Monday, July 1, 2013

A mini house for a big sister

One of the tips I've heard for parents who are prepping to bring home baby #2, is to get the older sibling a gift "from the baby". The idea is that then the "big kid" feels special, and thinks the baby might not be so terrible after all. Piper is a little young to understand the concept of gratitude, so I wasn't actually convinced she'd like the baby better if she got a present, but I figured if we could get her something she'd really enjoy, that might take the edge off of all the "no", "wait", and "not right now"s she was going to inevitably have to deal with once the baby came home.
I decided I wanted to get her a dollhouse, and after very little searching, found the perfect one:

This version is a handmade project from the DIY experts at Young House Love. As soon as I saw it, I pretty much fell in love, and immediately set about convincing Dustin to help me make our own.

And I have absolutely no shame in telling you I knocked off in its entirety. Why reinvent the wheel, right?

John and Sherry have detailed instructions on their site...part 1 is how to build, and part 2 is the details. For our effort- Dustin did the building, sanding, painting and caulking, and I did the furniture shopping, art creating, doll procuring, and wallpaper choosing. So after a few weeks of work (it probably only took a few hours in total, but we spread it out over several evenings) and less than $100, we had ourselves our very own doll house. Behold:

Yeah....I'm kind of obsessed with it.

After spending an hour or two placing all the furniture just so and organizing all of the art to my liking, I realized that maaaaaaybe I was getting a little too into this. Remember- we were handing it over to a 19 month old, so some my attention to detail was going to be lost on her. But I had so much fun, it doesn't matter. I tried to keep it as simple as I could, as I quickly found out that you could get in really deep (in time and money!) on recreating a teeny tiny world for these silly pigs. I used YHL's version as my guide, and tried to make something simple and modern to fit in the vibe of Piper's nursery.

Our sources:
  • furniture- a vintage lot from ebay (around $30 for all of it)
  • "dolls"- Olivia the pig and her family
  • rugs- fabric and felt pieces
  • mirrors, tiny canvases, "p" letter, and wood for chalkboard- Joann's (all of the art is put up with sticky tack, so it could be changed out later if we/she want to)
  • wallpaper, art and floor covering- Dear Lizzy scrapbook paper (and a few plain solid papers)
And while I found YHL's directions almost flawless, I do have a tip for the wallpaper. Put it on the backer before you attach it to the house walls. I followed Sherry's method of cutting templates and decoupaging them to each room, but 1: it took forever, 2: it was hard to get the paper cut to the exact right size and 3: no matter what I did it bubbled and looked like a hot mess.

So after a couple tears (my house is ruined! ruined!!) we ripped off the back and started over. This time we held the backer up to the finished house frame, and traced each room. (hard to see, but you get the idea) Then I cut the paper slightly larger than each room, knowing that the thickness of the walls would cover up any excess. Then I was able to decoupage on a flat surface (use a smooth craft roller vs. a brush for best results), before nailing the backer onto the house. SO much easier. (also- 12x12 paper was large enough for all of the rooms except the top floor. For those I had to seam two pieces together, so I chose patterns that would hide a horizontal line well- geometric designs work much better for this than florals)

  Look at that bump in action!

So that's the scoop, care for the full tour?

Who doesn't want a 3rd floor dining room with vaulted ceilings? (We'll pretend there's an invisible dumbwaiter to bring things up from the kitchen. What modern convenience!)

The nursery...It might be my favorite room. I originally had different paper in the back, but I kept messing it up, and didn't like the way it seamed, so I picked up two honeycomb patterned sheets at Michael's. "tile" floor doesn't cover the whole room, but it's just for fun, so I'm not too worried. (the furniture came with that blue piece in the corner, and I don't know what it's supposed to be, so I pretend it's a trashcan...)

 Super manly bedroom, for a super manly daddy pig.

 Brother pig hangs out in the den, watching his chalkboard "TV".

 I pretty much want this living room set to be my size.

 Ok...the kitchen is a little wild...but I've seen crazier things in some 1960's era homes. (and wouldn't this room be cute with a little pretend window above the sink?!)

So after all that work, it was time to present it to Piper (and hope she didn't tear my dream house to bits!) We sneaked it up to her room, and paused for a minute to admire how good it looks with the rest of her decor. I can totally picture a miniature version of her nursery fitting right in with her dollhouse (or a large version of her house, with her nursery inside!)

I worried that she wouldn't understand it (she is pretty young still) or wouldn't like it, but I figured worst case we could take it out and save it for later if she wasn't ready. (Or if it wasn't her thing, I suppose I could just keep it for myself....) But those fears evaporated about 2 milliseconds after we brought her in for her Big Sister Surprise...she loved it!

She was absolutely smitten with those piggies, and immediately started playing, putting them in different rooms and examining all the different pieces.

I wasn't sure she grasped the whole "pretend play" thing yet, but boy was I wrong. Pigs were placed in chairs and on beds, and furniture was rearranged to her liking. 

I tried to get her to smile for me, and show me her toys, but she was so into it she refused to turn around!

She played and played until bedtime, ignoring me snapping away in the background. When it was time to put on jammies, she insisted on bringing all of her piggies with her to get changed.

Since then, she's played with it a ton...Her favorite thing to do is tuck the piggies into their beds (she's a little frustrated mommy pig doesn't fit into the crib with the baby...). She insists that they need blankets though, so she takes blankets from her bed and shoves them into each room to keep the pigs warm. (each blanket takes up takes up an entire room, virtually smothering the pigs...but that doesn't seem to concern her.) I think my next step is to cut a few pieces of flannel so they can have some fresh- appropriately sized- linens.

Piper- I'm thrilled you like your gift...You're a good mama to your piggies, and a great sister to the baby. We love you to teeny tiny pieces.


  1. I love it!! And so glad that Piper does too!

    Two thoughts...I love how the master bedroom has 'I Love Lucy' style separate beds for mommy and daddy. Way to keep it classy. Also, my theory on the trash can is that it could also be a clothes hamper. A thought that might drastically impact imaginative interpretation, I know...

    1. Haha yes- the 60's had certain standards to uphold...even in dollhouses. And a hamper?! This changes EVERYTHING! :)
      Can't wait to see the dollhouse you're slaving away on (in secret...)

  2. It's AWESOME! I love how she wouldn't even turn around to smile. I wonder if we could make a custom model of our own house? Something to try...thanks for posting.

    1. That would be so cool! If anyone can do it, you could!

  3. Gorgeous house! Now I want to make one for my daughter, too! Question about the furniture: are all dollhouse furniture pretty much made to the same scale? That is, can I just buy any old dollhouse furniture from ebay? I read on the YHL blog directions that it's 1/2" scale, but uhhh... what does that mean? Thanks so much! And since this is my first time posting, I want to also thank you for your lovely blog. I really look forward to your reading your posts everyday! Happy Mamahood! (I know, that's not a real word...) :)

  4. Parfait! Love the idea of mini house and the kid looks enjoying in her mini doll house. The additional vintage background helps the doll house made colourful.