Make a Flat Pack Dollhouse




About: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I happen to need at the time. Lipstick, a mixing studio, all-p...

I am sharing the plans for a simple and sturdy flat pack dollhouse I designed a few years ago. It is a two story structure with 8 rooms, and once the pieces are cut they can easily be assembled (without the need for a single screw or drop of glue). They also come apart so you can store them flat.

This house can be made out of foam core, corrugated cardboard or even plywood, but these are instructions for making the house out of foam core. This lightweight, but sturdy material is best adapted for a DIY project, because it is easy to work with, easy to find in any art supply store, and relatively inexpensive.

I have included information on the other materials and house options later in this instructable.

Step 1: Download the Template

You can download the template from my website -- it's free, but you will need to enter a valid email address because I'll be sending you a link to the files via email. Don't worry, I won't use your information for any other purpose (unless you ASK to get my newsletters). I just like to get a sense of how many people are interested in my projects. While you're there, feel free to poke around, I have tons of pop-up card and paper toy templates, many of which are free.

I formatted the file so you can print it on regular letter sized paper -- but if you are able to print in a large format, choose the "tabloid" option. It will make your life easier (you can skip the next step because you won't have to cut and paste pieces of the pattern together).

Step 2: Print and Prepare Your Pattern

Skip this step if you are able to print on tabloid paper.

The interlocking walls on the letter sized template are each printed on 2 seperate sheets so they need to be pasted together before tracing. The areas where the pattern overlaps is indicated in grey on the template. Cut the side off one of the pieces, then glue the two parts together with the greyed area overlapping.

Step 3: Trace the Pattern on the Foam Core

You will need one 2' by 3' piece of 3/8" foam core.

The easiest way to trace the pattern (for me) is to place the pattern on the foam core (fix it in place with tape or pins) and mark all the corners with a pin. You can then, using a ruler, refer to your printed pattern and draw a line between all the dots.

A second option is to cut out the patterns and then trace the pieces, but this seems like more work for a less precise result -- but the advantage is that it is easier to arrange all the pieces to fit best on your piece of foam core. It's up to you to choose the method you're most comfortable with.

A third option is available for people lucky enough to have a plotter cutter, such as a KNK Maxx Air (that's the machine I own and love -- though for the purpose of this instructable I did not use it here). You lucky ducks can import the PDF into your cutting software, put a pen on your plotter and let IT do the tracing for you.

Step 4: Cut the Foam Core

THE most important thing (always) is to use a sharp knife. Picture number 2 shows what happens when you cut foam core with a dull knife. And that's not the worst of it. When you're pressing down to cut with a dull knife it's much more likely to slip and slice your finger -- so just get a new blade, it's worth it.

Use a ruler unless you have a very steady hand. I cut the long straight lines with a box cutter, and the finer cut-outs with a scalpel knife (commonly referred to by the brand name Xacto).

Step 5: Assemble

Slip the two walls together at a 90° angle exactly as shown in the first drawing, with the two dots facing each other.

The top two floors slide into the slits of wall #1 and their tabs push through the doors and slots of wall #2

Step 6: Alternate Materials

As I mentioned in the intro, you can use different materials to build this structure. This pattern is designed for 3/8" foam core, but you can also make it with corrugated cardboard or any 1/4" plywood. Doing it by hand though would be pretty tedious... this is really a job for a laser cutter.

Since most of us mortals don't own laser cutters, I adapted this design for two different materials on Ponoko, a laser print on demand company. If you don't feel like making this, or you want it in another material you can choose either a corrugated cardboard, or a bamboo version and order it from them. Though I love the look and feel of bamboo, I must caution you that it can give you pretty nasty splinters. Be prepared to sand all the edges if that's the one you'd like to get.

Step 7: Furnish Your Flat Pack House With Pop-up Rooms

I originally made this house as a structure to hold eight pop-up rooms I had designed, which I sold as PDF downloads from my website.

Later, after a successful Kickstarter, I was able to produce a limited edition of kits based on this first design; all the rooms are printed (with special effects like mirrors) and come cut, scored and ready to assemble. This is the house you see in these photos. It also comes with this same house structure, die cut and printed on corrugated cardboard. I have a couple hundred kits left, so if you'd like, you can skip this whole instructable and go straight to the fun part: making pop-up cards.

After a while, I realized that some people might enjoy decorating their own house, so I designed another series of pop-up rooms, this time with nothing printed on them. A blank pop-up house you can color yourself. These blank rooms are designed to fit in this house as well. I should caution that these rooms are a bit too complicated for a child to make on his/her own. I couldn't help myself, when I designed them, I decided to makes them entirely from one sheet of paper, which means the design can be intricate -- but so much fun!

If you want to do it all yourself, completely, from scratch, but you don't know how... well it just so happens I published another instructable which will help you learn how to make your own pop-up cards. Or you can furnish it with regular 3D furniture. For some inspiration on making dollhouse furniture, including a mini player piano, check out this instructable. The residents of this house can be lego mini figures or any other small toy... or you could make some paper dolls as well! The possibilities for a house like this are endless...



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    7 Discussions


    2 years ago

    fantastic project, thanks for sharing


    3 years ago

    ingenious and cool


    3 years ago

    My daughters would love this :)


    3 years ago

    The way everything fits together is ingenious, and your pop-up skills are admirable. :)


    3 years ago

    The interlocking parts are so clever. You're an architect at heart!

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I do hang out with a lot of architects... Glad you like this!


    3 years ago

    I really like this! Foam core is so much fun to work with. My kids have recently discovered it and it's been fun to see them enjoying it.

    Great project, thanks belsey!