Kate goes krazy for wallpaper as she begins decorating her 1955-pattern dollhouse

dollhouse-wallpapeKate-Builds-a-DIY-DollhouseThe reward for the 70+ tedious hours to build my 1955 Betsy McCall dollhouse? Now it’s time for the fun part — decorating the interior — starting with the walls. At first, I simply planned to use leftover paint, but Pam sent me a care package and as soon as it arrived — I was hook line and sinkered on wallpaper!

building a dollhouse

Kitchen table? What kitchen table?

patchwork quilt wallpaper

Pam used 18 patterns from her vintage stash to cover the walls in her big fat crazy crafty epic retro office remodel o’ 2012. She’s also used her vintage wallpaper in her bathroom (twice), kitchen and foyer.

I don’t use much — if any — pattern in my decor, so at first I wasn’t sure my dollhouse needed wallpaper, but then I opened the box from Pam and got excited. Pam is the world’s #1 fan of wallpaper. She has quite a hoard of vintage wallpaper in her basement, which she has collected a roll at a time from estate sales and from a nearby store that used to deal in wallpaper from the 1950s until about 2000 and still had a lot in its basement. For my dollhouse project, she went through the stash and looked for papers with very small patterns. 

Vintage wallpaper is just so pretty, and I do love it in small doses, and this is a small house, so why not take a nibble at that apple? Oh oh. Ya can’t eat just one, and before I knew it, there was a wallpaper explosion — among other its and bits I had gathered for the project — and I was planning to install it in every room of the house.

Pam and I discussed my somewhat surprising wallpaper-it-all decision and decided that this dollhouse is akin to an assemblage/collage type project, where adding extra layers — like patterned wallpaper — only makes the end result more interesting. I agree, and personally, the patterns are so much easier for me to take on a small scale — in fact, I am loving all of the wallpaper in the dollhouse. I think it does so much to liven up the small spaces and — once furniture and decor are added — will really add to the “wow” factor. 

dollhouse-wallpapeSince I only had limited amounts of patterned papers, I was very careful to ensure that no mistakes were made while “hanging” the wallpaper. I made patterns out of plain white paper taped together and made sure to mark each to show which way was up and which side was the front.

dollhouse-wallpapeThen I laid out the paper patterns on the wallpaper, traced them and carefully cut them out.

The dollhouse’s living loom wallpaper

dollhouse-wallpapeAfter a quick, last minute test fit, I used ModPodge to adhere the paper to the walls. The main living room got this lovely gold, beige and white vintage small scale wallpaper pattern — my favorite of the bunch that Pam sent.

vintage bathroom wallpaper

The wallpaper used in the living room of the dollhouse was a coordinate to go with the wallpaper Pam used in her master bathroom update.

My dollhouse’s living room room wallpaper is actually a pattern designed to coordinate with the leafy vintage wallpaper Pam used in her master bathroom in 2013 (above). Pam purchased the rolls at an estate sale.


The dollhouse’s guest bedroom walllpaper

dollhouse-wallpapeSince the smaller bedroom had a shared wall with the living room, I continued the paper all the way into the bedroom for a seamless look. Next, to mix it up a bit, I used some grasscloth wallpaper — the same stuff Pam has in her living room and dining room — for the bedroom’s other two walls.

dollhouse-wallpapeHey, look — the bedroom has a wallpaper accent wall!

Wallpaper for the dollhouse bathroom

dollhouse-wallpapeFor the bathroom, I chose another small scale, linear patterned paper from Pam’s box. You’ll notice that I didn’t wallpaper all the way down to the floor — that’s because there will be tile covering up the bottom of the walls soon.

dollhouse-wallpapeI chose to paint the trim in the bathroom white to coordinate with the paper and other elements that will eventually be added to the space.

dollhouse-wallpapeI just love this pattern, don’t you?

Wrapping paper “wallpaper” for the master bedroom

dollhouse-wallpapeThe only room that didn’t get vintage wallpaper in was the master bedroom. I really wanted at least one of the rooms in the house to have a bright, flower power feel. This paper is a decorative paper I bought a few years ago at a card and paper shop because I just loved the bold, saturated oranges and pinks and the fun pattern. And yes, those are metallic gold flowers mixed in!

dollhouse-wallpapeWhile I was gearing up for the dollhouse project, I ran across the paper and decided it would be perfect for the dollhouse. I love it and I think the scale is perfect to mimic late 60s to early 70s large scale, graphic metallic wallpaper patterns.

Still in the works: Wallpaper for the kitchen and dining room

dollhouse-wallpapeWith four of the five rooms wallpapered, all that remained is the large, open kitchen and dining room area of the house. I already knew I wanted the kitchen color scheme to be white, red, and yellow, but the only paper I had with a color scheme that would work in the space is a small sheet — (not from Pam’s stash, she sent me larger pieces) — that will certainly not cover the room’s large walls.

dollhouse-wallpapedollhouse-wallpapeI was going to try and work with this remnant… but Pam encouraged me to reach out to one of our longtime advertisers, Hannah’s Treasures, and see if they had any small-scale, red or yellow prints that might work. Heck yeah! They are looking through their shelves right now to see what they can find for me to consider. Hurray — another box o’ vintage wallpaper samples will land on my doorstep soon. What Treasures will be inside!?

dollhouse-wallpapeIt is amazing how much the wallpaper brightened up the interior of the dollhouse already? Next up: I am going to start with some tiling and flooring while I greedily wait for the vintage wallpaper googies to come.

Which if these vintage wallpapers is singing siren song to you, dear readers?

You can following all the stories about building and decorating my 1955 Betsy McCall dollhouse by clicking here.


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  1. linda h says

    Aw, I really like that wallpaper you already have in the kitchen, but I’m sure you will receive some more great paper. I would have used the paper to do the accent wall in the dining area and painted or subway tiled the rest, but I know you had decided to paper the whole house. I hope that half wall by the stairs becomes a built-in planter like the entryway one at your house.

  2. says

    It’s looking good, Kate! I must admit I saw that picture of Pam’s master bathroom and thought it was an interior shot of the doll house at first. I was thinking “man, it looks so real”, ha ha!

  3. linda says

    I built dollhouses in the 80’s and 90’s(and I have a great MCM I hope to get built this year), and another good source for paper and accessories is the scrapbook department. There are all kinds of papers and embellishments available.

  4. Robin, NV says

    Wow Kate, this looks fabulous. Awesome choices on the wallpaper. By the way, I spotted this book on Amazon the other day. Check out the flooring in the upper left of the cover. Perfect for your bathroom (if the scale looks right). http://www.amazon.com/Use-Now-Dollhouse-Floor-Paper/dp/148193693X/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1422283128&sr=8-2&keywords=book+of+dollhouse+floors

    Speaking of scale – I’m curious to see what retro designs you’re able to find for furniture. Or are you planning on making it yourself?

    • Kate says

      Very neat paper book Robin, I had no idea things like that existed.

      I have found quite a bit of 1:12 scale furniture to use in the house, however my $100 budget dictates that I will also be making some of it myself. Stay tuned!!!

  5. Diane in CO says

    Wonderful! Methinks you need some shag carpeting somewhere. Is there a material that could be the correct scale?

      • Mary Elizabeth says

        I think fake fur would be perfect, Kate. Look on the remnants table in the fabric store. Or do you have a craft friend who does lots of stuffed animals and might have scraps?

      • Lynne says

        Try looking at velvets and velveteens for carpet. Velour works as well. For lino looking floors, keep in mind papers (scrapbook or wrapping). Give it a couple good coats of Mod Podge and you’re set. Once coated and dry, you can cut it into the appropriate size squares or designs and glue it down piece by piece.

        If you do decide you want a plain painted wall. Give the primed wall a nice coat of gesso. It gives a plaster looking effect. Then paint the gesso the color of choice.

        • Cocoa says

          You can also use Sculpey or any polymer clay for lino floors. Run it through a polymer clay only designated pasta machine or clay only rolling pin. You can make those fabulous custom inlaid lino floors that we all drool over! Make sure you bake it to package instructions (don’t forget to prehet) and don’t use anything you used for food again, this includes the pan you bake it in. Also, if clay is not cured (baked) it can eat through or adhere itself to things like plastic, etc. Other than those safety issues, it’s pretty cool stuff to work with, especially for miniatures. It makes great fake food and flowers too!

  6. lisa in Seattle says

    I was contemplating my son’s hackysack this weekend and realized one of those would make a great pouf or beanbag chair for your house. I also remembered that I used to use plastic drink stirrers for curtain rods in my dollhouse.

  7. Roundhouse Sarah says

    Maybe the kitchen is the one room you could paint? I’m thinking if you put a patterned flooring and have the cabinets up a print on the wall may be too much for this tiny house? Unless you find the perfect wallpaper then just go with your gut.
    Also I was thinking you def have to find mini Easter eggs to make a mini bullet planter for the plant diy Linda is sending you.

    • Kate says

      Great minds think alike Sarah! I was thinking about trying to locate a mini easter egg to make a bullet planter out of. I don’t have any laying around, but I bet if I’m patient, there will be easter candy in the stores the day after valentine’s day. 🙂

  8. Mary Elizabeth says

    My favorite papers that you chose are the living room and the bathroom papers. That pink, gray, black and white bathroom paper would go perfectly in my bathroom IF the gray plastic tile with pink liners didn’t go all the way up the walls and across the ceiling. There’s not one spot for wallpaper, unless I wanted to wallpaper the back of the door. Luckily, they didn’t tile over the window. 🙂

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      By the way, when I was a little girl, I had the same idea you did about cutting patterns from plain white paper before cutting into my dollhouse wallpaper. I got the paper from old wallpaper sample books that one of my aunts rescued from the trash. Most of those were too large in scale, but some worked fine. I did one room with a scrap of quilting fabric. Cloth glued on the walls was also a wall treatment in that time period.

  9. Michael Coyle says

    Ha! For a second I thought your bathroom picture was the dollhouse bathroom! I though, damn, that looks goooood!

    My wife is pregnant and this article is making me hope it’s a girl so I can build her this.

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      Michael, no need to wait for a girl to build a doll house. Boys like miniature things, too. We had a cool doll house when our kids were small, very plain, with the furnished living area on the top floor and a big empty space on the bottom. When my nephew played with it, he brought over firetrucks and firemen, who slept in the beds and made firehouse chili or something in the kitchen, then periodically went to fires. My niece used it as a stable for her horse collection, with the riders and grooms sleeping upstairs. My daughter used it sometimes as a beauty salon and sometimes a natural history museum, with tiny shells and rocks displayed with plastic dinosaurs. It was for a time a garage with many toy cars in for service. Don’t be too fussy about gender specific toys. My daughter (now an electrical engineer) was fascinated with construction and wore a hard hat every day for two years. And her young sons (6 and 3) play with dolls.

      Oh, and if you are very secure in your masculinity, you could build it just for yourself. 🙂

  10. Carol says

    A bullet planter from an easter egg is genius. This is probably overkill, but if you could find the right sized funnel, you could make a mod painted fireplace for the dining room. I am sure you could easily find something for the base. and don’t forget popsicle sticks for the hardwood floors. Just cut the curves off with a dremel. You could make hairpin furniture legs from metal hangers. Oh my, I think I just need to make one! Maybe we just need to have a week long dollhouse conference somewhere next year. Everyone could bring materials and their ideas and it would be an engineering, architectural, design, craftfest! Everyone here has such great ideas.

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      Something like this?


    • Heart says

      ‘MCM Doll House conference’ Great idea, I’m so there. Can we all wear vintage clothing too?

      Just love the enthusiasm going here, it’s like a huge kids fest. Let’s go over to Pam & Kate’s & play house, All Summer! <3

  11. JKM says

    What a fun project! This reminds me of when I was little and a rainy day craft project might be decorating the inside of shoe boxes with pictures of windows/draperies and other things we’d cut out of Penney’s catalogs to make little rooms. We’d turn them on their sides with the open top being the front (so the bottom of the shoe box was the back wall) then put doll furniture inside. We’d glue, glue, glue then stack or place them side-by-side to make multi-room houses or individual little apartments for our imaginary characters to live inside. We’d simply throw them away once we tired of them.

    • Kate says

      I did that as a kid too! My friend’s dad worked at a home decor/hardware store and he used to bring her boxes and leftover wallpaper books and the two of us made entire cities out of the stuff. It was so much fun!

  12. says

    I can’t believe how lovely this is, Kate! I love all the wallpapers – I think the living room and bathroom papers are my favorites. And I think several mid-century tile colors would go with that bathroom paper – pink, grey, white, even yellow!

    I, too, was taken aback by the photo of Pam’s bathroom – it took a couple seconds to realize that that just couldn’t be the dollhouse’s bathroom! Although, you’ve certainly proven talented enough to do that!

    What color trim are you painting in the bedroom with that so 70s paper? I see lava lamps and all kinds of fun things in there!

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      Kate, I have leftover 4 1/2 X 4 1/2 pink plastic tiles that you could either cut into little tiles or use marker for grout lines. I am never going to use them, but they came with the 4 1/2 X 2 1/4 liner tiles that I did need. Just say the word, and I will send them!

  13. Pascal says

    Kate, love the dollhouse so far and can’t wait to see it finished.
    I adore the kitchen wallpaper, too. why don’t you scan it and scale it down, so its pattern looks smaller? You could print it on some quality stationary paper, or even linen paper. It would look just like regular wallpaper and you could print as much as you need.

    • Mary Elizabeth says

      Whoa! Those toy cabinets look like the real thing. I remember that design. With the plastic, if any piece isn’t the right color, you could spray paint it.

  14. Amy says

    Yeah, girl, build that house! My mantra for home reno – “do it once, do it right!” I am “The Toscanini of tedium.” You did it right. All the tedium – and now the “fun part!” have at it! (I so dig that fireplace and the roof slopes! Wish I had a REAL house like that!)

  15. Chicago Char says

    Feb 2015 Country Living has a brief feature on dollhouses:


    Too bad the little house can’t be disassembled and the walls papered or painted and then put back together – or can they and I missed that discussion?

    Here are a couple links to Betsy McCall paper dolls:



    • pam kueber says

      I boycott any website that forces you to watch a slide show as a new page view each time. This is a rotten practice. Bad decision, Country Living!

      • Chicago Char says

        Country Living is available free as a download from the public library. You do need to add Zinio but I already had a Zinio account for my digital UK mags. I only added the link here that was from the mag’s website. I dislike clicking through many slides too.

        • pam kueber says

          what i object to, is that every time you click on a slide, a new page loads. to me, this is an inauthentic way to pump up your reported pageviews. as a webmaster trying to do things ethically, i boycott sites that i see doing this

      • Chicago Char says

        Forgot to add the workaround to the slides. Below the first photo there is a grid symbol link. Click on it at least to see the gallery (without captions). Then click through any of those of interest and the page pops up.

  16. Beth says

    Amazing. My mom still has end tables just like those in her house! She also has a cabinet stereo very similar to the dollhouse version! She wants to get rid of it but I won’t let her.

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