Looking at the finished product, it’s amazing to think that the dollhouse began as level decking, transformed by a spark of inspiration and plenty of perspiration. The end result bears no resemblance to the plain swimming pool base it once was. In its place stands a combined playhouse and an amazing work of art, all built for one lucky girl.
What was its inspiration? Well, even if you haven’t heard of rancher and businessman Isaac Ellwood, you’re likely aware of his product, barbed wire. This man also went on to build the famous property bearing his name, Ellwood House, in 1879. It still stands on its original plot in DeKalb, Illinois. Today, it serves as a museum and event venue.
Significantly, the Ellwood grounds are also home to another curiosity called Little House. Every carpenter in the town of DeKalb had a hand in building this miniature abode, which features a roof identical to the full-sized Ellwood home. Little House’s builders displayed it in a country parade in 1892, and then it fell into use as a playhouse for generations of local children.
The Little House isn’t the only miniaturized home, of course, and there have been many more through the ages. In fact, several people have built grandiose playhouses for their children, sometimes with stunning results. These inspiring creations vary in size and scope, from replica Tolkien-style hobbit holes to converted under-stairs storage units.
Social media user TamboresCinco is the man responsible for the latter concept, which he posted on Reddit. Apparently, he wanted to make better use of the space under his staircase in 2017. As a father, he decided to both improve the storage’s appearance and turn it into a fun space for his children.
TamboresCinco started by planning an outline for a house facade around the doorway. After that, he got to work making something of which his household could be proud. The creative father even made some faux cedar shingles and a flower box to further the illusion.
After some painting and cunning usage of woodwork to create a “roof”, the outside was complete. TamboresCinco also added some domestic touches to the interior, including foam floorboards, a functional light and some toys. His daughter certainly looks like she enjoys playing in her new home-within-a-home.
Another creative parent, Mr. Wade, got his inspiration specifically from Ellwood’s Little House. On November 18, 2018, his son – Imgur user NRiNR1 – uploaded pictures of the playhouse at varying stages of construction. The epic build began when the original poster’s (OP’s) father stumbled on some information about Little House.
To be more specific, Wade found an article in DeKalb’s Daily Chronicle newspaper dated June, 1983. The feature discussed the history of Little House and mentioned Dick Wiltberger, an admirer of the miniature building. Wiltberger had been so enamored with the house that he even built a scale model of it for his daughter.
When Wade saw the Little House replica, he knew he wanted to make one too. “He was inspired,” NRiNR1 said of his father. “He planned to take the family’s 1996 tax rebate and build my sister’s playhouse.” But to do so, Wade needed some more information about the tiny building.
“He reached out to the owner requesting any information he could offer on the project in March 1997,” NRiNR1 wrote. Although no schematics of Little House existed, Wade’s contact supplied some useful tips on construction. Armed with this invaluable source of information, the OP’s father began making his own blueprints.
“With blueprints ready,” NRiNR1 said, “the next natural question was ‘Where to build it?’” Fortunately, the Wades had the perfect place. “In 1996, my family had an above-ground swimming pool,” the OP continued, “Both my parents hated it. So, my mother somehow managed to sell the pool in a garage sale that summer.”
The Wades used their old pool’s wooden decking as their own Little House’s foundations. They even turned it into a temporary sandpit to entertain NRiNR1’s sister until construction began in earnest. That event occurred in April 1997 when the OP was just 11.
With the foundations in place, Wade began building the wooden frame to both support and shape the playhouse walls. This essential first step might sound simple, but the complexity of the house’s base is evidence to the contrary. It’s a good indication of just how accomplished the finished project is.
The family even took a picture of Wade senior standing with one of the Little House frames in all its glory. It’s worth noting that the neighbors were also building their own full-sized house at the time. Even though the two constructions are completely different sizes, Wade used a similar method for his miniature replica.
After the OP’s father finished the basic frame shapes, he attached wooden panels to create the walls. However, Wade didn’t have to raise them all up himself; his family helped lift them into place. Some pieces took the work of three people to slot into position.
Using timber beams as temporary supports, Wade began to set the playhouse walls on their foundations. The porch and front facade were the first pieces to go up. And if NRiNR1’s photos are anything to go by, Wade’s children were excited to see the structure taking form.
“My sister was eager to see the final product,” the OP noted drily on imgur. Sure enough, she couldn’t wait to clamber on her former sandpit and stand on the foundations. But her very own Little House was far from finished; Wade still had a lot of work to do.
“After a successful first day of construction on the pool deck, my mother was …ready to smash my father’s head in with a hammer,” NRiNR1 joked on the post. “It was very clear to her that this project was going to greatly exceed the original tax rebate budget.”
Nevertheless, the family continued their project, which moved along at a decent pace. “By mid-April, the back walls started to take shape,” the OP recalled. “All walls are up by April 16, 1997.” Even at this point, it was clear that when construction was finished, the giant dollhouse would be something special.
The following month, Wade called in a favor from his brother to help with the Little House. They started with more wooden beams to brace the structure’s roof at the top. The Wade siblings also added posts to support the porch canopy and add a decorative flourish to its exterior.
However, the project needed more than just a few beams to stabilize it. As a result, the Wade brothers set up a network of rafters to guard against roof collapse. They applied these to both the main structure and the porch canopy before moving on to the house’s facade.
That same month Wade attached a roof, again made of plywood, to his daughter’s Little House replica. Completion of this phase of the build immediately made the project look more like an actual house rather than just a frame. In addition, Wade painted the porch supports white; it’s this kind of attention to detail that makes a huge difference to the final look.
With the basic playhouse structure in place, Wade turned his attention to the finer points of his replica. Namely, making the exterior look a little more like a house rather than a frame. To this end, he added some detailing on the walls and around the window frames.
Speaking of windows, Wade finished the frames that previously stood empty. What started out as a combination gift and tax rebate project had become far more. Indeed, if all went according to plan, this labor of love would soon be something for the whole family to enjoy.
“By the end of May 1997 the siding started to be installed on the exterior walls,” the OP described. And what a difference it made! The plain house facades were transformed with panelled weatherboarding. However, for the next job, Wade decide he needed to hire professionals.
To be more specific, the roof was too much even for Wade’s impressive do-it-yourself skills. As a result, he and his wife sought out a roofer for a particularly difficult part of the process. Wade wanted the roof fitted with cedar tiles, but it proved challenging even to the tradesmen.
“As memory serves, it took two roofers two days to put all the shingles on the playhouse,” the OP wrote on Imgur. “I recall them saying that this job was actually more difficult than most full-size houses!” The end result was worth it though – it provided a beautiful addition to Wade’s replica.
Mrs Wade also helped with the decoration by giving it a fresh lick of paint. She painted the plain walls a warm pastel yellow and the house’s trimming a complimentary white. By the time Wade’s wife had finished, the playhouse looked significantly more welcoming.
A few short months and a lot of work later, the Wades completed their project’s facade. During that time, they added a lot more detailing to the charming building. The overall look was what NRiNR1 described as a classy Victorian design, complete with decorated eaves.
The OP included a picture of his sister on her playhouse porch, which provides a sense of scale. You can tell that the house isn’t full-sized, but that makes the attention to detail all the more incredible. For instance, just look at the beautiful heart carvings near the top of the porch columns.
Wade thought through everything about the design, from the architecture to the color scheme. Indeed, a close-up picture of the porch reveals small touches that are easy to miss from farther away. A good example is the railings, with ball decorations which are alternately shaded pastel pink and green.
In fact, the pictures prove that NRiNR1’s father gave the entire house a similar level of attention. The family used another soft shade of pink on the playhouse door. But that’s not all; they also fitted a functional porch light and doorbell. “Door uses an antique crystal skeleton key doorknob and lock,” the OP added.
Wade retained the antique theme throughout the interior decor, too. You can see the Victorian influences in the chandelier and furniture. The pastel colors are also evident in the playhouse ceiling. It’s painted a soft blue and dotted with white clouds to look like a calming sky.
Naturally, since the house was designed for his daughter, Wade added a play area inside. He kept the domestic aesthetic by including toys based on kitchen appliances. “It was a bit of a chore to get inside the tiny door,” NRiNR1 recalled, “but once inside, an adult could easily stand up.”
Another picture shows the view on offer from the faux kitchen, and it’s ideal for a child. The window reveals a swing waiting in the yard for when Wade’s daughter wants to play outside. If she can tear herself away from all the toys indoors, that is.
In addition to the kitchen area, the recreational room extends to a little eating nook. The pink-and-white play furniture fits in well with the two-tone diner wallpaper. The room also provides an excellent view of the garden from the front window, and the houseplants are a nice touch.
Throughout the playhouse, Wade managed to create the illusion of a two-story house, despite the absence of any stairs. One of methods he used was the inclusion of windows high up on the walls. Wade also employed some creative placement of shelves and decorative strips reminiscent of an upper floor.
NRiNR1 wrote, “By Christmas 1997, the family was taking Christmas photos on the playhouse.” The little building looked even more stunning when decorated with fairy lights and wreaths. Nowadays, although the Little House still remains with the Wade family, it’s no longer on the same property.
“Eventually, my parents moved, but they made sure to take the playhouse with them,” NRiNR1 elaborated. “I do have this single photo of the playhouse sitting in its current home. Photo taken by me on February 12, 2010 during ‘Snowmageddon’. The playhouse is nestled between a grove of trees with the family’s new in-ground swimming pool in front of it.”