DIY Project: Tiny Doors


As you know, I’m a huge fan of completely non-functional projects where the only goal is visual delight. Sure, they don’t do anything, but if they are fun, or beautiful, or mysterious? Even in this world of infinite stuff, that’s still totally enough for me. This project falls into that category, and needless to say, I love it beyond measure. After a compelling discussion with her son, Harry, about the source of mysterious noises in their house — Harry argued that the tooth fairy, not mice, was causing the ruckus — creative blogger Kate Benbow decided to craft this ingenious little “fairy door” to surprise him one morning.

Obviously, no kid could resist this; all things miniature are deemed automatically awesome when you’re a child, or at least they were for me. But in all honesty, I doubt anyone, young or old, could deny the delight of stumbling across this tiny universe, even if he or she created it. In fact, it is not too dissimilar from the Parallel World installation that Google’s former creative director Ji Lee installed on his ceiling. I think it’s safe to say that the mere thought of miniature worlds is wonderful and amazing, and if you were to install one of these tiny doors in your home, a friend’s home or even a public space, I’d dare you not to smile every time you came across it. Just try it! — Kate

Read Kate’s story about coming up with the idea and the full how-to after the jump . . .

It was bedtime for my three-year-old son, and we were curled up reading a story when there was a scuttling and scratching noise under the floorboards. We live in a very old house; the mice regard us as interlopers and show no signs of leaving any time soon. Casually, Harry ventured: “I don’t think it is mice, Mummy; I think it might have been the tooth fairy.” We ended up having a rambling and impromptu conversation about where the tooth fairy lives, which got me thinking. Later that week, I found two inexpensive dollhouse doors and did a spot of secret crafting. Harry came down to breakfast the other morning and was astonished to discover the actual front door used by the tooth fairy, Santa’s elves and . . . well, who knows who else lives behind the door? We know for sure that someone lives there because they get mail and milk deliveries and are fond of leaving their boots outside the door when it rains. — Kate B.

Materials

  • plain, non-opening dollhouse door and any dollhouse door furniture you want to use (You should be able to buy these for less than $10.)
  • paint for door (Choose the same color as your woodwork for greater invisibility, or a contrasting color pop for a temporary door or one you want to be noticed quickly!)
  • small sheet of lightweight cardstock
  • pen
  • baker’s twine (for making a bundle of mail)

 

Instructions

1. Paint the door and leave to dry.


2. Affix any door furniture using a dab of strong glue. Once dry, attach to the skirting or woodwork in your room. Strong double-sided tape works well for this; it gives a strong enough adhesion to withstand little hands tugging on the doorknob but shouldn’t damage your woodwork too much if and when you decide to remove it, unlike glue.

3. Accessorize your entrance! I made fairy mail by cutting up tiny squares of cardstock, scribbling a tiny address and tying it together with baker’s twine (see pictures), but other ideas include tiny flowerpots, boots, milk bottles and even a holiday wreath for the door. Most miniatures stores stock these routinely for DIY dollhouse enthusiasts.


4. Finally, for ultimate mystery, rotate your “props” to create the impression of life — take the mail away, change the number of milk bottles. The eagle-eyed kids in your house will notice!

Stefani

Your son must have been so excited about the tiny door that suddenly appeared! I love the heated arguments that ensued over the sounds :)

meg

this might be one of the most adorable things i’ve ever seen. thanks for sharing!

Suzi (The Pillow Studio)

I adore this! It is definitely going on my to-do list for THIS weekend! Thanks so much. I can only imagine how excited by 5 & 7 year old girls will be. (I think there is a chance even my 9 year old boy will be into this!)

Marie

I can’t get over how those doors are from “Streets Ahead” Dollhouses. Peirce!

Maria Anne

I was just going to mention the fairy doors in Ann Arbor, thanks Courtney for pointing that out! There’s also a “goblin door” near the Ark!

allison

So cute!! As a kid (ok and now too) I loved the book “The Borrowers” about tiny people who lived in normal size people houses without them knowing.

Mr. Glitter

Right on Courtney!

I live in Ann Arbor, and we have lots of fairy doors all over the city. Such a great moment when you actually spot one.

But I have to disagree with you on something.

I see tons of fairies all over town every day. In fact, I AM one!

Sarah

I love this! We have a number of small doors in our house which lead to ductwork and attic spaces. They totally freak my husband out. Imagine putting one of the tiny doors on one, a small door within a small door. I am going to have fun with that!

Caitlin

Wait. This is genius. I’m completely obsessed with this project. I have no children, but I do live with to manchild roommates who will totally nerd out over this.

Jodi

This is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. All that’s missing is a big kitty staring at it.

Wendy Dougan

when my son was little and losing his teeth, I wrote a teeny tiny note with a very fine point pen, and made a teeny tiny envelope and left it with his $$. This continued his belief in the lovely tooth fairy for a very long time. and when his friends told him there was no such thing, he proudly showed him his PROOF that there was indeed a tooth fairy! I hope he remembers that.

Natalie / Half Asleep Studio

Oh my goodness – this is ridiculously cute! I LOVED the movie the Borrowers growing up and I hope someday when I have kids we can watch it together so I can build them a little door too…

Rachel

This is brilliant! My son is lucky enough to go to a lovely school, when they opened his new school library they put a tiny door next to the main door with ‘elve’s entrance’ written above it – it’s got see through panels in it and you can see the spines of tiny books inside! Makes me smile every time I see it.

Amy

Grace – I love this post! Are you familiar with Ann Arbor’s ‘fairy doors’? We have them hidden around our town, at various stores, businesses, and historical buildings. I was actually planning to post on these, sometime soon – do you mind if I link to your post on my own blog?

Thanks for the DIY tips! Lovely as always.

Amy

*oops! My apologies – I meant “Kate” not “Grace.” I follow Grace on Twitter :)

Jeanelle

This is the awesomest idea ever. Since I don’t have a fireplace at home, I will be doing this and telling my kid that this is Santa’s special entrance every Christmas, so cool :)

Eileen

The 1905 apartment building I lived in in Munich had a ridiculously long hallway from front to back of the building. In the process of removing 5 layers of wallpaper, a bottom corner broke off exposing some of the rubble behind the plaster. By that time I was sick of patching walls. At a toy store I found some lego-bright and sleekly designed mini equipment, and deployed a bulldozer, backhoe, and dump truck at the never-ending contruction site. After visitors left I would sometimes find rearranged scenarios.

Michelle

My daughter is a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and this would work for a door to Wonderland too…Love it!!

Genevieve

I’m now imagining installing little doors all round the old buildings of my college in the dead of night! (And wondering how long it takes for the porters to send out angry emails about “vandalism” to all the students…)
Wonderful idea!

heather

LOVE THIS! Remember the books about The Littles? The notion of little folks behind the walls is so enthralling. I need to figure out where to add one of these… I am thinking my parent’s new home! Perfect.

Jacqui

So much cheaper doing it this way than buying the purpose-made fairy doors! I’ve seen some gorgeous photos of doors put on to tree trunks too, but really they look great anywhere! Thanks for the lovely idea.

Thelma

Wonderful! I want one and I want to leave them all over my neighborhood. Reminds me the books I loved as a kid The Borrowers and The Littles. Thanks for a dose of magic in a cynical world.

Laura

This would really add a component of whimsy at my office! Fun idea!

Hillary

I just can’t wait to try this! I am getting the materials this weekend!

Danielle

Love!! I am totally doing this in our house, regardless of the fact that we don’t have children. I’m kinda kicking myself for not doing this sooner (also a fan of Ann Arbor’s fairy doors) – thanks to the awesome Design*Sponge for providing the how-to!

Susansa

L O V E ! ! ! I once had a little outdoor light above my cat door – this is more wonderful!

stuart

And if the fairies feel tired they can take “maurizio cattelans tiny elevator”. worth a look!

Jill

I, too, was reminded of Mary Norton’s The Borrowers. Thanks for a delightful end note for a thoroughly 21st Century day.

Nomadic D

This is so cute! As a kid I always dreamed of finding a secret passage in my house, this sort of makes me feel like the dream is still alive! I love it!

Martina

Has Astrid Lindgren’s classic »Nils Karlsson Pyssling« been translated into English? I loved it as a kid, and it tells the story of a little boy who one day notices a tiny wee little door under his bed, where a little thumbling (thats English for “pyssling”) lives. He befriends with him and even brings him furniture from a doll’s house and nicks a shawl from a doll for him, if I remember correctly. I’m sure Nils Karlssen would have loved this rather posh entrance!!

Karen Kilpatrick

LOVE this! As an adult I still have frequent dreams about discovering secret passageways & rooms in the house. I loved The Littles, despite the creepy animation. Never heard of The Borrowers, but thanks to your readers I’m about to find a copy on Amazon!

allison

my 6 year old son loves the fairies and gnomes who he says lives in our walls. i’ve made him several doors for them, and several times a week we pick leaves and berries to leave overnight in a little dish by the door. in the morning when he wakes up, the treats are gone, and there’s a little sprinkle of fairy dust (glitter) left behind. i absolutely love it!

Alyson

This is such a creative, whimsical idea! It would definitely spark conversation and maybe some curiosity in my fourth grade classroom :)

Jessica

This is such a gorgeous idea! When I was growing up there was a shop called The Lost Forest, which sold all sorts of wonderful stuffed creatures. The story behind it was that there was a secret trapdoor that led to a forest filled with these creatures – I always dreamt one day I’d find a trapdoor of my own.

dana

My kids are in college….I have NO excuse for wanting this. But I will go home and do it this weekend. This whole post made me smile! Fantastic!

Darlene

I Love It!!! I don’t care if my husband might think I’m crazy but I’m going to do it in my dining room. Our granddaughters will love it!

Megan

Thanks for including instructions. I will definitely try it out. I feel so creative already

Katherine Ross

So fun! Like many have mentioned, this reminded me of the fairy doors throughout Ann Arbor. What a fun way to incorporate it into a home!

Sarah

In a small public garden in Pasadena I noticed a dear little round-topped door at the base of one of the trees. Actually took my 28 year old son to see it. He was enchanted.

Diva T

Simply charming and mysterious. We all needs a bit of mystery and fun no matter how young or old. Fun for a holiday project.

dora

I have to ask, isn’t a child going to be disappointed if the door doesn’t open/there’s nothing behind it?

John

Such a sweet idea to help add a little magic to everyday life :)

John@KDCUK

Sally

I am a grown up without little children, so why do I feel I NEED one of these in my home?! Love it!

MaryAnn

But….I would be sooooo frustrated by this because it doesn’t OPEN! I didn’t read every post, but did no one mention that? That aspect would drive me crazy!
I truly love the magical idea of it and applaud your creativity, but being unable to open the door keeps me from trying it.
Good job!

joanne

my first impression was “that’s ridiculous” which quickly became “that’s ridiculously awesome!”

Nursery Furniture

I absolutely love this idea and my son Lenny will be amazed by it. Ha ha I can’t wait! I think I will put the door on his nursery furniture so the fairies live with him. Great idea.

ere

This is beautiful! I can’t wait to put little sets together I know people of every age that will surely be delighted! I think also that one could install it on a wall to swing open and the possibilities are then endless.. Modpodge a picture of a mudroom, a garden, paint a small scene maybe a tunnel lit by candle, even perhaps just blue sky and clouds or stars :o) looove this ty

Marie

Didn’t you know that only the fairies are able to open these doors! After all, they do have special powers.

Stephanny

Oh my goodness, this is so amazing! I want to try with an opening door and a portal painted behind it. Your idea is so perfect! <3

Deanna

I have my two grandaughters stay with me for a week each summer. They are cousins and a year apart (currently 7 and 8). I am definitely doing this next summer when they come up.

Stacy

Aww, the little milk bottles and crate totally make this for me. It is such a cool look!

Linda

What a delightful idea!! There must be “little people” everywhere! You may want to read “the Borrowers” – a wonderful set of children’s books about the mysterious little people who “borrow” all those small things we need that seem to go missing from time to time.

The details here are fantastic! Your family must love this.

Christine Cane

I read “The Mouse and the Motorcycle” to my third graders and they loved it. Our school was built in a farmer’s field and the field mice would come into the building each year to get out of the cold. We had a little chink in the corner of one of our cement blocks in our classroom wall. We would see the field mice come int and out through that little chink. One morning, before the class arrived, I placed a tiny motorcycle just outside the mouse hole. It took about an hour for one of the children to spot it. The rest of the day someone was squatting by the hole watching for the mouse to return and ride the motorcycle. It was magical. Children need these moments of magic. Adulthood comes too soon.

Justin Ternet

Nice idea to hide an electrical outlet. :)
For an openable door: i think just 2 small magnets and glue the door on a piece of fabric folded in half lengthwise.

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