Friday, December 4, 2009

Converting a Greenleaf dollhouse kit into a fantasy "Mouse House"

I have nearly completed a fantasy Mouse House from a converted 1:12 scale Greenleaf dollhouse kit, specifically the Arthur Cottage. This is for my mom's Christmas present this year and I'm just tickled with how it turned out!

I know that many warn against purchasing these type of kits, especially older versions that float around online auction sites. Yes they are often very confusing to put together with pages of directions. They do need to be ‘popped out’ from their perforated sheets and then sanded. There are splinters and cracking and warping. The wood is usually very thin. The doors and windows are not quite to scale… hmm. So why did I choose a Greenleaf to work with on this project? First, the kits are cute and readily available. Second, they are fairly inexpensive and so I don’t mind chopping them up and making my own alterations. I would be reluctant to do that with a pricey ‘furniture quality’ dollhouse. Third, because these kits are composed of thinner wood, they are very easy to alter. Below are product pics of Greenleaf's Arthur Cottage.
How did I make the kit stronger and more durable? The most important point to prevent the structure from leaning and eventually collapsing is to base it on a solid surface and seal all joints. For the base, I chose a thin highly compressed chip board often used in painting classes. This product does not warp and is pretty inexpensive and easy to cut. After I built the basic walls, floors, and roof of the cottage, it was glued down and weighted. I then used a variety of materials to strengthen it and give it the texture I wanted.

My mouse family lives in a meadow and so their home is composed of moss, twigs, rocks, vines, and mud spackle. This allows for a very organic and highly textured look using inexpensive materials and freely found natural supplies from my walks around the lake. I made hundreds of paperclay rocks to cover the exterior sides of the home, giving it the appearance that it was built from fieldstones. I then mixed my own spackle from craft glue, gesso, acrylic paint and layered this all over the ‘stone’ surface. This was then sealed with a glaze and painted with dry brushing and inking techniques.

From this point, I added sticks along the roof and on the exterior of the cottage. I focused on the joints at corners, windows, under the eaves, and along the base. I built flower beds and a porch and then layered bark and moss on the roof and along the front walkway.

In the interior, I layered the floors with peel and stick linoleum floor tiles, cut to the room’s shapes. This is a very inexpensive product, often under a $1 per foot, and it comes in a delightful range of colors and textures. With the mouse house, I was not concerned about the color, just that it further secured the structure and gave added thickness to the floor boards. I then attached balsa strips along interior surface edges, giving it a clean finished look and covering any gaps. The entire interior, including the ceilings and the floors were then covered with my spackle mixture in two layers. This was followed by two heavy glaze layers and then painted with acrylics and inks. Although the house is small, it is heavy and very sturdy!

The Furnishings! The kit was in 1:12 scale but since it is a fantasy piece for mice, I am making it true to life scale and so mix actual items like acorns and life sized mushrooms and flowers with 1:12 scale dollhouse furniture. A lot of furniture and accessories I made specifically for this project:
Above is the Kitchen pantry hutch with a set of my handmade mushroom dishes.

Above is my OOAK orange mushroom and twig table and chair set.

Above is the wash tub I put together from odds n ends. The bubbles are actually oxidized gorilla glue! I found this works well for foam and can have ink and sparkles mixed in while wet for added effect.

Fantasy Miniatures by Etsy Artist FairyFurnishings!
I've also been collecting many artist items for the Mouse House and will be featuring these in a future article. Today, I'd like to showcase FairyFurnishings very cute fairy toilet set! Made from natural wood bits, the potty has a flip top seat with sparkles inside (what has that fairy been eating?) and just the sweetest little toilet paper dispenser on a twig. She is an extremely creative new artist on Etsy and a member of TeamMIDS! I've also gotten a fairy mailbox too ;) Her shop is at

Above is the fairy bathroom set within the house.

Above is FairyFurnishings' mailbox, stuffed with letters and little flowers.

Additional Links:
Greenleaf Dollhouses

Greenleaf provides detailed photos, online support for kit construction questions, and a forum for discussion among collectors. I actually had so much fun building this house that I have since bought 3 more kits for future projects!


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