Christine des Garennes seeks advice on restoring her mom's 1940s dollhouse

Christine des Garennes seeks advice on restoring her mom's 1940s dollhouse

My co-worker, Christine des Garennes, is working on a little DIY project and needs some help. So, she wrote a guest post for my blog. It's below.

If you have any advice for Christine on restoring this 1940s dollhouse, you can email her by clicking this link.

After my parents downsized houses several years ago, they’ve been patiently holding various items and pieces of furniture for me and my
siblings in part of their garage. On a recent visit I snatched up the old dollhouse, thinking I’d spruce it up for my daughter.

(The below photo is from Pinterest, and Christine says it's similar to what her dollhouse should look like.)



Blog PhotoIt’s a basic two-story colonial-style house that belonged to my mother before she let her five children play with it. She wasn’t the type to lock things away behind a glass case, so the dollhouse was well-used and shows signs of being well-loved. The house's exterior, which once featured vines and birch trees on the sides, has been painted over with white paint. The chimneys are missing, a metal shutter is nowhere to be found, and part of the masonite floorboard has warped. It looks pretty grungy.

I was curious about its origins and it didn’t take long for me to learn via some basic online searching that the dollhouse was likely made by
Keystone in Boston circa the late 1940s. That makes sense since my mother and her family emigrated to the U.S. around that time. It’s not one of those fancy schmancy Victorian or Queen Anne-style dollhouse, but I imagine for a little girl coming to America from Eastern Europe, it must have been an enchanting toy.

Blog PhotoI’d like to make it look pretty again, but the reality is my free time is limited and my crafting skills are few. I’ve started the renovation project by lightly sanding off the exterior paint to reveal the original paint and details such as vines growing alongside the house and the
outlines of windows and a lamp. (It’s going to take a while to get all that done.)

I washed the interior with soap and water. I expect to paint the trim and I suppose I’ll have to touch up the details like the vines and such. But I’m not quite sure how to tackle that task. And I’m not sure what I will do about the vintage wallpaper in the bathroom. I like the Blog Photostyle but what was once white wallpaper with stars on it is now a shabby cream color. Feel free to send me any tips if you've ever restored a dollhouse!

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rsp wrote on December 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I haven't really looked but just googling Keystone dollhouse brought up listings for people making things on etsy and doing their own renovations that may lead to ideas. That may help her and others. I always wanted to build a dollhouse, with lights and everything. 

Deaun wrote on January 27, 2013 at 1:01 am


I'm glad the last poster mentioned the Etsy findings; the lady who made the fireplace linings and the stair covers is amazing.  Another lady you may wish to know is one who makes a whole range of replacement parts for Keystone and Rich dollhouses--windows, swing outs, doors, stoops, chimneys...and so on.  She is extremely reasonable.  If you wish, send me a private message and I will forward her email address to you.

As for your lithos, I know of only one person who has been able to sucessfully repair/replace those.  It is not an easy task.  I suggest that you leave the sides alone for now.  Maybe someday....

Take a browse over to Flickr and you will see that many of us collect and/or restore houses.  Mine are posted at:

Best wishes for you and your mother's house; you have inherited a treasure.