How to make a vintage cardboard dollhouse, 1950s-style

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How to make a vintage cardboard dollhouse, 1950s-style

Note: This article may feature affiliate links to Amazon or other companies, and purchases made via these links may earn us a small commission at no additional cost to you. Find out more here.

This easy-to-make cardboard dollhouse is a project that can grow with your children! Here’s how you can make it — along with tips for cute ways to decorating the little play house.
Rainy-weather project: Make a easy cardboard dollhouse

by Laura D Queal – Woman’s Day magazine – February 1950

This easy-to-make cardboard dollhouse is a project that can grow with your children

To solve the “something-to-do” question when rainy days keep the children inside, we started a dollhouse project that cost very little and required almost no experience.

Our dollhouse was made from a cardboard box, and most of the furniture was contrived from little boxes we had around the house.

The house is most useful when set up on a movable base (a cedar chest is good), so it can be rolled away in a corner.

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The work was designed to go on for some time so the children could have a hand in planning and doing the easier jobs — such as painting the chimneys and shingles. They are much more interested when they can help with the work.

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Vintage 1950s dollhouse DIY cardboard craft project

They are ingenious, too, particularly at thinking up accessories — like using buttons for dishes and birthday cakes and making flowerpots out of corks.

When the house was finished, we bought a minimum of furniture at the five and ten — just enough to stimulate a day’s play. We found room divisions impractical for a house of this size so we placed the furniture to define room limits (see sketch, below).

The children planned furnishings for each room. To make chests, desks, stools, cupboards, beds, etc., we painted little boxes in desired colors and outlined appropriate panels and drawers.

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Tables shown at right were made by tacking cardboard to the tops of empty spools with picture brads.

We made the love seat and easy chair of heavy cardboard — padding the love seat with cotton and covering it with cloth, and painting the chair to resemble cretonne.

Life goes on in our dollhouse just as it does outside. We made a very satisfactory doll family out of pipe cleaners, and dressed them with scraps of cotton and felt. They wear well, and can even be washed.

How to make a vintage cardboard dollhouse, 1950s-style


Directions for making the vintage cardboard dollhouse and dolls

How to make the dollhouse and pipe-cleaner doll

Dollhouse materials: For main house, strong carton 10″ x 12″ x 14″, and for kitchen wing, carton 7″ x 8″ x 11-3/4″ heavy cardboard; set of poster paints; small paint brush; scraps of clear cellophane; household cement; pins.

You will also need a sharp jackknife and a single-edge razor blade (neither, of course, to be used by young children ). A T-square and triangle are helpful but careful measurements with a ruler will give good results.

Instructions: Select cartons with as little lettering as possible, although poster paint is opaque and will cover lettering quite well.

Leave flaps on the boxes, as they may be used for awnings over a back terrace, archways or, later, as the means of attaching new wings to the house. The open flapped side of large carton is back of house and is left open for play. 

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Diagram 1. Bay Window and Roof

Vintage cardboard dollhouse diagram for bay window and roof

First, with pencil draw windows, on front and sides of house (Diagram 6); score and cut all openings (shaded areas). Dotted lines indicate folds. Make and cement bay window and its roof ( Diagram 1 ) in place.

Doors on house are painted on instead of cut, so as to leave more interior wall space. Paint and decorate house. Doorsteps are shallow box lids painted white.

From heavy cardboard, cut 2 gables ( Diagram 4 ). Hold a gable on each end of top of house and mark lines, as close as possible to edges, for slots to hold gable tabs. Cut slots and fit gables into place. Cut roof about 15″ x 15″, then cut slots where chimney sections of gables are to go.

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Fold to fit down over gables and push chimney sections through slots in roof. Cement roof along edges of gables and fasten to house with pins. Make 2 three-sided cardboard chimneys ( Diagram 2 ) and cement into place against chimney sections of gables.

Paint roof, gables and chimneys. Cut heavy cardboard divider ( Diagram 5 ) to form second floor, making extensions for side-door roof and inside ceiling of bay window. Paint floor to indicate rugs, etc., as desired. Push divider extensions through slots A and B of Diagram 6.

Make windowpanes, and cement into place. Cut pieces of cellophane 3/8″ larger all around than window openings. Draw a guide for squares of window frame. Lay cellophane over guide and trace squares with white poster paint.

Curtains may also be painted on windows with white poster paint. To make this. stick to cellophane, rub brush on white soap before dipping in paint. Tint, or paper inside walls of house.

Diagram 2 and 3: Chimney and Kitchen Wing

Vintage 1950 cardboard dollhouse chimney and kitichen wing diagrams

Make kitchen wing (Diagram 3). Leave all 4 flaps on box. Heavy solid lines in diagram indicate how arches, awnings and windowsills are cut. One top flap is cut in half, edge of upper half scalloped, and painted in red and white stripes.

Archways are cut out from side flaps and secured to bottom flap with cement and pins. Inner surface of bottom flap is painted to look like flagstones.

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Mark kitchen window, cut out scallops, and bend up top section for awning. Lower portion is bent down for wide sill. Finish window with cellophane pane.

Make similar window on opposite side and one on back of wing. Floor of kitchen is finished with a piece of oilcloth, cemented down. Top of kitchen wings serve as sun deck.

Diagram 4, 5, and 6: Gable, Divider and House.

Vintage cardboard dollhouse diagram


Pipe-cleaner doll

Pipe-cleaner doll materials: 6 white pipe cleaners; scraps of fine wire; scraps of pink, red and black embroidery floss; scraps of pink cotton fabric for head and scraps of fabric for clothes; cotton for padding head; scraps of oilcloth or felt for shoes, belt and accessories — hat, pocketbook, etc.

Instructions: For adult doll, use pipe cleaners full-length; for children, cut them in proportion.

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Diagram 7. Pipe-cleaner Doll and Clothes

Twist 2 pairs of cleaners around each other ( Diagram 7A ). Twist fine wire tightly around the knot. Take 2 more cleaners for arms; bend them in half and twist tightly around figure, about 1″ down from top ( Diagram 7C ). Secure knot with wire. Bend legs up 1/2″ from end to form feet.

To make head, pad top section with cotton, and cover with 2 ovals, with neck extension, of pink fabric; overcast together down to shoulder line ( Diagram 7B ). Mark eyes and mouth. and embroider. Work satin stitches ( see diagram) thickly to resemble hair.

Satin Stitch

To form arms, wind pink embroidery floss over pipe cleaners, starting at shoulder and stopping 1/4″ from end. Then wind back to shoulder and fasten. Finish legs in same way, starting at upper end of each leg. Cut 4 sole-shaped pieces of felt or oilcloth for shoes, and overcast 2 together on each foot. Fasten firmly.

Cut clothes very simply ( Diagram 7D ) and hold in place with belt of oilcloth, felt or cotton.

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Vintage 1950s dollhouse and dolls you can make

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