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Various lighting fixtures, mirrors and TV

I have had many dollhouses over the years. I got my very first one in 1948. It was a  painted tin colonial. It had six rooms and six lights. There was a cord to plug in the wall and there was one little light bulb in the ceiling of each room.

The carpets and wallpaper were painted on, as well as the front door and shutters. There was a living room, dining room and kitchen downstairs and a bedroom, bath and nursery upstairs. But no stairs.

Recently someone brought one of these to the Antique Road Show. and as it is now a rare collectible is was worth thousands of dollars.

My tastes have evolved over time. I think my favorite material is real wood. If you have lots of money, double wall construction is nice. The wires for the lighting can be totally hidden between the walls and there are outlets in each room to plug in lamps. (Figure at least $1000 for a basic house)

Not only do I not have this type of dollhouse, most of my rooms are made from cardboard boxes. The good news is that you can punch a hole in the top or sides to insert lights. You can use an ordinary awl for this or an electric drill.

If  you have a Dremel, this is a fabulous tool for all aspects of miniature work. This is a very good quality electric drill/sander etc. It is small and a very useful tool for all miniature and craft work. They come in kits with multi accessories to snap on. (I have never had one, but it is on my list).

It is nice to have lots of lights, as it makes your dollhouse come to life. There are many ways to go about this.

The most traditional way is to electrify your dollhouse, using copper tape, a soldering iron, solder and miniature bulbs all throughout the house. This is best done, before you put the flooring materials on such as carpet and tile. Also before you put up wallpaper and other wall coverings.

I did this years ago, when I built a wood tudor style house and it is a huge job. You need over $100 worth of equipment to set it up properly and that doesn’t count the actual light fixtures, just the wiring.

It is wise to buy a kit complete with a transformer to run your electricity at a lower voltage. As I recall, it took me over a month to wire the whole house.

Thinking about that dollhouse, I have to smile. It was the first ‘kit’ I had ever built. The lady in the store said, “It is so easy, and all you need is some Elmer’s glue and sandpaper”. Right.

I hadn’t discovered the glue gun yet, but that sure would have speeded up the building time. As it was it took me the better part of a year to complete it. But that is a story for another day.

For my dollhouse now, I have used miniature Christmas lights. I wound them in and between rooms and up to the ceiling. I held them in place with duct tape, masking tape, and thumb tacks (being very careful not to go through the wire) It is impossible to totally hide the wires and it isn’t as authentic, but with about three strands of lights I was able to light a twelve room house.

Some of the lights are behind the house and shine through windows.

I added a thirteenth room after doing the lights and so was in a quandry as to how to light it. At Christmas time there are many light options.

I bought some LED lights which work on two AA batteries. These are used mostly for wreaths and centerpieces. They sell them at CVS and are only $2.99. There are fifteen tiny lights on a strand and they come in white or multi color. I got two of each.

The tiny switch goes from steady on, to twinkling, to off. I used the multi lights on my dollhouse Christmas trees and snaked a few bulbs into the fireplace behind the fire screen. The white lights were just laid around the room and I put objects in front of each bulb so there is just a glow.

I have also used the tap on lights which are available in Walgreens and other outlets. These are round disc lights which operate on three AAA batteries. The base sticks to the ceiling and the light part twists off. This gives a pretty good general lighting effect to the room.

If you use this type of lighting you will need lots of AAA batteries. Three per light, and they don’t last forever.

City Mill here in Honolulu has a rectangular version of this. It is the main lighting in the master bedroom and bathroom.

I also have several small flashlights, so if someone is inspecting my dollhouse, they can aim the beam and look into the back corners to see all the little details.

If you decide to make yourself or your child a dollhouse, be sure to set the lights up first, before you do anything to decorate it. You can’t have too many lights. If you go the traditional route with the copper tape be sure you have a well lit place to work on this. And be sure you have a chair or stool to sit on, as this is a very tedious job.

If you wear bifocal glasses, you will have to tape them on yourself upside down so you can work on the ceiling. And ladies, if you get any offers of help from your husband, brother or boyfriend, be sure and take them up on it.

I have figured out how to double the lighting effect without actually adding more bulbs. Lots of mirrors placed on nearly every wall. I put my Christmas tree in a corner and used a double mirror against the two walls behind it, so you can see the lights in the back of the tree.

Make up mirrors are a good size. These come in little eye shadow boxes. Sephora makes a great double mirror that comes with a gift card inside. If you are lucky, which I am, you will have received several of these as gifts and the mirrors are perfect throughout your dollhouse.

I even covered one with a TV screen/picture of Oprah and with its glossy black frame, looks exactly like a wall hung big screen TV.

If you want to mirror a large area, like the wall behind the bed, or one wall in the bathroom, you can take the mirror out of a large hand mirror. It should be flat enough to look right. I found a beautiful one in a thrift shop. It had a curved top and sloping sides. If it is flat enough and has a pretty shape and frame,you can just saw off the handle with a hacksaw.

If you don’t want to use the frame, you can heat the mirror with a hair dryer. That should loosen the glue holding it to the frame. Then carefully with a knife, pry the mirror up. You should hot glue any mirrors to the wall, as they are quite heavy.

I think you get the idea. If you go with real working lights, dollhouse stores have real electric lamps, “working” TV’s, and electric chandeliers. There is no end to what is available. But having “real” electricity is a very expensive way to go. Figure at least $100 for the initial set up and then at least another $200 plus for lamps and chandeliers.

By using Christmas strands, you can buy 100 light sets for less than $3. The click and stick lights are about $3 each and the LED lights about the same. Even with all of that and all the batteries, it shouldn’t cost more than $50 to ‘do’ a ten room doll house.