Lockdown Life: Dolls House Renovation – Part 1

Well, I didn’t see that coming. We’re now in week 6 of lockdown here in California and the girls have adjusted to our new normal fairly well considering the parks and beaches here are closed and they are now confined to the house and back garden. During the first two weeks I felt this strange sense of optimism and enthusiasm for our new life at home and threw myself into homeschooling and planning all the craft projects I would now (surely?) get around to. I kind of knew at the back of my mind though that this was maybe a coping mechanism and perhaps not sustainable for the long term and sure enough, fast-forward to today and those positive vibes have evaporated, I suspect never to return. I don’t know about you but Im having to work a little bit harder just to do the basics. It’s the same feeling I used to get pre-children if I read too many gossip magazines in one sitting or stayed in my pyjamas until 3pm. There is an undercurrent of heaviness which runs through the days – and especially the evenings – at the moment.

During the early days of the lockdown I began a project which I had wanted to tackle for a long time but kind of accepted I would never get around to. This dolls house belonged to my younger sisters and I was beyond thrilled when they passed it on to my girls a few years ago. It is handmade and definitely not something you would find in a toy shop, with the odd jagged edge and surprise nail protruding. There are pencil marks and wobbly windows and it is just so imperfect and handmade, I absolutely love it. It looked as though it had undergone a restoration at some point prior to coming to us – as well as the original victorian style dollhouse-scale wallpaper there were a some 1990’s paint effects which had to go. Overall the dollshouse had been well loved and looked ready for a fresh start.

I have always been something of a hoarder when it comes to craft materials so in my previous life working for an Interior Design company in London I used to quite often save discontinued fabric and wallpaper sample books from the wheelie bin. Although I whittled down my collection quite a lot in preparation for our move to the US, I did bring some wallpapers by Harlequin and GP&J Baker along for inspiration. Although I’m not an Interior Designer myself, I am in my element surrounded by wallpaper and fabric and I really enjoyed the process of choosing which wallpapers to use, then choosing which sections to use for which walls and sometimes having to carefully cut and paste motifs to trick the eye into thinking that the larger prints run seamlessly from one wall to the other. Progress was fairly slow as each wall had a slightly different shape so I had to make a paper template first to check for fit before cutting the actual wallpaper.

I began with the bedrooms, choosing fairly conservative polka dot prints (lockdown living must surely have had a subconscious hand in my choice of a restful, neutral taupe for the master bedroom!). As I moved downstairs though I realised that, rather than choosing the small-scale prints most suitable for a dolls house, I could make good use of some of the larger scale prints that I truly loved, giving a more modern feel – like a giant wall mural!

Nursery…
Master Bedroom
Living Room
Kitchen

The dolls house sits on top of a mid-century coffee table in the playroom and is visible from most angles of our main living space. Seeing these papered rooms makes me smile and I like to think of what future generations will make of my design choices. My next task is to repair the front of the dollshouse which broke off during our move and I’m planning one or two updates to the exterior – inspired partly by the painted surfaces in Charleston Farmhouse and partly by the Dorset farmhouses I was familiar with as a child. The dollhouse looks quite devoid of life when it’s not occupied by my old Sylvanian Families so I would like to add one or two hand-painted touches – a cat skulking along the side wall perhaps or a bird perched on top of the chimney.

I highly recommend dolls house tinkering as a quarentine activity (kids or no kids) – if you dont have one you could try Ebay or check out pinterest for cardboard dolls house ideas. However you spend these weeks I hope you stay safe and well.