Once upon a time, we took two years to make an A-frame dollhouse for our daughters for Christmas. It took us so long to finish the project that they actually got it for Christmas twice. Once when it was mostly done, and once with some extra details added to it.
This blog post is going to show you some of the progress of the a-frame dollhouse build, some tips, and of course the finished product.
This post will NOT give you a detailed guide so you can replicate exactly what we did. Frankly, we didn’t keep track of measurements or take enough pictures to show you a true step-by-step guide.
I would thin of this post as an A-frame dollhouse inspiration as well as helpful advice so you can make your own DIY A-frame dollhouse.
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What is an A-Frame House?
An A-frame house (or cabin) is a building shaped — as you guessed it, like the letter A. Or, like a triangle.
Although A-frame houses were inspired by buildings used much earlier, and in many different cultures, the modern A-frame was first built by Rudolph Schindler in 1934. He designed it for his client, Gisela Bennati, who lived in Lake Arrowhead, California.
A-frames really took off after WWII in the early 1950s when architect John Campbell revealed his version of the A-frame house in Leisure Magazine.
By the 1970s A-Frame houses were incredibly popular in mainstream designs and commonly found as cabin getaways or homes, but they fell out of grace in the 1980s. The 1980s were more concentrated on bigger, better, less A-Frame type structures, and these buildings quickly became unpopular (partially because they had become prosaic at this point).
That is…until the early 2000s when there was a resurgence again.
I’ll admit, we millennials are more attracted to simple, nostalgic, earthy things. Many of us aren’t keen on mansions and expensive condos (probably can’t afford them anyway), but give us an affordable mountain getaway that reminds us of our grandparent’s era? Yeah, we’re in.
Field Mag, a “modern outdoor lifestyle publication” is where I learned a bit about the history of the A-Frame, and I thought I’d share this nice little bit that they included in their article:
“…the A-Frames of today though-affordable, compact, thoughtfully designed, and often zero-emission or off-grid. They are hybrids of their budget-friendly, 1970’s escapist chalet brethren, the minimalist practicality of the tiny house movement, and the ever-growing eco-consciousness of the contemporary design world. Bound no longer to the confines of simply being a weekend getaway-or even being tiny-the A-Frame of today is here to fit your needs, whether that be a second, rental, remote, or first home.”
Don’t you feel like there’s something kind of magical about the A-frame aesthetic?
I don’t know. Maybe it’s the 1950s marketing getting me, but I just love it. I want to spend a winter sitting in front of a giant window, drinking my hot chocolate, and watching the snowfall. I know you’re feeling it too. How can you help it?
Now come along with me as I take you on a journey explaining how we made an A-frame dollhouse for our daughters (for two Christmasses in a row).
The A-Frame Dollhouse Sketch Up
It started with a dream. I wanted Ned to make the girls an A-frame dollhouse. So, I drew this design.
There were several versions of the sketch. At one point I might include a hinged wall, but decided against that in the end:
I also thought we would include a fireplace (we didn’t) and I thought we would include plexiglass on both sides of the building (we also didn’t do that).
Getting the Angles Right
Perhaps the most perplexing part of the A-frame dollhouse build was the angles. It really had us stumped at first. If there are 360 degrees in a circle, how long will it take Grandpa to travel from Seattle to Pittsburgh if X = Y. Is basically what it felt like.
This is Ned and our friend, Joe, trying to work out the angles. What made it even more perplexing was it was a triangle that didn’t have three equal sides.
I think Ned was ready to abandon the project immediately, but he did prevail. The three women in his life demanded it of him, and he rose to the occasion.
I asked him today how he figured out the angles and he said…he doesn’t remember. Sadly, neither do I. I do remember that it was partially difficult because his miter saw wasn’t able to cut the top angle steep enough and he had to cut it out by hand.
Piecing the A-Frame Dollhouse Together
Here is a picture of the early days of the A-Frame house. Ned used a Bessey band clamp to hold the angles together. This particular clamp worked great for this project, and would also be good if someone were interested in making picture frames. We left space on one end for a little porch.
Once Ned had the basic structure of the house built he started adding cross pieces. These were held together with glue and held in place with small wood clamps. We attached the entire thing to a plywood base so it would have something to sit on.
Ned drilled a hole into the top angle so he could hold the pieces together with a 1/4 inch dowel rod. Once it was glued in place, he sawed off the pieces that stuck out.
Using his table saw, Ned cut out this side piece for the dollhouse. It was a thin piece of plywood. I think Ned ended up putting this one on the other side of the house because I wanted the porch to be on the side with the windows.
Trim Pieces For the A-Frame Dollhouse
Ned added these trim pieces so he could have something to place the plexiglass against. I would say putting in the plexiglass was one of the most intricate parts of this project. He also attached a piece of wood on the inside of the frame so he could place the loft floor on it.
Ned cut out the plexiglass on the table saw. He placed blue tape over the places he cut out on the saw to make it less likely to break the plexiglass. He also cut out a little door for the house but at this time it was not attached. You can see that he used tiny trim pieces around the window pieces to keep them in place. Many of the cuts on the dollhouse were done by hand using a pull saw and a dovetail saw.
The pictures skip ahead quite a bit here. I missed taking pictures of some of the building parts, but here is the house on the first Christmas. It does have plexiglass windows, the backside of the house, and the loft floor.
Additional Details Added to the A-Frame Dollhouse
The dollhouse was pretty nice, but there were some finishing touches we wanted to add. I found this prefab set of stairs at Hobby Lobby and thought it was totally adorable and should be added to the house. I also found some you could buy on Amazon if you’re interested. The one I used was 1:12 scale.
Ned cut out a little section in the loft floor where he could place the top of the stairs.
He also made this little piece for the bottom of the stairs because the stairs were a tad short to reach the top.
Under the loft floor, he attached a piece of wood so he had something to tie the stairs into at the top. I didn’t take a picture of it, but he also added a post under the stairs for extra stability.
I found these little hinges that Ned used to attach to the door (something similar can also be found on Amazon).
Staining the A-Frame DIY Dollhouse
We chose to stain the A-frame house instead of painting it. It seemed more cabin-y that way to me. The outside of the roof was stained, but we used Polyacrylic on the rest of the wood.
We used a walnut finish from Minwax.
I put blue tape on the windows so they wouldn’t get any stain or poly on them.
The Finished A-Frame Dollhouse
It took only two+ years to finish the dollhouse, and the girls received the same gift for two Christmasses, but I think they love it. We bought them some fun dollhouse furniture and they use their calico critters as the house inhabitants.
Please enjoy these pictures of the finished product:
What to Fill the A-Frame DIY Dollhouse With
When you have your DIY A-Frame dollhouse finished, you probably want to fill it with adorable dolls and furniture. My girls love Calico Critter dolls.
If you’re not familiar with them, they look like this:
Here is a little collection of shots from the A-Frame Dollhouse with furniture and Calico Critters included:
For furniture, there are a lot of good options we like:
Finding things that are fair trade is important to me, so I looked for a fair trade option to share with you.
Unfortunately, I had trouble finding toys listed as fair trade in this niche. It could be a good option to make your own handmade wooden pegdolls or find a set from one of the many sellers that handmade peg dolls.
If you have further interest in fair trade items, you can check out my guide about buying and making fair trade toys. I listed several fair trade sellers who do make peg dolls and other fun toys for children.
I would also be interested in hearing from anyone that has ideas for fair trade doll furniture or dollhouse accessories. Leave a message below and I will try to include your suggestions in this post. Thank you!
Now It’s Your Turn to Build an A-Frame Dollhouse
We hope you enjoyed this tutorial and it inspired you to make a dollhouse for your kids. Please feel free to ask any questions below. We may not remember the answers, but we’ll do our best to answer any questions you may have.
Have a great day! Enjoy it! Try to find a little space in your day for some creativity and imagination.
-Hannah and Ned