Who lives in a house like this?

Well, here we are a year after starting this project and it’s finally completed – a Georgian dolls’ house for my granddaughter. She’s only three-years-old, going on four, and I’ve made this as an heirloom project rather than just a toy, which it’ll serve as for the time being.

I’ve really enjoyed making this as an aside to my usual furniture projects and although I’ve not worked on it full-time, it’s nevertheless been time-consuming and often as challenging as past builds I’ve completed. I’ll not go into lengthy construction details here, as the project is fairly simple, but rather give an overview of the whole process with some techniques I developed as I went along, so here goes.


1 The entire carcass is made from 9mm birch plywood…


2 … and, for stability, built upon a solid 18mm base


3 The roof is hinged at the apex so that the front can be opened as two doors

General construction
The dolls’ house was constructed in 1:12 scale, resulting in an overall length of 920mm and depth of 420mm, so the end result is quite large. The carcass is made entirely from 9mm birch plywood (photo 1) and, for stability, built upon a solid 18mm base (photo 2).

Sides and floors are all rebated into each other and held firmly together with glue and screws – so really nothing complicated. Windows are made using 3mm sections and glazed with 1.5mm acrylic, and internal doors made to open using mini hinges. The roof is hinged at the apex so that the front can be opened as two doors (photo 3), and when the roof is closed, it also traps the front shut, thus eliminating the need for any catches, etc.


4 4 The internal walls and ceiling are simply painted with emulsion

The internal walls and ceiling are simply painted with emulsion to avoid the use of wallpapers (photo 4), which would eventually peel and need replacing. These are then sealed using a water-based varnish; this gives a durable finish, which can easily be cleaned if necessary.


5 I developed my own technique for creating the roof’s tile effect

Roof tiles & flooring
The roof of a dolls’ house can be painted, wallpapered to resemble tiling, or even finished using mini wooden tiles. The latter, however, can be time-consuming and also difficult. I didn’t like any of these methods and therefore decided to develop my own technique (photo 5), which I first tested on scrap pieces of plywood. This comprises scribing a tile pattern onto the plywood using a blunt knife, then painting the roof with a grey undercoat.


6 A similar method is used to simulate wooden flooring

This is then lightly sanded to give a slightly roughened texture. White acrylic artist’s paint is then applied direct from the tube using a cloth. This is rubbed into the surface so that it fills the grooves scribed into the plywood, and also gives the roof a somewhat worn appearance.

This worked really well and resulted in a pleasing and realistic tile effect. I used a similar method to simulate wooden flooring (photo 6), again, using a blunt knife to scribe a floorboard pattern into the plywood. Polyurethane stain is then rubbed into the surface to reveal the floorboards.


7 I finished the exterior using ordinary masonry paint

Lighting kits can be purchased for dolls’ houses and these are often very elegant, although they mostly use a system of copper tape, which the lights are then attached to. This is stuck to the walls and covered with wallpaper.

Again, I decided against this method as the wallpaper can lift and the copper tape come unstuck. Instead I chose to use LED lights, wired in parallel, from the back of the dolls’ house to form a system of wall lights. The wires are attached to a simple battery pack and all hidden behind plywood cover strips, to keep little fingers at bay.



Exterior painting
The dolls’ house exterior is finished using ordinary masonry paint (photo 7). I found this adheres well to bare plywood and provides a very realistic finish – I hope you agree!