...because home doesn't happen overnight.

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My grandpa made a dollhouse for me when I was three or four years old. It wasn’t your typical dollhouse. It was constructed of leftover real house materials (think steel framing, indoor-outdoor carpeting, parquet floors, etc.) and it was HUGE. At the time, I would use the sloped roof as a slide and my baby brother would crawl through the house width-wise as if it were a tunnel. Imagine my frustration every time he came barreling through Barbie’s living room! I blame credit my grandpa and that amazing dollhouse for instilling in me early a love of all things home.

So, naturally, I wanted to brainwash Mabrey in the same way. However, I’m not quite as resourceful or energetic as my grandpa. (He’s 78 now and still has more energy than me.) And our space doesn’t really allow for a ginormous dollhouse. I opted for a modest, off-the-shelf dollhouse that I could put my stamp on instead.

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The original orange and blue color scheme wasn’t doing it for me so I grabbed leftover black and white paint from our garage and doctored the heck out of the dollhouse. You can read more about my tweaks here but basically I painted the roof, shutters and front door to achieve a neutral color scheme. The paint contained a built-in primer which negated extra steps. I even stained the floor boards for warmth and contrast because kids think about those things when they’re playing, you know. KIDDING. The materials for my tweaks were all leftover from real life renovations so they didn’t cost me a dime – just a little time and patience. I completed all the tweaks before assembling the house.

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I painted the bathroom white and spray painted the fixtures gold. Every dollhouse needs a gold toilet lid!

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I painted the kitchen doors and drawers black. It resembles our real kitchen which Layne and Everett immediately picked up on.

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Other family members pitched in and gifted Mabrey a dining set and nursery furniture. As soon as it’s spray painting season, I think the dining settee and chairs will get a glossy red makeover.

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The dolls were a gift from grandparents. They are handcrafted and super easy for Mabrey to manipulate. They are too cute and add fun splashes of color to the neutral house. Each doll has its name hand painted on the bottom which gives them fun little personalities.

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The best feature about the house is its versatility. The doors, windows, stairs, partitions and balcony can be easily moved around should boredom strike. Kids can experiment with different arrangements. I’ve found the bathtub in the kitchen and the toilet on the balcony (!) after Mabrey’s had her way with the house. But to me, that’s the lure of dollhouses – the freedom to incorporate totally outrageous and impractical ideas without consequence.

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It was important to me for the dollhouse to fit on the trunk in Mabrey’s room. Her room is small (just shy of 10’x10′) and space is tight. I didn’t want the house taking up precious floor space and I didn’t want a house that would require a larger horizontal surface to rest on. Taking measurements before ordering was essential.

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The height of the dollhouse on the trunk is perfect for Mabrey. She can stand to play and easily access the house and its contents. Because the house is lightweight and well made, I can move it out to the coffee table in the living room for extended playtime. But, most of the time, the dollhouse lives in the nursery.

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Mabrey isn’t the only one who enjoys the dollhouse. I’ve caught Layne and Everett playing with it, too. And I may or may not channel my inner four-year-old from time to time. I’m looking forward to adding more accessories over time and watching the dollhouse grow with our family.

images: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking



We have a big dollhouse, kept on firm instructions from the now-grown little girl who loved it dearly. Though we’d love to have it out of here (did I mention that it’s BIG????), the house and its contents are safer here than in a storage unit, so here they stay until the next generation claims them. Someday Grandma Dana can tell the next generation how she customized Mabrey’s stylish dollhouse. :D


This is SO adorable! We plan on making my daughter Stella a dollhouse for Christmas next year (and by “we”, I mean my husband and his dad…I will supervise, of course!).


Adorable! And where can I get a pair of those cupcake jammies for myself?


So adorable! I love that you put your own spin on it :)


I searched online forever for the perfect gender neutral little playhouse for my little guy who is about the same age as Mabrey. I’m not crazy about the super bright accent colours but at the time I was just happy that I could find something that wasn’t pink and purple. I ended up choosing this one, also from Amazon:


He loves it! Although some days it acts like more of a parking garage, lol!

I love that you went ahead and painted yours more neutral colours. It’s perfect. :)


I love it! Dollhouses have always been one of my favorite things to play with, even now as an adult. I grew up with a Little Tikes dollhouse (the one with the blue roof), and I was always “tweaking” it. My mom helped me make extra furniture from cardboard and fabric, I would repurpose household items as accessories, and when I was a little older I unscrewed some of the components so I could move them around. I think my parents have it saved in their house somewhere, so I’ll have to see if I can reacquire it. For my kid, of course. ;) I have to admit that I’m jealous of how classy Mabrey’s house is, though. The paint and stain really make it look fantastic!


This is too adorable! Love it!


I love the little figures! They’re so unique and adorable. What an awesome doll house…not too frou frou.


So cute! My dad made me a dollhouse when I was little. I had so much fun painting and decorating it! She’ll love it for years to come!


So cute! I love the larger plan toys dollhouse! Two years ago I found a plan toys My First dollhouse at goodwill for $7! So this year (my daughter is now 2) was gifted Hape Happy Family Furniture and a Plan Toys family. Both of my kiddos (boy 4/ girl 2) love to play with them!

How sweet! I love how modern it is and the dolls are the best part! How unique :)

OMG How adorable is this! I bet she’s in little girl heaven right now:)


I love the customization! I’m an architect, so I was lusting over one of the modern dollhouses, but decided to renovate the (also large) dollhouse my father/grandfather built for me. We were renovating our real old house at the time, so I modeled the renovations after it.

My DD loves it as much as I did (although she is officially banned from becoming an architect!).
Here’s my before and after: http://www.86nit.com/2012/03/dollhouse-reveal.html

Hope Mabrey Enjoys (and maybe a career in architecture for her?)

What a sweet doll house! I love the neutral design and those dolls are simply amazing!


Aww I love this!! I think my love of interior decorating came from the dollhouse my dad built me too… It was as tall as I was (at age 4) and I LOVED to decorate it! (Actually looking back on it, I spent more time staging the house than I did actually playing dolls….) As I got older my mom would take me to Sherwin Williams to pick out paint and wallpaper samples and to carpet stores to get samples/remnants we could use in the doll house, and we’d “remodel” it every so often. It was SO much fun <3 I know Mabrey will love it!


so cute! can you tell me the link to the new tan leather pouf you have in your living room? thanks!


Joss & Main!


I LOVE the Plan Toys and Hape dollhouse accessories! In my opinion, they are some of the best out there.


I don’t even know where Mabrey’s came from! They were a gift or hand-me-down…can’t remember. I always pretend I’m eating the cupcakes off her jammies when she wears ’em. She thinks it’s hilarious.


Carter’s! They change designs, though you might find this pattern through on of their outlet stores. They will ship!


This may be the BEST dollhouse I have ever seen! Great job on adding your sweet touches. And adore the little people.


Such a cute room. I love the curtains in here, the longer length is similar to a set I just bought.


[…] *https://www.housetweaking.com/2014/01/07/a-dollhouse-for-mabrey/ […]


Hello! Out of curiosity, what age was Mabrey when you gave her this dollhouse? I recently bought this exact dollhouse at a garage sale for $15!!! Don’t get too excited though as I then spent $$$ buying all the Hape furniture to accompany. I am trying to decide when I should give it to my girls.


Mabrey was just shy of two when I gave it to her. That was probably a smidge early. She didn’t destroy it or anything but didn’t really play with it much until closer to three years old and LOVES it now. She often asks me to carry it out to the living room coffee table to play. I don’t mind because it’s pretty cute and keeps her occupied.


Hi there!

This is a little off topic but.. would you be able to tell me what brand/where you got the wooden stroller? My son, Henry, is pretty crazy about taking care of his “babies” right now and I think that would be a great birthday present :)

Thank you so much!


Land of Nod! It was a gift.


LOVE the dolls. Where are they from? I checked Land of Nod but no joy. Do you know the brand?


Hi! I loved your blog for a while. Now that my daughter is old enough I’m considering a similar project. Just wondering how the paint stood up over time / with continual kid play?


The dollhouse still looks great. I think it helps that I used a primer + paint in one leftover from real house projects.