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SD- and MSD-scale Dollhouses

May 20, 2010

    1. So it's an idea I've had for a little while, after seeing all the dollhouse type things there are for the smaller dolls, and today I decided I'd try and google search it to see if anyone else had had the idea. I didn't come up with any good results, and in light of that, I decided I would come to DoA and ask all of you wonderful people what you thought of the idea.

      In the near future, my family is going to hopefully try and get a house with a little bit of land. Not too much, probably, just an acre or something. Enough that our big dogs will have plenty of room to run to their hearts' content. With the lack of adequate places to photograph dolls in a doll-scale environment there are in the world, I decided that if we had enough room, I was going to make my boy Dorjan's small, one-room, medieval cabin so that I could photograph him properly.

      At the same time, it's also given me ideas for a huge, 1/3rd scale doll house with multiple rooms, realistic fixtures and furniture, and correctly-scaled architectural elements. As an artist, it doesn't seem like that hard of an endeavor, just a lot of time, labor, and materials that I would gladly give up. It would definitely take up a lot of space, which is why I could only do so if I had a bit of land to construct it on. But I'm rather smitten with the idea, and thought it would be absolutely fascinating and amazing to see and play on.

      Of course, the problem with doing something too grandiose would be how to get into the doll house to photograph things to begin with. It would no-doubt require a ladder if it went too much higher then 2 stories. if you scaled a house down to 1/3rd like the SDs are, it would make a 10-foot ceiling only about 3 feet, 4 inches high. A second story ceiling would thus be 6ft, 8in high, and a 3rd story would be 10 feet. So undertaking a project like this would be something that you couldn't just set up and shoot on a whim.

      Moving it around could be handled fairly easily, if you were to construct it in a way that the rooms were dismantleable, where each room in and of itself was a separate "box," and perhaps you could even make it so that the walls were dismantleable themselves. That way, you could conceivably store it in a fairly small space if you wanted, without taking the furniture required into consideration.

      That being said, is there anyone else that has thought of doing this, or already attempted such a feat? I know I've seen images from Asia where someone created a doll-scale winding grand staircase for photoshoots, and I was enthralled. Still, I haven't seen anything other then the staircase, and I believe that it was only a standalone piece. Has anyone else seen any similar doll-scale architecture? What sort of things would you create for your dollhouse, and how would you go about doing it if you did?
    2. It sounds like a Great Idea, i have thought to make a MSD Sized room or such as. I am not very handy with building and never got really into it. I haven't seen any other ''homes'' for their SD or MSD so far but it seems as many DoA'ers are wanting to haha. If i did try it, i would certainly get my father to help. I would probably make it out of a wood type material, nothing really to hard. I like your idea of the separate boxes. I would love to make it where you could lift up the ceiling or walls in some places to access the room, but yet i can only think of a Barbie house type... I have a really old Barbie house that will not fit my MSD's but i could probably work to get it fit. I wouldn't have time now but in the Summer it may be an Idea.
    3. I have made a two storey set in MSD scale and also room sets in both SD and MSD scale, but I will say now, this is not something you wanna take on lightly! *snort* It's not so much the practicality of building it, because that part's the easy bit tbh, bit of ingenuity and some knowledge of building materials and you're away, no, the issue lies with the USE of the thing.

      The reason I eventually removed the two storey set was that photographing within it was a royal pain in the behind. First of all, you have the lighting issue, which, granted, you can solve with lamps and the like, but then you have further issues if you're like me and a scale whore, in that you want the light to look RIGHT and not like two giant spotlights on the room, in which case, you have to work out a way of adequately diffusing it to appear as natural light from the light sources in the room, i.e. the windows.

      Sounds easy, you're thinking it, I know, cos I did too...then I tried it and discovered that in actual fact, faking daylight convincingly and evenly in "rooms" with dimensions of around 120cm's x 80cm's across two floors so that it looked RIGHT when you shot it is infact a TOTAL NIGHTMARE. Course, I am a painful perfectionist on such things and it could well be that I was just WAY too picky, but when every shot came out a different colour, I knew I was in trouble and artificial wasn't gonna do it, so I moved the whole thing to back an ACTUAL window in my house, and attempted REAL light, which was at least natural looking, but as dependant on a good day as any photograph and also blocked the ENTIRE window...family unimpressed...

      Secondly, there's the logistics of shooting on both floors which, as you mentioned, are at odd heights according to whichever scale you're working in. I solved the ground floor by literally putting it on the floor and shooting it either lying or sitting down. The second floor however was more of an issue because it was around 70-80cm's off the ground and therefore required me to either kneel and photograph, or stand and bend to shoot, neither of which, if you've ever done that for extended periods of time, are pleasant to the body! I did try it using a tripod to take the camera weight and keep it steady, but setting up each shot with it takes a while and I tend to prefer handling the camera when shooting so that was out for me.

      In the end, I settled for stripping out the double set and creating two set rooms instead, one in SD scale and one in MSD. The SD is perhaps the most realistic, since it has a window and fireplace installed, both of which were easily done in balsa once I'd worked out the dimensions to make them scale with my horde.

      Basically, the house idea is a fantastic one, and if you get it to work, I applaud you, but honestly, for me, the rooms are a much more workable way of exploring my need for in scale architecture and furniture and they take up WAY less space!

      Hope that helped a bit!
    4. You might be interested in checking out this website :
      The dolls are not bjds, but American Girls. They are 18 inches tall though, and there are some amazing doll houses for them. They have a few that are huge and actual houses, and a couple that are built into a closet. Great place to get ideas.
    5. I asked a similar question in the Large BJDs Discussion area. Here's my results: http://www.denofangels.com/forums/showthread.php?360136-SD-size-Doll-Houses

      I do still want to someday build a dollhouse, but I think knockdown sets are going to be my only option for awhile. I rent a room and have all my life stuffed into that one room, so building a dollhouse of this magnitude would not be an easy endeavor and just isn't feasible for me at this time.
    6. Omigawd...some of these houses are CRAZY!
    7. It's a lovely idea, but I'd be most concerned, as you've mentioned, with how to get INTO it. I'd suggest possibly making an open back wall, the way many 1/12 dollhouses have. The one my mother and I had when I was young had a swinging front panel, too, so that it could be two rooms deep in some places, and you couldn't see the swinging panel from the front at all. With a 1/3 dollhouse, you could also make a swinging back panel, so if you managed to crawl into a room and shut the panel behind you, you could have all four walls closed.

      I think it's a fantastic idea if you have the space and the resources for it. It sounds like something I myself would totally want to do, although I don't have that kind of space. Since it'd have to be outdoors, though, one would have to think about how to protect it from the elements, from rain getting inside, and so on. Perhaps the whole thing could be stored inside a shed built specificially for the purpose?
    8. I've thought about it, but as everyone says, photography would be a nightmare.

      I ended up just building a collapsible set that I could take apart when not in use and gave over part of a large closet to furniture and prop storage. A 1/3 scale set is half my dining room table, if that gives you some idea, and it really needs to be a bit larger for some the furniture.
    9. Ooh, thanks for the links. :D

      I actually had ideas in mind for a fully-collapseable setup, and one of the advantages of having the rooms be separate so that you could take it all apart would be the ability to take the "second story" down to a more manageable level for photographing.

      it would also make them easier to store I you made it so that they folded flat. I have ideas to make it a fully-enclosed building so that a picture can be taken from every direction and you'll still get "room" in it, but to do that, you would need collapsable or fold-away walls so that you could peek in.

      Like say I made the one-room cabin. It would be something lik 6ft by 3ft by 4 or 5 ft with the thatched roof. About halfway down the length of the cabin, I would want a hinge where I could open the wall and peek in and take shots. The roof would of course be removable so that you could arrange everyone the way you wanted them to be and set everything up.

      Lighting can be achieved with some low-wattage lightbulbs, and they actually have set-ups for doll houses where you can rig them with working lighting and fans, so it wouldn't be too hard to figure out. If you wanted it to be candle-light, you could just set up a doll-house light set in a fake "candle," with a decorative clear-plastic "flame" on top. Or you could use flickering christmas lights so that you get the flickering flame effect. If you were really good at setting it up properly, you might even be able to use miniature candles, but you would have to be extremely careful with how you did it so that it wouldn't catch the house on fire. I know I've seen tiny taper candles being sold in candle stores before. And if you created a real stone-and-morter fireplace, you might be able to do that. Like I said, though, you would have to be extremely careful, and that would only be something you would do after working for a very long time to make sure everything worked perfectly.

      Lighting won't be much of a problem for me personally. I was lucky when I got my digital camera in that it actually can take pictures in some of the darkest environments and make them look like daylight. I don't know how it does it, but it does. It's the Nikon Coolpix, if anyone's interested. I love it.

      I'm not as big on the thought of a house with a permanently-open back, though. I'm looking at it more as making a "real" house just small. With the collapseable walls, you could set it up so that the back was open, but you wouldn't get the full feeling that it was a complete room.

      Also, it would give you a chance to create realistic "outdoors" shots, with your dolls standing around the house without the light shining through making it look fake. Then, when you were done with the outdoor shots, you could just dismantle the thing and use only the room you were filming in, and wouldn't have to worry about creating an entirely new setup for the exterior of the house every time you wanted to recreate the outside shots if you hadn't actually finished it.

      All this being said, though, you would really need enough free space in your yard to hold a full room in your real house if you made anything as grandiose as a Victorian-style house, or more then a small building. It would take a long time to set up if you wanted the full house shots, and would take possibly years of work, so this would be something that would be a very big commitment.

      I think what I'm thinking of most is those small, children-sized playhouses that are made to look like miniature Victorian homes made from wood that have one big room, only set up to have multiple rooms and be doll-sized. The technology to build things that big is already there, it's just a question of how you would adapt them to this, and what changes would need to be made.
    10. That would most certainly be every doll owner's dream come true! :D I'd really love a big dollhouse for my lovelies, and I even have someone who could make them for me, but the problem is the architecture and size. It really is a bummer. :(
    11. With the size of the houses, it might not be too hard architecturally. You wouldn't have to worry about safety or plumbing or any of the other building code regulations like with a human house. :P And if you made it with thick, reinforced balsa wood, it could be relatively light and maybe cheaper then with a hard wood.

      It would be kind of a fun thing to build on commission, but the shipping costs would be horrifying. even shipped flat and folded, it would be huge, and would require a lot of padding for safety, especially if made from balsa wood.
    12. An entire house would take up SPACE! Soooo much space... and it's not actually optimal for shooting pictures- fiddly physics of lighting to scale and getting enough light and air into a space. What I intend to do is build a large medieval castle- one room at a time, in the manner of motion picture sets. Knockdown rooms that each have their own prop bin in my garage, that I can set up and take down, with separate walls.
    13. Has anyone else seen any similar doll-scale architecture?
      Unfortunately, no. Could you please link the staircase?

      What sort of things would you create for your dollhouse, and how would you go about doing it if you did?
      Sadly, I can't create anything with my own hands. I will have someone build it for me, that also builds children's playhouses. I was thinking of adding trap doors, and swinging bookcases since it's going to be a home for my version of the Addams Family.
    14. Unfortunately, I lost the link, or I would have linked it in my introductory post. It was made with false dark-wood veneers and from what I could tell, since I can't read the language it was written in, it was set up for photoshoots and then put up. :< I wish I did still have it, it was quite marvelous, and looked soooo good.
    15. I made a 'room' for my SD size boys using a 'presentation board' I bought at Staples. It's made out of some kind of vinyl coated cardboard. It's tall, but not very wide, and it's three sections that fold together flat so you can carry it. Setting it up using the two sides made it too short, so I only fold one panel, so it ends up being one long wall with one side wall instead of two side walls, if that makes sense! LOL!

      I wanted an entire house for my minis, but couldn't afford it. The BJD's I wanted the house for are 'petite' mini's, 11", the same as Barbie. There's several Barbie houses, but they're expensive (at least to me), but I was able to find a used one on Ebay for $35.00. It's 3 stories. I have no idea where I'm going to store it! LOL! I'll probably put it on 'casters', the little wheels they used to put on furniture, so I can move it around.

      The house has funky furniture painted on the walls, so I'm going to completely redo it inside and out, covering the walls with wall paper, adding wooden shingles to the roof, cutting out a door, etc.

      I've been collecting furniture and odds and ends for the last 6 months. Besides furniture, I have a wooden outhouse (actually a birdhouse), a wooden well (actually made to hold a plant), a cast iron antique looking cook stove, a pot belly stove (both salesman samples) and some other neat items that weren't made for dolls but are in scale and just what I was looking for.

      The biggest problem will be that the seller took the house apart to ship it and I have to figure out how to put it back together without any instructions or diagrams! LOL!
    16. hellsingmongrel, I absolutely love your idea of a medieval cabin out on some land... what photographic possibilities! Very inspiring to contemplate. I hope whatever form your dollhouse takes, you will share here on DoA.

      Have you seen the backdrops used in the Orbyrarium book? There's some pretty nice stuff in some of the photostories.
    17. When I have enough money and room for it I do want to get/make a sd dollhouse, or at least some sort of living room and bedroom or something like that :)
      But for now I don't really have the room, money or time to spare.. ;)
    18. Resurrecting the thread because when I was shopping on the internet for small buildings I could set up in the backyard of the house we're shopping around for to create a studio, my mom found this website: http://www.homeplacestructures.com/playhouses

      It's got small children's playhouses that actually look like they might be in scale with larger dolls. There's a physical store for them in Austin, TX that I drive by every day to work, and they actually do look pretty tiny. :D Just thought everyone here would be interested.

      Granted, they're kind of expensive. It might be cheaper to build your own. But they're nice, how there's an adult-sized door in the building itself so that the big people can crawl in to play with their kids. It could make it easier to squeeze in and take photos that way if you wanted. If you got one with a loft, then you could make that the "second story."
    19. I actually did this too (I found this thread after XD) and it turned out pretty well! I'm going to extend it with more painted panels that will be removeable once I get it sorted. I really like that it can just fold up and get put away since I don't really have my own space yet, and what I do have is limited. I plan to build a couple more of these once I work out the design completely, they're really cheap and easy to make- dollhouse design on a budget!


      you can see in the second pic that it's propped up on a doll's box- I think I'm going to make that part of the design and add some steps out front, because it gives it some height and that looks good. Cass is an SD, and he looks pretty good in front of it so far. If I extend it I'll make it wider.
    20. Wouldn't an SD-size house be kinda...huge?