Make a DIY Collapsible Room for an 18″ Doll

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This Christmas, we’re really trying to go easy on the gift front. For example, instead of a whole bunch of new toys, which my daughter absolutely, positively does not need, we are giving her accessories to go with with 18″ doll she got for Christmas last year. The obvious option is a couple of doll outfits, but I wanted to do something a bit special. I ran across a company called American Doll Room while browsing online a few weeks ago.

Photo courtesy of American Doll Room

Photo courtesy of American Doll Room

As the name implies, they make individual rooms for 18″ dolls. As soon as I saw them, and looked at the price, I knew it was something I wanted to try making myself. The originals are beautiful and well made, but I know I could do it for less money. So when Walmart challenged me to do a craft for Christmas, I immediately knew I wanted to try making one as a gift for my daughter. Here’s what I did:

DIY Doll Room Tutorial

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You’ll Need:

This room is designed for an 18″ doll, so it makes sense that the finished size needs to be larger than she is. The finished size will be 24″ wide x 24″ tall x 24″ deep. You’re going to start with an Elmer’s tri-fold display board that is a total of 48″ x 36. The middle of the board is 24″ wide โ€” just the size we need. And each of the flaps is 12″ wide.

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Start by placing the board right side up and measuring 24″ from the bottom of the board. I measured in a couple of places: Along the two edges, and right along the two folds in the board. You’re going to be cutting off the top 12 inches all the way across the board. You’ll need some kind of straight edge to use as a guide, because cutting a straight line through cardboard can be a challenge.

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I used my cutting board. Line up your straight edge with the four marks all the way across the display board. Use your box cutter to cut a straight line all the way across the project board. Be sure to do this on a solid surface, because you’ll need to use strong pressure in order to cut all the way through the cardboard. I used my self-healing cutting board underneath.

You should wind up with two pieces, like so:

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For now, put the larger piece aside. Take the smaller piece, and cut off both 12″ wide flaps. This cutting should be a lot easier, since you’re cutting right along the folds that are built into the project board.

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Flip these pieces to the back side. You should have 3 pieces: one 12″ x 24″ piece, and two 12″ x 12″ pieces. You need to put these together so that you wind up with one 24″ x 24″ square, like this:

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Duck tape the pieces together along the seams. You want to make sure the straight edges are on the inside so that the places where they come together are seamless. Flip it over and tape it along the seams in the front as well.

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I know this isn’t pretty at the moment, but bear with me. This panel will become the floor, and when we’re done, it will be covered with “carpet”, so the tape won’t be visible. At least not from the front ๐Ÿ™‚

Now put all this aside and turn your attention back to the larger piece of display board. Instead of three flaps, the one in the center larger than the others, you want to have two of equal size. Right now, if you put the room together, it would look like this:

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Cut off one of the 12″ wide flaps right along the fold. Match the straight edge of this with the straight edge of the other 12″ flap. You will tape these together as well, but you can’t tape on the front side, because this will become the “walls” of the room and will need to be painted. And you can’t really paint over tape. Instead, put a small bead of hot glue or craft glue along the seam between the two flaps. If you wind up with some excess like I did, shown below, be sure to scrape it off quickly before the glue dries.

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Hold them together tightly. When you’re satisfied they won’t come apart, flip it over and Duck tape the two flaps together from the back.

Voila! Now you have a folding display board with two 24″ x 24″ flaps, along with a “floor” that is also 24″ x 24″.

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The rest of the project is easy by comparison. Paint the folded section in the color of your choice. I used some leftover yellow paint I already had on hand. However, it seems I made a mistake by using a roller to apply the paint. The board ended up rippling and I wound up with a texture that looks a bit like a “popcorn” ceiling. You can see it on the painted side of the image below:

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Not a huge deal, but I’ve painted one of these boards in the past with a paintbrush and didn’t have the same problem. Later, the moisture of the paint also caused the panels to start curving a bit, so I had to lay them out with heavy items on top to get the panels flat again. In hindsight, if I were to do this again, I’d either use craft paint, or use stiffer foam core board that wouldn’t warp with paint. Another alternative is to cover the walls with contact paper or Mod Podge them with wrapping paper instead of painting. But hindsight is 20-20, right?

Anyway, while the paint is drying, turn your attention to the floor panel. You’ll need to cover it with the plush fabric, which will act as a “carpet” for the room. My half yard of fabric wasn’t quite wide enough to cover the 24″ width of the floor, but I had more than enough length.

Lay the fabric wrong side up, and lay the floor on top of it, also wrong side up. Leave a little overhang of fabric around all sides and cut off the excess. Fold the excess over the edges of the floor and hot glue it to the bottom. You’ll need to pull the fabric as taut as possible while glueing.

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Flip the floor over to the right side and match the edge of the fabric you’ve already used to cover with the remaining fabric. Put a thin bead of glue right along the seam and manipulate the fabric to make the seam as invisible as you can. Flip the floor over again and glue the edges of the fabric around the floor like you did the first time.

Let the glue dry. Flip it back over, and you have a carpeted floor!

The rest is fun. Print out two “windows” for the room from this template. Center a window horizontally on each painted wall. Place them about 4-6″ from the top of the wall. Use Mod Podge to attach them to the walls.

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The last step is optional. I got a little ambitious and stole some of the wooden flooring we used in my daughter’s smaller scale dollhouse. I cut a couple of the slats and painted them white to use as three-dimensional window sills.

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Aaaand…the room is done. Check it out!

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The best part of this, in my opinion, is that my daughter will be able to fold it all up when she’s done playing with it. She can just pick up the floor and fold it between the other panel.

The rest was about decorating. The room eventually will contain a bed, but it hadn’t arrived yet by the time I completed the room. However, since my daughter will be getting this for Christmas, I decided to make the room all holiday pretty. I grabbed a miniature decorated Christmas tree from the holiday village selection in Walmart’s Christmas section. ย I placed it on top of a doll table that my daughter already had.

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Finally, I grabbed some ornaments that are intended for miniature, tabletop Christmas trees. They included some little presents and snowflake decorations to go under the tree. I’m probably going to go back and get some mini lights to hang around the edges of the room, and maybe two mini wreaths for the windows ๐Ÿ™‚

I am so, SO happy with the way this turned out! It’s not as fancy and perfect as the mass-produced room and the outside of it isn’t exactly nice to look it, but she’ll be playing with it from the inside, so I’m not too worried about that. Plus, it cost a whole lot less to make, so it will work until the day we decide she needs the real thing ๐Ÿ™‚

It was more than worth all the hours I had to do this while my daughter was at school so I could hide it from her. I also know myself, and in the few weeks before Christmas, I’m probably going to keep tweaking this until I’ve made it exactly the way I’d like. And I do have some ideas…

DISCLOSURE: As a participant in theย Walmart Momsย Program, Iโ€™ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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12 responses
  • Lynn December 6, 2013, 5:25 pm

    These are so cute Jennae. Funny thing is, I was just talking with a friend the other day about how, when I was a little girl, I took over entire rooms building doll house rooms out of cardboard and boxes. I had apartments as well as single family homes, all adorned with all sorts of furniture etc. I think that was the beginning of my love of crafting. I don’t remember playing with dolls so much as creating these places.

    Reply
    • jennae December 9, 2013, 9:15 am

      Thank you Lynn! I wish I could say I was that creative when I was little, but I was content with my Barbie Dreamhouse with the working elevator ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Skye December 8, 2013, 9:22 pm

    It’s a shame the paint made it hard to work with, but I do like how the texture came out in the end.

    Reply
    • jennae December 9, 2013, 9:17 am

      Thanks Skye! I’m OK with the texture, but the warping of the cardboard is what really irks me. SO much, in fact, that I’m going to redo it with foam core board. So she’ll have two room ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply
  • Vanessa, DeSuMama December 15, 2013, 12:01 pm

    Holy smokes Jennae, this is adorably awesome! I’m sure your baby girl is going to love playing with her dolls in these cute rooms. And oh! the design possibilities are endless… so cool!

    Reply
  • Reema September 26, 2014, 4:00 am

    The doll house are beautiful and will definitely try to do this for my little sister. Thank you for sharing this project of yours.

    Reply
  • Marie February 14, 2015, 9:17 pm

    Hi. I think your project for making folding 18 inch doll rooms is fantastic. I’ve been trying to think of a way to use a cardboard box for a doll room, but just couldn’t figure it out. I’m glad you made the tutorial. I can’t wait to make several for my little niece for her 18 inch AG dolls. I even found 36′ x 48′ folding display boards with colored insides, so you wouldn’t have to paint, or cover the walls. I found these online at Hobby Lobby, Joann’s fabric, and Amazon.

    Thanks for your tutorial, and have a good day.

    Reply
  • Me March 9, 2016, 7:15 pm

    Thanks so much for these easy to follow directions. It was exactly what I was looking for. I have a Ikea hacked doll house but wanted smaller “temporary rooms” for holiday scenes. Off to decorate!

    Reply
  • ginnie March 31, 2016, 12:19 am

    Thank you so much for this! It was exactly what I was looking for! I love doing photo shoots for my blog, so I am going to whip up some of these doll rooms right away! I bet I could even make them reversible if I tried. I think I will take your advice and use contact paper or scrapbook paper instead of paint on the cardboard. Seriously though, this is just awesome! ๐Ÿ™‚
    ginnie / fakingitmostly.com

    Reply
  • ginnie April 2, 2016, 5:58 pm

    I used this as an inspiration for a doll room backdrop. I linked back here from my blog.
    So awesome! Thanks again! ๐Ÿ™‚ <3

    http://fakingitmostly.com/2016/04/01/diy-doll-room-backdrop/

    Reply

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