Rehab a Doll House

The latest project that falls within the purview of down-sizing is finding new life for my daughters’ Fisher Price Play Family House. When we dug it out of the toy box, it was clear it had seen better days. On the other hand, it was also clear that it had been well loved.

After a discussion with my daughter who was looking into doll house options for her 3 year old, we decided that the play family house was a good choice. However, it was in need of a serious rehab effort. If you are not familiar with this doll house, the body of the house is yellow plastic with masonite floors. The siding and interior walls are papered with homey scenes. Most of these houses have lost a good deal of the wallpaper as was the case with ours. So new ‘siding’ was in order. I decided to recover the exterior and add detail with stickers:

1. I went on a search to find Contact paper to cover the exterior. I was concerned that it would be hard to find since it had been years since I last bought some. I started at our local home builder stores without success. Then on a whim, I went to Target where I happily located a display with several designs. There I located a pattern that looked like granite which would be a good background for decorating.
2. Next I had to go sticker shopping. This is not as easy as it used to be. 15 or 20 years ago it was all the rage to collect any number of stickers and put them in albums. I know because my youngest daughter did just that. I haven’t seen the same kind of mania recently but kids are frequently incorporating stickers into their art designs. Fortunately I found some cute stickers that would add some pizzazz: ivy groupings to add landscaping, sparkly flowers to nestle in the ivy, and iridescent butterflies to fly around the flowers.
3. The next step was the hardest, getting off the partially torn wallpaper. I tried olive oil (apply and let sit over night), goop off, sand paper, and scraping. None were really fantastic, but olive oil was one of the best especially a week later after it had sat a while (so be patient). My biggest recommendation is to iteratively use olive oil, then scrape, then repeat. Then move to sand paper and back to olive oil and scraping. Finish with Dawn or other good grease fighting soap and scrape off the last bit of goo. Although wallpaper remover might do the trick, I do not recommend it unless you plan to remove all the wallpaper otherwise you could loose more coverings that you want.
4. After the house was completely dry, I glued down all loose wallpaper that was still in good condition.
5. Then working with a matt knife or small box cutter and a wide ruler (such as those used in quilting so you can be sure you’re cutting perpendicular edges), starting from the bottom or ground and working up, I measured and cut out the exterior sides. Contact paper is great for this because there’s a grid on the reverse side making easy work of measuring and straight cutting. Then holding the paper up to the house, I used my fingers to crease the paper under the eaves at each end. Using this crease-line as a guide made cutting around the roof line easy work. Next I measured and marked the dormers and used the same crease technique for the eaves. Finally, I temporarily taped the Contact paper to the sides then turned the play house over and traced the outline of windows and doorways. I cut the windows a little wider than the template so they wouldn’t get rubbed on the edges. Finally, I pulled the backing away from the bottom 2 inches, placed them on the house, and worked my way up to the roof.
6. Decorating was the next step, I added ivy stickers to the bottom corners and a longer ivy sticker to the middle under the roof. I decided to let my granddaughter, Eleanor, have fun with the butterfly and flower stickers and put them where she wanted.

All in all, this project was a phenomenal success. Lessons Learned: it would look better with all exterior walls the same, but time was essential so it would be ready by Christmas.
I do have to report, that she loved it! The first thing she did was to add some butterflies, then arrange the furniture and people. Now all we have to do is set up rules for who gets to play with it (she or her brother) when and how.

4 thoughts on “Rehab a Doll House”

  1. She does love it! More than I expected. The only problems we’ve had is when her brother messes up her carefully executed interior design.

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