Introduction: Trash to Treasure Barbie Dream House

About: Where there's a will, there's a way! Never give up, never give in...BE the good you want to see in the world. :)

So this past year, my youngest daughter wanted a Barbie dream house for Christmas. Of course those things are an easy $140 for a decent plastic one. And I'm not about to spend that kind of money when I determined that I could make one with more luxury and pizzazz for next to nothing!

I wanted to make her something that was contemporary, stylish, fun, unique, and sturdy, with the luxuries of a Barbie dream house. Something she could grow into for years to come.

My motto has always been: Why buy new when I can re-purpose or reuse something I already have! So this trash-to-treasure doll house is the fruits of my labor. And needless to say, she (and all my kids, and their friends) LOVED it!

As with any house, it's a work in progress. There's always more to add and decorate as inspiration hits. ;) And the bottom dollar? This doll house cost me only about $30 to make! Let's get started...

Step 1: What You'll Need

Here are some things you will need for this project:

  • Bookshelf (I got mine for $20 at Walmart)
  • Hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • Fancy scrapbook paper in fun contemporary designs and colors
  • Duct tape (I chose white)
  • Cardboard, plastic, boxes, and all sorts of various knick knacks and "throw away" items (like pop cans and bottles, pop tops, plastic tape rolls, floss container, lids, aluminum foil, pencils, etc)
  • Scissors
  • Xacto knife / boxcutter
  • Paintbrush
  • White school glue
  • Yarn, wire, or other strong "cable" for the elevator
  • 1 large spool from a sewing thread
  • Optional: Bling (I found a "shimmer roll" in the ribbon section of Walmart to add bling to various surfaces in the doll house. What's Barbie without her glitz and glamour?)

Step 2: Assemble the Bookshelf

If your bookshelf needs to be assembled, do so now. Simply follow the directions that came with it.

For this step, you may need a tape measure, screw drivers, hammer, and/or a drill.

Due to the height of the Barbies, I needed to put a single shelf in the exact middle (ideally) of the bookshelf. But for some reason this particular bookshelf from Walmart didn't have holes in the middle (and I didn't have a drill), so I compromised with the next nearest pre-drilled hole above the middle.

Step 3: Make a Layout

Use the sizes (lengths, width, and heights) of the Barbies (or dolls) to determine how much space you will need per room, and how big your furniture in each room will be. Also determine how many rooms you can properly fit into your doll house without making it feel crowded. You want your kids to actually be able to have fun playing, so be sure to include space for their hands to go.

For this doll house, I did a simple layout (as seen in the picture). It's kind of an "open" floor plan downstairs with one arched wall that separates the living and dining room from the kitchen. Then upstairs, I thought about where my elevator would go (on which side of the house), and then determined from which room downstairs the kids would access the elevator, and into which room upstairs.

You can get all fancy and make stairs (I found this takes up floor space in the house, and I don't own a saw to cut into my bookshelf). Or, you can make a spiral staircase (I wanted to make this, but I didn't have the correct materials). The choice is yours. But I found that the elevator is a special addition and adds luxury and fun for the kids.

Step 4: Add Wallpaper and Flooring

Using your special scrapbook paper, select wallpaper and flooring throughout the house.

When you're ready, here's how to adhere it to the bookshelf:

1) Cut the paper to the proper size to fill the room from floor to ceiling.

2) I didn't do this second step, but I'd highly recommend it after I had completed this house. I would sand the walls and floor to get the finishing coat off of the pre-fabricated bookshelf. Like I said, I skipped this part (because honestly I didn't think of it until I was almost done with the walls and floors), but it would definitely help the glue to adhere better and more permanently. Be sure to wipe it down with a cloth to get off all the sawdust before the next step.

3) Using your paintbrush, add white school glue to either the wall or floor directly, or to the back of the scrapbook paper.

4) Press the paper onto the designated wall or floor (making sure it's properly aligned with all straight edges around it), and smooth out as many bumps as you can. There WILL be wrinkles, but they won't make an issue when it's all said and done.

5) Paint on more white glue on all edges and over the entire piece of paper (make sure to cover it completely). This WILL make a lot of wrinkles, too, and it may even make your paper look "see through." But rest assured, once it's dry, it will be perfect. :)

Continue this for every floor and room of the house. If you want to get adventurous, you can do the ceilings too.

Step 5: Get Your Creativity On!

Here's the fun part! Now it's time to be creative and make this house really come to life!

What can you make from a soda can? An awesome slipper chair! How about a kitchen sink!

What can you make from duct tape? How about a cubby-style storage center that doubles as a kitchen island?

The possibilities are endless!

In the following steps, I'm going to give you some step-by-step directions for my favorite creations in the house. :)

Step 6: Sliding Barn Door

Between this and the elevator, these are my absolute two favorite creations in the house!

I LOVE sliding barn doors, so one was destined for this awesome house!

I thought of all the "usual" ways you would think of to make a sliding barn door. I tried to figure out mini wheels and a bar system. No go. I tried so many different options, and then--like a light from heaven--came this solution! It's SO ridiculously easy I kicked myself for not thinking of it sooner! It even looks super stylish if you ask me :)

First, here's a video of this awesome little "barn" door:

(NOTE: When I said "cardboarded aluminum foil" I was referring to that thicker metallic cardboard that comes off some food items. You can just use thinner cardboard or anything sturdy instead. LOL. Cardboarded aluminum foil. Yeah, I said that. hahaha :D)

1. So I found out that the cardboard I had (from the lid of a Little Caesar's pizza box) slid snuggly into this report cover slider thing I had in my house. Therefore, I glued it into the slider on the far left end (because then it would be in the correct position to open all the way and close all the way where it was needed).

1a. Obviously before you can glue your door into the slider, you need to first make your door. This was a sinch! I cut out the size of a door I would need to fit correctly between the ceiling and the floor, making sure to include the size of the slider and what it will slide in (you'll see in a second). To make it look like a barn door, I simply cut out cardboard strips and formed the squares and Xs needed to give it that perfect barn door feel. I glued this all down with hot glue. Do this for both sides.

1b. Paint your door. For this house, the perfect color for the barn door (and the paint I had on hand) was white. I painted both sides, allowing to dry in-between coats. I did 2 coats. It's amazing how much the painted cardboard looks like wood! LOVE IT!

2. Now to make a way for this beautiful door to slide. I swear you're going to flip out when you see how easy it is! First, I cut a strip of cardboard long enough to be about 2.5 times the width of the door. I glued a piece of paper on each side of it to match the same paper as the first room (a bedroom) on one side, and the second room (a bathroom) on the other side. You will see this from both rooms so it's important that it matches. (Anytime I refer to gluing paper down, it's always with white school glue like you did for the walls and floors.)

Make thicker horizontal slits in the cardboard strip with an Xacto knife / boxcutter. Make 2 slits: one for the first end of the slider, and the second for the second end of it. Make the slits long enough to allow the door to fully cover the opening when shut, and be fully open when opened.

Hot glue this finished cardboard strip to the ceiling over where the door with slide.

3. Create movement. I used two LEGO window pieces as my way to slide the door. First, I cut the middle of each top with a strong pair of wire cutters. DO NOT make a gap, just cut it once in each. Next, I glued aluminum foil (but you can use cardboard or whatever you want) to both sides of the bottom of each window piece (the second square). This makes a place to glue the piece to your slider. Then I glued the piece to the slider on each end of the slider (with the cut top sections upright). Lastly, I separated the top cut of each window piece with my fingers and "snapped" it into place in each slit that was cut into that ceiling strip. DONE! Now you have a sliding barn door!


Step 7: Elevator

For my second favorite part of this house, we are going to focus on the--drum roll, please--ELEVATOR! Yes, it's that exciting haha!

1. Find an object in your home (square or cylindrical) that can be used as the base of your elevator. Make sure when you put your doll or Barbie in it, the doll or Barbie doesn't fall out. Aka, make sure the walls are tall enough. I found this golden tube that was originally filled with candy and given to us for an early Christmas present.

2. You can skip this step if your base's bottom can be cut into. I had to remove the bottom of my tube (it just pushed up and out from the bottom). I used this as my template to make perfect circles in cardboard for the bottom of the elevator tube, and the top. The top one should be a little bigger than the bottom one, as the poles will be in the back of the elevator, thus you will have a little overhang this way.

Why do I need to cut into the bottom? You have to cut two circles into the base's bottom so the elevator can slide up and down on poles you will make.

Why do I need a top piece? To attach your string to and pull your piece up. It also helps to stabilize the elevator as the top, too, will have holes in it to slide along the poles you will make.

Glue the base (if you needed a different one to cut into) to the bottom of the tube. Save the top for later.

3. Cut two holes into the base piece and 2 holes into the top piece. Make these exactly identical to each other (the placement being towards the back of each circle), and make these holes identical to where your poles will go.

4. Make some poles. To make the poles, I cut (with my strong wire cutters) the straight pieces off of some Dollar Store plastic hangers. Then I glued multiple pieces together with hot glue (and added clear packing tape around each for added stability) to make each long pole. For my specific bookshelf, it took 3 hangers to make each long white pole. So 6 white hangers altogether to make both white elevator poles. (You will notice there's two long white poles, and two shorter blue ones.)

I glued the base of each long pole to a scrap piece of wood (this doubles as the base the elevator will sit on). DON'T glue the top of the white poles yet! We will do this last.

5. Make some more poles. Cut two more straight parts of 2 plastic hangers to hold up the top part of the elevator. These are the two blue poles you see in the pictures. I glued these to the inside of my elevator tube (and made sure the Barbies could stand in it without hitting their heads). Then I glued the top cardboard cut out to the top of the blue poles (making sure the holes are matching the bottom holes where the poles will go).

6. Now it's time to slide your elevator down onto the poles. Let it rest on the wood scrap while you finish up the rest.

7. Glue (or tape down) a piece of cardboard at the top of the bookshelf. Glue this to the tops of the long white poles so everything is stuck in place.

Step 8: Cable Box for Elevator

What's an elevator if you can't move it?

This is what I did to make the "cable" box for the elevator.

1. Cut off the top of a cardboard plastic cutlery box. Then glue paper down to it.

1a. Glue the bottom of this box to the top of your bookshelf. You may need to reinforce it with tape to keep it on. (I found that my hot glue didn't hold on the pre-made surface of the bookshelf. Maybe if you sanded the bookshelf in a previous step, this would be prevented? Or you can sand this one little area now.)

2. Poke a hole from one side of the box through to the other (high enough up that the spool doesn't touch the top or bottom but sits in the middle).

3. Insert a red K'nex pole through the first hole of the box. Stop in the middle of the box and slide a thread spool onto the pole, then finish pushing the pole through the second hole of the box.

4. I used gray K'nex clips to hold the spool in place on the bar, and to keep the pole from coming out of either side of the box. I also used some pieces to make a "lever" to turn the red pole easier.

5. Glue and/or tape the end of your yarn, rope, or chosen elevator "cable" on the spool (wrapping it around the spool once before securing). Make sure the chosen "cable" is long enough to reach the elevator when it is sitting on the wood piece.

6. Poke a hole through the box (out the front) for the "cable" to come out and go down to the elevator tube. After I already made mine, I thought that it might be nice to use a metal eyelet in this hole you make in the box so the constant movement of the "cable" doesn't tear a hole in the box.

7. Make a hole in the top cardboard piece (that you glued to the top of the long white poles) to allow the "cable" to go through.

8. Poke a hole through the top cardboard piece that's connected by the short poles (mine are blue) to the elevator tube. Pull the "cable" down through this piece.

9. Finally tie the "cable" around the two short pieces (I made a figure 8 between the two short poles, then looped it once more around both of them, then tied a knot in it to the main string).

Now your elevator is ready for use!

I thought about putting a door on the elevator, but my kids really don't seem to take the time for it anyways, so I omitted it. Feel free to make one on yours if you see fit. :)

Step 9: Kitchen Appliances


To make the fridge, I used a clear tomato container. I made shelves on the inside with cardboard. And I added bling wrap to the outside because, hey, it's Barbie! To make the handle for the fridge and the oven, I used a Q-tip. I cut off the cotton swab ends and bent the Q-tip pole to the desired shape, then hot glued it in place.


To make the oven range, I used a little white box I had (like a jewelry or a watch box, not a ring box). I put the top opening facing forward (to be the oven) and added a cardboard shelf inside and a cardboard door on the outside so it was usable. For the burners I simply used black buttons in two different sizes. I covered the front of the cardboard door in bling wrap and added a Q-tip handle.

Step 10: Kitchen Sink

For the kitchen sink, I used the bottom of a soda can.

To make a safe, soft, cut-free top (where the can has sharp edges from being cut), I snipped little notches in the can all the way around the circumference every 2-3 mm or so.

Then I folded down the pieces to make a soft edge.

Step 11: Kitchen Cabinets & Island Cubbies


For base cabinets, I used white styrofoam rectangles in the size and shapes. You could also use white cardboard and/or boxes. When you add the paper countertops, it really brings all the different "cabinets" together.


Now on to the cubbies. The kitchen really needed storage for her Barbie food and kitchen stuff. So I resorted to white duct tape. Here's how to make these easy cubbies:

1. Cut 5 rectangles that are each 2 times longer than you want each finished side to be. Fold each piece in half to make 5 squares (with no stickiness facing out).

2. Once you have 5 squares, lay them in a cross shape. One square in the center, and one on each side of the four sides.

3. Tape these pieces together with more white duct tape.

4. Flip this over, and fold the pieces up to create a box. Duct tape each edge to keep the box together.

5. Repeat steps 1-4 for as many cubbies as you need to fill up your space accordingly.

6. Once you've completed enough boxes (I had 8), connect all sides with one final layer of duct tape.

7. I added the same paper countertop I used in the rest of the kitchen. I also added a decorative paper to finish it off and give the plain duct tape some style.

8. Hot glue this whole cubby system to the location you want it.

Step 12: Pop Can Chairs

1. Wash out a pop can or two.

2. Push the tip of a pair of scissors into the middle of the can. Cut around the middle of the can saving the bottom.

3. Cut the can out about half way vertically to make a seat. I chose to cut out the "seat" in the part where the barcode was to leave the main logo on the back of the chair.

4. At the top of the can (height of the chair back) and the middle of the chair (where the seat will go) will have rough edges. Cut vertical slits into these areas (as seen in pics) all the way around the raw edges of both sections.

5. Fold down each slit-created flap to make a smooth edge (like you did for the sink in the previous step).

6. Line the inside backing of the chair with your fabric. Adhere with hot glue. Make sure it covers the folded tabs for added protection.

7. Make a cushion by cutting out a circle or square of fabric, placing fiberfill in the center of it, tucking and pulling the fabric as you hot glue it down to itself. See pics for clarity. Glue this cushion into the pop can.

8. Hot glue feet on from whatever you have on hand. I used "ones" blocks from a kids math counting set.

Done! I LOVE how these turned out! So fun!

Step 13: Chandelier and Couch

I am actually really pleased with how this dining room chandelier turned out!

To make it, I used a plastic razor blade protector and some extra Christmas tree lights!

1. Take the green parts off of the bulbs. (Note: these are the extra bulbs that come with a new pack of Christmas tree lights. I used the ones that make the lights blink, so they have a red tip. You could use the extra clear ones if you prefer.)

2. Tie the wires around the first half of the blade protector. Repeat for the second light bulb.

3. Tie your hanging material (I used the handle from a paper gift bag) around the center "post" of the razor blade protector, and then hang from the ceiling in your desired location. I hot glued mine to the ceiling. You could reinforce it with clear packing tape if necessary.

For the couch, I used the bottom of a wide Barbie box.

1. Cut the barbie box to the desired shape and size.

2. Hot glue armrests to the sides if your box didn't already have it.

3. Cover the frame and arms with your fabric of choice. Make a cushion and cover with fabric also. Hot glue this in (if you didn't cover it in one shot with the first fabric over the frame).

4. Add legs and you're done!

Step 14: Other Misc Furnishings


The easiest way to make a Barbie bedframe is to use a Barbie box, cut out the plastic "front" part, and add some legs to it (I used single blocks from a 100s math set). You could also glue five cardboard pieces together. I covered mine in paper to make it more attractive.

To make a mattress, I simply hot glued fabric around fiberfill and pushed it into the box.


To make pillows, I cut a piece of fabric (on the fold whenever possible) to my desired size times two. So if I want my finished pillow to be 1" long, I cut 2" of fabric. I added my fiber fill to the center, then glued all the edges down about 1 mm inward out to the edge (so it had a nice finished look, instead of on the very edges).


To make a pouf, I used the top of a pop can, filled it with fiberfill, and covered it with fabric (gluing it down where needed).


To make artwork I simply glued my desired paper or pictures to cardboard, and glued this to the wall. In the bedroom, I put little pieces of styrofoam behind the front picture (of the Barbies) and then adhered this to a backing, and adhered the entire thing to the wall. To make a frame, simply add it over the picture (with an opening in the middle). Make these as detailed or simple as you want.


For the flower shelves in the bedroom, I cut a cardboard toilet paper tube in different thicknesses (because I wanted it to have varying dimensions) and glued the pieces in the shape of a flower to the wall. I did something similar with a toilet paper roll in the living room.

For wall shelves, I simply glued cardboard pieces to the wall with hot glue. You can use pieces of rulers or yard sticks, etc. Be creative!


For side tables you can really use anything you want! In the upstairs bedroom, the side table is made from a top part of a can covered in paper (with a circular cardboard top to make it flat). The living room side tables are made from toy pieces and counting math blocks.

The living room "coffee table" is made from a bar soap holder with cardboard over top and aluminum foil over that (glued inside before the cardboard top is glued to the bar soap holder) to make a mirror table top.


To make the lamps in the living room, I used broken pencil parts painted white and topped with golden lids from sparkling grape juice bottles. (courtesy of the holidays) The upstairs bedside lamp is made from single blocks (from a math counting set) and a top to a bottle covered in bling wrap. The chandelier in the kitchen is just a cap covered in bling wrap and hung by a paper gift bag's handle from the ceiling.


To make a quick and easy stylish metal tray, I simply cleaned up the metal part that comes out of the Pillsbury cinnamon roll tubes.


To make mirrors, I simply glued aluminum foil to cardboard backing to the wall. Sometimes adding bling wrap to the edges to make a stylish frame (like in the bathroom).


For the bathroom sink (I really like this one, too!) I used a round toothpaste top for the white sink part. For the pedestal base I glued together two clear glitter containers (that you get from the Dollar Store...after emptying out the glitter into Ziploc baggies). I wanted a round "towel" holder around the pedestal base, so I used a key ring and cut some "towel" fabric to put in it.

The soap holder in the bathroom above to the left of the sink is a little LEGO piece glued to the wall.


To make the toilet, I used a floss container for the water tank, a shampoo bottle cap, and a Nikon container that I have no clue what it's for (LOL). I left it black and white because it matched my bathroom color scheme perfectly, and added a little glamour.


For hooks, I hot glued green floral wire (that was cut to size and bent to look like a hook) to the wall. To hold up the guitar in the bedroom I used the floral wire bent in the shape of a guitar wall holder and glued to the wall.


For rugs, I bought burlap ribbon and just cut it to size.


I still want to add curtains and windows (if possible...or atleast the illusion of windows maybe?). I want to add a shower curtain that goes around the bathtub. I am adding a couple of sink faucets from LEGO pieces. I'd like to figure out a way to possibly add trim to make the raw cut edges of the cardboard (ie: around the archway between the kitchen and living room) more attractive. Maybe a garage next for the Barbie car? Who knows! Or maybe just leave good enough alone? It's hard to stop once the creative juices start flowing! :)

My eldest daughter asked me to make her a "Guest House" now, too, for the rest of the Barbies (since this once isn't big enough) onward and upward! The next step has a sneak peek of a few projects from that new house....

Step 15: Sneak Peek


The bunk bed was a new addition to the upcoming Guest House. This bunk bed was for two smaller dolls my youngest daughter has.

1. Cut a 2-pack school glue box in half.

2. Reinforce the bottom of the bed with cardboard.

3. Glue paper on and make/add a mattress like a regular bed.

4. Cut two straight parts of two hangers (like in the previous elevator step) to the size you need.

5. Hot glue one pole to one side of the bunk beds in the middle (keeping the beds the proper distance apart). Repeat on the other side.

6. I added a ladder and top bunk railing for effect using Q tips. See pics for details. Basically each ladder rung is made the same way as handles in the kitchen. Then I left other parts straight for the in-between poles. Additionally, short straight pieces are used for each rung to reinforce them. (Everything is glued with hot glue.)

7. Add blankets and pillows to complete.


My eldest daughter made this little kitchen table and it's brilliant! She used remnant pieces of the straight hanger parts for legs. She added a round table top (made from cardboard) that was covered in the same burlap that I used for rugs in the "main house."

MULTIPLE DOG HOUSE (from duct tape):

Much in the same way as the kitchen cubbies, I created this multiple dog house for my youngest daughters multitude of doggies. You can probably figure it out from the pictures.


My eldest daughter was full of inspiration this day! She used a nail and a sparkling grape juice top to create a simple industrial chic table lamp! Love it!


This one was fun to create! Using a plastic 20 oz soda bottle, I cut off the TOP of it, making the cut diagonal (and not straight across). I, again, cut slits and folded down the flaps to make a soft edge where it was raw. You could hot glue this down, but I didn't find it necessary once I added in the rest. Next, fill with fiberfill and cover in fabric, hot gluing wherever necessary. I added some bling to the base. This was a tub chair for the little girls room (same room with bunk bed).


Basically it's the same idea as the papasan chair, but it doesn't have a base and utilizes the BOTTOM of the 20 oz soda bottle. (Apparently I don't have photos of the finished piece, so just envision it with the fabric of your choice.) :)

Homemade Gifts Contest 2016

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Trash to Treasure Contest 2017

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Trash to Treasure Contest 2017