Thursday, August 6, 2009

Miniature Tutorial: How to Make Your Own Spooky Dollhouse (or just dress it up for Halloween)

Making a dollhouse in any theme is a large project and ultimately a labor of love! Whether you are designing and building one from scratch, making one from a kit, or decorating a pre-built house, a miniature collection involves a bit of work and creativity. Adult collectors carefully consider scale, theme, and quality. If you find yourself drawn to haunted houses, Halloween folk art, or gothic elegance, having a permanent spooky dollhouse might be fun for you! Or you might just really enjoy the idea of decorating your dollhouse seasonally. In either case, here are a few ideas…

Maybe you just want to add a few haunting or autumn type details to an existing collection for a seasonal display. In this case, consider an eye catching magical cabinet, desk, or trunk filled with mystical goodies to set the mood. Below is a beautiful magical cabinet by LilWitchy that would be an interesting focal point:

Throw around a few baskets full of spotted mushrooms, pumpkins, spell books, a cat or two and viola! Here is a lovely set of pumpkin displays by Golden Unicorn Miniatures that could frame a front porch or a magical bookcase for instant spooky and autumn appeal!
From here, you can add layers of black silk or mesh across furniture and hanging from drapes or even stretch a bit of faux cotton webbing about. A few high quality artisan pieces will distinguish your collection rather than covering your house in plastic bright orange bits. Consider other color schemes besides the stereotypical orange and black. How about silver and sage or red and gold? All of this can then be neatly packed away when the dark holiday is over.
Here are Etsy Miniature Artists who can help you with this treasure hunt!
(that’s me !!!)

An easy add that can really give an eerie ambiance to any scene are the variously lit lamps and lighting kits from the Lemax Spooky Town series, found every year at Michael’s Arts and Crafts. Piles of skulls with glowing eyes, street lamps shaped like witches’ hats, or the basic purple or strobe light kits for about $8 to $12 look really great. I usually steer clear of mass produced items in my own collection but Lemax has nice basic lighting sets that don’t require copper tape and boxes to be affixed to your structure. You just pop the battery in the little power box and hide it behind the couch. These are the Lemax lights I use:

Official Lemax Spooky Town Website with links to displays, news, and online shopping:

If you are interested in trying a more permanent spooky or fantasy collection but aren’t up to a whole dollhouse, consider doing a roombox first. Be creative: your roombox could be made from a faux pumpkin cut open or a cigar box bound to look like a spell book! Turn a large oatmeal container into a castle tower or create a cave scene with paper mache and Styrofoam!

My first attempt at spooky miniatures was this little room box entitled “Hag’s Cabin”. I had a picture in my mind of a little old wise lady living alone in the swamp. It is made from a board kit with a scratch built skull hearth that I constructed out of Styrofoam, stucco, resin, and Halloween plastic skull rings. I made tattered curtains from inked leather and painted the walls and floor in shades of purple and brown with ink running down to simulate age and smoke damage. Then I made my very first spooky accessories! That was in 2006 and the whole piece sold on eBay.

Another option is to purchase and build the smaller Greenleaf Haunted House Kit, available for about $38 through various dealers online, hobby shops, and toy stores. The official Greenleaf site for the kit is
Below are 2 different variations made from the same kit:

If you are doing a whole house or roombox, what theme do you want to focus on? Spooky miniatures are a growing subgenre in the hobby with a lot of potential for new directions. It’s more than simply Halloween decorations with an orange and black color scheme (although I admit to loving all of that). You could create a unique collection based on the Old West, Zombies, Victorian Ghosts, Frankenstein, Vampires, Dark Fairies, Sexy Witches, Egyptian Mummies, Swamp Hags, Pirates or any number of other ideas! Think about the creepy movies you have seen. I personally have developed lines of furniture and accessories for Egyptian Revival, Victorian Gothic, Medieval Wizardry, Vintage Halloween, Dark Fairy, Modern Abandoned, Magic Steampunk, and Rustic Country Witchery.

If you are ready to take the plunge into a fully haunted miniature mansion or castle, there is quite a bit of variety in the actual architecture to achieve an eerie feel. Do you want a quirky brightly colored holiday house, an abandoned home with tattered curtains, peeling paint, and shutters askew, or an elegant gothic mansion with iron gates and ornate interiors?

The Flickr artist Tomdotcom has several brilliantly colored and generally funky dollhouses!
Below is a very darkly elegant home by an artist that went by 'subrosa'. I unfortunately can’t find the link anymore so if you have any information, let me know!
I do not spend oodles of money on architectural add-ons. Instead, I buy jewelry findings to dress up window sills and doorways, I build mantles and pedestals with cardboard, balsa wood, and stucco, and I turn action figure bits into sculptures and friezes. Look in wedding supplies aisles for miniature gates, gazebos, and columns. You’ll find interesting gothic papers for walls and books in scrapbook stores along with precut board frames that make interesting architectural niches. Check beading supplies for bits that can be turned into chunky hinges and locks on furniture and beads that can become potion bottles. Consider broken toys, chains, chopsticks, and found natural items. Material for art is everywhere! Well good luck on your spooky journey…


KrisMrsBBradley said...

These are so awesome!

Unknown said...

I love this! I'm really inspired now. I've never had a dollhouse but I've always wanted one. Now you've got me looking for one :)

Cia of Briarwood Studio said...

Love this blog, Grim. Very inspiring and informative!


Rachat de credit said...

Thanks it is a great guide, now to make our own spooky dollhouse (or just dress it up for halloween) is very easy by using your guidance. Thank you


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