I took on the arduous task of buying my daughter an empty doll house and set out to furnish it without without using plastic. In this blog post I will show you how to use Maileg furniture (and others) for a Barbie dollhouse. One of my best memories from childhood was receiving a hand made wood doll house for Christmas one year. We were at my grandparents that year, and I had woken up in the middle of the night so excited to see what Santa had brought. It was a tradition for my brother and I to wake up in the middle of the night and sleep under the Christmas tree with all our presents, but this year was little different. I tiptoed down the hall and into the living room to the dim glow of the Christmas tree lights; where there was the most beautiful hand made Barbie doll house. It had real carpet, billowy pink curtains tied with bows on the windows, and pink upholstered canapy bed, (it was the 80’s) even the roof had real shingles! I rubbed my eyes thinking it was a dream, but it was real. I could hardly contain my excitement! I knew I could’t sleep under the tree as this was meant to be a surprise. A big one. So I tiptoed back down the hall, jumped into my bed and practiced my surprised face for the morning, I didn’t want to disappoint my Mom. Growing up with a single Mom, I knew she had clearly saved for this for a long time. It was the single most memorable toy I got. I played with it more than anything else and probably longer than anyone else, as I had younger cousins who gravitated towards it when they came over. I knew if I ever had a daughter, she would have one as well.
Traditionally, everything Barbie is plastic. Though I do have fond memories of plastic Barbie cars, campers etc., being spoiled with a wooden barbie house, made me want to do the same for my daughter. Once I figured out that you can use Maileg furniture for a Barbie Dollhouse, I was set.
I found this house at Homesense. It’s made by a company called Queen West Trading Co. It doubles as a bookcase when she grows out of playing with her dolls and I loved the modern design.
Here’s the ‘before’ photo:
There was a bit of a learning curve when it came to figuring out what to buy and where. Here are some tips:
Size and scale 1:6 vs 1:12
Barbie dolls are 12 inches tall but their scale is 1:6, stay with me. 1:12 scale is called miniature (think Calico Critters). You can literally get everything under the sun in 1:12 scale as there are so many miniature makers and enthusiasts. With 1:6, it’s much harder to find furniture in wood, plastic, etc.
Being that Barbies are 12 inches tall, the Matel, and similar barbie houses are huge to account for scale. The house I chose is smaller. In fact, Barbie is just able to stand up (the height of the rooms are 13 inches). I thought that would be perfect as I was looking for a dollhouse that wasn’t huge and the relative scale didn’t bother me that much. However, it made it really hard to find the right size furniture. In the end, I was measuring literally everything to make sure it fit. I made a few mistakes, like buying things 1/2 an inch too tall and it not fitting.
Artisans from all over the world make amazing 1:6 scale doll furniture. You can find so much beautiful furniture, kitchens, bathrooms etc. on Etsy, but you’ll pay. Prices are often fair, but the shipping (at least to Canada) can cost more than the piece itself. I ended up buying a few things from artisans like a hand made wooden bed from the Ukraine and the coolest most zen hand made bathroom from Russia. But to avoid this project costing thousands, I also bought things online through Aliexpress, Wish and Amazon and if you’re in the market for buying more, perhaps to resell, Alibaba has a pretty decent selection of 1:6 scale furniture, but you usually have to buy more than one of the same piece (great for toy stores looking for stock). I contemplated starting a doll furniture e-commerce store, buying a bit of stock and selling it, because there is a demand for it. Just like the miniature enthusists, there are Barbie enthusiasts as well. I met one right here in my own town. She reworks Monster High Furniture for Barbie and makes her own as well. What stopped me from doing it was issues with shipping. At least half of what I ordered never arrived. The stuff that did arrive was almost all broken. It was super disappointing. This is what lead me to look elsewhere.
My daughter has a lot of Maileg baby matchbox mice and rabbits. Maileg is a Danish company and as my children are both half Danish, their Farmor (Grandma) has been buying them these mice for years. It wasn’t until way later, while on a trip to Long Island, that I realized there were several different sizes and also furniture and one of the sizes worked for Barbie as well. If you go to the Maileg home page, at the bottom under Maileg Education, the sizes of bunnies and mice are listed. The Mini sizes are between 8.7 inches and 10.2 inches, very close to the 12 inch Barbie sizes.
* Note: Do spend some time figuring out the names of the sizes on this page as they have changed, before you purchase anything
My daughter was lucky enough to be gifted so many beautiful items from Maileg to help fill her dollhouse and I’m a huge fan. Their pieces are timeless, minimalistic and beautiful. They are so popular they have been featured in galleries worldwide, including the Louvre in Paris, France and Momo, in New York City.
Hey Kiddo in Toronto as well as Dilly Dally Kids in Vancouver B.C. have an excellent selection of Maileg furniture as well as the bunnies and mice. They ship within Canada and the USA (Hey Kiddo ships internationally as well) or check out Maileg’s homepage for suppliers near you.
Links to help you furnish your Barbie dollhouse in Maileg furniture:
Wallpaper and Flooring
This part I did myself using wrapping paper, pattered cardstock from Michaels and modge podge. It wasn’t without it’s challenges, first cutting the paper the right size and cutting it straight, then applying it evenly and trying to get the bubbles out before it dried and without ripping it. But it was worth it. It adds to the adorable factor of this dollhouse.
Vintage Couch and Chair
There were a few places you could buy the vintage couch and chair when I first started sourcing, but it seems they are a bit harder to find now. I bought the light grey and painted the wooden arms on both of them white.
Mini Bunting Flag
This was a DIY using washy tape and string. I cut strips of washy tape and folded them in half over the string. Then I cut them into upside down triangles to make the flags.
The fireplace was hand made by a good friend of mine from high school. I told him what I wanted and he brought it to life.
This clothes hanger was advertised for Blythe dolls but it was the right size. I painted it white when it arrived to fit better with the dollhouse.
I made the bedding myself picking out fabric I liked. I chose a ticking stripe pattern for the mattress and a floral pattern for the pillows and blanket. I sewed it to size with a sewing machine and added batting for the blanket and pillows.
The curtains are 1:12 scale but looked like they were the perfect size for the windows in our doll house, so I bought them and they fit perfect. Don’t be afraid to take measurements of everything, sometimes 1:12 scale does work for 1:6 dolls!
I found the kitchen shelves at a craft store, but I can’t remember where. They are wood, so I painted them white.
I hope this post helped give you some inspiration on how to use Maileg furniture for a Barbie dollhouse!