Secondhand Victorian-style dollhouse

I’m going to come clean straight away and say this is a project I’m working on as a gift for Cora this Christmas, but it’s also 9,000% entirely for me. I am living vicariously through Cora this Christmas. And beyond. 

I had been looking on Kijiji for a dollhouse for Cora for a few months. Probably casually looking for around six months, but more seriously searching for the last two to three months. I found amazing dollhouses every few weeks but they were either too expensive, located too far away or were the bad kind of homemade that were misshapen and home to jagged edges that no amount of sandpaper or filler could fix. This would after all be a present for our curious toddler so I wanted it to be a practical, special and more importantly a safe dollhouse. 

Kijiji did not disappoint. Kijiji is a gentle creature that rewards those with an abundance of patience. You have to look and look and look and inquire and have a deal fall through and keep looking and change your search words 20 times and then right when you’re about to give up, the most perfect thing will present itself. 

I suspect many peopled passed on this dollhouse because of its lack of a front door, a window and stairs. Ha, I say. HA! You’re going to have to do a lot worse than that to deter me. Before I heard back from the owner if it was still available or not, I was already researching how to make dollhouse doors and stairs and I am up for the challenge. 

As Robert pointed out, the attic is very like the wallpaper in Adam and Barbara’s house in Beetlejuice. It’s really sweet and I might keep it for the time being. 

As for the rest, I will be changing. I’m already overwhelmed with redecorating ideas. It will mostly be for Cora’s current / my old Sylvanian Families [aka Calico Creatures in North America] collection, so it will be decorated to be sweet and adorable. I might try my hand at making some tiny wallpaper, and there will be bits of burgundy here and there, but I’ll try my best to not to impose a gothic look. I’m way too excited to start redecorating Cora’s dollhouse and I’ve even come up with a few moodboard ideas for it! I really can’t wait to start. I love a good project, especially on a scale I can handle for a few hours a night. 

But more importantly, want to know how much I paid for it?

Guess.

Go on.  

No. 

Lower.

Lower … 

$45.

p.s. Serious question – can I say I own a Victorian house now? Because I kind of do … 

Should you be interested, check out my post where I share my

Top Tips for Buying Secondhand Items Online

DIY Friday – faux marble fireplace

The other day my sister-in-law Jenny sent me a photo of an update she made to the fireplace* in her new house. She updated the tiles surrounding the fireplace with some [of my personal favourite] faux marble contact paper, and what a change it made. She had seen my post on Instagram about updating our dining room table with contact paper and got the idea to pick up a roll of faux marble paper to make a quick and very effective update to her fireplace.

It’s a fantastic transformation and it’s one of my favourite kinds of updates; such a simple idea and a small change, but it makes a huge impact in a space.

So many fireplaces across Ireland come with this very style of tile. I can understand they’re not to everyone’s taste, and this is a perfect example of how to make the most of what you’ve got! It’s such a perfect example of what can be done with contact paper. Thanks again Jenny for sharing your before and after photos! And we can’t wait to see more of your new house!

Should you be interested in seeing more, here is a list of all the projects I’ve worked on involving contact paper to date …

Contact paper table top
Contact paper covered diary
Coffee station update – mini faux marble plinth
Mini interior sample stash for designing on the go
Updating [and childproofing] our secondhand dining room table with contact paper
Contact paper kitchen counters [test run!]

*PLEASE NOTE: Jenny and her family do not use this fireplace. It is strictly for show! Please use your own judgement when using contact paper anywhere near open flames. But I know you’re going to be careful. I just want to state the obvious for obvious reasons.

Updating (and childproofing) our secondhand dining table with faux marble contact paper

It’s been in every dining room photo since my One Room Challenge but I never got around to properly introducing it; our updated dining room table! I updated it in May with some faux marble contact paper and I’m only getting around to writing about it now. Story of my life these days, but it was the best update I could have made to that table.

One of the many things the previous tenants left for us was their dining room table. They knew we had next to nothing since emigrating from Dublin and since they’d be buying a dining table for their new house, they decided to really kindly leave their old one.

I was irrationally excited about it as it’s a really solid table [we bought a table last October, but it ended up being very weak and flimsy]. Our dining room is also a really big room so it needs a big table to anchor it and make it feel less like you’re floating around in the middle of the ocean. While I loved the shape and size of the table, I knew I’d want to eventually update it. But exactly how was my next daunting question.

The table is for the most part solid wood, but in a deceptive way. In a few spots [as you can see on the left in the photo above] it’s some sort of MDF just beneath a thin surface of real wood. There was also no finish so the raw, untreated wood had a lot of stains it wasn’t willing to part with; nail polish, coffee and food in general. None of which could be cleaned off.

I first thought about staining the table with a wood stain, but to be honest, I didn’t like the wood pattern on the top and the already dark knots would have ended up looking even darker. My next immediate thought was to cover it in contact paper, but I was hesitant. I mean, that’s a lot of table to cover. And the edges were so fiddly.

It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I finally made a decision; I was trying to once again clean a smushed blueberry from a few days previous [yay, untreated wood that absorbs everything] when a massive splinter of wood from the edge broke off into the palm of my hand. And I mean it was huge [#ThatsWhatSheSaid]; it was about 5 inches long, razor sharp and decided it would much rather hang out in my hand. What if it had broken off when Cora was around? What if it happened when I wasn’t there to see it? The mind goes to fantastic places once you become a parent, so that afternoon during Cora’s nap I took out the rolls of contact paper and got to work.

It was time consuming but easy to cover the table. I took the leaves apart and applied the contact paper one section at a time. I used the same technique I used a few years ago to cover our then coffee table – you can see the full step-by-step tutorial here! [p.s. I was about 2 weeks pregnant with Cora in those photos, but didn’t know it 💕]. I also lightly sanded the legs and applied two coats of white paint [I used some leftover Behr’s eggshell paint for baseboards and doors as it was wipe-able and held up really well throughout the dining room].

I will be the first to admit it is not a perfect update. When you stand at the end of the table you can see the wood pattern in the reflection, but only if you’re really concentrating. The end leaves of the table are much wider than the width of the contact paper so there’s a random 2-inch strip of contact paper at either end. But for us right now, this table is perfect. It fits the three of us for dinner plus the hot mess of garbage that gets dumped on it. It’s very sturdy. But above all else, it is a dream to clean. No matter what you spill or drop on it, it wipes off immediately. And when you have a toddler that is an angel one minute and the 11th member of Suicide Squad the next, that’s a deal breaker. Function > form.

For anyone curious, I ordered my contact paper directly from the manufacturer. They said it’s available in Lowe’s here in Canada [but I couldn’t find it on their shop online], and back in Dublin I bought this exact same contact paper in B&Q.