So that your finished product looks more professionally done, I will be discussing clear, acrylic back covers in this section.
You would think it's a pretty straight forward option for a dollhouse but installing a clear, back cover, to keep dust out and miniatures in, is not as easy as it sounds. This is especially true for larger models like the Beacon Hill Dollhouse or L-shaped dollhouses, like the Garfield Dollhouse.
First, be aware, that if you would like to have a back cover for your dollhouse, you must make that decision before assembly. Because of the unique measurements and architectural details of tab and slot dollhouses, it is very rare for them to have perfectly square and even backs. You will, more than likely, have to modify certain features in the back of your dollhouse, in order for a back cover to fit properly and this can only be done during assembly, not afterwards. Each dollhouse is different, so there is no "one size fits all" option to a back cover.
As you can see in these pictures, the back cover on this Beacon Hill Dollhouse is nearly invisible and can only be seen because of the glare coming from a window.
Finding a Back Cover:
- The best back cover, that will give the most protection, is aesthetically pleasing and will look professional, is a clear acrylic sheet. The problem is that they are extremely difficult to find. The only place you will find them is at a hardware store, in the windows and doors section.
- These sheets are large and they will need to be cut to the size of your dollhouse. Unfortunately, they do not have them thin enough to cut with scissors or a craft knife. The thinnest one they have still requires professional cutting, preferably with a tool designed for cutting acrylic.
- Depending on the hardware store you go to, the cutting service may or may not be available. I recommend you call the store first to find out if they cut acrylic before you commit to purchasing an expensive acrylic sheet. Buy your acrylic from a store that is willing to cut it, unless you can find another option for cutting your acrylic sheet elsewhere.
Fitting The Back Cover:
- Tab and slot dollhouses have special measurements and architectural designs that cause angles and curves around their open backs. You will not have a perfectly square opening to fit your acrylic on. In the Beacon Hill Dollhouse, you can see the sides of the mansard roof are curved at the top, not square.
- You will not be able to get angled or curved cuts done to your acrylic at the hardware store. They will only cut your acrylic piece in straight cuts. This means that the square sheet protrudes from the corners of the mansard roof of this Beacon Hill Dollhouse, shown circled in the photo below. Because the sheet is completely clear, you do not see this when viewing the dollhouse from the front.
I installed a completely custom back edge trim, to this Beacon Hill Dollhouse, so that the sheet would sit on a flat and even surface. No other modifications were needed, but other dollhouses might need much more modification, so the acrylic sheet fits properly.
Remember that acrylic sheets are heavy, even if you choose the thinnest one. Rest the bottom edge on the base your dollhouse sits on, so the weight is not carried by your dollhouse. These are tab and slot, glue only, 1/8"th plywood dollhouses. They are not designed to carry large amounts of weight.
For the Beacon Hill Dollhouse I installed L channels along the top, right side and bottom foundation.
These channels will act as rails for the acrylic sheet to sit and slide on. Because I had created custom back edge trim, all of the L channels line up. This is why it is very important to keep your acrylic back cover in mind as you assemble the dollhouse. If the back edge trim is not an even thickness on all sides of the dollhouse, your L channels will not line up correctly and the acrylic sheet's edge will not sit inside all three channels, for a flat and even fit.
You can purchase miniature L or C channel trim from your miniatures dealer, but I created my own L channels from strip wood, from the craft store. I chose basswood for these channels, rather than the softer balsa wood I usually use. I painted them to match the dollhouses back edge they would be glued to.
The L channels do not have to meet at the corners. In fact, they most likely will not because of the architectural features of the dollhouse. All they have to do is meet evenly, on all sides, so the sheet is not warped or stressed when slid in place. The side and top channels hold the acrylic sheet in place.
Notice that the bottom L channel, pictured above, is placed on the bottom edge of the dollhouses foundation, resting on the display base. Like I mentioned before, the acrylic sheets are heavy and should not be held by your dollhouse. Always rest the bottom edge on the display base. The function of this particular L channel is not to carry the sheets weight but rather to just hide the sheets bottom edge for aesthetic reasons. It also acts as a rail, so that the sheet can be slid, evenly and without falling over.
Do not move your dollhouse with the acrylic sheet in place. Remove it first and then move and/or store your dollhouse. If you add a little beeswax along the bottom edge of your sheet, it will slide much more smoothly along the bottom channel. If beeswax is not available, you can use a little Ivory soap or clear lip balm.
Now the acrylic sheet can be slid to the left side and removed when I need to access the interior of the dollhouse. Once your miniatures are in place, you will rarely need to access the interior. Everything can be viewed perfectly because the sheet is clear. With the sheet in place, nothing can go in and nothing can fall out. This is great for dollhouse displays that are around pets or children. This is also useful if you have very expensive miniature displays but still want to show your decorated dollhouse to various visitors. The sheet keeps hands out and expensive items in.
Depending on the size of your dollhouse model, you can add your channels for the acrylic sheet to slide sideways or slide upwards, for removal. It all depends on what would be easier to do. Back covers for larger, taller dollhouse models, should slide sideways as they would be too heavy to slide upwards for removal.
Below is the photo of a Willowcrest Dollhouse with a back cover that slides upwards, rather than sideways. This dollhouse is small enough for the cover to be slid upwards, easily. The dollhouse would have also required more modifications of the cornice trim, in order to allow the sideways removal of the sheet. As you can see, the acrylic sheet sits between the two back cornice trims. You can barely make out the top edge of the acrylic sheet, along the top of the mansard roof line.
The clear, acrylic sheet is nearly invisible, until you notice the window glare in the sideways photo.
Notice how I applied the L channels, which act as rails, along both sides and bottom foundation of the dollhouse. The bottom channel also sits on the landscaped base, like on the Beacon Hill Dollhouse, to prevent the dollhouse from carrying any weight.
Custom back trim had to be used for this dollhouse, just like on the Beacon Hill Dollhouse, in order to allow for the back cover to lay flat and even. You can see a perfect example of how the channels do not meet at the bottom corners, circled below. The sheet is so clear, you can hardly see the exposed edge.
This dollhouse had to be modified, at the cornice trim line as I mentioned above, under the mansard roof, in order to accommodate the back cover, circled in the photo below. The cornice trim had to be trimmed back, about one inch on each side, so that the back cover can fit in between and reach the top, covering the attic room.
So, as I've stated above, the modifications that have to be made will always differ, depending on the dollhouse model. Careful planning ahead is needed to not encounter issues down the line.
Creating channels for your acrylic sheet to sit in, is the ideal scenario. Even though you will have to plan ahead and modify your assembly to accommodate this feature, it is well worth the extra work. It gives your dollhouse a nice finished look, as if the acrylic sheet is part of the kit itself. It keeps your miniatures clean and safe.
Avoid using Velcro to hold your acrylic sheet with. Velcro does not provide a strong hold to keep these heavy sheets in place and it is not aesthetically pleasing to look at, even if you find clear Velcro. Velcro is also difficult to work with. Though it does not provide a strong hold on the adhesive side, it sticks to itself very well, making it difficult to remove the sheet from your dollhouse. This will cause the dollhouse to move and miniatures to fall over when you try to remove the sheet.
Below is a list of covers that are not recommended.
- Fabric: You can use it if you want to but it will not give you the finish you might be looking for. Not only does it provide zero protection from pets or children reaching inside, it can actually become a magnet for pets that will want to hide inside or pull the fabric off to play. Hanging fabric on the back of a dollhouse, using Velcro, is not very aesthetically pleasing. You will have to continually move the fabric out of the way to view the dollhouses interior and if curtains become dusty, you can imagine the dust on your fabric.
- Clear, vinyl plastic: Like curtains, draped objects on the back of a dollhouse is just not a good look. You might be able to stretch the clear vinyl, using clear Velcro dots, at each corner of the dollhouse, so it's nice and flat, but from what I described above about Velcro, I don't believe they will hold under the pressure. You will have loose plastic at each corner often and this does not make for good dust protection. Clear vinyl covers are also not clear enough, so you might have to remove it for viewing details.
- Poster Frame Covers: Because they are relatively easy to find and can be cut with scissors, they sound like the "problem solved" option but, there are drawbacks to using poster frame covers. Most are not large enough for one inch scale dollhouse models. They are also flimsy, lightweight and easily scratched. These poster frame covers are clear when against a poster but once they are moved further away from an object, they tend to lose their clarity, so you might have to remove them for proper dollhouse viewing. They are also easily scratched, so do not expect for them to be long lasting. Bottom line, poster frame covers should not be removed from your options list but should be used only as the last option or under unique circumstances, like curved attic openings. They might work well for smaller, half scale and quarter scale dollhouses, but not for larger dollhouse displays. They can work for certain types of covers though.
The only other option for a back cover would be clear acetate sheets, similar to the window sheets that came in the dollhouse kit but thicker and more flexible. I have seen these sheets as scrapbook paper and even though they are easily scratched, they would make fantastic dollhouse back covers. They are lightweight, completely clear and easily cut with scissors, so architectural angles could be created with precision.
Unfortunately, they are very hard to find and I have never come across any. If you look hard enough, you might be able to find online retail vendors for a product like this but they might only want to sell them in bulk.
Large Display Cases:
Trying to create a back cover for a smaller half scale dollhouse would be very difficult. It might end up not looking very nice because of the many small twists, turns and angles. These smaller dollhouses also tend to collect plenty of dust on their exteriors, as well as their interiors. For this size dollhouse, it would be nice to cover it completely under a display case. This is where poster frame covers can come in handy. You can have a custom display case made for an item of this size, but it will run you a few hundred dollars. I was able to make my Fairfield Dollhouse one for under $50. It's just not easy.
First, even though it's small dollhouse, it's still a large case. For that reason, I decided to use thinner poster frame acrylic, that can be cut with scissors, instead of the usual thicker acrylic that has to be cut with a craft knife. The longer the cuts, the more difficult they are, so using scissors makes it much easier. Also, the larger the case, the heavier it will become, so using a thinner material allows the dust cover to remain light weight, hold together better and be easily lifted for access to the dollhouse.
It is difficult to tell if the poster frame, you are buying, has thin or thick acrylic until you remove it from the package. Your best bet for determining this is by where the product is located in the store. If you buy your poster frame in the housewares department, where the other frames are, it might have thick acrylic. If you buy it where the posters are, it most likely will be thin. The thinner the acrylic, the cheaper the poster frame.
To hold this thin acrylic together, I needed to make a frame. I painted wooden sticks white for this purpose. I then measured their height and glued them together in an L shape to create a corner. I then measured and cut the acrylic. The side edges do not have to be perfect, as they will be covered by the corner frames. I then sanded the edges, of the acrylic, a little in order to roughen them for better adhesion with glue. I glued them to the corner frames, until I made a four sided display box. I added an extra frame across the top edge for better stability and for holding the top cover in place.
I then measured and cut the top cover. The top cover is just placed along the top, horizontal frames and held in place with a small piece of clear packing tape at every side. The tape is practically invisible. This case is light enough to be easily lifted for access to the dollhouse's interior and landscaping.
This type of case is for keeping dust and hands out. It is not strong enough to protect the dollhouse for an impact.
Most dollhouses will not require a large, custom display case like this one, but the Fairfield's architectural structure makes it too difficult to apply dust covers to the back openings only. This dollhouse is also small enough to become very dusty on the exterior and on its landscaping, so covering the entire thing is more effective for keeping dust and hands out. Though making this case was very difficult and time consuming, it's worth it in the long run. My other dollhouses all have back dust covers and they have remained dust free and their miniatures safe, for years now.
This kind of display case can also be used to cover certain areas of a dollhouse. My Lily Dollhouse has a rooftop garden and I want to keep it dust free. So, I made a similar case to the one above, but designed it to only cover the rooftop section of the dollhouse. The lightweight material is perfect for placement on top of a dollhouse, since you do not want to add anything heavy to it.
I stained the frame of the case to match the dollhouse exterior trim. The entire case is only placed on top of the roof, not glued on permanently. So that I do not have to remove the entire case, when redecorating the garden, I made a lift-up top for easy access inside.
Small Display Cases:
If you have a smaller dollhouse, (e.g., half scale, quarter scale or smaller) you can protect it by placing it in a display case. Display cases, are very difficult to find and they can also be very expensive, depending on the size or shape you are looking for. Using a display case for smaller scales is ideal, because the smaller your dollhouse is, the more difficult it is to install a back cover. Especially for an L-shaped dollhouse like the Fairfield Dollhouse.
Display cases can be made of clear Plexiglas, plastic, acrylic or real glass. They can come in a simple rectangular shape, as pictured above, to elaborate shelving units that house multiple items for displaying together. Some have lighting already pre-wired into them. They can be ready-made or you can even have your own custom case made just for you.
When shopping for a display case, keep an open mind. All you’re basically looking for, is a clear box you can put something inside of. It doesn't necessarily have to be labeled as a "display case" to work. Aquariums, for instance, come in many different sizes and shapes. They are usually inexpensive, if they aren't too large, and you can easily flip them and place them over a half scale dollhouse, enclosing it completely inside.
I have several quarter scale, dollhouse displays and I used Critter Keepers as display cases.
Critter Keepers can be found at most pet stores and come in a variety of sizes. Some pet stores will carry the much larger models but others don't, so shop around. They are made of clear plastic, are lightweight and are relatively inexpensive compared, to an acrylic display case.
To make the Critter Keeper into the display cases pictured above, takes minimal effort. First, you have to measure your dollhouse so you can purchase the right size Critter Keeper.
I tossed away the Critter Keeper lid. I then created a dollhouse base out of foam core, using the Critter Keeper as the size template. I landscaped the base and placed the dollhouse on top of it. I then applied Velcro dots along the four corners, of both the base and the Critter Keeper. I then placed the Critter Keeper over the dollhouse, lining up the Velcro dots. This creates an instant, inexpensive display case.
The dollhouse can be viewed, from all angles, without the need to remove the case. This is especially convenient at this small scale, where miniatures can be lost very easily. Another good thing about these kinds of display cases, is that your landscaping is as protected as your dollhouse and its miniatures.
Lastly, if front opening dollhouses have panels, then why not create a back opening panel? All you need is plywood and hinges, right? If your dollhouse model is completely, 100% square on its backside, this might be an option but dollhouses are usually not. Installing a hinged back panel will require plenty of planning ahead, work and power tools. If you're handy, you might be able to pull this one off.
Just remember, that large, plywood panels are heavy and tab and slot dollhouses were not meant to carry heavy weight. Choose plywood that is the same thickness as your kit and avoid warping by finishing the panel on both sides, at the same time. Also, keep in mind that swinging open a large back panel, will require additional display space.