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How to Turn a Box into a Dollhouse–Step by Step

A Quick Tutorial by Joanna Campbell Slan

Remember all those Christmases past when your kid had as much fun (or more) playing with the empty boxes after opening gifts? I felt like that this weekend.

My son and his wife sent me a lovely bouquet of flowers from a company called Farmgirl Flowers. Not only was the bouquet lovely, but it also included peonies, which are my favorite flowers ever. The stems were carefully packaged, wrapped in burlap, tied with a ribbon, and stuck inside a plastic baggie with a wet piece of foam. Around the whole gift was waxed paper with a pink cord. Inside was a cute tag with the logo “Coast to Coast” on it. Also, several cards with information about keeping the flowers fresh. Most intriguing for me was an invitation to re-use the burlap. Turns out, it’s biodegradable.


I could do better than that.


I decided the box was perfectly sized for a two-story dollhouse.


I began by measuring up 9″ from the bottom and making a second floor.

Using my gun glue, I added a piece of cardstock for stability. Then I cut a hole in a piece of foam core poster board, and dug out a channel with my craft knife.


I threaded a cheap set of LED coin-battery lights through a hole in the back wall. (You can buy these in packages from Amazon for less than a buck each.) I hot-glued the battery pack to the back of my box. From there I nestled the cord with the lights in the channel in the foam poster board and pulled them down and out through the hole. I just let them dangle, free. Then I hot-glued the poster board channel side up (toward the cardstock) to the cardstock that I’d glued 9” from the bottom floor. That way the string of lights was concealed, but they came out through the hole in the white “ceiling.”   I did the same at the top of the box. Now I had one LED light strand on the top floor (18” from the bottom) and another in the ceiling of the first floor (9” from the bottom).


Next I chose wallpaper and flooring. Scrapbook paper worked nicely. I mounted it on posterboard pieces and hot-glued those inside, againt the corrugated cardboard walls, because putting a thin paper straight on the corrugated cardboard would have made ridges in the walls. Then came flooring. The top floor was a piece of gray scrapbook paper marked in squares. The bottom floor was a color copy of a piece of white marble. As you can see, unfortunately, there’s a crease in the bottom floor, but I’ll work that out later.


I was ready to decorate! I’d already made a bed from a box. Yup. All furniture is essentially a box or one sort or another. You might have seen the bed before in another project. The headboard is that rounded tab that’s perforated in a box of tissues. (You remove it to get at the tissues.) I’d added trim (a piece of string) around the upper edge and painted the whole thing white. The rolled pillow is a tampon. (Unused, of course!) The pink chair was made with bits of wood and card.

The black vase of flowers at the far left started as a plastic cap. I added ribbon trim and fake plants. WALL ART/FIBRE ART

I tied strands of the pink cord and the burlap on a stick (grabbed from my yard) and wove it together before gluing on seashells.


The lampshade in the bedroom is a clear plastic cup covered with washi tape and trimmed in eyelet. First I cut a hole in the center bottom of the cup. Then I pulled those dangling LED lights through the hole. I wrapped the strand of lights into a bundle and glued them back into the cup with hot glue. That’s how I did the lights in the living room, too. That overhead light is another clear plastic cup. This one has more washi tape (A Dollar Store purchase) around it and added a ribbon trim. The see-through plastic cups make good fixtures when hot-glued to the ceilings.


The mirror is the plastic lid to a cup, a small round mirror, trimmed with plastic twine, and painted black. Then I added a flower punched from cardstock and painted pinks and white.


The first floor fireplace took the most time. I used a Dollar Store picture frame cut down and glued to a small piece of wood. I added a piece of wood to the top to make a mantel. I trimmed the mantel and the bottom of each side of the fireplace surround with plastic twine. Then I painted the whole thing with gesso. While it was drying, I cut pressed paper egg carton pieces into “bricks.” I glued these on a piece of matt board. I painted them brick-like colors.


When the fireplace was dry, I painted it a yellowish-brownish- gray. I used a Sharpie marker around the trim to give it a bit of black definition. I glued the back piece (with fake egg carton bricks) to the fireplace and added a small twig from another trip to my yard.


On top of the mantel is part of the Flowergirl packaging, cut from the tag. It says, “We deliver Coast to Coast.” I cut out the words, rounded the corners, and backed it with an old coaster (pressed paper) from a restaurant visit.


The sofa is made from a gray cotton napkin, one of a four-pack set I bought from Olde Time Pottery. Basically I wrapped and glued the fabric around two pieces of heavy cardstock topped with padding. A piece of cardstock shaped in an open box is the bottom piece around which gray material is glued for a “skirt.” The flat back side of the sofa is a piece of cereal box cut to size and covered. The padding on the cushions is the gray padding that kept the stems of my bouquet wet.


On the floor is a piece of burlap.


I’d still like to add more art and maybe a bookcase to the first floor, but for just working on this one weekend, I think it’s pretty cute. What do you think?

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