looking like a wood floor.

My girls already owned most of the furniture you see:  Our Generation beds, pet beds from American Girl, and Melody’s keyboard from American Girl.

The nightstands were super easy to make.  I found wooden candle holders on sale at our local craft store and spray painted them white.  Then I found little alarm clocks from Amazon because, really, those tables were just screaming for little alarm clocks.

The chandeliers are locker chandeliers.  I’ll admit – I had NO idea there was such a thing but, there is.  And they were inexpensive online.  I didn’t get to pick the colors that came but knew the girls would be excited no matter what.  We ended up getting two different colors and, as amazing as this is… they didn’t argue when deciding who would have which color!

And the rugs are locker rugs.  Seriously, if my girls ever ask me to buy them a rug for their lockers, I’m going to roll my eyes bigger than they’ve ever rolled their eyes at me.  BUT locker rugs were perfect for this house!

And while we’re talking locker things… the blue frame and the gold frame?  Locker frames!  Each girl has one locker frame in her dollhouse room, and her frame has a picture of her in it, just for a fun touch!

For another personal touch, each of my girls designed two pieces of art for her room.  I bought a bunch of mini canvases on Amazon, which served as the base.  Then they chose their pictures (my youngest chose a butterfly and Barbie as a ballerina, my oldest chose a rainbow and a sloth, because she has the American Girl doll Lea).  I copied each picture to Word, got it sized correctly, and printed it.  Then I simply brushed Mod Podge over the picture on the canvas, which both stuck the picture to the canvas and put a protective layer over the picture.

The script, mirrored “love” signs were in the final clearance section of our craft store (and it was self-adhesive!).  The little flowers and butterflies on the wall also were in the final clearance section – I just stuck them on with clear Command strips, cut down in size a bit.  (Remember:  I use Command strips for basically all the sticking and hanging of anything in this house!).

I found the little plastic bins at our craft store and thought they’d be perfect for toy bins.  The girls agreed and wasted no time filling them with little Beanie Boos they got in McDonald’s Happy Meals (they really are the perfect size for being the dolls’ toys).

And, finally, I added a few clear Command hooks for the girls to hang whatever they wish to – purses, necklaces, clothing pieces, etc.

BATHROOM

dollhouse bathrooms

The bathroom was harder, because we had NOTHING bathroom related (except for robes and a toothbrush from a real life baby care set).

See how this time I used shelf liner that looks like tile for the floor?  I am so pleased with how that came out!  And, this time, I turned the frame “windows” sideways for an up-high window look, to provide a view of the “sky” while also providing the dolls the privacy their plastic bodies need.

I kept the walls white, partly because I was tired up putting up shelf liner, partly because my shelf liner cost was getting expensive, and partly because I thought white would look nice.  But I did add some adhesive “tile” I ordered on Amazon… I simply cut the sheet in half to make stripes that were three tiles wide instead of six tiles wide, and I just stuck it onto the three walls, easy as that!

The details are similar to in the bedroom.  I made some artwork by printing pictures and using Mod Podge to put them on tiny canvases (I incorporated pictures from two of my girls’ favorite vacation spots:  Hilton Head and Honolulu).  And I added Command hooks for the robes and whatnot (the idea was for towels to be hung up, but the girls decided they needed to hang a sponge instead).  The rug and the mirror are… you guessed it!… made-for-locker items!

Now let’s talk about that vanity, because I am DANG proud of that vanity!  That was all my creation, and I’d like to brag on it for a minute!

dollhouse vanity diy

Again, I hit up the clearance items at our local hobby store.  The bottom part is just a wooden tissue box cover (people really use those??) that I spray painted white.  The counter is a wooden display shelf that I spray painted sparkly purple.  I just used wood glue to stick the counter onto the base.  Then the sinks!  I roamed the store aisles, looking for something I could use and, surprisingly, my answer was in the baking section.  Those are mini pie pans!  They were just the right width to fit in the counter, and just the right depth to not bump into the base below the counter.  I just drilled (and cut using an exacto knife) two holes in the counter big enough for the pie pans (this took some doing, because I had to keep tweaking it.  I’m sure there’s a better way to do it… I was sweating and determined and didn’t stop to plan).  Then I put gorilla glue on the underside of the pan ledges, put the pans in their holes, and pressed down to get the edges to stick to the counter top.  And *tada* I had sinks!!  And the faucets were another brainchild of mine – I simply screwed in hooks.  That was it!  The knobs are four of the smallest knobs I could find at the hardware store, and I just glued them on (they don’t turn).

Feel free to take a minute to clap for my ingenuity now!  (Just kidding… kind of).

But save some of your admiration for…. the shower curtain…

DIY Dollhouse shower curtain

So, I ordered a bathtub from Amazon, but then wondered how in the world I’d make a shower.  I saw lots of ideas online for using a tension rod, but I didn’t have the right space for that here – where I wanted the bathtub, there was no way to use a tension rod.  So I went up and down the aisles of the dollar store, looking for inspiration… and found it in a beachball and diving rings.  Yes, really!  I know, I’m amazing!  (wink)

So!  I cut apart the beachball to make the shower curtain, punched holes in the top of it for the rings, and reinforced these hole with hot glue (because I knew, otherwise, rips would happen).

Then I searched in our storage room and came up with a furniture anti-tipping kit and found two brackets and two zipties.  I screwed one bracket into the wall and the other bracket into the ceiling.

Next, I used the zipties to attach the diving ring to these brackets.  The ziptie connected to the bracket in the ceiling keeps the diving ring nice and flat.

Finally, I used small binder clips and attached the beachball “shower curtain” to the diving ring “curtain rod” and – voila!  I had a shower curtain (and I promptly called the entire family into the room to admire my work).

LIVING ROOM

dollhouse living room

Okay, PLEASE don’t look too closely at the shelf liner on the walls in here!  First of all, it was super late at night by the time I got to this room, and I just didn’t care about wrinkles anymore… but the wrinkles in this room got away from me.  Secondly, I ran short… but convinced myself that having a strip of wall paper going up the wall by the fire place was a “design feature.” (ha!).

Lots of windows in this room!  Because our real-life family room has lots of windows, and I wanted to mimic that.  I chose views of a beautiful backyard (including a gorgeous outdoor kitchen… which we don’t have in real-life).

The chandelier here is a gorgeous Christmas ornament I found on Amazon.  And the convertible couch also was an Amazon find.

I made the ottoman using a cardboard container found on sale at the craft store.  I simply glued the lid on and spray painted the box sparkle purple.

The frames were fun to do!  They were in the hobby store’s clearance section, and I filled them with pictures of the girls’ dolls (but the girls were quick to point out that I forgot one doll – oops!).  It’s like having family photos hanging on the wall.  Like everything else, I just stuck them on the wall with Command strips.

I also used the same printed-picture-on-canvas technique to make wall art of a sweet quote about sisters, which I put over the couch.  (“Sisters are different flowers from the same garden.”).

The girls quickly filled the space with their American Girl pet beds and one of those cute plastic bins for holding toys.

But, of course, there had to be a tv…

Dollhouse television

The tv simply is… that’s right!  A frame!  You’re catching on now!  The dolls are watching “Barbie:  Life in the Dreamhouse” (and if YOU haven’t yet, you should… I crack up at every episode about something).

The tv is above the fireplace.  For the fireplace, I printed a picture of a fire and put it in a gold frame (like fireplace doors) and glued that into a deeper black frame (so there could be a mantel).

Both the tv and the fireplace are adhered with Command strips (they are my life).

KITCHEN

dollhouse kitchen

As you can see, I was very much done with contact paper on walls by this point.  White is crisp for a kitchen… it’s fine!  I do love the checkerboard contact paper for the floor, though!

In this room, I put one frame sideways for a window over the cabinets and one frame by the table (that one has a view of a pretty driveway).

I made a canvas that says something cute about baking up love and another that says “Enjoy the Little Things” (because I have a sign in my kitchen that says that same thing).

The table is American Girl, and the kitchen is Toys r Us (out of all the kitchens available, that was my oldest daughter’s favorite, because “it looks the most real.”).

But creating shelving required more strolling up and down the aisles, waiting for some idea to strike…

dollhouse kitchen table

Finally, I did get some idea for shelving.  At the craft store by the miniatures, I found little display shelves or drawers (they had a little knob handle on them, so maybe they were drawers??  I don’t know – I don’t do miniatures).  I pulled the knobs off and screwed one of these wooden display shelves on either side of the kitchen.  I also found some plastic storage boxes on clearance, so I just kept the lids off and screwed one onto either side of the kitchen, too.  So there are some shelving options.  Down the road, I (I mean, the girls) would love to have some sort of Hoosier cabinet or kitchen cart for more storage.

FLEX ROOM

dollhouse extra room

I left one room “with potential.”. I used the tile-look contact paper for the flooring, guessing that it’ll probably end up being a laundry room or mudroom or something along those lines.  The girls also have been eyeing the doll sewing machines, so it may end up having a sewing corner.  Regardless, I wanted to leave one room for the girls to dream… Santa still need ideas for Christmas, so I can’t finish out the whole house and leave him with nothing!

YARD AND BONUS STORAGE

dollhouse yard and storage

The yard is simply two grass-look door mats.  The girls moves the mats around depending on how they’re playing.  That was the easiest part of the whole house!

And a great bonus of this house is the storage it allows above it!  We use the top surface for keeping out of the way the items that the girls aren’t using at the time… and they can easily reach them with a stepstool.

LIGHTS

dollhouse lights

I am so glad I stuck those lights on!  The effect when it’s dark in the room is just stunning.  The girls actually, truly gasped when they say it all lit up for the first time.  SO worth it!

Let the playing begin!

The girls and I already are working on making rugs using felt, pompoms, and hot glue, and they have plans for diy fishtanks.  So many crafts ahead!  And we can decorate it for the holidays!  And they can have sleepovers next to it with the lights on!  And… and the girls (okay, and me) are just SO excited!!