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How to Turn Shelves Into an American Girl Dollhouse

Like most young girls, my 7-year-old daughter is obsessed with American Girl and similar doll lines such as Target’s Our Generation and Wal-Mart’s My Life brands. She loves to dress each doll up for the day, change them into pajamas and tuck them into doll beds at night.

Through birthdays and Christmases over the years, my daughter has accumulated several sets with lots of little pieces that flew everywhere during playtime, making tidying up her room a daily need. The clutter was too much, so I started to look for solutions.

The idea of a dollhouse sprung to mind but there were several obstacles. First and foremost, most dollhouses that fit the 18-inch American Girl dolls are around $300, which is way over my budget. Second, my daughter has a small room and the dollhouse could only go in a space where there is an air vent and low window that needed to be navigated. Most of the ones you could buy would not fit the space.

I started looking online and found through an American Girl Facebook group that many members had made dollhouses out of IKEA bookshelves. The main reason people like these shelves is because they are deep.

I ended up going with the IKEA Stuva brand (measurements: 47 1/4” x 19 5/8” x 25 1/4”) because the other brands were too large for my daughter’s room. Purchased for $59 a piece, you get two rooms so I bought one to sit horizontal and another to go vertical to frame her bedroom window. Plus, you can use the roofs as additional play spaces for the dolls.

IKEA unfortunately does not ship these shelves, so you have to go to one of their stores. But you can check availability of the item at your nearest IKEA store before you make the trip.

What I really like about the bookshelf idea is you can custom tailor each dollhouse to your kid’s likes and collections, unlike some that look like blown-up versions of Barbie dream houses where entire scenes are on the wallpaper.

Once I had the shelves, I grabbed one of those rare 15-percent-off total purchase coupons for A.C. Moore, inspired by a blog post that suggested scrapbook paper (around 60 cents a piece) was a great, inexpensive way to make wallpaper and flooring. The best part is that scrapbook paper is often two-sided, thus offering a different pattern on the other side for additional projects. And I used scraps to make frames from American Girl catalog pictures for the living room.

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