Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Doll House Makeover ~ Part 1 (DIY)

Recently, I received an email from a girl named Sailor about making over an old dollhouse for her Calico Critters.  I've read dozens of wooden dollhouse makeover stories online, but not a single post about plastic homes.  Most modern toys are made of plastic and unfortunately, a layer of fresh paint and some wall paper scraps won't do the job.  For this project, I found a sweet plastic Fisher Price Little People house produced in 1996 to re-vamp. Because I have a lot of information and photos, I'm dividing the process into three different blog posts.   I hope this gives you a few ideas for your little house, Sailor!

Calico Critter houses have a very specific style.
They tend to come in shades of brown or cream with accents and roofs in light blue, forest green, or terracotta red.  The homes have a charming wood-sy feel with painted window frames and wood flooring. All four images are from calicocritters.com.

This is my house before the construction.  It stands about 13" tall and folds open.  It has five rooms and a little platform in front of the kitchen that works as a dining room area.  The bathroom furniture is attached along with a stairway and the bedroom has a cute little balcony.

The front door is missing, but the back doors are both here.

Most of the original stickers still attached, but they are faded and peeling.


The first step in the dollhouse flipping process is cleaning it!  If its possible, disassemble the entire house.  The pieces will be easier to clean and work with.  My house was screwed together with a snap on base that I was able to carefully remove. You will be surprised and horrified about the gross things that settled in between pieces.

Before you wash the parts, use Goo-Gone to remove any stickers or residue.  Coat the sticker with Goo-Gone, allow it to sit for a minute then gently rub the sticker away.  This may take several tries.

If your houses' stickers still look new - lucky you!  Skip the Goo-gone and use a damp cloth to wipe down your pieces. Do not put them in the tub: the stickers with peel and disintegrate.

To clean the house, I dropped all the pieces into my bathtub with a bit of dish soap.  Be sure to scrub away all the Goo-Gone and any other residues.  They will prevent paint and stickers from adhering to the plastic.


My house happens to be made of cream plastic with a blue roof, and I'm happy with that.  What I am not happy with is the hot pink doors and window frames or the green and purple floors, so I decided to paint them a warm chocolate brown.  

Painting plastic can be very tricky.  Updating the colors of a plastic dollhouse can be the most challenging part of the makeover.  Regular spray paints and acrylics will flake or peel over time.

I used a Rust-oleum spray paint that specifically says on the can 'Bonds to plastic.'  Look for a  heavy duty spray paint made to coat lawn furniture.  This can is from Joann's Fabric, but you can find it at hardware stores, too.

Before painting, I lightly sanded my house pieces to add texture and help the paint stick.

If you have areas on the piece that you don't want painted, cover them with tape.  The bathroom floor and stairs are made of one blue piece of plastic.  To keep the bathroom blue while painting the stairs brown I covered it in a plastic bag and taped it in place.  I did the same thing with the window frames and base pieces.
Find an open, well ventilated space and lay the pieces on newspaper.
Be prepared to spend several hours painting your parts.  The secret to a good paint job is several light layers rather than one thick, globby layer that drips.  Lightly spray the parts with a thin coat, then allow it to dry for about half an hour.  When the paint is dry and not tacky to the touch, add another light coat. Walk around and spray the coats from different angles. The larger pieces needed five coats and the doors needed eight (four on one side & four on the other).
Allow the paint to dry overnight before handling the parts or putting your house back together.
The bright original colors of the house looked a little cheap to me.  Brown floors give the house a cozy, warm feel and go well with the Calico Critter furniture.
Rugs and Carpeting

If the floors of your plastic house cannot be salvaged, you may want to hide them under carpeting.  Choose a thin fabric that won't fray, (I recommend felt) and attach with a plastic friendly glue, like E-6000 Glue.
My Fisher Price house has nice 'wooden' floors, but they have ugly blank spots where the rug stickers were.  I cut tiny rugs from felt and glued them over the spaces.  Not only will rugs and carpet hide ugly floors and spots, but they will also add texture and color to your tiny home.

Next week in Post #2: 
-adding painted details
-wall decor
-family photos 


  1. This is exactly the tutorial I've been looking for! I've wanted to flip my daughter's Little People house to better suit the Critters, but I wasn't sure where to start. Thank you SO much, Heather! I look forward to Post #2!

  2. Love it!!
    A project I will do with my daughter. Thank you so much!!