Doll House Restoration

I started working on this project last summer and I am happy to say I have finally completed it! This doll house has been in my family for 107 years and was built by my Great-Great Grandpa and has been played with by most of the girls in my family. When  I was moving all of the things out of my Dad’s house this was one item I was unsure what to do with. The paint was chipping off of it and it was not in the best shape and it is quite large. I decided to restore it and continue its legacy as a family heirloom with the hopes that future little girls can continue to grow up with this treasure. Be prepared for a lot of pictures in this post, it was the best way to explain my progress.

Here is the first before picture, outside and inside.

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The first thing I did was test it for lead paint as I suspected it had, which it did. If you are ever dealing with lead paint please consult a professional and make sure the paint is correctly disposed of. I did remove the paint myself since it was a small amount but I did a lot of research and made sure to work outside with my nose and mouth covered. I bought an at-home lead paint testing kit which is the red dot on the front (it turns red if it is lead paint).

I spent many weekends on my deck stripping the paint, priming and putting on the new paint. Here are some pictures of the progress along the way.

Ready to start this project!

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Once all the paint stripping was done

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The stripping of the paint and old wallpaper took me about 40+ hours. I could not sand anything because of the lead paint and had to use a wet removal technique which took a lot of time. Finally I was ready for the fun part of painting and bringing the house back to life!

I was very glad not to have to wear a mask and gloves anymore, especially since it was usually 80-ish degrees outside most of the weekends I worked on this.

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Yay! Everything was painted and back to its original colors.

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I was happy I could finally start working inside on this project! I am sure my neighbors had some weird thoughts about the girl who spends hours at a time scrapping and painting a doll house on her deck! Here it is all put back together and painted.

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I did add shutters to the house, I think it gave it a nice finished look.

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I then added the electric, somewhere along the way electric was added to the original house. I ripped out all of the wiring and added new.

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Here is the outside before and after

outside before and after

I took a break on this project at the end of last summer once I was done with the outside and then started working on the inside this summer. First I added hardwood floors which I ordered for a doll house website.

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Then I started on the wallpaper. The wallpaper took me quite sometime as each wall in the house is slightly different so the templates I made for each wall only got me so far. I looked at the wallpaper on several doll house websites but did not like any of it since it was all very Victorian or had fruit and roosters on it. Since the style of this house is more of a Colonial farmhouse I bought all of my paper from the Paper Source and selected paper with small patterns. Here is the inside complete and a few of the rooms.

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Here is the inside, before and after, quite the change!

before and after inside

What do you think? I think it turned out really well and was proud of the time and effort I put into this piece of family history. Lastly I decided to set up the house with the furniture I used to play with as a little girl.

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Well it’s a good thing my project list is still very long, otherwise I might have to find another hobby now that this is done! Any little girls in your lives are welcome to stop over and play with it!

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6 thoughts on “Doll House Restoration

  1. Wow, Karin, impressive. Your future little ones will be so happy you took the time to do this. And from an environmental engineer, good job testing for lead paint!

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  2. Karin, LOVE IT! What a labor of love. I just bought a similar doll house for my granddaughter, but will have to wait for renovation until she is older and finished playing with it. You have such a wealth of skills and talent. Not only will the future little ones enjoy this treasure, I also still have the origami fish mobile you made in your high school art class. I can pack it up and mail to you in the future. Love forever… Peggy Layman

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    1. Thanks Mrs. Layman! It was a fun project and I am proud that my family can continue to enjoy it! That is too funny you still have the mobile! Thomas told me it was still in your classroom when he was in school. Hope you are enjoying life up North!

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  3. I realize this is an old post, but I love your doll house. I have one of similar age and size that my mother and I both played with. It’s now in need of some wood repair and repainting. I’ve been on the fence about what to do with it (sell, have someone else fix it, DIY, etc) for a few years. I think I missed the window of my daughter wanting to play with it, but if it was nice and clean again, it might spark interest.

    And from the few pics of the furniture that you have, I can see that we have several pieces in common. :). You may have inspired me to clean it up as a summer project!

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  4. Karin, I am so happy to have found you and your doll house! I just recently purchased an antique, handmade doll house, close in age to yours. I am 52 and this is actually my very first “wooden” doll house. I had a cardboard one, when I was very young, and then a metal one, but alas, no wood. I am so excited about restoring this old one and yours is the first blog, I have found, that actually shows me details about the house, and not all about the blogger’s personal life, lol. My house is similar to yours and I am now, bound and determined to repaint it to it’s original glory and fill it with all kinds of wonderful antique treasures! Mine is a 1/2″ or 1:24 scale. What scale is yours? You have done an incredible restoration and have helped me immensely. Mine too had original wiring, which I chose not to plug in, ( I’m sure the firefighters in my town are all handsome, but I’d rather not meet them while my real house is burning to the ground!), so I will be re-wiring it. I was able to see how you wired your house, and now I have confidence that I can re-wire my house, safely, and light it up, without flames! I too have the ceiling lights in all of the rooms. Wow, I am so excited! I know that I’m a little late on seeing this, as it is from last year, but better late than never!! I find such charm and beauty, more in the handmade houses, than the branded ones, and yours is one of the loveliest I have seen. Your choice of colors and adding a small wall on the second floor, just add to it’s charm. Happy doll housing and I just know that 100 years from now, your name will be part of any conversation, surrounding this marvelous house!! Many thanks and best regards, Holly

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