Dollhouse Cardboard Prototype Complete

A few weeks later and the majority of the structural design has been completed. I still need to get the roof right, but otherwise, the overall look and structural components are finished.  I knew it was going to be large, but I was still surprised at the size!  Today I've included some photos of my design progression and a size comparison of this house with my other two dollhouses.



For me, it was important to see the house in person to get an idea of the size and the right dimensions.  Designing with software on the computer just wasn't enough so I resorted to foam board and cardboard.  With these materials, it was really easy to add or take away to change the design.  You can see where I added more height to the front left gable for instance.
I used hot glue to keep things together.  It made it easy to pull apart and make changes too.
Below are some photos of the way the design progressed.
Struggles with the roof and that front gable, first I set it back:
Then pushed it out:

The roof was the trickiest design element for me.  I wanted the third floor to still have usable space and look proportionate to the rest of the structure.  And by usable space... I mean 10ft ceilings ;) My final design has a bit of a steeper incline at the front and the back is more minor.
I did several variations to figure it out:

The interior right now looks like this.  I still need to nail down my wall placement, but it's much easier to visualize the spaces.  And I will decide on the side window placement's once I know what room is what.
The only dilemma I have now is the size.  The dollhouse is currently 46W x 33H x 22D inches (and will have another 1.5 inches or so with the base).   I'm thinking I'm going to need to split it to make it manageable to move around.  Here it is in comparison to my Duracraft kit and the Belmont house.  The Duracraft farmhouse is 31inches high.


I'm hoping to go to Home Depot and look at materials and get started on building with either plywood, mdf, or gatorboard this week.  Better yet, I'm taking a trip to The Little Dollhouse Company when I visit my sister in another few weeks so that should help give me ideas and supplies too.

A quick question... does anyone have any thoughts on running electrical through foamboard vs plywood or MDF?  Foamboard would be much lighter obviously.  But I kind of like the permanency of wood.  Which do you prefer working with foamboard or wood?

Thanks again to everyone who left advice and suggestions on my last post.  Hope you are all having a great week.

28 comments

  1. Great idea, to make this mock-up first. The proportions look perfect. And - yes - it is BIG. Just make sure you can get it through the door opening of the room you are working in! I had this issue with the Provence House. You could make it in two pieces, as you said - but this makes it all even more complicated... or interesting ;-). How about using thick foamboard rather than wood? Because that house will be really heavy.

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    1. Yes seeing it like this has really helped! The depth is only 22 inches and I think most doorways are 24? So I'm good there. I made the house wide but not very deep. As long as it fits on that Ikea table I can get it most places. :)
      I agree that it could get really complicated with a split so I was thinking of doing something like the Belmont house roombox and applying the same principles here? We will see.

      Fran was great to suggest Gatorboard or Gator Foam on my last post. Have you heard of it? It's basically foamboard sandwiched between a wood/resin fibre veneer, you can get it with a natural wood finish or black or white. Really cool stuff. Waterproof and paintable. I'm hoping to check it out in person. It seems like signage or picture framing places sell it.

      To be honest though I'm weary of running electrical through foamboard. Obviously you've managed this.... I'm going to update the post to see what others have found. That and I like the idea of wood being more permanent. I used to make temporary roomboxes out of foamboard all the time and just remember liking MDF so much more. Maybe do a mix? Hmmmm. Hopefully I can check out materials at the shops this week.
      As always, thanks for your thoughts Marion! :)

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    2. Kristine, I missed Fran's comment and this Gatorboard sounds very exciting! Need to check this out immediately because a wood surface would be infinitely easier to paint and needs no veneering of the foamboard. You just made my day with this information :-)

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    3. I really do think it would be a great option for you Marion! She sent me an email suggesting it. If I find it in store I'll let you know. It seemed like it can be a bit expensive buying online because you need to buy in bulk. So we'll see.

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  2. Have you considered 1:24 scale?

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    1. LOLLL KELI. I might have spent Sunday second guessing this entire project because of it's size haha. But... I came to the conclusion it will mean atleast full year of mini making and blogging. And that's what I love to do. As to what I do with it after? I have no idea...

      That said, I did do a lot of research and there are bigger dollhouses out there! (Just to make me feel better!) If anyone is interested they can google the North Park Mansion or Queen Anne by RGT. :D

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  3. I love it. I think you'll find splitting it difficult but it might be worth it just for manageability.

    My biggest issue with foamcore board is that it has the tendency to curve when you glue things to it so if you can keep it plumb it's wonderful. Light and easy to cut.

    What about chipboard? Like what Jodi's used in some of her projects? Apparently its very easy to cut and not very heavy.

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    1. I really need to take a trip to Home Depot and actually look at materials. I am leaning towards a wood type base, just trying to plan out the best way to start approaching building the real thing now... It's overwhelming but I know once I get the shell built it's all fun from there. Thanks for the advice Shelia.

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  4. This looks amazing! And yes, large! But I love large! lol.. I think running round wire through foamcore would be alright as long as the actual light (heat source) is not coming into contact with it, so that could be a problem for pot lights but pendants/hanging lights should be fine. I mean household electrical runs through insulation which is foam so what is the difference. I like the idea of the gatorboard. Sounds like a cool product. So looking forward to watching this build. I hope you figure out your road blocks and proceed. :)

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    1. That was my thought too, I typically do a lot of pot lights. Well I'm going to go check out materials this week and see just how heavy things are. I love your "figure out roadblocks and proceed" comment!
      I mean isn't that the truth? How many times have I gotten stuck for weeks on something? haha ;)

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    2. I agree. I wouldn't try tape wire with foamcore but round wire should be fine. And cutting the channels should be easy!

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  5. la maqueta es perfecta,me encanta su estructura,se ve realmente magnífica!!
    Besos.

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  6. Oh that looks like fun. Even though it must have been hours of work (I just did a staircase mock-up and it took all weekend). Much of the pleasure of a dollhouse is imagining it though. It's going to be beautiful!

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    1. Thanks Megan :) I haven't even started on the staircases or interior! :o This took about a month. I know building the shell is going to take another month, at least. So I just have to keep telling myself it will all be worth it. Hopefully if I just keep putting in the time it will come together. It's super rewarding seeing the design up though!

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  7. Hey, I know it looks huge but how else can you get every design element you want into the structure AND still be able to see them all? I am happy you are going big, and you'll never regret it because of all of the experiences and possibilities you'll see fulfilled in doing it. It looks like the room you are working in is dedicated space, so it's not like you have to eat your meals around it! :o)
    I am in love with the facade, and feel so lucky that I get to experience this amazing project!

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    1. Thanks Jodi! I kept repeating what you said about not getting everything I want in this house ;) I also don't want to take on something I'll get bored with either. But unlike the Belmont house where I had to compromise to fit my style into the kit, this house is all from scratch. So hopefully I can do this project longterm. I hope ;)

      As for the work room. HAHHAHAH oh. See that's the thing. I'm currently at my parents house for the time being. I set it up to take photos in for a creatin contest feature and never took anything away. Nothing says heyyyy Kristine has taken over the house like a giant dollhouse beside the front door. As long as I keep it clean, I have their blessing to keep it there. That said my boyfriend looks at it and goes where/and what are we going to do with that once we move? What are we going to do with all these dollhouses? (He's been with me for the last decade doing minis and keenly noticing my collection grow). I keep telling him we could be like the Mulvany and Rogers couple, making minis. He looks at me in horror, moving from 1:1 homes to 1:12 houses is not a career change he's open to. I told him too late he's already been contracted to help me build this next house. ;)

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    2. Lol! My hubs would be SOOOOO good at minis, but also, in spite of my pleading and bribes, has little interest. Just remind him that someday he may need the same accommodation for his hobby as he has shown in yours. Life is long and you never know what passions you'll discover. Maybe he'll come around. I'm still holding out hope for my man! :o)

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  8. Hello Kristine
    I have to tell you that I L-O-V-E the facade of this house! It's a traditional style which looks timeless and will easily accommodate all the mod cons I'm sure you have in mind for it. Looks like something Sarah Richardson would design.
    I love the chimney at the front of your house, the gabled roofline, and the Amazing Windows which will allow in Scads of Light! ♥
    And regarding your concerns about becoming bored with your house; this can happen regardless the size of the property. Sometime, you'll feel like you've hit a wall so be patient with yourself when and IF this should happen.
    My friend Janine and her husband Bruce, worked off and on, on their French House for over 20 years. Janine said that she was in no hurry to finish it since it was to be her only house, although now that it is completed she and he are working on their Swedish House, which by the way, is much smaller. I mention this because not long ago, when I was visiting them, I suggested to them both that they could be the West Coast Mulvany and Rogers or Pat and Noel Thomas power couple. But unfortunately it was received with the same lack of enthusiasm as your boyfriend has expressed.
    But let this idea germinate for awhile with him Kristine, because you just never know...... ;D

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth, I agree I think the transitional style of the house will feel timeless but also stay warm and inviting. Plus I just find open modern dollhouse windows never give the same realism as having traditional mullions. The light and shadow plays much nicer in the space, something I missed in the Belmont house.

      I love seeing Janine's progress on her house! I did notice her husband helping too ;) My boyfriend actually does most of the big power tool stuff (he did all my flooring for the last house!! and most of the structure stuff) and proudly shows off the miniatures, but I have yet to get him to admit his involvement publicly. Maybe with this house? I'm going to put him to work again for sure ;)

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  9. Hi Kristine! I Love your design! It is Traditional with a Modern edge and I am sure you will fill it with gorgeous interiors! I know it seems big... my Lovely Old Dollhouse that my grandpa built for my sister and me is 42" x 15" x 30" tall.... and it is really very average in the size of the rooms when it comes to furniture placement. My Castle Dollhouse, which I am still building is 65" wide by 18" deep and 48" tall (it is a castle after all) and I wrestled with making it smaller, but knew I would never be satisfied with a smaller one! I am so glad I went with my desires! That is one of the things about so many kits... they look so appealing but their interiors are terribly cramped! I think if you are building your fantasy house... give yourself permission to have the "real estate" you want! LOL! As for materials, I am a confirmed wood user... and prefer plywood because mdf is so heavy... but you should make some "test" constructions to see what you prefer. I really have no experience with mdf. I would shy away from foamcore just because it is so "impermanent" feeling and the larger the structure the more you will need to engineer for sag and strength in the joints. (Screws and glue not nails!) I hope you have a Wonderful time at the Little Dollhouse Company.... and at the Home Depot checking out materials... I have found great mini useful wood trims there....! :)

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    1. Betsy!!! 65" wide?? What am I even worried about?! I think Giac's English Manor might take top prize for the biggest dollhouse I've ever seen but Betsy I think you might take 2nd. ;D I looked up the photos on your blog of the castle and love the way you've organized the rooms. I'm going to go through and see if I can find a few more photos.

      It's true though, dollhouse rooms in kits are really on the smaller side. You go to make a piece of furniture from scratch based on real world dimensions and you realize it would never fit in a tiny dollhouse room. I decided I would not skimp on the ceiling height if anything, so 10" it is.

      I'm really leaning towards MDF because I've used it over and over again but I'm going to check out plywood. I totally agree with the "impermanent" feeling of foamboard. Thanks for the tips about the screws and glue and not using nails!! :)

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  10. This mock up is so nice I would just keep that as my house! I love the size! Looking forward to watching your progress!

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    1. Thank you! I love the front facade too, it's inspired by some real life homes I would move into in a heart beat!

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  11. Looks fantastic! I'd love to follow your work on it.
    Hugs, Drora

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  12. I was also going to suggest Gatorboard. :D

    My Newport once finished was to measure 58" wide x 20" deep x 42" tall. The unattached plywood base for landscaping was 62" x 25". I left the garage removable for transport. I sold it before finishing it, but I also planned to leave the very top tower removable. The lantern room on my lighthouse is removable. So, I am all for planning to make it separate pieces. I think you'll be happier with the extra engineering in the long run.

    The Newport was also MDF and very heavy. That's the main drawback with MDF, the weight.

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  13. Wow, this is a huge project Kristine! But I know you can do it . Electrical wiring through foam board.... Well I guess you could hot your the wiree, but you might have issues getting electrical tape to stick to foam board. If the tape is too strong it might pull the foam board apart if you accidentally pull on the wires... In which case wood or plywood would be better . Maybe test it out first.

    I'm looking forward to seeing the updates! Best of luck on your newest adventure :)

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    1. *****hot glue the wire. Damn auto correct!

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