How to Build a DIY Dollhouse

If you follow us on IG (stories!) you may have already caught a sneak peek of our BIG holiday DIY of 2019. Last year, we made this play kitchen for Nova’s big gift and it’s honestly the only gift that has been played with EVERY DAY all year long. I also learned how meaningful it is (for me!) to spend months planning and working on a special project to give our children for Christmas.

This year, we’ve been on a bit of a Mary Poppins kick and Nova LOVES the scene in the movie where they are cleaning up with all the snaps. I asked her a month or so ago if she would like mommy to make her a dollhouse and she said, “Yes, but it needs to have doors.” Haha. I knew right away she was referencing the dollhouse in Mary Poppins and I knew we had to build one, inspired by it, just for her!

The first step was to design the basic build of the house. I spent a long time searching all the different kits you can buy online, but ultimately decided it would be the most fun to build it from scratch. With a little advice from my friend Mandi, we got started. I chose to do a simple, 4-foot tall house with two doors, six rooms inside and a bonus room hiding under the roof.

Here you can see the full inside.

The outside of the house has trimmed out windows with window boxes. The doors have windows that are basically just four holes.

Collin did an incredible job building this house based on a basic sketch I made. He added a lot of his own details as well, like the chimney (a Mary Poppins-inspired dollhouse OBVIOUSLY needs a chimney!). I’m turning it over to Collin now to walk you through the DIY steps of creating this house!

Supplies:
-six 1/2″ x 2′ x 4′ birch plywood
-fifteen 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ poplar boards
-six 1/4″ x 4″ x 2′ poplar boards
-one 3″ x 3″ x 3′ poplar board
-small door hinges
-two cabinet door catch
-wood glue
clear flex tape
-painters tape (optional)

Tools:
-circular saw
-miter saw
-jig saw
-pneumatic nail gun and finish nails
-tape measurer
12″ speed square (optional but very helpful)
-2 wood clamps
-400 grit sandpaper
-dust mask
-safety glasses

First, you’re going to want to cut all of pieces of plywood for the sides, back and bottom of the dollhouse. The overall dimensions are 30″ wide by 4′ tall x 12″ deep. The easiest way to cut your plywood is to lay them on a table or work bench with part of it hanging off while using wood clamps to keep it in place and make sure where the blade is going to be cutting the wood is also off the edge of the table so you don’t go sawing your table in half. To make sure you get perfectly straight cuts, hold a speed square in place to guide your circular saw (if you’re making cuts 12″ or shorter) or when making long rips in the plywood, clamp a scrap piece of wood on top of your board to guide your saw (as shown in picture above). This will make sure you get clean perfect cuts. Pro tip! Put a piece of painters tape on your plywood where you’re making your cuts to prevent unwanted splintering and shredding.

Cut the bottom piece of the dollhouse to cut to 29″ x 11″. The back two pieces at 40″ x 14.5″. The sides will be 4′ x 12″ with the top of each piece 45º angles as shown above.

Assemble all pieces together with wood glue and a nail gun with the side and back pieces attaching to the side edge of the bottom piece as shown above! I cut and added a scrap piece of wood to the top of the back pieces to hold them together, but it ended up not being entirely necessary (I found out later on), but you can add it if desired.

Next thing to do is to cut out the windows! I made a template out of foam board to speed things along in this process (cardboard would work too). You can make the windows any size you want but ours are 2.5″ x 2.5″ with 1/2′ in between each square. Trace out 6 sets of windows, 3 on each side of the dollhouse. It’s helpful to fill in the part of the window that is getting cut out with a pencil to make sure you don’t get your lines confused. Drill pilot holes in opposite corners of each window the same width as your jigsaw blade and cut out the windows.

Grab some scrap pieces of plywood that you probably have by now and cut some little 1″ strips for supports for the second and third “floors” and attach them to the walls with wood glue and a nail gun as shown above. Cut two more pieces 29″ x 11.5″ boards (same size as bottom piece) and place onto support boards and secure with wood glue and a nail gun.For the roof, cut two pieces of plywood to 32″ x 10″ with 45º angles so that when you put them together they meet in the middle like in the picture shown above. To make these long 45º cuts, just use the same method I explained earlier, but set your circular saw at a 45º angle when you cut.

Place the two roof pieces on top of your dollhouse and place a strip of clear flex tape along the top. You might be wondering why flex tape and not hinges. … Well, if I used hinges they would be very visible and stick out from the top of the roof and I really didn’t want that. I wanted it to appear as the roof didn’t open at all so it was an extra fun surprise when it does! So, I opted to use this stuff. Random, I know, but It is extremely strong and flexible so it can allow the top of the dollhouse to open and close really easily. Glue and nail gun the back roof piece to the dollhouse, leaving the front piece free to swing open and shut.

For the chimney base, take your 3″ x 3″ x 3′ board and cut a 5″ piece with a 45º angle on one side. Also cut one of your 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ boards into four 3″ pieces with 45º angles on each side as shown above for the chimney top.

Attach the little 3″ pieces to the top of the of your chimney base, then glue and nail gun the chimney anywhere you want to the back side of the dollhouse. Next for the roof (shingles), take your six 1/4″ x 4″ x 2′ boards and cut them to the length of the roof (32″) and attach them to the roof starting from the bottom up. On the back side, you’ll need to cut the pieces to fit around the chimney. To do this, hold up each piece of 1/4″ x 4″ x 2′ to the chimney and mark where you’ll need to cut. Use the same cutting method as I explained to cut out the windows, drill pilot holes in the corners and jigsaw out the pieces.

Take your 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ boards and with a miter saw cut a bunch of 6″ pieces with 45º angles on them to be the trim for your windows. Glue and attach all trim pieces to all 6 windows. Also cut some 10″ pieces with 45º cuts on one end for trim pieces for the roof as shown above. Pro tip! You can get some 400 grit sandpaper and stick it to a scrap piece of wood to sand the inside of the windows.

For the doors, cut two pieces of plywood to 40″ x 15″ and trace and cut out 6 windows same way as before and attach with hinges. You can add some trim to these windows as well, but we decided to leave them plain.

Cut 3 pieces of plywood at 12″x 13 1/4″ to be room dividers and glue and nail gun them in the middle of each floor to make 6 separate rooms. Also cut one more 29″ x 11.5″ floor piece, but this time with a 45º cut on one side to match the angle of the room for the top floor and “hidden room.”

Lastly, grab your 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ boards and cut a bunch of 2 1/4″ length pieces and 6 1/2″ length pieces to make little window boxes on each of the windows on the sides of the dollhouse. Glue and nail gun them together as shown above!

In our next post, I’ll share the process of painting, furnishing and well, renovating (lol) the rest of the house. I’ve bought some of the furnishings online, but the vast majority of them we plan to DIY.

I wanted to start posting this series as early as possible, so if you feel the pull to create your own dollhouse, you will still have plenty of time! It’s definitely a passion project and something that takes a solid month or more to create from start to finish (well, especially the next phase with filling up all the tiny rooms). I can’t wait to get into the next phase, and even more than that, I CANNOT wait for this to be sitting under the tree on Christmas morning!

How to Build a Dollhouse

Ingredients

Supplies

Tools

  • circular saw
  • miter saw
  • jig saw
  • pneumatic nail gun and finish nails
  • tape measurer
  • 12″ speed square  (optional but very helpful)
  • 2 wood clamps
  • 400 grit sandpaper
  • dust mask
  • safety glasses

Instructions

  1. First, you’re going to want to cut all of pieces of plywood for the sides, back and bottom of the dollhouse. The overall dimensions are 30″ wide by 4′ tall x 12″ deep. The easiest way to cut your plywood is to lay them on a table or work bench with part of it hanging off while using wood clamps to keep it in place and make sure where the blade is going to be cutting the wood is also off the edge of the table so you don’t go sawing your table in half. To make sure you get perfectly straight cuts, hold a speed square in place to guide your circular saw (if you’re making cuts 12″ or shorter) or when making long rips in the plywood, clamp a scrap piece of wood on top of your board to guide your saw (as shown in picture above). This will make sure you get clean perfect cuts. Pro tip! Put a piece of painters tape on your plywood where you’re making your cuts to prevent unwanted splintering and shredding.

  2. Cut the bottom piece of the dollhouse to cut to 29″ x 11″. The back two pieces at 40″ x 14.5″. The sides will be 4′ x 12″ with the top of each piece 45º angles as shown above.

  3. Assemble all pieces together with wood glue and a nail gun with the side and back pieces attaching to the side edge of the bottom piece as shown above! I cut and added a scrap piece of wood to the top of the back pieces to hold them together, but it ended up not being entirely necessary (I found out later on), but you can add it if desired.

  4. Next thing to do is to cut out the windows! I made a template out of foam board to speed things along in this process (cardboard would work too). You can make the windows any size you want but ours are 2.5″ x 2.5″ with 1/2′ in between each square. Trace out 6 sets of windows, 3 on each side of the dollhouse. It’s helpful to fill in the part of the window that is getting cut out with a pencil to make sure you don’t get your lines confused. Drill pilot holes in opposite corners of each window the same width as your jigsaw blade and cut out the windows.

  5. Grab some scrap pieces of plywood that you probably have by now and cut some little 1″ strips for supports for the second and third “floors” and attach them to the walls with wood glue and a nail gun as shown above. Cut two more pieces 29″ x 11.5″ boards (same size as bottom piece) and place onto support boards and secure with wood glue and a nail gun.

  6. For the roof, cut two pieces of plywood to 32″ x 10″ with 45º angles so that when you put them together they meet in the middle like in the picture shown above. To make these long 45º cuts, just use the same method I explained earlier, but set your circular saw at a 45º angle when you cut.

  7. lace the two roof pieces on top of your dollhouse and place a strip of clear flex tape along the top. You might be wondering why flex tape and not hinges. … Well, if I used hinges they would be very visible and stick out from the top of the roof and I really didn’t want that. I wanted it to appear as the roof didn’t open at all so it was an extra fun surprise when it does! So, I opted to use this stuff. Random, I know, but It is extremely strong and flexible so it can allow the top of the dollhouse to open and close really easily. Glue and nail gun the back roof piece to the dollhouse, leaving the front piece free to swing open and shut.

  8. For the chimney base, take your 3″ x 3″ x 3′ board and cut a 5″ piece with a 45º angle on one side. Also cut one of your 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ boards into four 3″ pieces with 45º angles on each side as shown above for the chimney top.

  9. Attach the little 3″ pieces to the top of the of your chimney base, then glue and nail gun the chimney anywhere you want to the back side of the dollhouse. Next for the roof (shingles), take your six 1/4″ x 4″ x 2′ boards and cut them to the length of the roof (32″) and attach them to the roof starting from the bottom up. On the back side, you’ll need to cut the pieces to fit around the chimney. To do this, hold up each piece of 1/4″ x 4″ x 2′ to the chimney and mark where you’ll need to cut. Use the same cutting method as I explained to cut out the windows, drill pilot holes in the corners and jigsaw out the pieces.

  10. Take your 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ boards and with a miter saw cut a bunch of 6″ pieces with 45º angles on them to be the trim for your windows. Glue and attach all trim pieces to all 6 windows. Also cut some 10″ pieces with 45º cuts on one end for trim pieces for the roof as shown above. Pro tip! You can get some 400 grit sandpaper and stick it to a scrap piece of wood to sand the inside of the windows.

  11. For the doors, cut two pieces of plywood to 40″ x 15″ and trace and cut out 6 windows same way as before and attach with hinges. You can add some trim to these windows as well, but we decided to leave them plain.

  12. Cut 3 pieces of plywood at 12″x 13 1/4″ to be room dividers and glue and nail gun them in the middle of each floor to make 6 separate rooms. Also cut one more 29″ x 11.5″ floor piece, but this time with a 45º cut on one side to match the angle of the room for the top floor and “hidden room.”

  13. Lastly, grab your 1/4″ x 2″ x 2′ boards and cut a bunch of 2 1/4″ length pieces and 6 1/2″ length pieces to make little window boxes on each of the windows on the sides of the dollhouse. Glue and nail gun them together as shown above!

Credits//Author: Elsie Larson and Collin DuPree. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
  • This is such a wonderful project! My best Christmas memories revolve around dreaming up and making presents. I had so much fun one year making small furniture and bedding for a beloved stuffed mouse. Another good one was my husband and I helping my newly divorced sister in law make a horse stable that her daughter had spied in a (too pricey for her that year) toy catalog, I think we got more pleasure making it than my niece had playing with it. Keep up the amazing work, Happy Thanksgiving!

  • ELSIE!! I have been patiently waiting on this doll house series. I am doing the same for my daughter and I need your guidance on the decor. I already have my house but I know your DIY stuff is gonna be epic. Are you following the 1/12 or 1/6 scale?

  • What a wonderful gift for your girls!! They are going to love it! Colin did an incredible job, and I am looking forward to seeing how you furnish it! So excited for this series!

  • I wish Elsie would post DIYs that she actually… I dont know… does herself? Not that Nova is even aware that her mom didn’t really make it, but still. I know wood working is hard, but at least Elsie can make an effort to appear like she’s learning something. Or participating in the construction process in some miniscule way. It’s disappointing to see another wood working DIY here and to immediately know it’s going to be just given to a man to do. It’s too stereotypical and gender-normed to come from a woman-owned blog/business.

    • Hi Michelle!
      I have responded on this before, but here I go again…
      I am proud and NOT ashamed to work with Collin. That’s why his name appears on every post he helps on. I am *personally* not interested in learning woodworking, but Collin is great at it- and we make a great team!

      As a business owner, one lesson I have embraced is the strength in collaborating with talented people and building a team. I am not trying to do all the tasks in our business alone and I am not trying to pretend like I do.

      Many women on our team do woodworking projects so your comment is inaccurate and insulting toward all the other women on our team who do those projects.

      I will not be shamed for not doing or “pretending” to do all the tasks on our blog. Thanks for listening!

  • How cute…. I hope you video her seeing it for the first time. 🙂

    Bad day Michelle? 😮

  • Here! Here! Excellent response to Michelle, Elsie.

    As a little girl, I dreamed of a wooden dollhouse to play with and decorate. I loved spending the night with a friend who had one. So now I’m grown with one teenage son – but man, I want to do this for myself for Christmas! And I’ll ask my neighbor – a man – to help because he’s good at woodworking, too.

  • I love this and can’t wait to see it come to life!

    I noticed the windows were cut after assembling the frame instead of before- is this because it’s easier to do with a sturdy frame supporting it? Super novice with a jigsaw here and I don’t want to mess up such an important feature, ha!

  • Super cool! Can’t wait to see all the dollhouse decor!
    Also- it is very clearly written in the post that while Colin built the dollhouse, Elsie designed it and there will be another post showing how she decorated it. I think it is great that Elsie gave credit to Colin.
    If for some reason you don’t like these type of posts, don’t read them!!! There is a whole internet out there!

  • I have two things to say one is Michelle was wrong to speak to you that way. Not every blogger does what they print. Some are guests. But this doll house is what I want for Christmas but I can not print the directions with out alot of gibberish one the pages.
    Is there a printable version of the plans or how can I get it to print right. Can’t wait to see rest of the plans.
    Ps by the way I am 63 and this is what I asked my husband for Christmas

  • This is so great! I can’t wait to see it finished.

    I “commissioned” my dad to make a dollhouse for me to gift my daughter this year for Christmas, and we plan to give it to her together. He will build it, I will paint/decorate it. Getting a dollhouse for Christmas is a long standing joke in my family, as my mom and dad bought a dollhouse kit for me when I was 5. It was our plan to build it together. Unfortunately, the kit itself wasn’t great (bad pop out pieces that splintered and broke), and I was a bit too energetic at that age to sit still and calm. It ended up never getting finished. I’m so happy that 30 years later my dad can finally give the gift he planned all those years ago.

    Also, isn’t it great how people with different talents can come together and build something great?!?. Great job standing up for yourself Elsie.

    p.s. Also loving the Podcast, I’ve been looking forward to my drive to work on the days I see a new one posted.

  • Hi l uses Popsicle Sticks and Cardboard boxes to make little houses with

  • I am wondering how a right triangle with sides of 8” and 6” has 45 degree angles. I have put the sides and back together already, so will be difficult to recut.

  • Hi! I am making this!! I did have a question about the windows that might be silly haha but how far apart are the windows from the sides and from each other? And the same question for the doors with windows!
    Also where should the pieces that hold up the floors be?

    Thank you so much! I’m excited to finish this with my daughter! 💕
    – Katie

    • I asked Collin and he said:

      Okay so the windows are just spaced evenly in the middle and about 6” – 8” apart from each other I think. For the floor supports, they need to be evenly spaced to make each level of the dollhouse the same size

  • This is awesome! Can you give me an idea of how much the supplies cost?

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