Over the years, the pieces went missing and it was shuffled from one basement to another. When I reached that magical grown-up age when neither of my parents wanted to store my stuff anymore, the dollhouse came to live with me.
But kids already have several “sentimental value” dollhouses and Barbie houses of their own — four, to be exact — so we couldn’t keep a fifth. I decided there was a way to keep the things I loved most about my little dollhouse, and get to see them all the time — without sacrificing a huge chunk of our storage room.
I started by using a craft knife to gently remove each of my grandmother’s oil paintings from the walls, along with a few gilded mirrors made by my mom. I even grabbed the tiny plastic toilet paper holder, because it’s so tiny and cute.
I used my craft knife to remove a sample of wallpaper in each of the rooms. The bedroom and kitchen wallpaper is especially meaningful, because it’s from our “old-old house” where I lived from age one to age six.
One of my favourite parts of the dollhouse was always the cute windows and shutters, and the gingerbread trim. So my husband helped me take “samples” from a few sections with a small saw.
I considered using a real shadowbox, but decided I’d be too limited by the depth of the glass. Plus, real shadowboxes are usually $40 or $50, and you’re basically paying for nothing more than a very thick frame. So I grabbed an old green frame from my frame stash, and gave it a quick coat of glossy black paint.
I turned my attention to my pile of scraps — torn-off pieces of wallpaper, tiny paintings, hunks of wall — and used my craft knife to cut everything into neat rectangles or squares.
To cut the thick sections of wall, I made long cuts with the knife — scoring one area over and over — and then simply snapped the unwanted section off. Then I sanded the edges lightly to get rid of the roughness.
Since my old frame didn’t have a back, I used an old scrap of paneling (leftover from my daughter’s room) and glued on sheets of black cardstock. By keeping the frame and background black, all of the dollhouse pieces would really pop.
I warmed up my trusty glue-gun, and started laying out the dollhouse pieces in different arrangements. I made sure to space out my grandma’s paintings, and tried to pair them with the wallpaper from their original room whenever possible. Once I was happy with how it looked, I glued everything in place with lots of hot glue.
One of my strongest memories of my “old-old house” is this shooting star/heart wallpaper, so I’m glad it’s preserved somewhere prominent. I just wish I could have preserved the awesome waterbed I had in that house — oh, to live in the ’80s again!
On the back of one of my grandpa’s paintings, there was a 50P price tag from a craft stop in Scotland, so I gave it a place of honour. In the bottom of one of our toy bins, I came across the only piece of original dollhouse furniture I have left — this little wooden chair — so I glued it on as a reminder of my sweet grandpa.
I found some tiny details when I looked at everything up close, like an “Easter Seals 1987” sticker that I’d never noticed stuck to the wallpaper. It’s like a permanent timestamp from when I was four.
The older I get, the more I realize that you just can’t keep everything. That’s why it’s so important to separate the truly meaningful from the mundane, and find innovative ways to display your treasures. If something is really important to you, it doesn’t deserve to be buried in your basement storage room.