First off, why is dollhouse scale important? Why can’t we just use whatever tiny stuff we think is cute? Well, you can because it’s your house, but if you want a realistic miniature scene, you’ll need to pay attention to scale.
The human eye and brain is fantastic at recognizing when something is off, especially scale. Why? We see everyday household objects in relation to one another and also to ourselves and other people. If it’s wrong, our brain sees it immediately.
In the example image above, you see a small person standing next to a large set of folding chairs. What is true? Is the person tiny, or is the furniture super large? Let’s assume there isn’t any funny photoshop image trickery going on. Your brain tells you these chairs are HUGE! (and you are right.)
Next we see a big man sitting in a small chair. If you happen to know this HGTV actor, or notice his giant clown shoes, you will know this man is, in fact, quite tall. Is he so tall that the chair would be normal sized to the rest of us? Again, your brain fills in the correct answer with no, the chair is still smaller than it should be. It is likely a child’s arm chair.
Now that we know why scale is important, you’ll need to know what the standard dollhouse scales are and what they mean.
1:12 Scale, or Standard Scale
You might see something described as ‘1:12’ or perhaps ‘quarter scale’. If you are new to the dollhouse world, don’t worry if you don’t understand these terms immediately. They are simply referring to how small something has been shrunk.
The typical standard dollhouse size is one-twelfth scale. This means that everything has been shrunk down by a factor of 12. Put more simply, one foot becomes one inch. That’s another way it might be described, as a 1″ scale. Written, it is 1:12, 1/12, or 1 inch. A male doll for this scale would be at most 6ish inches tall, or 6 feet in real size. Fisher Price dollhouses are this scale, but it’s also the most common scale for the adult miniaturist.
The next smallest common dollhouse scale is 1:24. It is twice as small as the standard 1:12 size. Because it is half the size, it is commonly also referred to as ‘half scale’ or ‘half inch’. Here, 1 foot equals half an inch. This is a fairly popular scale in Europe and here in the States. Model railroaders use a term called G scale which is technically 1:22.5. This is a little larger than our half inch dollhouse scale. For many, it is close enough to use things made in G scale in their half scale dollhouse. A popular children’s toy that uses this scale is Playmobile.
Quarter scale is another half smaller, or 1:48. This scale is means that anything that would be 1 foot is now 1/4″. This scale is known in the modeling world as O scale. Historically, O scale has fluctuated a little between 1:43 and 1:48, but current manufactures use 1:48. The widely recognized toy of this scale is LEGO.
The smallest common size is 1:144. Called micro or micro mini, or also doll’s dollhouse scale. This is because a 1:144 dollhouse would scale perfectly inside a standard 1:12 dollhouse and be a 1:12 dollhouse. It’s a bit confusing, but the math might help. 1 / 12 / 12 = 1:144. The closest model railroading scale is the British N scale, at 1:148, and only slightly off from the American N scale, 1:160. This scale is too small for children’s toys, but not for adult hobbyists who are still young at heart. This image is an N scale (1:160) miniature replica of the house in Pixar’s UP.
Larger Common Scales
In the other direction, 1:6 is the scale used for fashion dolls such as Barbie and Blythe. This scale is twice as large as the standard dollhouse scale, called Playscale or Fashion scale. Barbie herself is a bit tall for her scale, but most Amazonian women are a bit tall. This is also the same scale for the 12″ GI Joes. Do NOT let that confuse you, Barbie is a 12″ doll, which DOES NOT WORK with 1:12 furniture. While some people (my parents) purchase 1:12 miniatures at flea markets for their kid’s Barbie houses. These pieces are not the right scale. My parents gave me a side table and a dresser. I could only use them as small accent table and a nursery organizer in my Barbie house.
American Girl dolls present a bit of a problem with scale. They are modeled to represent a young girl, around age 9. Using age and height charts, 1:2 scale makes them a kindergartner, and 1:3 scale makes them a chubby fifth grader. Both scales are commonly used with these dolls. A closer scale match might be 1:2.5. I’ve never heard of that scale. Because of their size, 1:4 scale is often used for their furniture and houses. But this gives the dolls the height of a teenager or adult, without the body or face to match, which is weird.
Oftentimes, these larger scales are all lumped together in the same category as ‘playscale’, which mostly just means a scale that is more suited to playing with rather than accurate modeling. I tried to find an image of properly scaled American Girl dollhouse. I came up empty. The dolls are just so big, it’s a waste to model a six foot ceiling when all of the inhabitants aren’t even 4 foot.
Other scales are more common in Europe. Lundby, a dollhouse company in Sweden, uses 1:18. The image below is a Lundby dollhouse. It’s a little smaller than standard, but not as small as half scale. It is rather interchangeable with 1:18 or 3/4 scale, except with purists.
Another common European size is 1:16, called 3/4 scale. Various companies such as Brinca Dada, Tri-ang, Marx (Little Hostess, Amanda Ann) and Petite Princess use it. 1:10 scale is made in Germany and used in the surrounding region.
Now that you know about the various scales, you’ll know if the furniture you find is the correct size for your dollhouse.
How to Check Dollhouse Scale
Even if a piece of furniture says it’s in the proper scale, it is always best to check.
I purchased these black and metal diner chairs and honestly, they look a bit big to me. My dolls look a little silly and small sitting in these chairs. Sort of like a little kid sitting at the grownups table. It’s still really close to the proper scale, so I could use them, but they look big to me, so it’s bugging me and I won’t use them as they are.
The first thing to do is to measure the chair. They are 1 3/5″ from the floor to the seat. Multiply that by twelve and we see that if it were a real chair it would be over 19 inches.
Now, how do we know if 19″ is too tall? As part of my Industrial Design course work, I had a few chair design studios, and I keep finding myself referring back to the measurements provided with the ergonomic studies.
The chart shows that standard chairs typically measure between 16 and 17 inches for that measurement, which would be 1 and 3/8s inches in our 1:12 scale.
As predicted, this chair is too tall. Also, the back is quite high. Backrests typically extend 17-24 inches above the chair seat, and ours reaches up a bit past 2″ which would be 2 ft. This is at the high end of the acceptable range. That number is meant more for high backed executive office chairs, not this type of simple dining chair. I’d say this chair is actually in 1:10 scale, rather than 1:12. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s noticeable.
Fixing the Chair’s Scale
I’m a pretty big fan of kit bashing or hacking. I’ve found many miniaturists are as well. My only fun option is to tweak these chairs! Let’s jump right in! (Seriously, I didn’t even really have a plan, I just went with it and took pictures along the way. All IN!)
I discovered that the chair backs are held on simply by two screws and they come off very easily. When I was holding the backs loose, I slide them down a bit, exposing the curved top of the chair, and suddenly the chair already looks smaller! I love the curved top they now have, they remind me of a set of kitchen chairs we had a home when I was growing up.
The backrest is much too large at this point and it needs to have a space between the back rest and the seat, so I have to cut it down. As I discovered, these black parts are made of acrylic. I had them on my belt sander. DON’T breathe the cancer dust.
The legs still present a bit of a problem. They jut out way too much to appear correct at our scale, but with a bit of patience, and a pair of pliers, I bent the legs down so they don’t stick out nearly as far. The pliers scuffed up the metal paint job pretty badly, but I didn’t like that finish anyways.
The legs are still too tall for our measurements, and I’ll probably go back later with a hack saw or pair of bolt cutters to snip a quarter inch off the bottom of these legs.
I did a quick and dirty (and terrible) job recovering the seat cushion and seat back just so I could put the chair back together and show you it’s progress.
You can see how with the lowered back support the chair is starting to fit into our scale better. The wooden chair next to these is my own dining chair design based on the measurements from the ergonomic studies and actual full sized dining chairs. It looks small next to these two, but it actually is the proper scale, 1:12 . It just shows you how out of scale these black chairs actually are!
If you liked any of the tools or supplies I was using and think they might be helpful in your own miniatures adventure, I have Amazon Affiliate links to them for you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Should you choose to purchase any of these, at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission. Know that I only recommend products, tools, services and learning resources I’ve personally used and believe are genuinely helpful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to purchase them. Most of all, I would never advocate for buying something that you can’t afford, don’t feel comfortable with, or that you’re not yet ready to use.
I have recently acquired a homemade doll house. I do not know the scale that I need for the furniture. The doll house has two floor and an attic. Each room measures 12″ tall. Does that mean that I need to buy 1:12 furniture? Of course the attic is about 15 in. tall at the apex.
The ceiling height can vary widely, especially for a homemade dollhouse. The easiest way to tell the scale is the height of the doors. Real interior doors (not front doors) measure 6’8″. If your dollhouse doors are just under or about 7″ tall, then you have a 1:12 scale dollhouse. If it is taller or shorter than 7″, you’ll have to do the math to figure the scale.
I just finished a 1:12 scale three-story (including the attic) dollhouse for my grandchildren. The rooms are 9.5-inches tall and the total dollhouse height is 30-inches. I want to build some sort of platform to elevate the dollhouse to a comfortable play height for the kids. How many inches high should the platform be to make the dollhouse’s play-height ideal for a 4 and 2-year-old?
I’m trying to get furniture for my drawing dolls and I have no idea were to start. They are 15cm dolls, so just under 6 inches, what size furniture should I get?
That sounds like 1:12 scale dolls. Look for standard dollhouse size furniture, it is also called 1 to 1, 1:12, 1/12th. You need furniture that is half the size of Barbie stuff, but bigger than Playmobil. Fisher Price dollhouse furniture is the correct size.
I’m doing an architectural model and it’s best to use 1:10 for conversions. Would 1:12 furniture work for most purposes (without model humans)? All of the furniture that’s suitable seems to be 1:12. Bummer.
1:12 furniture will be a bit small, but depending on the level of detail and accuracy required, that might be ok.
Can I use 1/12 scale in Lundby house?
Some people do, as the scale isn’t too far off, but I do not. I feel that you can tell that 1/12 scale items are too large. Lundby houses look best with 1/16 or 1/18 scale furniture. I try to be strict about my furniture scale, but I am much more lax with the scale of the accessories as they are usually not as noticeably wrong when the scale is a bit off.
Great conversation… thank you everyone… I found a “little fixer upper” , an adorable little yellow /white house at a yard sale this past summer and have been wondering what t do with it… nice sturdy frame, in very good shape, just needs a little attention and a good face lift… this conversaton has helped me a lot regarding scale… the pieces of funtiture I had made before finding the house are 1/12th and seem too big… my adventure with this little doll house have just begun… 🙂
Thank you for writing this. Its very helpful! That being said I have a doll french hutch i plan to turn into a bookcase but i have no idea what size books to use. It’s it is 11 in. tall, 5 3/4 in. wide, and has two shelves (each shelf is 1/2 in. deep). Please help!
Yes, that sounds like 1:6 scale. Look for Barbie sized books, or use our scale conversion rulers to make your own!
Great information! Thanks for giving examples, Barbie, Lego, Playmobil, when explaining the different sizes, this helps. My niece likes “Calico Critters” and after reading your page it will be much easier for me to find accessories that fit!
Would you go with 1:24 accessories for Calico Critters?
Either 1:24 or the European / Lundby scales of 1:16 and 1:18 could be appropriate. The problem with Calico Critters is that they are short for their scale. They live in houses taller than their height indicates. Their doors are 4.5″ tall, while they only stand at 3″ themselves. A Lundby door is 5″ tall, while a 1:24 scale door is just under 4″. Calico Critters is a weird duck for sure, but since it’s a kids’ toy and kids aren’t that peculiar about scales, it doesn’t really matter too much. I’d look for a mix of those sizes; I usually size up when I need something small like a piece of paper or a book, but size down when it comes to furniture. Hope that helps!
so when you see a doll house bed for sale and it says it’s a 1:12 scale what size is the bed?
They are usually double bed size, but the seller might be selling a twin bed or a toddler bed.
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I have always dreamed of making a doll house life like with everything like a true house. Foundation, floor joists, stud walls ect. is it possible and if so what is the best scale, glue to use and material. I’m an old dreamer but I would like to leave something behind and special. are there small electric switches and lights made for this. Are there any books written on this subject.
Some people have done what you’ve talked about before, and I’ve often thought of doing it myself. I’d recommend using either 1:12 or 1:24 scale and balsa wood and wood glue are good starting points. There are wiring kits for both scale houses, though you will likely find more in the 1:12 size as it is more common and bigger. I would assume there are books on the topic, but don’t know of any off hand.
I actually need 1:10 or 1:9 doll scale furniture, etc. I have a custom make doll (a rabbit) and I worked out his measurements and at 9 inches he would be 6 ft tall. 1:6 is too big and 1:12 is too small. I am having a terrible time finding anything to fit. I also can’t find much information on custom making him furniture to scale. I’ve never made any doll things but want him to have a furnished “room” to live in. I haven’t found anything to help me.
1:10 scale does exist in Europe, but it’s rarer. You might look into the LOL Surprise doll line. They are closer to Barbie scale (1:6) but many of their dolls are baby sized so they have a lot of smaller furniture, and the teen dolls are still shorter and wider than Barbie, so their furniture might be just what you need size-wise. Their house itself will certainly be too big, but it’s not hard to build a room box if all you need is one room.
I built a 1/12 scale dolls house kit during lockdown and purchasing furniture for it I discovered that 1/12 scale, although it is sold as such, can vary in size greatly! It is one of the bugbears I share with other makers I know – surely this is not so hard for manufacturers to get right? Sometimes putting a certain sink next to a toilet looks two different scales or a bed looks much longer than a full size bath, I just don’t understand it when it must be fairly easy for a designer to get right? I was a trained textile designer before retirement, and getting, for instance print pattern repeats and other technical stuff correct was essential for manufacturing; what not in our hobbies too? I feel that the scale in model railways, for instance, is far more consistent, why is that?
I have a 1/12 scale farmhouse dollhouse. I would like to have a truck sitting outside the house. How do I know what size the truck should be in comparison to the house.
If you want it to be true to scale, simply take the size of a real truck and divide it by 12 and that’s how big it should be in scale. In real life a Ford F150 is 209.1 in long, or about 17 and a half feet long. In 1/12 scale, you’d need to find a truck that is 17 and a half inches long. Often times, people choose to use a smaller scale for vehicles simply because they are so large.
will 1:16 furniture work in a 1:24 scale dollhouse
Some pieces will, but others won’t. Pieces that are already large (like a dresser or a stove) will likely look too big, but smaller things like a dining room chair or end table should work just fine.