how to build a dollhouse

PSSST : To see the entire house decorated – check it out here!

Hey guys, Jamin here again with another tutorial from the redo in Emerson’s room. Today we are going to be focusing on the dollhouse.


Building the dollhouse really is a breeze, but it will take some time and patience. Don’t get discouraged, and be willing to walk away if you get tired… this is a time intensive project. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves around here that Rome wasn’t built in a day… and neither is any project worth tackling. ;}


The supply list

• (7) 2 x 4 sheets 1/4 MDF • (1) 4 x 8 sheet 1/8 backing • (26) 1 x 2 x 6 • (15) 1 x 2 x 8

• 2 inch finishing nails (large box) • 1 1/4 inch finishing nails (large box)

• 3/4 inch finishing nails (small box) • (6) 3 hole 2 inch hinges • (2) bundles of shims

• wood glue & gun • hot glue • sand paper


• a saw (10 compound miter saw) • A finish nailer (airstrike nail gun) • Belt sander

Jig Saw • Circular saw

Cut list

• cut your 1 x 2 x 6 down to (98) 16 1/2  inches pieces

• cut 3 of your 2 1 x 2 x8 down to (36) 7 ¼ pieces

• cut 6 of your 1 x 2 x 8 down to a (1) 49 3/4 inch piece and (6) 7.25 pieces

• cut  3 of your 1 x 2 x 8 down to (8) 31 inch  pieces

• cut  2 of your 1 x 2 x 6 down to (4) 28 1/2  pieces

• cut 2 of your 1 x 2 x 8 down to (4) 15 inch pieces and (1) 25 inch piece

• cut 1 of your 1 x 2 x 8 down to (3) 25 inch pieces

• cut 1 of your 1 x 2 x 6 down to (1) 25 inch pieces and (1) 33 inch piece

• cut 2 of your sheets of  your 1/4 MDF down to 49 x 16 1/2 inches

• cut 1 sheet of ¼ MDF down to 25 x 17 1/2  and 24 3/4  x 17 1/2 .

• cut (4) sheets of ¼ MDF down to 31 ½ x 16 1/2.

• cut your backing down to 49 x 33

• cut your shims down to random lengths, around 2 inches.

Building the frame

Like any good building project, you have to start with the frame. You will need 4 of your 1 x 2’s cut down to 49 3/4 inches and all (8) of your 1 x 2’s cut to 15 inches and 31 inches.

On all 4 of your 49 3/4 inch pieces, measure up and mark 16 inches and 33 1/2inches.

Next, nail your 15 inch pieces into the 49 3/4 inch piece (use a 2 inch finishing nail). Start at the very bottom, then nail at your 16 and 33 1/2 inch marks, and nail the last one at the very tops. (When nailing on the lines, the wood should meet the top of the marks you have made. ) It should be nailed together in such a way that your total depth becomes 16 1/2 inches, see the below picture.


Next, begin nailing in your 31 inch pieces to your 15 inch piece and your up right frame, in such a way that your over all width becomes 33 inches, see the above picture (use a 1 & 1/4 inch finishing nail). (The top of the piece of wood should align with the mark when using your marks.)

Finally, on the front part nail the 28 1/4 inch piece over the 31 inch piece (use a 1 & 1/4 inch finish nail.)

how_to_build_a_dollhouse_inside dollhouse_how_to




Take the (4) 31 1/2 x 16 1/2, using a jig saw notch out each corner so that they will slide snuggly around the inside frame. Nail it to the frame using the 3/4 inch finish nail.


The siding


Take four pieces of  16 ½ inch 1 x 2’s and nail them to one side of your frame, with the 1 1/2 side facing out. (Use 1 1/4  inch finishing nails) Make sure that your front edge is flush and straight. Do not worry about the back edge. We will sand it down later.

Take one of the 7 1/4  inch pieces, and on the 3/4  inch side spread a little wood glue. Place the piece flush to the outside front edge and nail down through it with a 2 inch finish nail. Repeat this process on the opposite side. You should now have the base of the window formed. Repeat this process 2 more times. Next glue and nail a 16 1/2 inch piece.


Continue up the frame, nailing 3 more 16 1/2 inch pieces to the frame to complete the first layer. (make sure to switch back to 1 1/4 nails when nailing to the frame.)

Repeat the above process, until you reach the top of the frame.

Once both sides are nailed use the belt sander to sand down the edges so that they are flush and even.


The Doors

The doors are pretty similar to the siding with the exception of using 1/4 inch MDF to support them. You will be using both pieces of MDF that are cut down to 49 x 16 1/2. This time, instead of nailing the pieces to the frame, you will simply use a combination of wood glue and hot glue to secure them to the MDF.  I suggest laying the dollhouse on it’s back, placing the MDF on the front and lining up the 1 x 2’s where they will go.


You will start at the bottom and work your way up, just as you did with the siding. Simply spread some wood glue on the MDF where you will be placing the 1 x 2’s, then add a couple of drops of hot glue to the back side of the 1 x 2 and place on the MDF. Work your way up the MDF, making sure to form your windows. Once you finish, allow the 1 x 2’s to dry on the MDF according to the instructions on the wood glue.

Once it is dry, go back and use a drill to bore a hole where the window will be and use a jigsaw to cut it out. (see the above pictures)

Again, use the belt sander to sand down the edges so that they are flush and even.

Now simply attach the doors using 3 hole 2 inch hinges to the siding.

Helpful hint: we used magnets on the top parts of the doors to help hold them closed. Simply attach regular cabinet door magnets with the screws that come with them. We chose to mount them on the underneath side of one level.

FInally, nail a 49 3/4 inch piece of 1 x 2 to the edge of each door helping cover the edges by the hinge.


To build the frame of the roof visit our detailed post about roofing here and scale it to size. We used a 25 inch piece as a rafter and a 15 inch piece as our ridge.


Once the rafters and the ridge are nailed into place simply attach your 25 x 17 1/2 and 24 3/4  x 17 1/2  pieces of MDF to the rafters and ridge with 3/4 inch finish nails.

We choose to build a front facing for what we call ‘the attic’. In reality, it’s perfect for all those dolls and storage. Simply cut (2) 25 inch pieces of 1 x 2 in the same way you cut your rafters and use the 33 inch piece as the cross piece. Glue them to a piece of MDF cut to shape and cut the hole or square where you desire (Basically in the same way we did the rectangle windows, above).

Helpful hint: We had to sand ours (attic face) down a bit on the edges once we were finished, and the entire dollhouse was standing up, painted. Painting can subtly change the way things fit. But the top part just pops in. Feel free to use magnets here as well, and watch your children to make sure they’re careful with the top part when they open the dollhouse.


For the top part of the roof: simply glue the shims you have cut down onto the MDF to give a shingle effect. To do this, we started on one edge, and simply layered as we went. They ended up in a random pattern, like an old beach cottage.


Paint and trim – {Back to Ashley}


For the finish on the dollhouse, we tried a spray primer first, outside and it got us nowhere but a cloud of awkward dust in our eyes and a gross finish. (Sometimes, spray paint makes me really mad.)

So we brought it in, and painted it with a high-gloss version of Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace. Inside, and out. If you’ve ever painted a shelf before, you know this was a bit of a feat, so be prepared to spend a bit of time on it… this is the fun part! ;} The edging: Painted in Chantilly Lace with light aqua stripes (Benjamin Moore’s At Sea). I used tape for the stripes. When it was dry, we lightly stained it with Minwax’s Early American and our tea stain technique.


We then glued on small pieces of craft wood for the shutters {after we stained them}. Side note: For the roof, you may notice that we chose to leave those shims a natural finish. This would be after staining them on my first initial pass, and then tearing them all off in a sheer panic attack that I’d ruined the entire thing. It was too heavy, and I loved the light, cottage-y feel the wood brought to the space. Thank goodness for hot glue. ;}


For the “window panes” this consisted of more small pieces of craft wood painted to a nice white, and glued from the inside. It gave the perfect look for the windows!


Stay tuned guys… now that the dollhouse is done… we {Ashley + Emmy} fully intend to decorate the inside together. We have grandiose plans!

This is one of those projects that took a while, but it’s also a timeless piece. One she can look back on fondly and say, “My parents made this for me.” And hand it down to her daughter… and her daughter hand it down to her daughter… and so on. At least that’s what I see in my dreamworldfantasyunicornmnind. Maybe one day she’ll be all, “My parents never purchased anything for me! They always had to make stuff! Gross!” ;}

Thanks guys! Let us know if you have any questions here + of course, if you decide to make one! We’d love to see!

Updated: To see the room reveal + the entire series of tutorials behind it, be sure to click here and check them out!

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Responses to how to build a dollhouse

  1. Bravo! You did a wonderful job! Please stop by my blog today as my post covers Queen Mary’s elaborate dollhouse interiors. :)

  2. Anna says:

    Ahhhh! You posted it! So excited!

  3. Jenna says:

    I can not wait to make this. Perfection!

  4. Jenny says:

    Love this!! Just curious, about how much did it cost to make this? Trying to figure out a budget for it.

    • Hey! We never really do the final cost on our projects because we always buy a little more while we’re trying to figure it out ourselves, and prices can vary based on where you live. But we created this dollhouse {which is more like a detailed bookshelf} for about 285. I hope that helps!

  5. Brandi says:

    This is absolutely gorgeous, and you’ve shared it just in time for my daughter’s 7th birthday – can’t wait to make it for her!! Thank you so much! Do you happen to have any additional tips on the tea stain technique for this particular project? After painting should I sand the ‘siding’ by hand so that I can get the stain in between them for that gorgeous effect, or is using a mouse sander ok? What grit do you like to use? I’ve never tried putting stain over paint before, so I’m a little nervous about messing it up :)

    • Hey Brandi! Did you check out our tea stains link from the post? When we were talking about using a sander, we were talking about edging off the uneven planks on the back, once they’re lined up on the front. And this is before painting, and really only on that back edge as shown in the photo. Not on top of the planks. We do recommend a belt sander for faster sanding time and an even edge. I’m sure a mouse sander will work, it’s just more work. ;} The sanding and tea staining are two separate things. For tea staining, give it that coat of paint, and then go back with a rag and some stain, just like it’s outlined in our tea staining post. You can even use a little brush for those in between places on the planks, and wipe away the excess gently with a rag. I hope that helps! ;}

      • Brandi says:

        Thank you, that makes more sense to me now! I wouldn’t have thought about using a little brush between the planks – that was just the tip I needed 😀

  6. Lala says:

    Absolutely love this! Didn’t realize how big it was until the last picture. Sweet.

  7. I don’t understand the dimensions. You have a 1x2x6 board, which means 1in. by 2in. by 6ft. then you say cut it down to 98. How do I do that when the six foot length is only 72 inches?

    • jamin says:


      I think you are be misreading the instructions, that would be 98 pieces @ 16 1/2 inches, not a 98 inch piece. Hope that helps!

  8. Kay says:

    My grandfather was a carpener and built a dollhouse for me about 50 years ago. He also built the furniture – beds, kitchen chairs, table, etc. It was a 2 story house with 4 rooms. there were 2 huge double doors in the front but when you closed them you saw windows, shutters, etc. It was a real work of art. He used leftover wallpaper from our house for the walls.

    I stil have the house in my mom’s attic and have been wanting to get it out and see how it has survived. When I retrieve it I will send you a picture.

    I love your article. It’s so nice to see that children can be amused by homemade toys rather than “having to have” what they see on TV.

    Take care, and I look forward to more crativity (writing and woodwork) from you!

  9. Misty says:

    Love this! My husband is in the process of building this right now fo little girl, Sadie. It will be a present for her 3rd birthday. Can’t wait to see her face when she sees it! Thank you for sharing your detailed plans!

  10. Alana says:

    I really want to do that! I have been bugging one of my family members to make a dollhouse with me for quite some time! (I want to make the dollhouse for Monster High dolls because I’m getting one soon and have no dollhouse)

    ~ Alana
    P.S. You gave some awesome ideas, thxs

  11. This is possibly the cutest dollhouse EVER!! Great instructions. I might put this on the to-do for Christmas!