Saturday, 4 April 2015


I concluded my previous post by a promise to share my new ideas about dollhouse lighting. The issue is raised again and again in dollhouse discussion groups, and since I once was a beginner and hugely ignorant, I will tell the whole story. If you know all about conventional lighting and the more recent LED lamps, you can scroll down to where the present project starts.

In my very first dollhouse that I made in a bookshelf I used Christmas lights. I was tremendously proud of myself although it was of course very crude. When we moved to England seven years ago and I decided to resurrect my dollhouse in a cabinet, I also decided to get proper lights: transformer, power strip, wires, plugs and all. I was in a kind of chock caused by moving and needed all therapy I could get, so I didn't mind all the work with tiny plugs that escaped under sofas and cupboards. We were renting a house which was small and crammed, so I didn't have enough space, but I made several lights in each room, mostly using my previously handmade chandeliers and other lamps. Here is a good example of how I made kitchen lights.

After that, I made several other houses and room boxes and didn't bother about lighitng until LED lights came. To me, it felt a liberation. They were of course more expensive, but they could be easily put anywhere, without drilling, wiring, swearing over those tiny plugs... I happily bought a number of LED lights, tested them in a house and was utterly disappointed. They were far too dim. Maybe they are fine as complement to other lighting, but you would need a dosen in every room to make it work. They say there is a "new generation" of LED lamps, but I don't quite believe it.

Some lights in my cabinet house stopped working, and I discovered what a horror it was to find what was wrong, replacing a bulb, mending a contact, changing a fuse. I gave up. There were still enough lights to impress guests, but I just felt I didn't have the energy to go through the whole system and make the necessary repairs.

I also noticed, during my visits to the London Museum of Childhood that far from all dollhouses in their collection had lights. They were illuminated from the outside. 

Then I made a room box where light was essential. My youngest son who is a filmmaker and knows all about professional lighting suggested that I use a kitchen spot. It worked for my purpose because I could hide in behind the frames. But in a dollhouse or a smaller room box, the spot was far too large and nowhere to hide.

I gave up again, but when I started building Womble Hall I knew that lighting would be inevitable. Since the first project I sort of finished was the basement I wired two lights in the rear corridor. The result was truly wonderful, but it cost me so much frustration that I realised that all the joy of this wonderful house would be spoiled by wiring. I needed a different solution. Call me lazy. Call me whatever, but I will never, ever again touch those tiny plugs.

 So together with my filmmaker son and my very clever son-in-law I started looking around for new ideas. First, I tried battery lights of the kind model railway people use. They were a bit dim, but if you put 4-5 bulbs together it made a decent light. That's what I tried in the basement. I am not quite happy with it. I was going to use the same system in all rear corridors, but I have definitely changed my mind.

Then we discovered the LED strip. As far as I understand, they are mostly used for lighting under kitchen cabinets. YouTube tutorials show how to make it.

This is a 5-meter strip that theoretically should be enough to light the whole house. There is a standard transformer, the same kind you use for computers, that plugs into a main. The strip can be cut into any number of bits that are then connected with a very smart contraption that I even can manage. What my son-in-law did when he visited was extending some wires, which required soldering. Mind: I had a soldering iron! But I would never dare soldering wires. So he will have to come back again. Together, we bought a dimmer with remote control - it will be a most sophisticated lighting system. The strips will be hidden behind moulding to produce soft, even light without shadows. That's exactly what they have done at the Museum of Childhood.

Meanwhile, I found something else: short LED strips with a battery holder and switch.

They come in different lengths, but I have already seen that a 5-cm strip with three LEDs is enough for my purpose. And my purpose is to have lights in rear corridors. I am sure my clever son-in-law would figure out how to put them on the same remote-controlled system, but I need to prove to myself that I can at least make something.

So I drilled a hole in the upper corner of the rear corridor just large enough to fit the strip. It doesn't have to be neat because this corner will not be visible.

The battery is on the back of the house. I will think of a smart and neat way of holding it in place, but for the moment I simply sew a little bag that I fixed onto the back with paper pins. The switch is easily accessible. I took me about fifteen minutes to fix it all, as compared to hours with conventional lights.

Then I put back the rear partition, still not glueing it yet.

Finally, I put in the room divider and the bathroom wallpaper. I put back the chests in the rear corridor, and I also put in some furniture into the rooms. The front corridor to the right will have stairs - that's what the opening in the right top corner is for.

I am tremendously pleased with the effect. Now I will do the same with three more rear rooms. Come back soon.


  1. What a transformation and so easy to install too. Did you buy the lights from a particular store? I have been looking forward to seeing how you solved your light situation as I am experiencing a similar problem.

  2. I got all equipment through ebay from MKshop: adapter, LED strips and connectors. I will do more lights soon and show the results.

  3. I started my roombox last year and when I got to the lighting I used the Houseworks type of system but with hard soldered wiring instead of those embedded contact strips under wallpaper.
    I only needed one plug- for a table lamp and it was a nightmare trying to deal with that and the wall socket.

    Then i found some LED strips on a dollhouse supply site and decided to change to that since I wasn't happy with the lights illuminating my false rooms. They had some special clip on connectors that eliminates soldering wires onto the strips but out of the half dozen of those I bought NONE of them worked right, so I wound up hard soldering the wires onto the cut LED strips anyway.
    These were MUCH better lights!!!
    These LED strips are the way to go for sure.
    But... my transformer purchased for the original lights was 12vac and the LED's when connected rapidly flickered in such a way I knew right away the cause- they were on A/C when they need D/C, so I had to buy ANOTHER $25 12 volt transformer, but for A/C and that fixed the issue.

    I'm not a fan of batteries, but I guess in retrospect it works for those who don't leave the lights on all the time and just turn them on for showing or whatever.

  4. The hobby lighting technology - mostly for model railways, but you can adjust it for dollhouses - is developing amazingly. I haven't tested myself yet, but it seems you can have individual battery tea lights (that dollhouse people are exploring widely right now) all run on remote control so you don't have to switch them on one ny one. This will be my next stage.