Scale is Everything

Lesson Learned:

Scale is everything.

Back when I built my second dollhouse, (for my niece, Cami) the thing I was most unhappy with was the scale of the doors and windows relative to the rest of the house. I knew nothing about dollhouse scales when I built Cami’s, so when I set out to build one for Truman and Ruthie this year, I started by researching dollhouse scales.<\p>

The easiest dollhouse scale for me to understand is 1:12, followed quickly by 1:24 (half scale, or G); and 1:48 (quarter scale). In each of these, one inch on your dollhouse corresponds to X inches in real life. So at One-Inch scale, every inch is a foot. At half-scale, every half-inch is a foot, and at quarter scale… yep, every quarter inch is a foot. This makes it easy to measure things if you are using inches.

I’m super math-challenged. So I screw this up really fast. Consider a door. Your standard door in the US is 80 inches high. If I’m building at one-inch scale, that means my door should be 8 inches tall, right?

NO.

Because inches are stupid. An 80 inch door is 6 2/3 feet. So my dollhouse door needs to be 6 2/3 inches tall. For some reason, in my screwed up brain “One real-life foot = One dollhouse inch” always becomes “Ten real-life inches = One dollhouse inch.”

But I’m building at HALF scale, so even if I remember to convert my real-life inches to feet, I always end up with some god-awful fraction that I need to half. My real-life door is 6 2/3 feet tall, so my half-scale door has to be HALF of six-and-two-thirds inches. (My brain is smoking already). So my half-scale door has to be… uhhh…. half of six is three… half of two-thirds is ffifghaodifnaoeriaweoifawe.

For me, trying to figure out half of ‘three and five-sixteenths’ goes like this:

For that reason, I measure everything in millimeters. Half of 84 mm = 42mm… see I did that in my head! (And double-checked with a calculator.) Measuring my dollhouse in milimeters is easy (and there’s no extra-credit for doing things the hard way.) But that means I have to convert all my real-life measurements to milimeters. And that means I have to know how big stuff is in real life. So, after deciding to build at half-scale, I then realized I need to know:

  1. How big is a door in real life?
  2. How tall is a room in real life?
  3. How big is a window in real life?
  4. What are the dimensions of stairs in real life?
  5. How high are the counters in real life?

Then, I needed to find out how many millimeters those things should be at half-scale. Like I said, I am HORRIBLE at this. So, I created a google spreadsheet to help.

Ok, now that I know how big things need to be, I need to start thinking about what I want this dollhouse to look like. In my attempt to make sure I don’t ruin my dollhouse by being bad at math, I looked around online for half-scale dollhouse plans that looked interesting (and simple.) I can’t find the website with the PDF that I ended up downloading, but this was the dollhouse I got the plans for. This dollhouse kit is available for purchase at realgoodtoys.com

dollhouse original
1/2 Scale Front Opening East Side Townhouse Dollhouse Kit

That’s what it was supposed to look like, but of course I didn’t follow the directions as closely as I originally planned. As a result, the plans ended up getting discarded shortly after I constructed the facade, but that’s ok. The biggest reason I downloaded the plan was to make sure the windows and doors were at the right scale.

I ended up being really happy with the final product, and I’m certain that it’s because I actually paid attention to scale this time.

side-by-side
Side by side comparison of the original plans, and the final result

What others have to say:

Here are a few places I have found helpful information about dollhouse scales:

  • The Spruce has a lot of good content on dollhouse scales
  • Mary’s Miniatures has some very helpful tables on sizing
  • Small House Models Has a really helpful article on scales and why they are important
  • JoAnn Swanson has some great tools including charts for different scales, and fraction conversions
  • Mini Treasures has some helpful info on scales, as well as a ton of links to more resources

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