How to Restore an Antique Dollhouse
If an antique dollhouse has been is in storage in your attic or basement, you may have an heirloom that can be restored to be enjoyed by a new generation. Given the right touch and tools, it is easy to breathe new life into these old toys without losing the integrity of their style. Often, rebuilding isn't necessary; a good cleaning and repainting will do the trick.
Step 1: A Good Cleaning
If you have a dollhouse that is in relatively good shape, use a soft cloth with a diluted mixture of dish soap and warm water to wash the walls. Test the solution on an inconspicuous spot to be sure it won’t damage any of the materials. Remove any debris and dust, but take care not to disturb the paint or accessories. Most antique dollhouses should not be overly cleaned or repaired because much of the traditional décor will be lost.
Step 2: Chips in the Paint
Before you try to cover chips and discoloration with new paint, it is best to visit your local craft store to inquire as to the types of paint that were originally used. You may find that you do not have to repaint the entire piece or risk damaging or discoloring the existing look.
Also, some modern paints might be harmful to wood that has aged. When retouching, use a test spot that is inconspicuous before applying liberally.
Step 3: Broken Wood and Furniture
If you have broken miniature furniture pieces, repairing them can be difficult, but not impossible. Some collectors prefer to visit their local hobby store and purchase new furniture. However, new pieces seldom match the feel and the décor of an antique, so restoring existing pieces is usually preferred.
Traditional wood glue from the hardware store will work just fine. However, model glue will show less wear and will blend into the original coloring much better. When applying any type of glue to repair something as delicate as an antique dollhouse, make sure to cover any open areas with painter's tape so that unwanted glue will not spread or drip.
Step 4: Updating and Adding New Furniture
When a dollhouse is left in storage, much of its color and luster will fade. Furniture pieces may have been lost, and painted-on wall decals may have washed away with time. Newly added paint or furniture that hasn’t aged along with the dollhouse can look intrusive and out of place. The good news is that there are many hobby and toy stores that sell antique-style furniture, toys, paints, dolls and other miniatures that can be added to your restoration project. Updating an antique dollhouse while at the same time restoring it can actually be quite the revival.