Dollhouse Window Guide

There's more to your tab and slot dollhouse kit windows than meet the eye. You might think you don't have many options for them but below are a few you might want to consider, including how to repair and replace your windows.

Window Repair and Replacement

The acetate windows that come with tab and slot dollhouse kits are beautiful but very fragile. It is easy to accidentally damage them during your assembly.

Damaged Windows

You want to always avoid damaging your windows. Though they can be replaced, it can be very time consuming and it is very likely that areas around the window, will be damaged during replacement.

You should contact the manufacturer, so they can send you replacement windows for your model dollhouse. Greenleaf Dollhouses stands behind their products and if you bought your dollhouse kit new, from a retailer, they will send you replacement parts, whether the damage was there when you opened the box or caused during assembly. You do not even have to pay for shipping and handling. You will need to give them information about your order, like the name of the retail vendor you bought the dollhouse kit from and/or your order number.

Once you have the replacement window, you need to cut out the damaged window, with a sharp craft knife. Try to cut as close to the casing as possible.

Next, you have to remove the surrounding trim/casing that the window was sandwiched between. Since tab and slot dollhouses are made up of layers, always try to remove the layer of trim that is glued to the acetate window. If your trim is part of another trim, like for instance a damaged window that's above a door, you will have to cut the window part of the trim off of the door trim with a utility knife, so you don't have to take apart your door as well as your window.

Use a misting spray bottle to spray water on your trim and let it soak in a little. Then begin prying the trim off with a tiny, flat head screwdriver. You will have to chisel it carefully until the trim comes up. The screwdriver I use is the kind used to repair eyeglasses. It is small enough to get into tiny areas and cause minimal damage.

This is an exercise in patience. It can take you a while before you're able to pry off the trim. Work on it a little bit throughout the day, so you don't become impatient and end up damaging the trim or the wall around it. Glue can adhere pretty strongly to wood. Just keep spraying with water and prying a little at a time. The more of the trim that comes up, the easier it will be to lift the rest.

Avoid using solvents to try and loosen the glue. Doing this can leave a residue that will prevent new glue from adhering to your trim and/or damage the surrounding paint. If water is not enough, try heating the glue a little with a hair dryer. Slowly heating and moistening the glue will allow for the trim to come up easier.

Once the trim is off, remove all of the extra glue and the broken window edge that remains. Then cut out your replacement window to fit the opening and glue it in place. Lastly, replace the window trim you had previously removed.

Use spackle to join the top trim to its bottom part seamlessly, if needed.

Extra care will have to be taken if the window is on the interior and glued to wallpaper. You have to be careful you do not rip the wallpaper in areas that will not be hidden under replaced trim. Use a sharp craft knife to cut the wallpaper close to the window trim edge, so that when you lift the trim, it doesn't rip the wallpaper.

Scratched Windows

Always avoid damaging your windows by keeping them out of the assembly area. But, if your window becomes scratched, you can repair it with lip balm. Floor or car wax may also work but lip balm is safer on acetate. Always test a small area of your acetate when using any other product. Any brand lip balm will work, as long as it's not tinted with any kind of color and it's unscented.

Apply the balm over the scratch. It has to be applied on the side the scratch occurred on. Then, buff with a very soft cloth. The best cloth for this is made of microfiber. Usually eyeglass lens cleaning cloths are made of this material. You never want to use a regular cloth towel or paper towel, of any kind, because these windows are so delicate that they will scratch if you try to buff them with even the slightest abrasive cloth. Buff gently but quickly and continue applying lip balm. Soon you will see the scratch disappear right before your eyes.

This only works with surface scratches or scuff marks on your windows. If your window was dented, creased or cut through, you must replace them.

Replacing Windows

If losing the silk screen design is not a problem for you, then you can go to an office supply store and buy transparencies, used in overhead projectors, to make new windows. Sometimes, they sell clear acetate sheets in the scrapbooking section of the craft store. The film used in poster frames will also work and one poster frame is large enough to make new windows for your entire dollhouse.

If you need replacement acrylic for pre-assembled, cabinet grade windows, you can find small acrylic sheets at some craft stores. They can be found in the aisle where the stained glass materials are. You will need a specialty tool to cut this product. Scissors cannot cut this kind of acrylic.

Keep in Mind

When replacing the acetate that comes in your tab and slot dollhouse kit, with another material, you might not get the same hazy/frost effect when using clear nail polish to create stained glass. The acetate that comes in your dollhouse kit is the only material that will have this effect when coated with clear nail polish. You will have to use wax or parchment paper for a hazy/frost effect, when using a replacement acetate for your windows.

Never replace your tab and slot windows with thick acrylic. This can impede the assembly process and you will have to modify your dollhouse kit windows. Find suitable, thin products that are as close to the original acetate as possible, for replacement.

Stained Glass

You can modify a tab and slot dollhouse kits window glass to better suit your decor or the effect you're trying to achieve. One of the most popular modifications is creating stained glass. There are countless ways to achieve a stained glass effect for your dollhouse windows, including using the same techniques you would use to create life size stained glass. Below are some of the simplest and easiest techniques for those of us who are artistically challenged.

Regardless of which method you choose below, all you need to create any of them are:

  • Permanent markers in assorted colors
  • Clear nail polish of any brand

Using the Kit Windows Silk Screened Design

You can create stained glass using the windows silk screened design as a guide.

To do this, you need to identify which is the front and back sides of your window. The front of the window is the side where the silk screened design feels raised and the back is flat. Just flip the window, so that the back is facing up towards you. You will always apply your design to the back of the window.

First coat the back of the window with a coat of clear nail polish. This is going to cause the window to haze over, like stained glass. Let the nail polish dry thoroughly because you will be coloring over it with markers.

Using the permanent markers, begin filling in the silk screen pattern in different colors or whatever color you want. Placing your window on top of white paper, will allow you to see the hue of the colors more clearly.

After you're finished and you turn your window over to the front, you can see a stained glass effect.

When you hold the window up to a light, you can see this effect better.

Using Your Own Design

You can create stained glass using your own design.

This requires that you replace the silk screened, original window, with another clear one. As stated above, this is a little tricky because the acetate used for your kits windows is affected by clear nail polish differently than other materials. When you coat the kits acetate windows with nail polish, they develop a milky haze. This causes the frosted effect found in stained glass. Other materials do not seem to do this when coated with clear nail polish. So, you will have to test how clear nail polish effects the material you choose as a replacement window.

Luckily, I was able to salvage a small piece of the dollhouse kits acetate to create the stained glass window shown below, which was used as a skylight.

Just like the technique above, you have to coat the back side of your window with clear nail polish and let it dry thoroughly. Make a print out of the design you wish to use, as a template, for the stained glass. Make sure that it is the right size to fit your window.

Place your window on top of the print out, with the back side that was coated in clear nail polish facing towards you, and use markers to transfer the printed design onto the window.

When you flip the window over, you will see the design, which looks like stained glass. But, it does not have the leaded outline yet. You have to make the leaded outline on the front side of the window. This will give it a "raised" feel. I used a very fine tip paint brush and black paint to create the lead outline on the window shown below.

Making the leaded outline freehand, like this, makes it look like authentic stained glass because your hand is never going to outline the design perfectly. These slight inconsistencies look like the leaded glass used in stained glass. Do not use a black permanent marker, for creating the leaded outline, because it tends to change hue on acetate and turns into a purple color rather than black.

If you're a little decent with your freehand designs, you do not necessarily have to use a printed template as a guide. You can just make your own design, right on the acetate, using the same technique described above. I freehanded the design below from memory. It is an antique stained glass design that was used on a real Victorian house.

Keep in Mind

Sometimes the process used to create the silk screening, on the kits windows, interferes with the evenness of the haze/frost effect when using clear nail polish. If this happens to your windows you can go over the nail polish with a silver/white marker to help even out the haze. Always test on a small area first, to make sure the outcome is what you want. If it fails, you can apply wax or parchment paper over the clear nail polish to try and even it out.

Frosted Glass

If you don't want to create stained glass but also don't want to leave your windows plain, you can go for a frosted look. There are two ways to do this.

Using Clear Nail Polish

You can create a frosted look by simply coating the backside of your windows with clear nail polish. This creates the hazy effect.

Using Wax or Parchment Paper

For a more even frost, you can cover the back side of your windows with wax or parchment paper. This method would also be a good choice if you replaced your windows and they do not frost over properly with clear nail polish.

First, assemble your windows as the kit instructs. Create a paper template of the back side of your window by creasing copy paper, around the windows opening, and then cutting the transferred shape out. Place it on the back side of the window and continue cutting until it fits perfectly. Use this template to cut out of wax or parchment paper. Glue the wax or parchment paper to the back of the window using a glue stick.

This creates an even frosted effect on the window. Gift tissue paper can also be used for this and comes in a variety of colors. It is applied the same way.

Keep in Mind

Be gentle when applying the wax or parchment paper to your window because it creases easily and the crease causes a permanent line on the paper. This is why making a copy paper template first, makes the process easier.

Never try to sandwich the wax or parchment paper between the window trim and window, in order to make it easier to apply. This can cause for the window to pull apart later. Remember, wax and parchment paper are made to be non-stick, so adhesives do not work on them very well. You do not want this type of paper holding together a component of your dollhouse. Also, this paper is easily damaged, so if you ever have to replace it, you can do so easily if it's applied after your window is installed. But, if you sandwich it in with your trim, you will have to pull the window apart to correctly remove it.

Always adhere this type of paper to your window using a glue stick. Never use any other type of adhesive because it can apply extra moisture to the paper and change its hue, tear it or leave streaks. Other adhesives may also be visible through your window, even if they dry clear. They are too heavy to use on such thin and delicate paper.

Leaded Glass

Leaded glass can be made multiple ways and everyone has their own technique but below are a couple of easy ones.

For plain windows, that do not have silk screening, like the Haunted House Dollhouse windows, you can make your own lead designs by printing out a template from available graph and grid papers found here.

Then place your dollhouse windows on top of the template, so you can use it as a guide for your leaded design. You should make your leaded design on the front side of the window. You can hold the windows in place, so they do not shift while you're making your designs, with a scrapbooking glue dot or a bit of museum wax.

I used a thick, glass paint to make the leaded design shown below. Glass paint comes in a variety of colors but I chose silver for this design.

I poured the glass paint into a disposable squeeze bottle which had a fine metal tip. You can find these bottles and metal tips in the baking aisle of some craft stores. They are great for these kinds of projects, where you have to be precise in the application of glue or paint. The freehand application helps achieve an authentic look to the leaded design.

You can see, under the spotlight, how the design is raised to simulate a leaded effect. The glass paint is thick enough to create this illusion.

When the glass paint is dry enough to be handled, paint the back of the windows with a coat of clear nail polish, in order to achieve the hazy effect of leaded glass.

Leaded designs can be made with glass paint squeezed out of a bottle for precision and control, like shown above, but you can make leaded designs using other methods as well. A lot of miniaturists like using thin tapes, like the kind used for decals on miniature cars or even life size ones. 3M makes a series of specialized tapes that can be used for leaded designs. Browse through your local craft store and become familiar with all of the different products that can be used for lead. Use your imagination and try out different techniques until you find one that you like.

You can also use the dollhouses own silk screening to make leaded designs with. You can go over the silk screening with tape or glass paint. You can also go over them with acrylic paint and a fine tip paint brush.

Creating Operable Windows

Just because tab and slot dollhouses do not come with operable windows, does not mean you can't make them so. You do not have to spend a lot of money buying expensive, pre-assembled, operable windows and then try to modify your kit for them to fit. You can use the unique, detailed windows that came with your kit and a little imagination to create working windows.

This process may not be able to be done with all types of tab and slot dollhouse windows but it can certainly be done with many of them. The process to go about making a tab and slot window operable will vary, depending on the dollhouse model and the windows assembly method but before you permanently install your windows, fiddle with them a little and think outside of the box. Often times, with a little tweaking here and there, you can come up with an idea that can make your windows operable.

Dormer Windows

If it goes together in a way that allows it to swing open, then it can be made to swing open permanently. The Beacon Hill Dollhouse dormer windows are an example of this.

These dormer windows consist of a simple window system where the window casings are separate from the window trim. This will allow for the casings to not be permanently attached to the trim. Because of this, you can make them operable.

I simply finished and assembled the trim and casings away from the dollhouse. I sanded the casings down until they fit smoothly inside of the trim and moved within it, without snagging or being under pressure.

The simplest and most seamless way for the dormer windows to move, was using the chamois strip method for hinging. The only difference was that instead of chamois, I used masking tape. The application technique is the same as for chamois.

I decided on masking tape because it is very thin and lays flush against the window casings and trim. This was important because these windows do not have much leeway for movement. Masking tape not only has better movement for tight areas, but it can also be painted and these windows are completely white. A piece of brown or blond chamois, showing at the window edges, would not have been very attractive. Fabric is also too thick and cannot be made invisible.

Masking tape is very durable, especially for lightweight, simple, windows like these which will generally not be handled much. I would recommend masking tape instead of cardstock for simple hinging of this kind. Paper, no matter how thick it is, will eventually get worn.

As you can see in the photos below, the windows are hinged before installation to the dollhouse.

The entire assembled and hinged window is then glued, over its opening, on the dollhouse.

Now the dormer window is a completely operable window. I used a jewelry bead on the interior to act as a knob for opening and closing.

These dormer windows can be hinged to open inwards, like mines, or outwards. Both have slight advantages and disadvantages. Because of the curved interior dormer roof, when you hinge the window to open inwards, it will not open all of the way. It will only go about half way.

If you decide to make the window open outwards and avoid that issue, you will have to make modifications to the trim or the casing. For the trim modification, you would have to laminate the larger, wider trim on top of the smaller, narrower one. This will alter the look of the detailed layering on the exterior of the dollhouse. Basically your dormer windows will look slightly different than the other windows.

To modify the casing, you would have to sand it down far enough, so that it fits into the smaller, narrower casing. Therefore allowing it to sit on the exterior of the dollhouse and open outwards. This also alters the layering effect a little but it will mostly interfere with the placement of the exterior window top sill trim. You will have to omit it, so that the window can open.

Whatever your choice, there is no wrong or right way to do this. What holds true for either decision made is that this is a nice detail to add to your dollhouse. It is not meant to operate like a real window would and you should be gentle when opening and closing it.

Do not be afraid to deviate from the kit instructions in order to achieve an added detail like this one. Slight deviation, in order to make a component operable, will not impede the proper assembly of the dollhouse.

Double Hung Windows

Some tab and slot dollhouses come with “double hung windows”. A good example is the Lily Dollhouse. With some simple modifications, you can make these windows operable without the need to buy expensive, pre-assembled windows and then go through the trouble of modifying the window openings so they can fit.

Just assemble the interior window according to the dollhouse kit instructions but don't install the window sills just yet.

Find strip wood at your local craft store that is slightly wider than the kits interior window side trims. (Take the window trim with you to get the exact match. The trim you choose should be no more than 1/8” wider.) Cut this strip wood to the length of the side window trim and paint or stain them to match.

Glue them right on top, laminating the windows side trims to make a wider trim, like a rail.

Make sure your window panes are painted or stained and the glass is installed.

Slide the finished pane into the “railing” system you created, through the bottom. Make sure that the glued side of the glass is facing towards the exterior. Make sure that the pane slides easily up and down the rail.

Glue on the window sill, which will also act as a stopper so the pane does not fall out of the bottom.

The above instructions show photos of the Lily Dollhouse dormer windows but you can also use this same technique to do all of the windows.

Pre-Assembled Windows

Tab and slot dollhouse kits do not come with pre-assembled, operable windows but they deserve their own mention in this guide. Pre-assembled, working windows usually come in cabinet grade, dollhouse kits but you can also order them for your tab and slot dollhouse kit. You would just need to modify your window openings, so they fit.

Regardless of how you got your pre-assembled windows, they all have the same problem: they are terribly difficult to finish. Because they are pre-assembled, you cannot finish each, intricate, individual part on its own and then put them all together. You have to finish them all at once. If you want your pre-assembled, Victorian windows to be multiple colors, you are in for a challenge. I recommend a lot of patience and a few, fine tip paint brushes. It is much easier to paint pre-assembled windows, in one solid color.

But painting, even in one solid color, has its own set of challenges. If the window has removable acrylic panes and trim, it will be much easier to paint. There are many cabinet grade dollhouse kits out there that do not have this option though, so here are some tips to make painting easier.

First, your paint. Usually you want a nice, thick, one coat coverage paint but in this instance, you do not. The thinner the paint, the better. Latex paint would be an excellent choice for this task but cheaper brand acrylic paint will work well also. I painted the working windows, shown below, using a store brand acrylic paint, rather than my usual brand.

Second, patience. Drying time for your paint is vital, so that your windows do not become globby. Globby, thick paint will interfere with the operation of the windows.

You want to apply your paint in thin, even layers. Do one side of the window first, wait for it to dry and then do the other side. Use fine tip paint brushes to get into all of the nooks and crannies but one coat of paint is suffice for these areas. Especially the rails where windows slide open and closed on. You want to make sure that these areas are thoroughly dry before you try to operate the window.

This is why you want to paint in small sections and allow each section to dry completely before moving on to the next. Do not go over the same area multiple times. You do not want to create a thick layer of paint.

If you accidentally touch the windows acrylic panes with your paint brush, don't worry. The paint is easily removed with your fingernail. Scrape off the paint gently, you don't want to accidentally scratch the acrylic.

Once your window is installed and thoroughly dry, it should slide and move without a hitch. You can apply a little beeswax, Ivory soap or lip balm, to the rails, for smoother movement.

Louvre Shutters

Just because you have a tab and slot dollhouse doesn't mean you can't have beautifully detailed and realistic louvres shutters.

These can easily be made by using corrugated cardboard paper. They sell this paper as scrapbook paper in some craft stores but also ask about it in your local cafe or coffee house. They usually have a lot of this paper and they usually are willing to let you have some. You do not need much for a mini mansion.

Use the shutter trim as a template to cut out the corrugated paper. Use small, thin strip wood to create the mullions for your shutters. Make sure you paint or stain this strip wood before installation onto your shutters.

Paint the corrugated pieces before installation.

Glue the corrugated cardboard pieces into the shutters panel openings. Then you can apply the mullions to the center of each panel.

Do not attempt to glue the shutter trim over the corrugated paper. This will cause the shutter to have a gap between the backing and the trim piece, since the corrugated paper is thick.

Other Options

Fingernail art comes in a variety of styles and colors and is in perfect scale to decorate your windows with. They are especially useful if you want tiny, precise designs that cannot be made freehand.

Temporary tattoos and stickers can also dress up larger windows and there are multiple designs and patterns online, which can be printed and added to plain windows.