Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Lights Project - Dollhouse

Day#5  - and you are in for a treat today!

Today you get to meet Karin!. She blogs at madebyk and oh, the things she makes! 

She sews

and quilts

and bakes

and crochets

and builds

and cardboards

and sometimes we even get together and put aside our makingness and settle into regular-moms-and-friends mode. Between us, we have six girls and what fun we have when we are hanging out together! I have always been impressed by the detail in Karin's work - and the time she takes to develop an idea. The results are astounding, but I'll let you see for yourself. And when you've scooped your jaw off the floor, you can go visit her and tell her so. Here's, Karin!

Welcome to my daughters’ future house – they all want to live together when they’re older.

First, a quick tour before I talk about how you can make your own lighted dollhouse. There’s a cozy family room with a reading nook and crackling fireplace.

Above that are the bedrooms, one for each of the girls, decorated in her favorite color.

Also upstairs is the den with writing desk for my author daughter…

…and the craft room for my maker daughter(s).

Downstairs again is the dining area for the three sisters – where they’ll surely subsist on popcorn, ice cream and bread

…and the kitchen – which the sisters intend to renovate soon, replacing plastic with cardboard.

On to the “how to”…

…and I’m already stumped about how to continue because obviously you need to

start with a house
but the options for that are endless. If you’re not a cardboarder (yet), you could grab a ready-made cardboard house, like this Littlest Pet Shop one.

Or make a super-simple house that’s just one room, like this one my daughter made for her little felt mouse.

Or use the Little Pet Shop house as your inspiration for making your own similar house, which is what I did.

Quick note about the size: Your box size is really dependent on the string of lights being used and the dolls you’re building for. I had ten bulbs, with only 7” of wiring between each bulb. Since I wanted to light up multiple rooms, the rooms themselves would have to be quite small, which is fine for the little mini figures like Calico Critters, Polly Pockets, Littlest Pet Shop, clothes peg dolls, etc. If I’d been building something for a larger doll like a Barbie, I probably would have used a slightly larger box but only made maybe two rooms, with 4-6 light sources each.

Next, do the wiring.
Again, the options are endless. Perhaps you’ll run all the wires on the outside of the house, poking holes here and there and sticking the lights through to the inside. Perhaps you’ll run all the wires on the inside of the house and tape them down or cover them with another layer of cardboard. I did a bit of both.

Whatever you decide, I recommend holding the lights in place with masking tape until you get a configuration that fits the way you want. And THEN start poking holes for the lights to go through.
Taped Lights

I didn’t do that. And my house has a few extra holes. Oops. Happily, most are covered by wallpaper.

At least I was semi-intelligent when making the floor between the first and second storeys. Since I didn’t want the wires for any downstairs overhead lights to be visible, I took a large piece of cardboard, scored two lines down the center (about ½” apart), and then folded on the scored lines. Now I could hide the wires between the “ceiling” and “floor.” I glued the “ceiling” part in first, poked the lights into place (and threaded the rest of the string through the hole to the outside)…

…and then pushed the “floor” part down over the wires and glued that in place as well. (You can see the floor on the left hasn’t been glued down yet.)

And what about the battery pack? I hid that in the chimney.

Side note: Lucky me, I didn’t have to make that wide-tapering-to-narrow piece of cardboard to cover the back of the fireplace and act as a chimney; I found it amongst the cardboard placeholders when I unpacked a recent purchase. So, keep your eyes open for cool shapes to re-use!


In the chimney is a door with a little cutout so the light switch can be turned on and off...

and so the door can be pulled open when it’s time to change the batteries.

Finally, my favorite part:

dress the bulbs with some fixtures.
And the options are…? Yes, endless! Here are a few of the possibilities:

  • Use medicine cups as lamp shades.

For the bedrooms, I cut the rims off big NyQuil cups to make them a little shorter, poked a small hole in the bottom of the cup for an overhead light or in the side for a wall sconce, hot-glued ribbon around them, and then just pushed them onto each exposed bulb.

For the reading nook, I cut a section out of the side of the cup, also cut out the bottom completely, hot-glued layers of lace on, then hot-glued the cut sides of the cup right to the wall. To make this look like a floor lamp instead of a sconce, I plan to hot-glue a piece of chopstick to a button, spray-paint it silver, and set it underneath.

  • Use wire and beads to make chandeliers.

  • Use sticks and tissue paper to make a fire for the fireplace.

  • Use an empty tape roll.
I would’ve rather glued the rounded side onto the wall so it would look like a drum lampshade but that didn’t work in either of the spots I had left. So I just glued a piece of tulle onto the open end, and then glued it right onto the wall. Not my favorite lamp in the house, but the girls like it just fine.

  • Use a ping pong ball wrapped with dental floss to mimic a paper shade like this one at Ikea.

That’s what I wanted to do for the bulb that was tucked into a corner, but I didn’t have a ping pong ball so I grabbed another medicine cup, but this time I just used the bottom. Glued a piece of tulle on it, so it would match the other light in the room, then hot-glued the edges onto the wall.


  • Turn a water bottle top into a barn light…


  • Turn a used-up tea light holder into a modern overhead light…

…or poke holes into the sides for added design…


…or cut it in half to make a cool metal wall sconce.

  • Even some plain white printer paper could become something fantastic.

Hmm, I wonder if the girls want to update any of their fixtures yet…

Brava, Karin!
Oh, to wander around in your mind for a day! 

See you all back here tomorrow!


  1. LiEr, I am so, so thrilled with these posts! It's a genius move to do light stuff. I feel as though I'm getting my very own awesome online advent calendar. Thank you!!!

  2. Educational, fun, green, personal. What a great gift. I bet it is easier than putting together a really expensive one, too!

  3. Oh my Gosh, I have just caught up with the Lights Project. When I grow up I want to be just like you - your creations are always amazing!

  4. This is fantastic! The fireplace is my favorite!!!


  6. LiEr this is amazing! Totally impressive. Any kid would be in heaven.

  7. This is so darn cute! Thanks for the inspiration. My daughter is going to love doing this with me :)

  8. Just found your blog..... LOVE the ideas!! Will be incorporating some stuff into my kids homeschool crafts!

  9. Great ideas for little beautiful lamps! Never thought about it ;)

  10. Wow! I can't wait to try this with the dollhouse my daughter got for Christmas--cool!!!

  11. Awesome Job! That is the cutest doll house ideas I've ever seen. I love it! Especially the recycled items that are in our homes everyday. I am a mother of 3; 17yr old girl, 11yr old boy, and a 2yr. old boy. None of which would want to play with a doll house. I think I just might make one for myself...hehehe. Always the child within.
    Ilene from Fort Hood, Texas

  12. my God!! U R the BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. I have a doll house that I made a few years back...it is so in need of lighting! You have inspired me. Thank you! BTW, where is a good place to find the strands of lights?


    1. IKEA (but they're probably sold out since they were a Christmas thing), Target. Not sure whether you'd be able to get them now, since they were seasonal. I hope you find them somewhere!

  14. Oh wow this is by far the most detailed most neat DIY cardboard dollhouse I have seen on internet! You my goodness .. inspired me! Thank you.

  15. The card board house -
    Its a wonderful result and such fun process - i'm following you!

  16. So cute. Good job. Great tutorial!. Thanks so much for sharing

  17. This is wonderful!! Next project for me! xxx

  18. where did you buy the lights and are they LED's ?? TY!!

    1. See this post, Chris:


  19. These are great ideas! Do you think I could use this idea on a old hannah montanah house?

  20. Wow, so beautiful and so much creativity!! thank you

  21. Excellent fantastic BRAVO chapeau bas, hut ab, very very inspiring!!! oh lucky children and a great mum you are;-)
    you will love madebyjoel.com website if you do not know him already, a very crafty daddy this time

  22. I want to invite you to see the doll house I made! My page in youtube is called A Fábrica de brinquedos da vovó. There I post, at least once a week, a toy. But the doll house, as it is a little more permanent, I post more then one video. I think you will like to check it out since you are a fan of dollhouses like me! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ820DRZ_l4AWHcPPSex6Jw

  23. I want to say this is sooo wonderful! Could I ask you where you found you tiny lights?

    1. IKEA. They're called Strala lights (or they were when I bought them). They're available during the holiday season. Otherwise, Target has some mini-string lights in their holiday aisles during this time of the year, too. Or try craft stores like Michaels (assuming you live in the US).


Thank you for talking to me! If you have a question, I might reply to it here in the comments or in an email.