{diy with style} How I Turned an Off-the-Shelf Dollhouse Into Our Home's Mini-Me

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

When we were little, my mom created several dollhouses for my sister and me. She bought them unfinished, and then meticulously decorated and furnished them, using real carpet, tile, and linoleum remnants on the floors, and using fabric to create wallpaper for the walls. Those dollhouses were our prized possessions and I always envisioned creating a similar dollhouse for my own daughter someday.

Since I have two sons, I kind of assumed that there wouldn't be any dollhouses in my future, so how is it that I ended up turning an off-the-shelf dollhouse into our home's mini-me just days before Christmas last year?! It's a fun story...

Customize an off-the-shelf dollhouse

Last fall, Beckett, who was 2 and a half at the time, spotted a dollhouse at a toy store, begged to play with it, and had to literally be dragged out of the store 30 minutes later. He talked about that dollhouse a couple of days, and then he seemed to forget all about it. In all of our visits to Santa, a dollhouse never came up, but then just weeks before Christmas he informed me that a dollhouse was the only thing he really wanted! Uh oh!

I thought about just running out and buying him the house he had seen at the toy store months before, but it was designed for use with little mice, squirrels, and bunnies in fancy flowery little dresses that he showed no interest in. It was the furniture and the house itself that seemed to enthrall him.

Around the same time, Beckett had started to show a lot more interested in my blog photos. He began climbing on to my lap and requesting to see his room. Then he would ask to see the rest our house room by room, excitedly pointing out the details he recognized in each space.

And that's when I realized that this was my opportunity to create a truly special dollhouse like the ones my mom had given me. Except it was now just two weeks before Christmas and time was quickly ticking away. It's a good thing I'm always up for a challenge! 

Since I didn't have time to start completely from scratch, I was looking for a something that I could customize, with the goal of creating a dollhouse that resembled our own modern home. 

This post contains some affiliate links. If you buy something that I recommend, you pay the same price, but I may receive a small commission.

I started my search online, and I was surprised to find lot of simple, contemporary styled wooden dollhouses. I liked this one from Melissa & Doug, this one from Plan Toys, and this giant one from KidKraft*. 

But in the end I chose the Hape All Season House because I liked the size, the layout, and the potential for customization! The basic shape of the Hape dollhouse reminded me very much of our home - with its straight, geometric lines, and rooms spread out over many floors.

And here's the view of the back of the house, in its original form...

Its true that our house is very bold and colorful, so I didn't mind the primary color scheme of this dollhouse! In fact, if I were buying a dollhouse for two boys and didn't want to spend the time customizing it, this would be a perfect choice because it's really very fun and gender neutral! 

However, since I did want to customize the dollhouse, this one itself perfectly to my plans. The clearly delineated rooms and square shapes made it very easy to update. 

My original intent was simply updated the walls and floors in each room, and to paint the green front door and green roof. But once I unpacked the dollhouse from the box, I was suddenly inspired to also change the light wood color of the frame to better match the dark wood throughout our home. I grabbed out a can of left over stain {Minwax Dark Walnut}, and went to town!

Fortunately staining the frame of the dollhouse didn't take long at all. While the stain dried, I turned my attention to the roof. One of the really fun elements of this dollhouse is that the roof serves as a handle to easily move the house around, is removable to create easier play access in the top level of the house, and is even reversible. In its original state, one side of the roof was bright green with vines growing around solar panels, and the other side of the roof was covered in snow drifts.

Since I was going to be covering up all the other bright green on the house, I decided to paint the green side of the roof black {to match our own roof}, but since we live in Colorado were snowy rooftops are a common sight throughout the winter, I definitely didn't want to cover up the snow drift side. I used painters tape around the boarder of the snowy side of the roof to allow me to paint the edge of the room without accidentally getting any black paint onto the white snow.

I used some left over black acrylic paint and a wide paint brush to make the roof's paint job quick and easy.

Next up for makeover was the front door and all those primary colored walls. Our front doors are dark wood with frosted glass panels, so I painted the door with chocolate brown acrylic paint, and then used a light teal color in the window cut outs to mimic the color of the frosted glass.

I wanted to paint some of the walls, and to create "wallpaper" for others. To make things easy, I decided to paint all the walls that had window cut-outs, and to only wallpaper the solid square walls. 

For the inside of the house, I wanted the walls to match the dominate wall colors in our home, so I grabbed out several jars of leftover latex paint from our storage room. I painted the room on the bottom floor the same light gray that is in our basement; for the next room up, I painted the walls the same teal as our kitchen/living room, and for the room on the top floor, I painted the wall a dark gray to match the accent wall in our real third floor master bedroom. {Sorry for the lack of photos here! I was working fast and furious to get this done for Christmas and didn't stop to take all the photos I normally would... but you'll see these walls later on.}

For the back of the dollhouse, I decided to make it look like the exterior of our home, which is  a mix of white stucco, light gray stucco, and stacked stone. I painted each section with a window in a light gray paint to mimic our stucco color.

Once all the walls were painted {but before adding any wallpaper}, I decided to give everything a coat of sealer to make it more durable and less likely to get scratched while the kids play. I laid all the painted and stained parts out on cardboard in the garage and sprayed them with a satin spray sealer.

Now about that "wallpaper" I've been mentioning. I wanted to ensure that both boys could easily identify their own bedrooms in the dollhouse. Beckett's room has that fun argyle feature wall that I hand painted...

But there was no way that I was going to try to hand paint a miniature version of the argyle in the dollhouse {both in the interest of time and my sanity}. Instead, I pulled up the Photoshop rendering of the argyle that I had created back when I was trying to figure out the right color layout for the argyle wall. I measured the wall of one of the dollhouse rooms with no windows {7.5" high by 8.125" wide}, and then cropped and adjusted the size of the Photoshop rendering to be the same dimensions. 

Next, I needed to recreated the look of the teal ombre striped walls in Cooper's room. 

I again used the dollhouse room dimensions and create a striped Photoshop image that replicated the look of the ombre walls.

I printed the "wallpaper" onto sheets of inkjet printable adhesive vinyl, trimmed them down to size, and then positioned them on the two walls with no windows.

To complete the look of the exterior of the house, I downloaded an image of the stacked stone on our home from the manufacturers website, and I printed the image onto more sheets of inkjet printable adhesive vinyl. In addition to covering the two non-window sections of the back of the house in stone, I also covered the bright green bushes next to the front door with stone as well.

The final step before before assembling the dollhouse was to refinish some of the floors. I wanted the lower two levels of the house to have the look of the hardwood floors in our home, so I picked up a roll of walnut colored wood grain shelf paper.

I covered the sections of floor that looked like tile and brick, leaving three sections of natural wood colored floor uncovered for the dollhouse bedrooms {the rooms that in our home have beige carpet}.

Finally, I was ready to assemble the dollhouse...

Customize a Hape Dollhouse to look like your own home

After seeing the dollhouse put together, my husband suggested that I add the house number, and label the mail slot in the door similar to our mailbox. I used a scrap of teal vinyl and cut the numbers and letters on my Cricut electronic cutting machine.  Then I decided to take it one step further by painting the "toy box" that came with one of the furniture sets black and labeling it like the milk box on our front porch.

I was so thrilled with how the dollhouse makeover turned out, and the side by side before and after is pretty drastic - especially considering that it only took me a few hours over two days to make all the changes! The original was very fun and colorful, but the after... well, now it looks like home!

Customize a Hape Dollhouse to look like your own home

And here's the back of the house...

Customize an off-the-shelf dollhouse

The stacked stone combined with the two story windows above the front door really makes the dollhouse look remarkably like our home...

And of course, here is the before and after comparison.

Customize and off-the-shelf dollhouse

Once the house was complete, I was ready to focus on the furniture. From watching my boys play with the dollhouse at the toy store, I knew that moving the furniture around would be one of their favorite parts, so I wanted to give them plenty of furniture options. After doing my research, I learned that the furniture and dolls from Hape, Plan Toys and Melissa & Doug are all very close in size, making them interchangeable. I picked my favorites from among all three furniture lines and ordered the following:

In addition to the furniture, I picked a cute blue car that fits perfectly in the "garage" at the back of the house - just like our house with a garage entrance from the alley. The car came with a family of four, but I knew the boys would ask where the grandparents were, so I also bought an additional set of wooden dolls.

Customize an off-the-shelf dollhouse

Since the dollhouse was updated to look like our home, I wanted to make a few changes to make the furniture look a bit more like our own as well. I pulled out my bin of acrylic paint of went to town, starting with the dining chairs, which I painted black to match the chairs in our kitchen.

Paint wood dollhouse furniture

A grey couch, a silver table, a black headboard, a stainless oven, a brown bookshelf... I tweaked each piece of furniture to match something in our home, and then gave all the painted areas a coat of clear satin varnish to protect the paint from scratching. 

Paint wood dollhouse furniture

Paint wood dollhouse furniture

To complete the furniture makeovers, I enlisted the help of my mom to recover the couch and chair cushions using fabric swatches to match the furniture in our living room and family room. She also used a scrap of fabric from our master bedroom duvet to cover the bedspread for one of the dollhouse beds.

The final step to making the dollhouse look just like home was to create some simple rugs for the floor. I picked up a few pieces of felt from Michaels, cut the rugs to a size of 5" x 7", and then used my colored Sharpies  to draw on patterns similar to the rugs in each room of our house. In just about 30 minutes I had seven new rugs! 

DIY dollhouse rugs

And here's how it all came together!

Cusomize an off-the-shelf wood Hape Dollhouse

Customize an off-the-shelf wood Hape dollhouse

Ready for a closer look inside?! Come on in!

Just like our home, the lowest level of the dollhouse is the "basement," the kitchen is to the right of the front door, the kids rooms are on the next level up, and the master bedroom and bathroom are on the third floor.

Customize an off-the-shelf wood dollhouse

Since I wanted the kids to have lots of options, I made two sets of furniture for each of the lower level rooms. The basement can be set up as our family room, or as the kids play area, the kitchen can be swapped out to become our living room. Of course, the kids don't really set the rooms up like this on their own - you're more likely to find the toilet next to the kitchen table, and the couch on top of the bed! But the kids to recognize that the walls, rugs, furniture look like things in our home, and they love talking about it!

Customize an off-the-shelf wood dollhouse

The basement family room has a grey couch, orange pillows, white chair, grey number rug, and fireplace...

Dollhouse Family Room

The other end of our basement is the kids play area with a fun letter rug and a white play table with orange chairs.

Dollhouse playroom

On the other side of the dollhouse, the room with the teal wall doubles as our kitchen and our living room. Like our kitchen, the dollhouse has stainless appliances, black chairs, and an ombre rug in shades of teal and blue.

Dollhouse kitchen

As the living room, the the dollhouse has a teal rug, and black and white tweed couch, black chairs, and a silver table.

Dollhouse living room

Customize a wood dollhouse

Now let's head upstairs...

DIY wood dollhouse updates

DIY wood dollhouse updates

In addition to the ombre walls, Cooper's room has a crib, a zebra rug, a changing table, and a red rocking horse in place of a red elephant.

Dollhouse nursery

Beckett's room is easy to identify by the argyle wall, but I also gave it a simplified version of a houndstooth rug, a play table, a bookshelf, and I even painted a little lamp to look like his DIY chalkboard globe.

Dollhouse boys bedroom

On the third floor, the master bedroom has a black bed with a blue duvet, and a gray rug. It even has a big deck, just like our room, but the dollhouse deck comes with the added bonus that it can be moved to any room of the house.

Dollhouse bedroom

Finally, at the top of the house is the bathroom, complete with a toilet with a lid that lifts - one of the boys' very favorite parts!

Dollhouse bathroom

I had so much fun putting this dollhouse together for the boys, and I'm thrilled that a year later they are still enjoying it just as much as they did the very first day! Here are some photos I snapped of them playing with the house just last week! It was snowing out that day, so of course they flipped the roof around to the snowy side!

Boys playing with customized Hape All Seasons Dollhouse

Boys Playing with customized Hape All Seasons Dollhouse

Since not all of the furniture can fit in the house at one, I put all the extra pieces in a plastic lidded bin that we keep in the toy cabinet. The boys love having options and spend a lot of time sorting through the furniture to find just the right pieces.

Ok, if you are thinking that you might want to customize a dollhouse for your kids...let me sum this all up for you so it doesn't seem so overwhelming! I realize this post is long, but the process of converting this dollhouse was really quite easy. 

DIY updates to makeover an off-the-shelf dollhouse

I worked on it for three days during naps and after the boys went to bed, and none of it required any special skills...just a little patience. Here's the overview of what I did:
  • Stained dollhouse frame using left over stain
  • Painted the green side of the roof black using acrylic paint
  • Painted the windowed walls {interior and exterior} using paint left over from our walls
  • Painted the front door and deck
  • Sprayed a sealer over all the painted and stained areas to protect them
  • Printed "wallpaper" and stone onto printable adhesive vinyl
  • Cut the printed wallpaper and stone to fit the non-windowed walls and stuck them in place
  • Covered some of the floors in wood-grain contact paper
  • Assembled the dollhouse
  • Added house numbers and labeled the mail slot and milk box using adhesive vinyl
  • Painted and sealed select portions of the furniture to coordinate with furniture in our house
  • Recovered the cushions, pillows, and bedspread using fabric swatches and scraps
  • Created rugs using felt and Sharpie markers
Everyone loves a good before and after, right?! Here's one more look at the completed transformation!

Wood dollhouse makeover before and after

And don't forget to pin this post for any dollhouse renovations that might be in your future!

Customize a wood dollhouse

Have you created a dollhouse for your kids? Or do you a picture of the one you played with when you were little? Everyone can use more inspiration with the holidays upon us, so share your photos on Facebook or Instagram, and be sure to tag me!


  1. What a great idea! Much better than an anonymous house.

    1. Thanks Marty! It's definitely more of a dollHOME now!

  2. This is so fabulous! And is so clear you made it with love. Your boys will treasure it I'm sure! <3

    1. Thanks Kim! It was SUCH a fun project!!

    2. I"m back!! I wanted to let you know I chose your project to feature this week at You're Gonna Love it. :)

  3. Amazing!! Definitely something you need to save for the grandkids!! I am not surprised that they still love it - it allows them so much creativity and lets them use their imagination!!! On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 20!! All the details that really make it theirs are fantastic!!!

  4. Wow! I can't believe you completed all that in just a couple of weeks! It's amazing! The rooms look so much like your own house. I am in awe! I know your boys will play with this for a very long time. Have a wonderful holiday!

    1. Thanks so much, Pam! Each individual project for the house was pretty quick and easy, but all together they make a big impact. It was actually good I was on a tight timeline because I would have obsessed over more details if I'd had the time ;)

  5. absolutely gorgeous and so clever I would have loved a house like this when I was young.

    1. Thanks so much! I always love my dollhouses, so I was glad to have the opportunity to give the same gift to my boys!

  6. This look alike doll house is so fabulous, Angela! You really made it look like your home snd I am amazed by al the cute details you included.
    My grandsons enjoyed playing with a Plan doll house my daughter in law had in her pre-school, so I know boys like to role play and use their imaginations with a toy like this as much as girls do. I'd love to be able to make something like this for my grand daughters-you've given me so many ideas--thanks!

    1. Pat, Your granddaughters would love it! If you do make one, please share some photos! :)

  7. What a great house! I'm also thinking of customizing a dollhouse for my son - could you please post a link to the stacked stone image you used? I would love to duplicate that feature, as our house also has similar stone!

    1. Yvonne, I ended up piecing a couple of smaller stone images together to make it large enough to fill the spaces on our dollhouse. If you send me an email at blueistyleblog (at) gmail (dot) com, I'll email you the file.

  8. This made my day. I LOVE this for so many reasons. Fantastic. I also happen to love your design style throughout your home. I wish I had one and wasn't scared to take on home projects. :P

  9. Truly inspirational and instructive post for Doll house. I would like to praise your post.


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