When I first started building my 1955 Betsy McCall DIY Dollhouse, Pam gave me a $100 furniture budget. Ever since, I’ve been collecting, repairing, recovering and building tiny midcentury dollhouse furniture — all while trying to stretch my dollars as far as they could go. This past week, I finished up all the furniture — and the final cost tally came in just a hair over budget — at $107.73. Thanks included, to Robert from ElectraChime, who donated the awesome hi-fi doorbell and his extra walnut wood scraps to the cause.
While it was quite a challenge to furnish the dollhouse for under $100, the bigger challenge was finding pieces that were the right scale for the house. Most of the vintage dollhouse furniture I found on etsy and ebay was either a much smaller scale — 1:16 or 1:32 for vintage dollhouses made by Marx, Lunby or the like — or much too large, made for Barbie or similar sized dolls. If I did happen to find 1:12 scale pieces, many of them were traditionally styled pieces — not the sleek, midcentury look I needed for my dollhouse. As a result, I had to get creative and build many of the pieces myself, or buy pieces that were not ideal and paint, recover or otherwise modify them to fit the decor.
I’ve already gone into detail about how I furnished the dollhouse’s vintage pink bathroom and adorable vintage kitchen, so now let’s take a look at how the furniture for the rest of the house came together:
I found this vintage flower power ka-pow chairs and couch set on ebay for less than $15 delivered. They didn’t quite go with the decor, but I figured I could easily ‘reupholster’ them with leftover fabric.
The green fabric I used to ‘reupholster’ the set is also vintage. It came from some scrap fabric that I received along with two green vintage armchairs given to me by friends of my parents. All I did was cut strips of the new fabric to size and glue them directly over the old fabric using fabric glue. It was a little time-consuming, but very doable. Ta-da — the couches now have a completely different look!
Along with the retro hi-fi doorbell that Robert sent, he also enclosed several dollhouse-sized walnut wood pieces that were leftover from the hi-fi build. I used this scrap to make a few more pieces of furniture for the dollhouse, including this step end table.
The dining room furniture plan started out with this vintage Strombecker blonde wood table that was my Mother’s when she was a little girl. I also played with this table — which was used as a coffee table in my larger-scale, Barbie-sized dollhouse — even though it was always missing one leg and had another leg that constantly fell off.
I decided that this table would be perfect as a dining table for the dollhouse, so I repaired it once and for all. I re-glued the loose leg and made a new leg to replace the missing one using a small round wooden dowel rod that I whittled into a tapered shape with a box cutter knife.
After sanding the newly made replacement leg, and the slightly damaged table top, it was ready for a fresh coat of stain.
Next, I made four dining room chairs to match the table. The seats and backs are made out of basswood and the legs and spindles are made from two different sizes of wooden dowels.
All 16 chair legs were made using the same method as the replacement table leg: cutting a length of wood dowel, whittling it with a box cutter knife and then sanding it smooth. During this process, Pam called me to ask what I was working on, and when I told her that I was whittling dollhouse chair legs with a box cutter, roars of laughter ensued. Did I mention I love my job?
After much whittling and many hand cramps — but thankfully no puncture wounds — I had a pretty cute looking dining room set.
But of course, I couldn’t stop there, so I built a small, sliding door credenza with four more tiny whittled, tapered legs.
After a coat of stain and clear sealer, the dining table looked as good as new…
And the little chairs and credenza turned out quite nicely too!
I used most of the rest of the leftover walnut wood pieces that Robert sent me to create the master bedroom set. The platform bed was fairly easy to construct, but the nightstands took a bit more time.
Yes, the little drawers do work! I couldn’t have a house that had kitchen cabinets that open and a credenza with working sliding doors and not have working drawers in my master bedroom nightstands, right?
I found this cute bedroom set on ebay for about $15 including shipping. The set is stamped “Made in Germany” and has a lovely hand painted flower design decorating both pieces. Looks like a Scandinavian ‘flower power’ bedroom set to me.
The only thing missing was a small nightstand, so I used some leftover wood scraps to make this tiny table — also with a working drawer.
I even painted it with a similar flower motif to match the other pieces in the room.
Before I started collecting, building and refinishing furniture for the Betsy McCall Dollhouse, Pam challenged me to stick to a $100 budget to furnish the entire dollhouse using only vintage furniture or pieces I made myself. I tried very hard to stay in budget — purchasing ‘fixer upper’ dollhouse furniture and buying several lots of furniture from the same sellers to cut down on shipping expenses. When all was said and done, I ended up with a final cost tally that came in just above the $100 mark. Here’s the breakdown of where my money went (ebay and etsy furniture includes the cost of shipping):
Kitchen: Total spent $30.31
- Basswood for cabinets $9.26
- Fixer upper stove, sink cabinet with drainboard, dishwasher, etsy $11.00
- Refrigerator, ebay $10.05
Dining room: Total spent $3.93
- Basswood and wooden dowels to build chairs, repair table, build sideboard $3.93
- Broken dining table that was my Mom’s when she was a kid $0
Living room: Total spent $14.79
- Couch and two chairs, ebay $14.79
- Hi-fi doorbell system, Electrachime $0
- Step end table, walnut leftovers sent by Electrachime $0
Kid’s room: Total spent $15.04
- Bedroom set, ebay $15.04
- End table, made from scrap wood $0
Bathroom: Total spent $17.05
- Fixer upper tub and toilet, etsy $7.00
- Sink, ebay $10.05
Master bedroom: Total spent $0
- Bed and nightstands made with walnut scraps, free from Electrachime
Carport/patio: Total spent $26.61 (I still have to recover the patio furniture so it coordinates)
- Patio bench, local antique mall $7.50
- Table and chairs, ebay $19.11
Total spent to furnish the entire dollhouse: $107.73
Had I not decided to turn the carport into a covered porch space, I’d have come in under budget for sure — but could you pass up adorable vintage wire patio furniture like that? I sure couldn’t.
With all of the furniture constructed and ready to go… the house painted and wallpapered… and flooring installed… all that remains is to move the furniture in and accessorize with wall art, tiny decor, rugs and window treatments. Since accessorizing those last little bits may take some time, I’ll likely work with what I have and then give everyone the grand tour — calling it “finished” though it will likely remain a work in progress. It won’t be long folks, before you get a full tour of the 1955 Betsy McCall DIY Dollhouse!