September 21st, 2011

Uh oh.

So, I’m building a dollhouse and this is probably going to be me in a few weeks. Or maybe this. I’m stocking up on turtlenecks.

The dealio is that Emily recently put together the ‘I’m a Giant’ dollhouse decorating challenge. Yes, that’s dollhouse, not a real house challenge.

I never happened to be one of those girlie girls while growing up, you know with dolls and such – so, in all honesty this whole dollhouse idea completely terrifies me. I mean, when I think of dollhouses (which is pretty much never) I guess I thought of them like this?

(You can actually buy this – marked down from $579 to $579? Awesome. BTW, the instant semiotic break down I got from this advertising image is giving me the super willies)

Apparently though, I’m an idiot. There appears to be a thriving community of folks who love modern “miniatures” (is that the right term?) and get hardcore about scaling down designer furniture and architecture to petite sizes. I’m pretty much going through all of Mini Modern to figure out how this works.

The first thing I figured out is that this stuff gets expensive. I mean, like crazy expensive.

This thing is $855
OMG. Jacobsen House!
Ooooh, container houses?
What!?Well, these are amazing but wow…dollars.
OK, these people are amazing. I’m amazed. Look at this.

Whoa, so this modern dollhouse stuff is really incredible and really pricey, but now unfortunately I’m obsessed. Just on a practical level, this stuff is so much lighter and easier to store than the furniture I lug around my house.

Looks like even CB2 has a little modern house. Images via Mini Modern.

Too bad it’s not in a 1:12 inch scale (look at me learning about scale and stuff).

Hey now. Even Charles and Ray Eames designed a never produced dollhouse for Revell in 1959 that I pretty much just want to copy. Modular dollhouse. Mmmmhmmmm. Tasty.

…and slowly getting to the challenge part…

Blogging bloggers who are blogging throughout their challenges include:

Emily Henderson from Style by Emily Henderson
Morgan from this blog your reading
Erin from Design for Mankind
Orlando from Homme Maker
Corbett from Girl Domestic
Jenny from Little Green Notebook
Nicole from Making it Lovely
Kirstin from Simply Grove

Over the next few weeks we are going to be building or decorating or throwing together some little mini abodes that aren’t limited by “reality”. Like the houses can be created from anything – kit dollhouses, vintage ones, cardboard boxes, made of kitten farts – whatever. The interior treatments are equally open to interpretation.

I haven’t started my house yet since I still need to find or build or “kit bash” something for my little modern space. I want to figure out how to keep this very frugal, because seriously, I’m not even sure how to do this mini stuff yet – but in my head I’m already getting overly ambitious and considering building out Donald Judd’s five story Spring Street space…

So, that’s where my heads at.

The other thing is that anyone and everyone is encouraged to participate along with the big challenge and we are going to have widgets that you can upload your progress photos to as well. Maybe you like mini stuff or always wanted to build your fantasy space. Maybe you have some kiddo’s in your life that need a Christmas gift. Maybe you can show me how to build little wee furniture, because I don’t think I’m going to find a 1:12 scale version of a Judd dining set anywhere.

Whatever reasoning works for you, come and join in on the mini fun.

We are going to post our weekly progress and the goal is to have all our houses finished and revealed on December 15.

…and now I’m having a panic attack. I need a house. I need like a little saw? How do you cut this stuff? Where do you get little wood? Oh, I am not prepared at all to be crafty. Oh no. OK. This is going to be great and fun and weird and I need a hobby. Yes? YES. Any tips are appreciated and I’d love to see what you crafty savvy guys build…because I obviously need help…

Also, if you’d like to participate but maybe want to grab a more traditional kit dollhouse, the folks at Melissa and Doug have a discount deal for 15% off all hardwood dollhouses from The House That Jack Built.

Melissa And Doug : Code: DH15


What I might really want to design out is a like a kooky vintage a-frame cabin. Does that exist somewhere? In my dreams?


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  1. Jessi on 09/21/2011:

    Oh dollhouses… i was never a particularly “girly girl” growing up… but my wonderful Grandfather made all his granddaughters hand built dollhouses. I loved that thing as i grew up…

    my ninja turtles had a place to live. 🙂

    And now that i’m older (and expecting one of my own) i plan on styling that damn dollhouse into a (hopefully) little girls nursery. i’m interested to see how your progress goes… so i can update the decor in my little (hopefully) girls dollhouse!

    love your blog… you give such great inspiration.


  2. avimom on 09/21/2011:

    Naw, you’ve gotta get your mitts on a 1960s East German Puppenhaus. There’s even a SoCal mod version.

  3. Lynn on 09/21/2011:

    Good luck with this project, Morgan!

    (I furnished a crate-dollhouse for my daughter twenty years ago, and it was such fun. Wooden paint stirrers, for example, make brilliant parquet floors.)

    I’m sure you are aware of this blogger’s wonderful miniatures (a different style to yours, but lovely!)?

  4. Jules on 09/21/2011:

    Okay, I’ll admit that when Nicole told me you were participating I chuckled. Maybe even laughed imagining you within 10 feet of a doll house as a kid. But, my second reaction was to think that whatever you did was going to be pretty darn cool. I can’t wait to see how yours turns out.

  5. sara on 09/21/2011:

    This will be fun to follow. A few years ago, I bought a bookcase dollhouse for my son and we did some work on it – tiled the floors, shingle the roof (partly done) etc. Its been a couple years since we have worked on it….maybe I will get back on the job.

  6. Kara on 09/21/2011:

    Stop giving me new things to obsess over! Have you seen site?

    It’s everything.

    Love your blog!

  7. Charity on 09/21/2011:

    Wow. Nicely done. AND….You are so damed funny, period

  8. L on 09/21/2011:

    Hey, does the challenge specify that said dollhouse must exist in 3dimensional space? Or can Morgan, the Sketchup Wizardess, create her masterplace as a blueprint?

  9. Monica on 09/21/2011:

    I think I may have commented before, but in case I haven’t… Hi. This is going to be really fun to follow and I bet your dollhouse will be cool. Can’t help myself, but you asked about little wood and all I could think was bonsai. 🙂

  10. Kat on 09/21/2011:

    The closest I had growing up was a plastic house for my Barbie Dolls (my friend Carol had the car. I always wanted that darn car). I’m loving the modern houses. I didn’t know something like that existed. I’d love to have one. But the sad reality is that just like I can’t furnish my home the way I’d like to, I wouldn’t be able to furnish a doll house either. Can’t wait to see what you come up with.

  11. katie on 09/21/2011:

    i’m excited to see what you all come up with, building scale models was one of my favorite things to do when i was in school for architecture. some advice, since you asked:

    – basswood is probably want you are looking for if you want it to be made of wood. you can find this typically in craft stores or bookstores at universities with an architecture program. it can be cut with an exacto knife if you do not get the stuff that is super thick. but it is difficult to cut…

    – you can get a small miter saw, probably at the same place where you get the wood. this does help a lot.

    – you will want a good quick drying clear glue. i typically would put this on with toothpicks or something so you can be neat about it.

    – if you make scale drawings first, at least of the floor plan, you can build off of the drawings. this makes it way easier.

    at least that’s what i would do for an architectural model… which is basically the same thing, right?? good luck!

  12. Call of the Small on 09/21/2011:

    A vintage 1:12 scale A frame dollhouse does indeed exist. I have one: The shapes are so simple, it would be a relatively straightforward build. Or you can try to find the kit, produced by Arrow in the 70s. I got mine on Etsy. As you keep turning stones over on this hobby, you will discover that there is indeed a world of modern miniatures, especially a MCM one! Have fun with the challenge! I’m in, too!

  13. hillybar on 09/21/2011:

    Balsa wood (most art stores carry it) is a good start for the structure of the cabin. You can use mayfair paper for the interior walls, easy to cut with an exacto knife. Super large paint chips also work really good for wall coverings on the inside. Use wood glue unless your really neat wih a glue gun. Herman Miller still has all of their stuff in miniatures. Im sure they will donate them to you for your blog.

  14. Melanie on 09/21/2011:

    There’s a great book about A-frames called A-frame by Chad Randl. It includes blueprints in the back for cabins. It also has all sorts of great info about interior decor of A-frames. Good luck!

  15. meg on 09/21/2011:

    oh I totally had the fisher price a frame dollhouse:

  16. Lesley on 09/21/2011:
  17. THE BRICK HOUSE on 09/21/2011:

    Call of the small : I like your a-frame! That’s kind of what I want. Maybe I could build that or just go with modular eames boxes? I feel like I won’t find a decent vintage modern dollhouse at am affordable price.

  18. Chelsea on 09/21/2011:

    wow – I really had NO IDEA people were quite this crazy about all these minis. I found this one: a while ago but then I decided it needed legs. So I bought legs. And now it’s sitting in the garage. It doesn’t seem to bother my little Harper though. But now you’ve got me thinking up crazy ideas like maybe I should wallpaper this baby and get all crazy with her furniture. It would be a good way to celebrate her up-and-coming bday. On a side note, I still remember the day I came home and my dad (who didn’t really do very “dad-like” things) had handbuilt me a super mod dollhouse for my barbie and ken to hang out in and make anatomically incorrect little offspring.

  19. Tonia (@ChicModern) on 09/21/2011:

    Now this is one challenge that I want to see. This is gonna be good.

  20. Aida on 09/21/2011:

    Hey, if (when) you find your tiny wood, feel free to send it my way for some laser cutting action. Shipping is cheap for wood that light, and it beats trying to draw out all those little measurements and cut them by hand. That’s not cheating is it? The thought of you hovering intently over a tiny house for days, weeks, is really cracking me up right now. Be sure to check out etsy’s handmade miniatures, cause you know you’ll want a mini layer cake and tiny eggs to put in your mini retro fridge!

  21. Logan on 09/21/2011:

    Dude, I want in on this, I wanna make a mini geodesic! and mini furniture and cabinets and lamps…. man that would be fun

  22. Anna on 09/21/2011:

    I know you have to copy/paste this, but it’s worth it. all I’m gonna say is Fisher Price A-Frame.

  23. Call of the Small on 09/21/2011:

    The A-frame is structurally simple, and offers a lot of interesting angles for furnishing and photography, so I’m a big fan. BUT…the modular approach can really get your juices flowing. I’ve actually repurposed tissue box covers for a modular modern home, see They cost less than $8 each on clearance from Crate & Barrel, so it’s a relatively inexpensive route. Craigslist can offer a treasure trove of vintage dollhouse finds — I know how many cool 1:1 scale things you’ve scored that way, so change up your searches to include “dollhouse” or “miniature,” and I guarantee you’ll score. I just picked up a vintage house last week for $20, also vintage: CAN’T WAIT to see what you do!

  24. the brick house on 09/21/2011:

    OMG Aida! You guys would be perfect for this. You would make the craziest most amazing house. I totally want to laser cut stuff. It sounds like science.

    Logan – you know my first thought was to do a geodesic or make a mini Integratron!!! But the math and construction scared me off. You have to do it, you’re so good. I just want you to build out all my stuff because it’s going to look so amateur hour when I do.

  25. simone on 09/21/2011:

    Have you thought about 3D-printing? Maybe find a Fab-Lab near you (I don’t know where you are except that it is in the desert)? You can find 3d-models of modern furniture on the internet and scale it down as you like and print it in lots of different kinds of materials.

  26. Megan on 09/21/2011:

    Yay! I’m so excited to see more interest in modern miniatures. There is a whole cult of us out there. If you need some inspiration I have been assembling a list the most readily available modern dollhouses on the market, along with cheaper alternatives and suggestions in this article on where to buy modern dollhouses:

    Here is a list of artisans that have been making amazing modern miniatures and accessories for years, some at really affordable prices (I see you’ve already found Paris Renfroe of PRD Miniatures and Doris Nathanson of :

    GOOD LUCK!!! I can’t wait to follow your progress. I’m planning to join the challenge as well. 😀

    “made of kitten farts” you are hilarious! I look forward to reading more of your blog.

  27. Erica on 09/21/2011:

    Wow, this is so exciting! I agree with everything Katie says. I too am an architect so college life was basically a model building extravaganza.
    -Be sure to have a really good exacto nice with PLENTY of blade replacements to keep maintain clean cuts. The proper way to cut is to have the blade at a 15 degree angle. You’ll get better use out of each blade.
    – tacky glue works really well for basswood although a requires a good deal of patience. Look for a extra tck glue
    -speaking of glue, go to one of those model stores, the kind that specialize in building airplane and car models and ask for industrial glue and accelator. This works well for plastic components and sometime wood if you purchase the right formula. I’m telling you, this stuff is AMAZING and a time saver. Basically it’s extra strength crazy glue. Then you get the “accelorator” which you spray onto the glue and INSTANTLY dries and holds. I swear up and down by this stuff. It pretty much saved my college career from missing deadlines. Just be careful because you might end up gluing your fingers together (as I did plenty of times). Here is a website where you can find the glue:

    Also consider the use of thin plexi glass and plastic architectural components (such as I-beams and trusses). You can find those at art supply stores. Especially the ones near architecture colleges.

    Good luck, I’m so wishing I could participate in this challenge. I’m quite inspired by it!

  28. Scribbler on 09/21/2011:

    I had to laugh. When I was a single mother and I wanted a real house so badly, I thought maybe I would make a dollhouse. I discovered that with careful shopping and thrifting that I could furnish a real house for less. I remembered the one I had as a child. I hated it. It was a “Rancher” furnished with pink and gray “modern” furniture. My mother played with it more than I did. The one I wanted was hidden away in my Granddaddy’s corn crib. It was a model of a home he wanted to build and he had made a scale model of it. It even had real glass windows. They wouldn’t let me have it because I was “not the only little granddaughter.” Nobody knows what happened to it.

  29. Ed on 09/21/2011:

    what about a modern treehouse, like Todd Oldham’s?

  30. Christina on 09/21/2011:

    I was lucky enough to receive the Kaleidoscope House as a gift in 2002. It’s fabulous! My favourite piece is the pink “Big Heavy” chair by Ron Arad.

    And, I found a Creative Playthings (Princeton, NJ) dollhouse with beautiful wood furniture in the closet of the house we are living in now.

    I’m sure you have read this article in the NYTimes:

    In architecture school I hated building models out of wood (3D computer models were my thing) but I sure do like playing with these dollhouses!

  31. misa on 09/21/2011:

    dude, morgan, i’m so excited that you’re doing this. i have to admit that i had a dollhouse growing up that my dad had made, and my mom had decorated it with, like, victorian wallpaper and little velvet settees. and i had no dolls that were the right scale, so everyone was always crouching.

    anyway, you should definitely make sure that you have a little miniature chippy hidden in there. where’s my chippy?

  32. Jordan on 09/21/2011:

    Settle for a modern birdhouse. It’ll bring you outside more to work on the yard!

  33. CLdesigns on 09/21/2011:

    ahhh, memories of grad school…cutting stupid little f***ing pieces of wood all night long till I couldn’t see any more. find yourself a hobby store – like a train store, not Hob Lob – and you’ll find all kinds of tools to help you build this thing. Mostly its just important to make perfectly square cuts. I have to say that a mini-mod is so predictable – go for the funky A-frame cabin in the woods. With a mini tire swing in the tree out back. And mini knotty pine paneling.

  34. Amy on 09/21/2011:

    i can’t wait to see it!

  35. Sigrid on 09/21/2011:

    your dry wit and sense of humor are the best thing about this post. thanks for the chuckles…i needed that.

    tiny things give me anxiety, but I did have a Sunshine Family House when I was a kid and absolutely loved it. growing up in the 70s was a real trip now that I think about it. whoa…you just sent me back in time. (this is NOT me btw)

  36. Angela on 09/21/2011:

    Oh, you hit that right! Modern doll houses are not cheap. I tried to find one for my 3 year old bc heaven forbid she play with some Victorian atrocity! I fell in love with many but my jaw dropped at the prices…actually, any half decent doll house is super expensive.

    This was my favorite: Brinca Dada

  37. Sandra on 09/22/2011:

    I used to have a dollhouse that we actually saved from a landfill. Hehe, my sister and I didn’t have any dolls small enough so we used any toy that fit. We had a wide variety of small animals, Playmobile, smurfs and trolls going on.
    Anyway, I though this might inspire you:

  38. Liz on 09/22/2011:

    I bet you could pull off something like this by getting one of those toys from the vending machine, the ones that come in plastic eggs, and using half of it.

  39. Nick Heywood on 09/22/2011:


    Thanks to the link to my story on Donald Judd furniture — can’t beat it. I’m sure you’ve checked out the “ART (does not equal) DESIGN” book? My copy has gone mysteriously missing but I highly recommend it.

    And possible inspiration for your a-frame:

    Also, I protest the gender-normative tone of this competition. I am utterly capable of building a stellar miniature house — years of modelmaking in design school has prepared me well! Many of the greatest miniaturists have historically been men. The crew who built the famous Thorne rooms were all men, though it was underwritten by Narcissa Niblack Thorne.

    Best of luck. I’m excited to see the results.

  40. jennifer on 09/22/2011:

    FUN! my kids have this one
    it’s decent, hard to fit trad furniture into, though. plan toys has a couple other modern ones. (i hope this isn’t redundant, i didn’t read all comments)

  41. julia wheeler on 09/22/2011:

    do you want dusty to build you a mini nakashima table and some hairpin legs? for serious… just email me if you want.

  42. The brick house on 09/22/2011:

    Oh Nick, no probs & everyone is invited to participate! But you’re right, straight white males never get enough credit! Such an under represented section of the population…

    Also, so much Judd is happening…because it’s easy for me to build and I love it.

    Julia! Yes! Emailing you. I was just trying to figure out how to make a little slab table.

  43. Megan on 09/22/2011:

    I see some people talking about insane crazy glue for models. If you’re afraid of gluing fingers together (legitimate concern, how will you finish the house with less fingers?), you might want to look for Sobo glue. It’s white craft glue but oh so much more. Haven’t tried it with wood, but seriously, it puts Elmer’s to shame.

  44. RaeDi on 09/22/2011:

    You could build a Popsicle house! (that is a joke!… better get eating, you could do it while you are in your pool!) I love this challenge and will be watching… a neighbor in CT was always building these little mini houses and furniture too! I would start by using art knives for little saws, unless you can find a little mini saw! Another friend use to split little wedges of wood for making flooring, furniture, cabinets and such for these little mini houses. Good Luck….RaeDi

    I love your blog and you humor!

  45. Nick Heywood on 09/22/2011:

    Valid point on the breeder males, but fortunately I’m not one of them. I’m very excited to see your Judd creations — doing them convincingly will be very tough, but I have no doubt you can pull it off. I’ve thought of copying the day bed full scale, but without exact measurements, I suspect it will look weird. Minimalism collapses so easily when the details are even slightly off.

  46. mike on 09/23/2011:

    Whatever scale I am I want that CB2 house built on a my scale hillside overlooking a my scale lake and a my scale old landcruiser to drive through my scale woods. You are right about that first picture though, Mr Creepington and his daughter that live in Creepertontownsville……creepy

  47. LBro on 09/23/2011:

    All I have to say after hand building and cutting models all through architecture school:

    Get a crash course in CAD. Layout all the pieces. Bribe a architecture student to laser cut everything and just put it together like a puzzle.

    Laser cutters are god’s gift to architecture students everywhere.

  48. Heather Jo on 09/26/2011:

    I started fixing up a dollhouse for my niece a few months ago and found the same crazy, awesome, weird, expensive modern dollhouse stuff. Also obsessed!

  49. Maggie on 09/27/2011:

    If no one has mentioned it yet I wish I knew about balsa strippers in the first year of my architecture degree

  50. Maggie on 09/28/2011:

    I also thought about this doll house and then he posted an update today…

  51. Lily Hetzler on 10/01/2011:

    This is so excellent!… I’ve been eternally obsessed with creating my own miniature worlds, ever since I’ve had my own space, and apartment to do it in. From tiny configurations of watch part structures, dollhouse lightbulbs, and tin type stand ins, to terrarium mini jungles for tiny cowboys. I’m currently working on a stop motion animation (1:6 scale, which is actually Barbie size, and makes it bewilderingly easier to find loads of mini props). However, I’m also a jewelry designer. …..My most recent jewelry shoot at, includes bits of teeny doll worlds. Take a look if you have a moment! 🙂

  52. Arlie on 10/03/2011:

    I saw Alison’s post about this on Etsy and I got so excited! Fisherprice made an A-Frame dollhouse in 1969… have you seen?
    I adore it and would love to see your take on something like that!

  53. heela on 10/04/2011:

    Wow, what an awesome post. I have the SAME problem…although, if i put all the time/effort/MONEY into setting up my modern mini house…I think I would probably just keep it for myself, and buy my daughter her own.. HA

    she is a little destroyer of all things. It would not be safe in her teeny fingers.

  54. My Realitty on 10/04/2011:

    FUN! Check out the Fkickr group :Modern dollhouse”. Walls can be made of Filters, placemats lots of recycled stuff. See Oese’s group “Modern Dolhouse re re re” Myrealitty

  55. PILOFUN on 10/26/2011:

    Check out Yes and Yes for a great dollhouse! Love your blog!

  56. Sofia Tardent on 06/27/2013:

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