Monday, January 14, 2008

recycled cardboard dollhouse

cardboard dollhouse

inspired by elsie marley's blog entry on the topic (thanks for the great idea!), today eva and i made a dollhouse out of stuff from the recycling bin. it was a fun project, that can be as easy or as perfectionist-obsessed as you make it (guess where i tended?), and it costs nothing and takes up little space. hurray!

cardboard dollhouse: living room

basically, i cut three rectangles of cardboard from a big box slated for recycling. i cut slits on the top or bottom of each piece extending halfway down (or up). this allowed the pieces to interconnect -- if this is confusing, think of those cardboard divider things inside a box of wine or beer bottles. then, eva and i collected fun images from magazines and cut them out (in her case, she mostly cut them "up" more than "out", but she's two and that's to be expected). sadly, the recycling went out yesterday, so our selection was somewhat more limited than it might have been (and i didn't find that ikea catalog hiding in a stack on the coffee table until too late!).

cardboard dollhouse: bedroom

based on elsie marley's comments, i decorated each cardboard piece individually so that the house could fold flat. i also determined that if i wanted to easily cover the walls with magazine pages, i should cut the cardboard walls to that height (10.5"). i added doorways between the rooms by tracing a 3x5 card -- the exterior door was cut on two edges only so it can close. the other thing i did was to use an item not strictly from the recycling bin -- tape. after i completed decorating, i taped along the top and side edges so that little hands didn't inadvertently peel or rip off the paper.

i also made one other key structural modification: i added braces at the tops so the walls don't pivot (in a way toddlers apparently find incredibly frustrating). basically i cut cardboard strips (for strength, i glued two layers together), bent each strip in half, and cut notches at the bend and near each end. i cut matching notches on the tops of the walls, and these quick braces seem to help a lot. (see top photo for the best view of this.)

cardboard dollhouse: play room

in some places, i used whole pages from things like pottery barn; other places, i cut out individual items like furniture and lamps. since i couldn't find a good kitchen scene, i made my own i constructed perspective-challenged pantry shelves out of strips of black paper and filled the shelves with little individually-cut kitchen items like bowls and pots and spice bottles from the macy's and penzey's catalogs. add some curtains, artwork for the walls, a cute dog in a bed near the door and, say, a microwave on a table, and pottery barn has nothing on you! (if i had it to do over again, i might use fewer pre-made scenes and make more of my own -- the amount of detail in the magazine pages can get a bit overwhelming.)

alien abduction

eva also got a bit frustrated with the time it took (and the fact that i stopped her from cutting up or putting glue all over certain key pieces), but she seems to like it. time will tell, but even if she doesn't, it was free and can just be recycled when we're done, so it's no great loss.

i think it would be fun to use the same concept to make other scenes beyond doll houses -- a stage for shows with tiny puppets or dolls, an outdoor scene like a campsite by a lake, or more activity-themed rooms of a house, like an art studio or garage workshop or music room depending on your kid's interests. you could also cut strategically-sized cardboard pieces to slip into each room (or a larger cardboard "pad" that the room sat upon) so that you could add some floor decorations -- particularly for an outdoor scene. more of a three-dimensional feel could be achieved by using cardboard pieces to form, say, a murphy bed or fold-down table if you didn't have doll furniture handy to fill those roles. and so on...

if you're interested, click on a photo to head over to my flick page. you can mouse-over each photo to see tags highlighting some more details.


meg said...

fantastic! The braces are a great idea--I'm going to add some to mine.

Laura said...

Adorable! I love the magazine pages as wallpaper---I don't have kids, but could see myself making a house (or just a room) with all of the pages I cut of as inspiration for my decorating projects.

Kristy said...

ooh, that's a great idea! you could get a real feel for how different colors and styles look together -- and since they'd be glued down, you wouldn't lose track of all those little pieces like i always do (i think half of mine end up falling behind my sewing table, never to be seen again...)

Anonymous said...

Hi -- I know it's been a while since you posted this, but I thought you might like to see the castle I made for my son. Thanks for the inspiration!

Kristy said...

adriana -- i love your castle! i'm happy to see the idea used for a boy (they like imaginative play too, why should they be left out? :). i especially like the two-story aspect, and the towers at the top. i bet he had a great time. thanks for sharing.

Unknown said...

Thank you for this idea! I made one over the weekend. We added a roof to the center panel. It's a 1D roof and does really cover anything. Basically, the center panel is taller to allow the roof shape to be cut. We also included a chimney.

Another neat idea--scrapbooking paper made for some nice wallpaper. Wrapping paper could well for this, too. I was a bit short on magazine photos, so I filled it in with patterned paper and colored construction paper.

I like your rooms better. Ours are a bit cramped and yours are quite spacious. What I did to fix that was to make a secret garden in one of the center rooms to play on its size..

Linda said...

Hello, i included your creations on my blog. The you can see on
I hope you like it.
Hello, linda

Angie Martin Hall said...

This is incredible. I love it! I just love it!

Unknown said...

This dollhouse was featured on Furious Shirley! Love it!