Japanese-Inspired Dollhouse

 

Something a little different today! If you’ve been following me on Facebook or Instagram, odds are good that you’ve seen little bits and pieces of this Japanese-inspired dollhouse project I’ve been working on for quite some time. It’s finally complete, and it’s so satisfying to see everything together.

I started with this Romantic Nordic Cottage kit, but essentially only used the base structure and wiring kit. I liked the clean lines and open feel of it, and thought it would suit a Japanese aesthetic well. I kept the basic layout the same and used a few of the pre-cut pieces but also added a lot of custom furniture and accessories. I made a functional tansu and a sort of tokonoma out of popsicle sticks and stained with cherrywood stain markers. The markers made things so much easier, the small tip is the perfect size for this scale. The walls were covered with an assortment of embossed paper in neutral tones instead of using the busy and overly shiny print-outs included in the kit.

The bedding, hanging kimono, zabuton cushions, and chair upholstery are all actual kimono fabric scraps, as are the items inside the tansu. I tried to use pieces that had smaller-scale designs, to fit the general scale and dimension of the house. While I tried to make or at least alter nearly every piece, I bought the sushi, edamame, and dishware at a miniature expo. The decorative bowls and small cooking pot in the kitchen came from there too.

The original kitchen included in the kit had no sink, and the oven front was nothing more than a print-out I was supposed to glue onto a piece of wood, but it looked very unfinished. I used some heavy reflective paper to make a metal sink and build an oven door out of more of the same paper and some matchsticks. I even put on a tiny tea towel, made of shibori fabric.

The aquarium is quite possibly the thing I am most proud of. It was my first time working with resin, and I’m so pleased. I built the structure out of more popsicle sticks, used some gorgeous chiyogami paper from The Rare Orchid as the background, and I decorated the inside with some plant matter, teeny tiny shells, and polymer clay goldfish. I also had so much fun making the kokeshi doll in the little decorative shelf. Pretty sure that’s the tiniest face I’ve ever painted!

I really loved doing all the tiny detail work and decoration. I used a lot of beads and minuscule little knick-knacks I had lying around, and these sorts of things really help the whole thing feel like a real, lived-in home. There’s prints in the kitchen, including some vintage Japanese advertising and an adorable Sushi Cats print, and the art hanging in the tokonoma is by Ichiro Tsuruta, whom I’ve mentioned here before.

The tatami flooring is actually tatami repair stickers! The tile in the kitchen is adhesive vinyl cut into 1cm squares, and the flooring in the dining area is  more of the same imprinted heavy paper used on the walls. To give everything a more polished look, I finished off the edges with more stained coffee stirrers. It’s hard to see, but the bathroom is also “tiled” with more self-adhesive vinyl, and I made a mirror with the same reflective paper used in the kitchen. There are little bottles and toiletries made of beads. The initial kit just had clear acrylic walls in the bathroom, but that felt very exposed to me so I used some semi-opaque paper and decorative wire mesh to give a feeling of privacy.

This project was a labour of love, and reinforced how much I love working with miniatures.

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Miniature Washitsu Project

One thing you may not know about me is that I am completely fascinated with dollhouse miniatures. I find something incredibly awe-inspiring about tiny, realistic objects. My father and I built a dollhouse for some of my figurines and decorating it with miniature food and accessories was my favourite parts. Sometimes when I’m bored, I’ll just browse through online retailers and on eBay, admiring the painstaking detail put into these things.

I’m honestly not sure what put the bee into my bonnet in the first place, but I recently decided I wanted to make a traditional miniature washitsu (Japanese room) diorama, and I wanted to make as much of it from scratch as I possibly could, using found objects or bits and bobs from the dollar store. The room started out as a cardboard mailing box. I covered it with brown craft paper. The roof is more cardboard, covered with pieces of a bamboo beach mat. The tatami mats inside were made out of more beach mat, adhered to foam-core and decorated with washi tape. The wood flooring is popsicle sticks, and the screens are sheer mylar with more popsicle sticks and match sticks. They slide open and closed, too, which I am very proud of! I made the zabuton out of leftover indigo fabric from my recent sashiko project. The table is a coaster and a napkin ring, and the console is the holder for the coasters.

Most of the food and accessories are Re-Ment miniatures I already owned. The tiny bonsai I made myself, using a beads, and a bottle cap and some washi tape for the containter. The kakemono was printed and adhered to origami paper and toothpicks. The only items I purchased were the tiny geta, the vase (the pussywillows in the vase were made with wire and pearl flower pips), and the adorable little bowl of goldfish. The lighting was a happy accident; I made the two small fixtures and went looking for a small set of LEDs to light them, and found some at the dollar store that came with the adorable red lantern! I had to incorporate it!

It may not be perfect, but overall I’m so happy with how this turned out, and I suspect I will be making more dioramas like this in the future. I’d love to do a dressing room with a tiny tansu at some point!