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Painted Lady Dollhouse

Updated on November 4, 2012

A Victorian Painted Lady Dollhouse in the Making

Never let it be said that I passed up a $6.50 dollhouse kit. There it was at Value Village, a Crestview -- half price no less. It appeared complete except for the directions (and, hey, someone is selling instructions for $5.00, for moments such as these).

This page is detailing its journey from sheets of die-cut plywood pieces and bags of shingles to... well, the problem is I live in a very small space, and while one large dollhouse makes an imposing centerpiece, I don't want to grow a village in here in 12:1 scale. I plan to to finish the dollhouse kit inside and out (flooring, walls, shingles) and then -- unsure -- it may be sent on the next leg of its journey as a finished dollhouse kit. (Conversely, I could try to get it assembled and look for a local charity auction.)

I have been more or less prepared for years. I have micro-thin plywood, paints, glazes, fine polish and, upholstery fabric, as well as the basics like wood filler.

This is an in-process project. You can follow me in the process, beginning with choosing materials and color schemes. The picture you see is one of my inspirations: a real Painted Lady house from my Seattle neighborhood. It's not actually a dollhouse, though it rather looks like one. I've got a dozen or so pictures assembled for reference. When it comes to painting a miniature Painted Lady, there's a world of options -- so it's best not to limit oneself to looking at miniatures and kits.

If You're Making a Dollhouse, Finish First

... Or rather do the finishing. Even if you have plenty of space, it's easier to floor a dollhouse if you do it before it's assembled.

Some of my Materials

Some of my Materials
Some of my Materials

What's a Painted Lady, Anyway?

Some of those 'glamorous' older houses can be described by any of a number of terms. Victorian refers to the era in which many of them were built (though some Painted Ladies are Edwardian). Queen Anne refers to the style of architecture. A painted lady is often, but not always, a Queen Anne -- a fancy Victorian style that often includes towers and cupolas. What's unique to the Painted Lady is that it is painted in three or more colors in a way that sets off the architectural details.

Often, we think of San Francisco when we think of Painted Lady houses, but they are here and there. I see them around me in Seattle. Many have lacy gingerbread trim that is known as Eastlake styling. (Yes, some houses can be described with many terms indeed!)

Some Words on Choosing a Dollhouse Kit

Dollhouses -- and kits -- are fashioned in different materials, and this is part of the reason for differences in price. Mine (the Crestview pictured here) is punch out plywood, which puts it at the lower end of the price range, at least when it comes to kits that are designed for adult collectors. The Painted Lady kit in the sidebar is made of medium density fiberboard -- a mid-priced kit. The most expensive kits and houses are usually made of cabinet-grade plywood.

Another thing that can add to the price is finishing. Most kits come unpainted, and without flooring, shingles etc. There are some exceptions, though. Keep in mind that finishing is not the same as assembling. An assembled dollhouse can carry a hefty price tag, and can be difficult to ship.

Constructing a Dollhouse from a Finished Kit

This is a different model than mine, but it's also a Painted Lady. It has been bought pre-finished which, in the world of dollhouses, is not an oxymoron. It's finished in a style appropriate for an older child (a fair amount of realism, but a bit less than an adult collector might favor).

Picking a Color Scheme and Getting Started

Flooring your Dolllhouse - Part of Finishing

You have several choices for wood dollhouse flooring. You can cut it yourself from veneer, you can purchase it already cut, backed, and ready-to-go, or you can use a paper that simulates dollhouse flooring. (If you choose this last option, you'll want to varnish it well.)

It's also an option to carpet your dollhouse floor -- at least if you are going for a relatively modern look. Just because the architectural style dates back to the Victorian era, it doesn't mean your house has to be set in that era. (Those Painted Ladies are still around in the 2000s). You can use upholstery fabric from Jo-Anns as carpeting.

Painted Lady Dollhouse Kits

These dollhouse kits aren't all labeled painted lady,but that's what they are -- or what they'll become once you take to them with three contrasting colors of acrylic. There are architectural details that are typical of Victorian Painted Lady houses. The houses are built somewhat vertically (more or less); this may not be part of the definition of Painted Lady, but which is part of the image we call to mind.

The Melissa and Doug Victorian dollhouse has a recommended age range of 6 to 10. It's a durable press board with a laminate finish. It comes finished in a bright pink; this means there's less work for Santa, but as a reviewer notes, it might limit its value for older collectors.

The San Franciscan is indeed a Painted Lady (though it's named after the city and not the style). It's a potential collector's piece. And the Real Good Toys Painted Lady? This one has very lavish detailing, and is the sort of house that is favored by both collectors and older children.

And share your thoughts.

Sit Down on the Porch... - ...have a miniature lemonade...

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    • KarenTBTEN profile image
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      KarenTBTEN 4 years ago

      @carol-weide: I have only seen it sold in kit form. It can be painted any color, but the way they show it on the website, it looks like most of it is done in a blue that's a little lighter than royal blue -- maybe somewhere between baby blue and royal blue. It looks like it's got an ivory or buttermilk color in that big triangular area on the top floor, and a little bit of a deep yellow... mustard, maybe?... as an accent.

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      carol-weide 4 years ago

      Can anyone tell me the colors ( Blue/Purple) of the Painted lady, by Real Good Toys, What are the Paint names? I have looked all over,

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      ohcaroline 5 years ago

      I bought a Victorian dollhouse kit about 25 years ago with all the intentions of creating a house with all the trimmings. I carried it around from place to place. Finally 3 years ago I said it's now or never. I pulled out all the pieces and separated them and was ready to jump into the construction work when I was forced to make a move. What to do with all those little pieces? I gave it away for the next home builder to finish the job.

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      gemjane 5 years ago

      Nice lens! I never tire of looking at the painted lady style.

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 6 years ago

      I had always wanted a dollhouse when I was a little girl. The closest thing I got to see a dollhouse in all its splendor with miniature chandeliers and a working tv was at Frontierland in Southern California across from Disneyland. But that was ages ago and I don't know if the miniature museum is still there. Thanks for sharing.