The Suitcase Dollhouse Project

2 Feb

When I was a child, I had a Fisher Price dollhouse that I played with for hours. We had the whole village, actually- with the house, the farmhouse and granary, parking garage, the hospital and ambulance, airport and jumbo jet, village shops, boathouse, ferris wheel, castle, and school and schoolbus- and all five of us, from eldest to the littlest squirt, would commandeer one or two buildings and their occupants. The boys always got the garage, airport, vehicles, and castle- predictable! My younger sister would choose the village shops and hospital; she would diagnose patients in the hospital and then require them to buy their scripts at the village stores (today, she is a doctor, haha). The youngest, ever imperious and demanding, would always pick up the school, shove all our little kids inside it, and hold them hostage till the bell rang (or till she rang the bell, which sometimes took forever). I would only choose one building- and that was the house. As you can see, I’ve been in love with dollhouses for forever.

The toys eventually gave in to much wear and tear. Between that and splitting the sets among five of us, we had to say goodbye to them and give them their rest. I sometimes wonder if my siblings took care of their share better than I did because I literally loved mine to bits. I will always have great memories of that bright yellow house.

I suppose it’s easy enough to understand how I developed my fascination for Sylvanian Families. A part of me will always be that little girl holding on to her first dollhouse, transporting it everywhere (once, even to the bath, where I pretended it was raining!) by its yellow handle.

This was where the inspiration took root- the idea that I can bring along a house and carry it by a handle, instead of transporting it in a box. Of course, there are ready-to-buy alternatives in the SF/CC world. Calico Critters has a carry case made entirely of laminated cardboard, but at USD25, I’d rather spend my money on figures. Add to that that this has gone on sale a few times already (once as low as USD10), you’d wonder why they don’t sell it any cheaper. The only other real option is the Sylvanian Families Carry Cottage, currently retailing at £19.95, and this, I am seriously thinking of buying (I’ve already asked a good friend to look into this for me).

It was a ligthbulb moment, to say the least, to decide to create a dollhouse suitcase from something I had lying around in the house. I’ve had the cardboard suitcase for a couple of years, stashed away in the piles of unsorted Hello Kitty collectibles I still had. And with more decorating stuff on hand, just collecting, dust, it was time to get down and dirty and transform the suitcase into something…ehrm… functional (to justify the makeover) and playable (real reason, ahhh).

Here are photos I took of the process of transformation, some taken by phone camera (Instagram”s artsy shots) and others by my digicam.

This is what the cardboard suitcase looks like from the outside. It is made of  a sturdy  laminated board on the outside. (The shape of Kitty’s head will give me a heaadache in the process.)

I started out with patterns for the head using manila paper. I did the same for the other side, doing measurements for width, length, and depth.

Using a cold-pressed illustration board (stiffer than regular illustration board, more expensive, harder to cut, but less likely to warp). I measured and cut rectangular boards which would serve as floors.

And then I wrapped the whole thing in self-adhesive, matte contact paper. I made a few mistakes in this part which I had to redo and correct. It’s best to put in the sides first before the back walls are covered, I learned the hard way. A few dabs of hot glue and small, discreet pieces of masking tape secured the covered floors into place.

The second-storey floor turned out to be a little wobbly. I feared it would sag when I add the furniture so I made a horizontal wall to buttress the top floor. The first floor is also held up by two short pieces of board attached securely by hot glue.

I took a shot to preview the house on one side. Hmmm…. not bad, especially with furniture! I don’t even mind too much the clumsiness evident in some areas. 🙂

On the other side, the side that lays face down, I created two spaces, an indoor space and an outdoor space. I wrapped the sides with themed paper to unite the spaces. Then I laid down felt cloth to mark off the areas.

I built a wall with a door to put up between the areas from a second illustration board. The wall is removable, held upright by two very small board pieces on each side. The wall that faces outdoors has a fake fence made of cupboard/dresser dividers..

And this is the indoors area, with “wall to wall carpeting.”

Seen from another angle, the front part of the suitcase completes the house.

So what do you think, folks? I still have to finish the house and smoothen the edges so they don’t peel out. I’ll post finished and furnished pictures as soon as I am done.

I think it’s always a great idea to make over and re-purpose old, unused things in our lives. Why don’t you try it?


8 Responses to “The Suitcase Dollhouse Project”

  1. Janice February 2, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

    It’s truly a brilliant idea and great use of materials we usually have inside our home! 🙂

    • Kittymama February 5, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      Thanks, Janice! I should be able to finish the house soon- I do like the idea of recycling things for a different purpose and extending their life. That Hello Kitty suitcase would just have rotted out!

  2. ailialana February 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Very creative and innovative!

    • Kittymama February 5, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      Oh, thank you so much!

  3. bbqweasel February 2, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

    You’re so creative, that looks good!

    • Kittymama February 5, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      Thanks, Pei! Me, creative? *blushes* You are my guru, you know, and your compliment makes me feel like I’m on Cloud 9! Thank you!

  4. Indiana Lori February 3, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    Cuteness!!! I had that exact same Fisher Price House. I’ve been working on a suitcase dollhouse for my girls using a vintage suitcase. I’ll let you know if I ever get it finished. You’ve inspired me to pick it back up!

    • Kittymama February 5, 2012 at 9:22 am #

      Oohhh, I want to see your dollhouse, Lori! I’m fascinated with other people’s projects because I am not crafty at all though I like to pretend I am. Sometimes, persistence pays off; more often, though, not. 🙂

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