A vintage + custom kitchen for the Betsy McCall dollhouse

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroKate-Builds-a-DIY-DollhouseWe are several weeks into my Betsy McCall DIY Dollhouse build and finally — after hours of work — it’s time to take a look at what I’ve been cooking up in the kitchen. Yup, you guessed it — vintage cuteness — including a red-and-white Armstrong VCT checkerboard floor, vintage wallpaper and authentic vintage Formica sparkle laminate countertops with ‘aluminum’ edging. Let’s take a peek at how the space came together.

The kitchen has been one of the most challenging rooms to pull together thus far in the 1955 Betsy McCall DIY Dollhouse — probably because I chose build a completely fitted kitchen, complete with cabinet doors that open and close and custom glitter laminate countertops with aluminum edging. Figuring out the layout was fairly easy, but it took time to measure, calculate, build, paint and add finishing touches to all those teeny tiny kitchen cabinets! Here’s a breakdown of the steps I took to take this from an empty room to an adorable vintage red, white and yellow kitchen.

1. Creating the checkerboard floor for the dollhouse

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retrodollhouse kitchen midcentury retroI already decided that the kitchen would have a red, white and yellow color scheme, so the flooring choice had to coordinate. I knew that in order to make the dollhouse floor tiles to the correct 1:12 scale, they had to be one-inch square at the largest, which equates to 12″ tiles in real life. I briefly considered using mosaic black and white 1″ ceramic tiles, but I didn’t want to make a trip to the store and spend money unnecessarily, so I searched my stockpile of options. That’s when I realized that I had a few sample packs of Armstrong VCT flooring that I had acquired for Retro Renovation research. Each sample tile was 2″ square — too large to use without modification — so I trimmed each tile down into 1″ squares, which produced four tiles from each sample piece.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroSince I only had one sample tile of each color, I had to get creative to find a way to merge all of the ‘red’ and ‘white’ tile samples in a pleasing way. I separated all of the white, off white, light beige and light grey sample tiles to use for the “white” squares and  gathered all of the varying shades of red tiles to use for the red squares. After some experimentation, I found that mixing the ‘white’ tiles up made them all appear to be similar in color — I saved the darker ‘beige-ish’ looking tiles for around the edges, where they would mostly be hidden underneath the cabinets. When it came to the reds, however, it looked better to have several of the same or very similar shades on the same diagonal line instead of randomly mixing the red tiles across the floor. Then I used hot glue to secure each tile. While not perfect, I think the resulting floor adds quite a bit of charm to the space.

2. Dollhouse kitchen cabinets and appliances

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retrodollhouse kitchen midcentury retroTrying my hardest to remain within my $100 furniture budget for the project, I started out with an inexpensive lot of “fixer upper” vintage dollhouse kitchen parts that I found from one Etsy seller, which helped cut added shipping costs. The dishwasher, stove and sink cabinet each needed some TLC. The refrigerator — purchased from another lot of doll furniture — was in much better condition and needed no additional attention.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retro

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroAfter making some needed repairs, such as reattaching the oven handle, and then, adding several coats of white paint carefully applied to retain the adorable vintage graphics…

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retro…The appliances were looking much better!

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroThen it was time to start figuring the kitchen’s layout and how to make the rest of the cabinetry needed for the space. I purchased a few pieces of basswood from the craft store, in the same thickness of wood used to make the existing kitchen sink base cabinet. For the soffits, I used some scrap pine lattice from another project. You know how Pam likes to see soffits in a midcentury kitchen!

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroIn my opinion, a happy kitchen has a window over the sink, so placing the sink cabinet there was my starting point. Logically, this would force the refrigerator and stove to be placed on the outside wall, and allow for a long peninsula of cabinets on the opposite side of the kitchen, which would also act as a divider between the kitchen and dining room.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroAs I started to build the cabinets, it was slow going, mostly because I wanted to make as many of the cabinet doors function as possible. Building the “hinges” for each door required drilling tiny holes through the top and bottom of each cabinet door and frame with my Dremel, then using a small brad nail poked through both holes as the hidden ‘hinge.’ I’m not going to lie — some of the cabinets are a bit sticky. I don’t have the process perfected. What I have perfected though is making a huge mess in the process.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retro dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroI was able to patch the sink cabinet’s missing door with some of the basswood, though the cabinet frame was too damaged to make the replacement door functional. So, only the right side of the sink cabinet opens and closes. I used white thumbtacks for the cabinet knobs, and later painted them silver. I know they make shiny ‘chrome’ thumbtacks, but the only tacks I had on hand were white, so I made do and saved myself another trip to the store and a little more $$$. Heck — that’s what a thrifty midcentury Mom or Dad would have done in the same situation, right?

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroOnce I had the cabinets constructed and pieced together, it was time for them to get a unifying coat of white paint.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroI even wallpapered the soffits with some of that great small-scale vintage wallpaper from Hannah’s Treasures. You know how Pam likes to see wallpaper on those soffits in midcentury kitchens!

3. Gold sparkle laminate countertops with ‘aluminum’ edging

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retrodollhouse kitchen midcentury retroNext came the laminate countertops — which of course had to be gold glitter. Thanks to another care package straight from Pam’s hoard amazing collection [<-Pam wrote that] I had these New Old Stock vintage yellow and gold sparkle laminate edging strips to use for the countertop fabrication.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroThe laminate edging strips were only 1.5″ wide — not enough to make the 2″ countertop that my 1:12 scale dollhouse required. So…I put on my thinking cap… and realized I could add ‘aluminum’ edging to make up the difference.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroThis time, I had my own collection o’ vintage odds ‘n ends to raid — I found this metallic decorator tape among a stash of vintage goodies saved from when we cleaned out my Grandmother’s house a few summers ago.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroIt was just the ticket — though I also could have glued on aluminum foil for a similar effect. The decorator tape was nice because it was already sticky, no glue needed.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroTa-da — vintage sparkle laminate countertops with ‘aluminum’ edging!

4. The finished custom kitchen cabinets

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retrodollhouse kitchen midcentury retroBuilding this custom vintage dollhouse kitchen — with cabinet doors that open — was a time consuming process, but I think it turned out super cute, don’t you? If the space were a tad bit larger…wink, I’d cook in there!

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retro dollhouse kitchen midcentury retro dollhouse kitchen midcentury retro dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroI’m not done adding little decor extras yet, but I did manage to find a few things to decorate some of the open shelving and countertops. The plastic plates, pitcher, tray and cup and the brass wine glasses were my Mom’s from when she was a little girl. I played with them when I was a kid, too.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroThe little pair of scissors and the shallow copper pans were part of my childhood dollhouse goodies.

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retro dollhouse kitchen midcentury retrodollhouse kitchen midcentury retroI found the set of three copper sauce pots and the little toaster at Michael’s. I know, they aren’t vintage, but I was having a hard time finding vintage kitchen goodies that were (A) the right scale and (B) not $$$$. So I ‘cheated’ and bought a few new miniatures from the craft store. Sorry, Pam, they were too cute (and budget friendly) to pass up. Note: I think the telephone is a little too small for the scale of the house, but I plan to use it anyway because it is adorable. 

dollhouse kitchen midcentury retro dollhouse kitchen midcentury retro dollhouse kitchen midcentury retroMy favorite part of the whole kitchen is the scene around the kitchen sink. The way the light comes through the window, the sheen of the sink and faucets next to the metal edging on the countertops, and those cute little wall cabinet whatnot shelves that still need some tiny decorations — it is all so adorable it makes me swoon.

What is your favorite part of the dollhouse kitchen?
What else — besides cafe curtains — would you like to see in the space?

See all the stories about building and furnishing the dollhouse here

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Comments

  1. Diane in CO says

    Sooper-Dooper Cute!!! You are a talented gal and the house is shaping up to be AH-MAZING. I love that floor!

    I wonder if you could easily add a kitchen clock? Up on the soffit? And, as long as you have a toaster, you might need a CoffeeMaster coffee maker…

  2. Manon says

    Wow!
    You’re kitchen is great! It’s even better than my own! I love the countertops!
    Your projects and articles are great inspiration for me! I keep an eye open because I want to update my late 70s kitchen without scandalizing my boyfriend! But I am getting tired of all the wood cabinets that never get really cleaned. I’m looking for an easy-low-cost solution to have mid-century looking cabinets.
    Thanks for the step-by-step pictures!

    • pam kueber says

      Hi Manon, I don’t know the best answer. Idea: Search National Trust for Historic Preservation Preservation Briefs and see if they have anything written up about this…

  3. Jay says

    Oh Kate! The sheer patience and creativity! Where’s the mixmaster and pyrex bowls? The clock over the window, not to mention the percolator. Seriously though I would consider this a “done room” so you can move on to the next area. Always time to come back and embelish. I like the sneak peek of the dining area with the built-in planter. Are you saving light fixtures until the end for a grand finale?
    Loved the shot of you peeking in the window. Wasn’t there a 50s sci-fi B movie about some amazonian woman terrorizing a town?
    Keep up the amazing work!

    • Kate says

      Thanks Jay,
      I’m getting each room pretty close to done and then will go back and add things like window treatments, more accessories, possibly faux light fixtures, etc at the end. Then I can do a final reveal of the whole house all done! 🙂

    • Diane in CO says

      Jay, I also loved the photo of Big Kate peering in the window! Immediately this song began playing in my head – LOL!
      One pill makes you larger
      And one pill makes you small
      And the ones that mother gives you
      Don’t do anything at all
      Go ask Alice
      When she’s ten feet tall

  4. says

    Great Job! I had a doll house years ago and friends would ask where are the people and my reply was people make a mess this way it’s always neat unlike my crafty area where I was building my house. I gave my large house to my niece and kept the furniture and when we move to our 1950 bungalow (7 months of rehabbing so far) I will make a new home for my old furniture.

  5. Donna Vaughn says

    You can now purchase battery operated LED lights for dollhouses..no wiring needed. I used several in a roombox I made for my adult daughter for Christmas.

  6. Kay says

    Loving this project. Keeping my hubby up on the latest advancements. Your creativity is amazing.

    I am thinking this is the first exhibit in the Retro Renovation Museum!

  7. Sallie says

    Lovely kitchen, Kate! Found you through Ann Vanture’s Paper Minis (Great source for many scales). Though the material may be a little thick, there are flexible magnet sheets from which shapes can be cut. Also, JoAnn’s, AC Moore, or Michael’s has tiny round magnets. Of course, you can copy human sized magnets and shrink them down to the proper size – along with any drawings you may have left over from kids, nieces, nephews, etc. If you really want Betsy McCall in your house, I have several sheets of Betsy from McCall’s magazine that I would be happy to copy for you. Keep up the great work!

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